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"The Missing Keeper of Dutch Island Light"

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Postby Grover1 » Thu Apr 02, 2009 3:03 am


From The Jamestown Press

The Missing Keeper of Dutch Island Light

Several years ago Sue Maden began collecting information about the men who manned the lighthouse on Dutch Island in the West Passage. Dutch Island was included in the Conanicut Island purchase in 1657 and is still technically a part of Jamestown, although its ownership by state and national bodies since 1864 minimizes the town's impact on the area.

The stories of all the keepers - from William Dennis, who at 80 lit the first light in 1826 and kept it lit until the month before his death 16 years later, to Ernest Stacey, the last keeper of the light, who left the island in 1947—are engaging. One that the JHS researchers found particularly interesting was Stanley Gunderson, who tended the Dutch Island light from July 1934 to March 1935.

If you go to the Dutch Island Lighthouse Society website (http://www.lighthouse.cc/DILS), you won't find Gunderson listed. For some reason, his name is omitted from the official records. His story, told through correspondence and reports in his Lighthouse Service personnel file, is evocative of many stories from the Great Depression: post-war bureaucracy, positions lost through automation and downsizing, unsuitable jobs taken and lost.

His World War I discharge papers were lost, delaying his appointment to his first post. The lighthouse at which he served was one of the earliest automated. He took other jobs in the Lighthouse Service, including one as a laborer at Woods Hole, before coming to Dutch Island. His resignation letter from the Dutch Island post reads, in part, "I have been in poor health since I came here, a condition brought on directly by the worry of those months I have served at Great Pt. Sta. [Nantucket] under the extremely disagreeable conditions existing there." He was 45 years old.
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Postby island » Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:05 am


Stanley Gunderson is also not listed as a keeper or assistant at Great Point Light Station. Apparently he served at Great Point as a relief keeper. It was the practice of the Lighthouse Service at that time that when not serving as a relief keeper he would have been assigned to the Woods Hole Depot and/or to a lighthouse tender based there when extra help was needed for construction work being conducted at lighthouses. Likewise he might also have served at Dutch Island as a relief keeper and not as an officially appointed keeper. http://www.lighthouse.cc/greatpoint/history.html

Gunderson is mentioned in this little story; http://measuringtime.net/chapter_pdfs/childhood/10.%20Lighthouse.pdf
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