To make a good light.

Forum dedicated to photos and information regarding history of lights, life-saving stations, keepers, lost lighthouses and more.

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Postby island » Sun Mar 31, 2013 4:45 pm

Lighthouses serve as aids to navigation both day and night, this the usual answer why lighthouses were established at all the many places along the coasts of the ocean and the lakes. To serve as an aid is true but for what reason? Two what end?  For what benefit and to whom?  To better understand and answer this journey back in history to earlier times.
In the earlier years of this country, the 1800s and into the early 1900s one would see numerous ships, vessels under sail great in number on many days close or somewhat distant from shore in route along the coasts traveling to and from many villages and towns along the waters. The ships carried cargo of various kinds and general merchandise to the coastal towns and carried from these towns the products of their small local industries. And these ships remained the only reliable means of transportation in these for years.

The people in these towns were engaged in various income activities. One be might be fishing, the fish soaked in salt brine then sun dried to be packed in wooden boxes. And there might be a small sawmill with the nearby forest providing logs for a sawing into lumber using a two-man hand saw. This lumber and the fish beyond that needed in the town would to marketed as source of income. for the people. In addition there may also be other small industries depending on the resources available

These small communities consisted of several homes, perhaps a meeting house, a one room school and other structures. One significant building was a business, the store that served as a grocery store, clothing store, shoe store, stationary store, hardware store, post office and more.  This store was with those things both wanted and needed to sustain and improve life in this small town.  This was the general store, the destination for general merchandise carried by the ships including food, the barrels or large bags containing flour, corn meal, dry beans, for example, and boxes of dried food items, dried and canned food for having no refrigeration in the earlier years beyond that provide by the cold of winter months.  And there was clothing and the cloth to make clothes. For shelter, the items needed to repair and maintain the homes.  And also fuel for lamps, and in later years kerosene or coal for cooking and heating. It was these things and more carried by these vessels and cargo such as the lime to produce mortar and the bricks for a chimney for new homes, that enabled a small village to grow to become a town and later perhaps a city. Multiply this by many times over and it is what exists today, far from where it began in the age of sail.

Though not frequent and fortunately so was the loss an inbound ship and its cargo of the most needed consumable items.  Soon then to be empty the shelves in the general store, remaining empty for perhaps several weeks. In the ship's cargo might be a replacement for the nearly worn out or perhaps broken saw most needed to produce the lumber, or the needed salt for preserving the fish. And it might happen the loss of a ship outbound with the products of a seasons fishing or the lumber from several weeks of toil. This the loss of income to sustain this community. A loss not easily be made up if at all.
Busy with everyday activities there may be some who were aware of and but with little concern for the lighthouse several miles up the coast and the others further away. But it was these lighthouses giving aid to the mariner in his successful navigation of his vessel with its contents and thus to reach port, to arrive at that town to the great benefit of these people. The lighthouse up the coast, during the day a distinct identifiable marker. And to aid mariners in the darkness of night, from dusk to dawn, the lighthouse and with a keeper to night after night ---- make a good light.
The next time you visit a lighthouse, you might stand near it and look out on the water. Visualize the many ships passing in years gone by and think of the little towns these ships served and on which the people so greatly depended.  Do this and you may have a greater conceptual understanding and appreciation of this lighthouse and the many other lighthouses at so many locations on the coasts and lakes of this country. You might share this with others, perhaps the youth  who are there with you at the time. The lighthouses, a significant part of our history.
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