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Fuller Rock Lighthouse

Fuller Rock Lighthouse
 Courtesy of N.L. Stebbins

Location: East side of Providence River near Providence
Location: 1872 - presentl Lat 41 47 38 N - Long 71 22 46.700 W
Established: 1872

Lighthouse Constructed: 1872
Replaced with Skeleton Tower: 1923
Original Illuminating Apparatus: Six-Order Fresnel lens
Second Illuminating Apparatus: 375 mm lens (1935)
Current Illuminating Apparatus: 250 mm lens
Height: Lighthouse: 14 feet (1906)
Height: Skeleton tower: 25 feet (2005)
Status: Active aid to navigation/ skeleton tower now named Channel Light 42
Light Characteristic: Lighthouse: Fixed White (1894)
Light Characteristic:Lighthouse:Fixed Red (1907)

Light Characteristic: Skeleton tower: Flashing Red 3 seconds (1945)
Light Characteristic:Skeletontower:Occulting Red every 2 second (1925)
Light Characteristic:Skeletontower:Flashing Red 1.5 seconds (1935)
Light Characteristic:Skeletontower:Flashing Red 5 seconds (1946)
Light Characteristic:Skeletontower:Flashing Red 6 seconds (1988)
Light Characteristic:Skeletontower:Isosphase Red 6 seconds (2005)
Range: Lighthouse: 10 miles (1894)
Range:Lighthouse:7˝ miles (1906)
Range: Skeleton tower: 5 miles (1925)
Range:Skeletontower:8 miles (1946)
Range:Skeletontower:5 miles (1988)
Range:Skeletontower:4 miles (2005)
Location: Established: Lighthouse Constructed: Replaced with Skeleton Tower: Original Illuminating Apparatus: Second Illuminating Apparatus: Current Illuminating Apparatus: Height: Status: Light Characteristic: Range:

The granite pier that supports Channel Light 42 is all that remains of Fuller Rock Light. The wooden hexagonal shape light was constructed in 1872 on the east side of the Providence. Its keepers were responsible for it and Sassafras Point Light on the west side of the Providence River.

It was difficult finding suitable keepers for them because of the low pay rate for tending these kinds of lights. The Lighthouse Board wanted to build a keeper's dwelling near the lights, as an offset to the low pay. In 1874, Congress appropriated $5,000 for it, but it was never built. The land near the lights was being improved for business purposes. The property owners didn't want to sell it to the government, as they feared it would reduce the surrounding land value.

In 1886, Captain Jack Mullen was appointed the keeper for Fuller Rock and Sassafras Point, a position he would hold for 25 years. Just before sunset he would row out to Fuller Rock first and light it. Sometimes during the winter, it would be covered with ice. He would have to crawl on his hands and knees to reach the light. After it was lit, he would row up the river to Sassafras Point and light it. He would repeat this process the next morning to extinguish them.

On February 5, 1923, the lighthouse tender Pansy arrived at Fuller Rock to replace its six acetylene tanks. The light had been changed from oil to acetylene when it was automated in 1918. The crew from the Pansy removed the old tanks and installed six new ones. Each tank was six feet long and weighed over 200 pounds. After the installation was completed, the crew returned to the Pansy for lunch.

After lunch, the crew returned to the light to make sure everything was all right. As they climbed the stairs to the light, it exploded throwing the men onto the surrounding rocks, injuring five of them. The damaged lighthouse burst into flames, completely destroying what was left of it. The explosion was so powerful it was heard a mile away.

The Pansy rushed its five injured crewmembers to Providence for treatment. A buoy was placed near Fuller Rock as a temporary aid to navigation. A light on a skeleton tower was later erected on the granite pier.

In the early twentieth century, steamships carried passengers from New York to Providence every morning. On foggy mornings, mechanical fog signals on the other lighthouses in the Providence River would guide the ships up the river. Fuller Rock Lighthouse had a unique fog signal, a man with a horn. He would row out to the light before the ships arrived. This was a difficult task in the fog. He would use sound to find the light, listening for the waves breaking against the shore. He would row towards it only to find it was the Standard Oil pier half a mile south of the light or miss the light and would row to the other side of the river.

One he reached the light he would climb on to the base of the light and start blowing the horn until the ship coming up the river heard it. The ship blew its whistle indicating the horn has been heard. After that the ship would blow its whistle and he would blow the horn in response until it passed Fuller Rock.

This service was not provided by the government. Susan Morgan, who lived in a house near the light, paid men to blow the horn for over twenty years. Susan even blew the horn herself a few times when she couldn’t find anyone else to do it.

Updated 4/4/2015

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