Rhode Island Lighthouse History

Hog Island Shoal Lights | Historical Nautical Charts

Hog Island Shoal Light Station History

In 1869 the Lighthouse Board wanted to build a lighthouse on Hog Island Shoal to replace a small lightship maintained on the shoal by the Old Colony Steamboat Company from 1866 to 1885. The lightship had a weak light that made it hard to see in anything but the best weather. The Board asked Congress for $45,000 to build it. The appropriation was turned down.

In 1885 the Lighthouse Board decided that a lighthouse shouldn't be built on Hog Island Shoal because it could cause damage to the channel. It now felt that a lightship would better serve the site. This change in thinking was due to money. The Board wanted to replace the Old Colony lightship but knew Congress wasn't going to appropriate money for a lighthouse anytime in the foreseeable future. Light Vessel 12 had recently been taken off of Ell Grass Shoal and was not being used. It could be moved to Hog Island Shoal without an appropriation.

On July 28, 1886, Congress authorized the move of the LV-12 to Hog Island Shoal. It was put on station on August 14. LV-12 was originally an unnumbered relief ship. It was renumbered LV-12 in 1871, when it was moved to Ell Grass Shoal in Connecticut to replace the first LV-12.

Captain Augustus Hall, Hog Island Shoal Lightship’s first keeper, died on February 8th, 1887. He committed suicide by jumping off the lightship. A short article in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania newspaper The Times suggested that no one on the ship tried to save him. The article stated "a boat was sent from the shore to rescue him, but failed." It doesn't mention why the lightship's boat wasn't launched or someone in the crew didn't jump in after him.

Hog Island Shoal Lightship was an old ship; it was built in 1846. It needed frequent repairs to stay on station. During an 1891 inspection the ship was found to be " structurally weak from general decay" and " beyond economical repair." The Lighthouse Board wanted to replace the worn out LV 12 with a new lightship of at least double her size and strength. It was estimated it would cost $70,000 to build the new ship. Congress didn't appropriate the money. The Board repeated the request in 1892 and 1893. They were turned dowm.

In 1896 the Lighthouse Board decided to build a lighthouse instead of a lightship for Hog Island Shoal. From 1895 to 1898 the Board made a yearly request to Congress for $35,000 to build it. It was denied every year. In 1897 the Lighthouse Board stated the ship was "old and worn" and "only by great care that she is kept on station." The Board wanted to replace her but there were no spare lightships in the district. She had to be taken off station in both 1897 and 1898 for at least two weeks for repairs. Congress finally appropriated the money in 1899.

During an inspection of the lightship in July 1901, an inspector discovered that the keeper, William Walin, was drunk on duty. He denied he was drunk, he said he had only been drinking tea. The lightship's crew said he was frequently drunk on duty.

In a letter to the inspector of the third lighthouse district, George Goddard, the master of the lighthouse tender Cactus,esd found Walin to be "unmistakably drunk." As Walin and his belongings were removed form the lighthship, a quart of liquor was found. The lightship's assistant keeper was place in comannd until a permanent replacement was found.

Construction started on Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse in September 1900. In November a storm damaged the plates in the base. Work stopped on it. The base of the lighthouse had to be redesigned. The base was expanded from 25 feet to 33 feet. Work was restarted in December. The damaged plates were removed and new plates were installed. LV-12 remained on station until the lighthouse was lighted on November 14, 1901. It was sold in 1903 for $360.

The lighthouse was automated in 1964. It remains an active aid to navigation.

In 2000 the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act was passed. It provided a framework for disposal of federally-owned historic lighthouse. They can be transferred to federal agencies, state and local governments and nonprofit corporations. If none of these parties want the lighthouse it can be sold to the public.

In 2004 the Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse was declared excessed and was made available through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. There were no local government or presevation groups interested in the lighthouse.

In 2006 the Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse was put up for sale by the General Service Administration. They used an online auction to sell it. There was a twenty-seven page infomation package included with it. The lighthouse was sold in November 2006 to Jon and Juli Chytka of South Dakota for $165,000.

Hog Island Shoal Lights | Historical Nautical Charts