Rhode Island Lighthouses

Sassafras Point Lighthouse

Sassafras Lighthouse
  View north toward Providence Public LIbrary Digital Collections used under CC BY-SA 4.0  

Location: Off Sassafras Point in the Providence River
Location: 1872 - presentl Lat 41 48 01 N - Long 71 23 31 W
Established: 1872

Lighthouse Constructed: 1872
Removed: 1912
Original Illuminating Apparatus: Six-Order Fresnel lens
Current Illuminating Apparatus: None
Height: 14 feet (1906)
Status: No Longer Exists
Light Characteristic: Fixed Red (1899)

Light Characteristic: Fixed White (1900)

Light Characteristic: Fixed Red (1901)

Light Characteristic: None (2005)
Range: 7½ miles (1901)
Range: None (2005)
Location: Established: Lighthouse Constructed: Removed: Original Illuminating Apparatus: Current Illuminating Apparatus: Height: Status: Light Characteristic: Range:

Sassafras Point Lighthouse and its sister light, Fuller Rock, were built in 1872. The hexagonal shape tower was built on a granite pier on the West Side of the Providence River, near Providence. It was equipped with a six-order Fresnel Lens.

It was difficult finding suitable keepers for them because of the low pay rate for tending these kinds of lights. Sassafras Point Lighthouse's first keeper, Joseph Pollard, was paid $160 a year. While the keeper at nearby Pomham Rock lighthouse was paid $500 a year. 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.

Sassafras Point Lighthouse was an unmanned light. The keeper had to row to it and Fuller Rock to light them. During one of these trips the keeper, Jack Mullen, almost drowned. His boat capsized, throwing him into the freezing Providence River. He grabbed hold of the overturned boat and cried for help. Edward Grogan was chopping wood nearby and heard Jack's cries for help. He rowed out and saved Jack.

Sassafras Point Light Closed
Sassafras Point Light Closed
 Fall River Daily Evening News (Fall River) July 23, 1912

In December 1876 captains of passenger steamboats and other ships traveling up and down the Providence River complained that Sassafras Point light was frequently out of service. It's keeper Samuel Heard stated in a December 12, 1876 Providence Journal article that lard oil was being used. In very cold weather lard oil will congeal and clog the lamps in the lantern. He said he had applied to the Lighthouse Board to use sperm oil but they didn't answer him. Sperm oil will remain liquid in freezing temperatures.

On July 23, 1912 Sassafras Point Lighthouse was discontinued and removed after the shoal it marked was dredged when the channel was widen. With just one light left to maintain, Keeper Mullen was demoted from lighthouse keeper to a laborer and his pay was cut in half.

Sassafras Point Lighthouse in 1900
Sassafras Point Lighthouse in 1900
 Courtesy of N.L. Stebbins

See more of Sassafras Point Lighthouse in Rhode Island Lighthouses: A Pictorial History by R Holmes.

Updated 8/9/2020