A little over a half-mile east northeast of Hog Island Shoals Light lies Musselbed Shoals, a dangerous obstruction in the channel from Narragansett Bay to Mount Hope Bay and the approach to Fall River, Massachusetts.
A stone daybeacon marked the spot when, in 1871, the Lighthouse Board recommended the addition of a light and fog bell. A congressional appropriation of $3,000 was obtained in March 1873, and the new light was established on August 1 of that year.
The first lighthouse consisted of a hexagonal tower attached to the keeper's house, was built in 1873. It had a sixth-order Fresnel lens and exhibited a fixed red light 31 feet above sea level. A fog bell was struck at intervals of 20 seconds when needed.
This structure didn't last long. Ice was a frequent problem; in the winter of 1874-1875 ice floes moved the entire station four feet. Repairs kept the light and fog bell running, but an appropriation of $6,000 was requested to rebuild the lighthouse and to add protective riprap around the pier. The funds were obtained in March 1877. The stone pier was enlarged and the combination lighthouse/dwelling was rebuilt. The fog bell was mounted on the roof along with the short tower and lantern.
Most keepers had fairly short stays at the isolated and claustrophobic station, but Andrew Smith (1881-91) lasted a decade, and James D. Leonard had the longest stint of 14 years (1891-1905). Keeper Edward Jansen, who stayed only a few months in 1908, went on to replace the renowned Ida Lewis as keeper of Lime Rock Light.
Circa late 1800s. (National Archives)
More damage was inflicted by ice in the winter of 1919–20.
Some repairs were completed, but the little station was doomed. In the
summer of 1938, a large section of the ceiling caved in. The keeper was
soon removed, probably a good thing as it turned out—just a short time
later the lighthouse was devastated by the hurricane of September 21,
During the following year the building was dismantled, and an automatic light on a skeleton tower was installed. A light on this spot still operates today, with a red light flashing every six seconds.
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