Naushon Island, Massachusetts Tarpaulin Cove Light main page / History / Bibliography / Photos / Postcards History
Naushon was long used for the pasturing of livestock, with; there were as many as 2,000 sheep on the island in the early nineteenth century. Tarpaulin Cove, on the east shore of the island, was for many years a bustling little place where the local farmers did business with the crews of incoming vessels.
Seamen traveling through Vineyard Sound often stopped for a meal or a night's stay at a tavern run for many years in by Zaccheus Lumbert. Lumbert established an early navigational light in 1759, for the "public good of Whalemen & Coasters." Lumbert and his successors maintained the light for nearly six decades.
Illustration of the first (1817) lighthouse at Tarpaulin Cove. National Archives.
The waters of Vineyard Sound were among the busiest in the world in the early 1800s. The first government appropriation for a proper lighthouse at Tarpaulin Cove was made in 1807, but no action was taken for another decade. The federal government paid $216 for suitable property for the establishment of a lighthouse on the west side of Tarpaulin Cove in 1817.
A rubblestone tower -- described as 38 feet tall in some sources, but reported as 25 feet tall in Lt. Edward W. Carpender's 1838 inspection -- was built for a little over $6,000. It went into service in October 1817, exhibiting a fixed white light 71 feet above the water. John Hayden was the first keeper of the light and remained at Tarpaulin Cove for at least 25 years.
Lewis recommended a new tower, reporting the "whole establishment in a dilapidated state." An 1850 inspection praised Hayden and indicated that repairs had improved life at the station somewhat.
A fifth-order Fresnel lens from L. Sautter and Company of Paris was installed in 1856. In April 1870, the characteristic was changed from a fixed white light to fixed white punctuated by brighter flashes every 30 seconds.
After the light was automated in 1941, the house and other buildings fell into disrepair and were torn down in 1962. The Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern optic. The lighthouse is now maintained by the Cuttyhunk Historical Society.
You can read much more about this lighthouse in the book The Lighthouses of Massachusetts by Jeremy D'Entremont.
Zaccheus Lumbert (1759-1764); various Cove Tavern keepers (1764-1817); John Geyer (1818-1852); Joseph R. Luce (1852-1853); Nathan Clifford, Jr. (1853-1861); Abraham C. White (1861-1864) Samuel E. Skiff (1864-1869); William E. Skiff (1869-1871); Richard Norton (1871-1882); Calvin N. Adams (1882-1886); Frank S. Carson (1886-1910); George T. Gustavus (1910-?); George A. Howard (1910-1912); Frederick W. Field (1912-1916); Carl Hill (1916-1920); Frank Allen Davis (1920-1928); Tolman Spencer (1928-1941).
Last update 2/16/11 © Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.
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