Mattapoisett -- a few miles east
of New Bedford -- was a village of the town of Rochester until 1857,
when it was incorporated as a separate town. With a commodious harbor
on Buzzards Bay, Mattapoisett developed as a center for shipbuilding,
whaling, and coastal trade. The name of the town is said to come from a
Wampanoag Indian word for "place of resting," and Mattapoisett
appropriately developed into a restful summer resort favored by
luminaries such as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.
With the support of the Massachusetts congressman (and former
president) John Quincy Adams playing a vital role, Congress
appropriated $5,000 on March 3, 1837, for a lighthouse at Ned's Point,
at the north side of the entrance to Mattapoisett's harbor. The
lighthouse was built in 1837-38 and first lighted in March 1838. A
small stone dwelling was built close to the lighthouse.
Ned's Point Light c. 1860s (U.S.
Leonard Hammond, a prominent local shipbuilder and
businessman, was the contractor in charge of building the new tower and
keeper's house. Hammond, who also ran a salt works and a tavern, was
unable to complete construction in the specified time. He had to take
drastic action when an inspector arrived, expecting to see a finished
Hammond convinced the inspector to spend some time at his
tavern before heading to Ned's Point. Meanwhile, some of Hammond's work
crew scurried to make it look like the work had been finished. Where a
finished floor should have been, they placed loose planking over
Hammond and the inspector soon arrived. The unsuspecting man
stepped at the end of one of the loose boards and disappeared into the
foundation of the tower, angry but unhurt.
The new lighthouse's 11 lamps and reflectors displayed a fixed
white light 41 feet above sea level. The conical lighthouse -- built of
stone from a nearby beach -- originally had a "birdcage-style" lantern,
holding a system of 11 lamps and parabolic reflectors showing a fixed
white light 41 feet above the sea. An unusual architectural touch in
the tower is the cantilevered granite stairway, with 32 steps embedded
in the inner wall without the use of mortar.
Lt. Edward W. Carpender inspected the station just a few
months after it went into service in March 1838. He wrote:
The keeper informs me that, in the late storm, both
buildings leaked in all directions. The unskillfulness of the work
extended to the lantern, the dome of which likewise leaked, rendering
it prudent for the keeper to remain by the lamps during the rain, lest
the light should become extinguished. I removed the surface of the
mortar or cement, in several places, and found the stone to be laid in
what appeared to be very little more than mere sand.
Things had evidently improved by the time of an 1850
inspection, when Lanet Hall was keeper:
With one or two trifling exceptions, such as the
buildings being a little leaky, and a small part of the sea-wall being
down, everything is in first-rate order and neat as a pin. This
establishment is second to none of the kind that I am acquainted with.
It is a first-rate concern.
An inspection in 1851 told a different story, finding
the lighthouse to be badly built and leaky, with a poor lighting
system. The lantern room was only five feet, eight inches high -- "too
low... for the convenience of the keeper with his hat on."
The original birdcage-style lantern was replaced by an
octagonal lantern at some point before 1888, likely at the same time
that a fifth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1857. The present
lantern was installed in 1896.
A new wood-frame house, built on the original foundation
in 1888, replaced the stone house. A new covered walkway was built
between the house and tower in 1892, and a brick oil house was added in
Ned's Point Light in the early
From the collection of Edward
After 17 years as keeper of Bird Island Light, Zimri Tobias
"Toby" Robinson became keeper at Ned's Point in 1912. His
granddaughter, Hildegard Saunders, remembered pushing her doll carriage
along the shore at Ned's Point and popping corn on the furnace in the
keeper's house. She told the New Bedford Standard Times:
I remember my grandfather sitting in a high-back rocking
chair watching over the water. I used to sit by him.
From the collection of Edward
Rowe Snow, courtesy of Dorothy Bicknell
The keeper's house was removed in 1923. The house was
loaded on a barge and floated across Buzzards Bay to Wing's Neck Light
in Bourne. The last keeper at Ned's Point, Russell Eastman, made the
trip in his house. According to legend, he cooked his breakfast on the
way across the bay.
The Coast Guard decommissioned Ned's Point Light in
1952. In 1958 the site, except the tower itself, was sold to the Town
of Mattapoisett. A beautiful and popular park was developed at Ned's
Point. The light became active again, with a new plastic lens, in 1961.
In 1993, the local Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla
adopted the lighthouse. Auxiliary members renovated the lighthouse in
A sign near the lighthouse tells about its history
The volunteer keeper is currently Bert Theriault of
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 67.
Over the years Ned's Point has been a favorite
"sparking" spot for many local couples, and there's a long tradition of
weddings and engagements taking place at the lighthouse. Lighthouse
historian Raymond "Skip" Empey is among those who has been married at
Three generations of one Mattapoisett family have
become engaged at Ned's Point. The tradition started in 1935 with
Francis Cannon Rowland and Virginia Nelson Rowland.
Their granddaughter Meg has become the latest member
of the family to become engaged at the lighthouse. Meg adds:
For me the lighthouse was always a place to
escape to, a short walk from my parents house. I used to play on the
rocks close to the ocean when I was a kid. The two best sounds growing
up were the mast lines clinking on the boats in the harbor and that
Ned's Point Light was the target of vandals who
covered it with graffiti in 1994. The Coast Guard repainted and
completely refurbished the tower in 1995, installing a new optic that
increased the light's brilliance. More work was completed on the tower
A Coast Guard
rehabilitation of the lighthouse was finished on September 11, 2001.
- In August 2002, former Coast Guardsman George W.
Washburn wrote the following:
A view from the top
|I spent the last year and a
half of my Coast Guard service at the Cape Cod Canal Station in
Sandwich, MA (April 1964 - November 1966). As part of our duties
several of us were required to maintain shore aids to navigation from
Plymouth, Buzzards Bay and the north part of the Cape and Sandy Neck
during the spring and fall of the year and emergency repairs as
required. As a seaman I got to do the grunt work, scraping and painting
and minor repairs to the towers, beacons, etc. During the spring we
would inspect the tower at Ned Point and repair any damage caused by
weather or vandals. We would scrape down the metalwork and prime and
paint it. The stonework was maintained by removing loose mortar and
painting and then repainting.
Usually two of us would do the work over a week's time.
While working at Ned Point I can recall this feeling of being watched,
aslo as I walked the stairs in the tower the first time. While using
the bosun's chair one day painting the tower white, the line slipped
and I dropped about 20 feet. Needless to say, it took my breath away.
The young recruit who was assisting me at the time thought I was a
goner. He maintained that the line slipped from his hands, but was
unable to grab it. He said it was not him who stopped the fall. I
cannot explain it.
The lighthouse has been open during July and August,
Thursdays, 10 a.m. to noon. Contact Bert Theriault, lighthouse keeper,
for more information.
You can read much more about this lighthouse in the book The
Lighthouses of Massachusetts by Jeremy D'Entremont.
list is a work in progress. If you have any information on the keepers
of this lighthouse, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at
email@example.com. Anyone copying this list onto another web site does
so at their own risk, as the list is always subject to updates and
George Braley (1843-1846); Hannah Brayley (c. 1846-1849);
Larnet Hall Jr (1849-1853); John Bumpus (1853-1859); Lanet Hall, Jr.
(1859-1874); George H. Kelly (1874-1895); William P. Howard
(1895-1912); Zimri Tobias "Toby" Robinson (1912-1914); Russell Eastman