Tradition tells us that Ten
Pound Island, on the east side of Gloucester Harbor, received its name
from the amount of money paid to the local Indians for the property by
the early settlers. This commonly told tale is disputed by the Cape Ann
historian Joseph Garland, who wrote that it was more likely named for
the number of sheep pens (also known as pounds) on the island, which
was reserved in the early days for "rams onlie."
Ten Pound Island gained notoriety in 1817 when several people
reported seeing a large sea serpent in the vicinity. One of the
witnesses was Amos Story, who said:
It was between the hours of twelve and one o'clock when I
first saw him, and he continued in sight for an hour and a half. I was
setting on the shore, and was about twenty rods from him when he was
the nearest to me. His head appeared shaped much like that of the sea
turtle, and he carried his head from ten to twelve inches above the
surface of the water. His head at that distance appeared larger than
the head of any dog I ever saw.
The first Ten Pound Island Light with
its original birdcage-style lantern room
U.S. Coast Guard photo
To help mariners find their way into Gloucester's
inner harbor, and to help them avoid a dangerous ledge to the southwest
of the island, Congress appropriated funds for a light station on Ten
Pound Island in May 1820. A 20-foot conical stone lighthouse tower was
built, along with a stone dwelling. The light was in service by October
1821, with a fixed white light exhibited from 39 feet above mean high
Amos Story of sea serpent fame became keeper in 1833
for $350 yearly. In 1842, Story complained that the tower and dwelling
were both poorly constructed, saying, "The leaks around the windows of
the dwelling-house are so bad that we are obliged to set a tub to catch
the water whenever it rains hard. The wood work, frames, &c, of the
windows, are rotten."
Engraving of the first Ten
Pound Island Light
From the collection of
Edward Rowe Snow, courtesy of Dorothy Bicknell
The first Ten
Pound Island Light c. 1880s
From the collection of Edward Rowe Snow, courtesy of Dorothy Bicknell
In the summer of 1880, the great American artist Winslow Homer boarded with the lighthouse keeper
at Ten Pound Island. That summer Homer painted about 50 scenes of
Ten Pound island Light appears in some of these scenes,
and also can be seen in some of the paintings of Gloucester artist Fitz
Henry Lane (formerly known as Fitz Hugh Lane).
A new 30-foot cast-iron lighthouse tower, lined with
brick, was built in 1881 along with a new wood frame keeper's house. A
federal fish hatchery facility was added to the island in 1889. The
hatchery was abandoned in 1954.
The second Ten Pound Island Light c.
1900. The fish hatchery can be seen to the left.
From the collection of Edward Rowe
Snow, courtesy of Dorothy Bicknell
Edward H. Hopkins, previously at Cape Poge Light, became
keeper in 1922. In 1940, in preparation for "Flying Santa" Edward Rowe
Snow's present-dropping flight over the lighthouse, the wife of Keeper
Hopkins spelled out a giant greeting with newspapers nailed to the
ground, reading "Merry Christmas." Snow took a photo of the greeting,
and the Associated Press distributed it to many papers later that same
Late that afternoon, the Hopkins' son bought a Boston paper on
the mainland and rowed back to Ten Pound Island. When his son put the
paper on the kitchen table, Keeper Hopkins was flabbergasted to see his
home and lighthouse on the front page, in a photograph that had been
taken just hours earlier.
U.S. Coast Guard photo
In 1925, a Coast Guard air station was put on the
island, with one small scout plane. Later two amphibious vehicles were
added to the station.
The initial purpose of the operation was to catch rum
runners in the area during Prohibition.
In 1956, Ten Pound Island Light was decommissioned and the
fifth-order Fresnel lens was removed, replaced by a modern optic put on
the old bell tower, later moved to a skeleton tower. The Fresnel lens
is now at the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, Maine. The keeper's
house and outbuildings (except for the oil house, which survives) were
reduced to rubble. Ownership of the island reverted to Gloucester from
the federal government.
In the late 1980s, the Lighthouse Preservation Society
initiated the restoration of the lighthouse. It cost about $45,000,
raised by the city and a grant from the Massachusetts Historical
Senator Edward M. Kennedy announced the grant, saying:
It [Ten Pound Island Light] has seen the stately
schooners and the historic vessels that make their way to sea every day
for over a century and watched over the Gloucester fishermen who braved
the wind and waves to make their living. For some of those brave souls
this... vista of Ten Pound Island was their final vision of land.
The tower was repaired by K & K Painting Company of
Maryland and the automatic light was returned to the lighthouse. The
renovation took over two years to complete. Ten Pound Island Light was
relighted as an active aid to navigation on August 7, 1989, Lighthouse
Bicentennial Day, in a ceremony complete with fireworks. The oil house
was restored in 1995.
Ten Pound Island Light can be seen from many points
along the Gloucester waterfront, including the area around the famous
fisherman statue on Stacey Boulevard (left).
Closer views are available from tour boats that pass
through the harbor.
You can read much more about this lighthouse in the book
The Lighthouses of Massachusetts by Jeremy
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
firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone copying this list onto another web site does
so at their own risk, as the list is always subject to updates and
Amos Story (1833-?);
George A. Davis (1849-?); Moses Barrett (?); David Lufkins (?); James
Bailey (c. 1914); Edward H. Hopkins (1922-?); Howard Ball (?-1950);
Thomas Keene (c. early 1950s); Ernest Sampson (Coast Guard, 1942-1943);
Andrew M. McLaughlin (Coast Guard, October 1955 - February 1956)