Digest>Archives> January 2003

Deep Water Shoal, A Forgotten Light of the James River

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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The 1868 Deep Water Shoal Lighthouse was torn ...

All but one of the numerous and picturesque cottage-style screwpile lighthouses that once dotted the Chesapeake region have either been destroyed or moved to the mainland. Only Thomas Point Shoal Light remains in its original offshore location. Three of these lost lights - Point of Shoals, White Shoal, and Deep Water Shoal Light — stood on the James River in Virginia. These three “sister” lights were all established in 1855.

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Coast Guardsman Bill Skelton is seen here sitting ...

The Deep Water Shoal Lighthouse, five miles up the river from Point of Shoals, consisted of a hexagonal cottage-style dwelling surmounted by a small tower and lantern. When it was first built, a pressed glass masthead lens was suspended in the lantern room. Soon after it was established at a cost of nearly $21,000 in February 1855, the small building was damaged by ice and storms. It was totally destroyed by ice in 1867 and had to be replaced by a new, virtually identical structure, which went into service in January 1868.

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Don Bishop explains the “story behind the story” ...

After many decades of resident keepers, the lighthouse was automated and subsequently destroyed in 1966. Today an automatic light on a skeleton tower with a diamond-shaped black and white daymark is a reminder of the former lighthouse.

Don Bishop was stationed as a young engineman third class in the Coast Guard at Deep Water Shoal Light from 1950 to August 1951. The accompanying photos provide a record of life at a little-known light station.

This story appeared in the January 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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