Digest>Archives> April 2007

A Bride for Great Beds

By Timothy Harrison


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Built in 1880, the Great Beds Lighthouse was ...

Life must have been extremely lonely in the very early 1900’s for lighthouse keeper Ellsworth Smith at the Great Beds Lighthouses near South Amboy, New Jersey. Since there was not much time for a lighthouse keeper assigned to a lonely outpost to go through the normal dating process, Smith took out an advertisement for a wife.

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Great Beds Lighthouse keeper Ellsworth Smith with ...

One has to wonder how a lighthouse keeper would think that a women would even answer an advertisement to marry someone, sight unseen, to then live in a lighthouse surrounded by water.

Although the keepers didn’t have the Internet to help them find a bride, they seemed to have no trouble in attracting women willing to share their often remote and isolated life as was evident by this newspaper account of June 9, 1916.

“After getting a bride after advertising for three months, Ellsworth J. Smith, the lonely but romantic keeper of the Great Beds Lighthouse in Raritan Bay was unable to obtain a wedding license from City Clerk Wilbur Laroe today. Helen Barry of New Haven, Connecticut saw Smith’s advertisement in a matrimonial agency paper and came to Perth Amboy to have the knot tied.

When she admitted that she was 16 years old the clerk refused to issue a license. Smith is 40 years old and this is his first matrimonial venture.

The light in the Great Beds Light House burns brightly tonight warning sailors away from the rocks, but the keeper is steeped in gloom. He is not discouraged though, for he declares that he’ll land a wife yet.”

In searching through our archives we found that Smith did indeed get a wife. We located a photo, dated in 1916 with a newspaper caption that read, “Great Beds Lighthouse keeper and young bride.” What is unknown is if the original marriage license was later granted (the female in the photo does look young) or if Smith located another woman willing to marry him and live at the Great Beds Lighthouse.

This story appeared in the April 2007 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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