Digest>Archives> December 2010

Remembering Jim Gibbs

By Timothy Harrison


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Oregon’s Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse was built ...

The lighthouse preservation community lost one of its founders with the passing of former lighthouse keeper and highly respected maritime author James A Gibbs.

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Jim Gibbs in 2003 at Cleft of the Rock ...

A veteran of World War II, Gibbs served as a keeper in the 1940s at the remote and dangerous Tillamook Lighthouse off the rugged coast of Oregon. He went on to become editor of Marine Digest from where he retired in 1972.

As well as a large number of maritime and shipwreck books, Gibbs also authored: Lighthouses of the Pacific, Tillamook Light, A True Account, Sentinels of Solitude: West Coast Lighthouses, Twilight on the Lighthouses and coauthored Oregon’s Seacoast Lighthouses. He was considered one of the best authorities on west coast shipwrecks and lighthouses. He did all his research and wrote all of his books in the days before there was any Internet or high speed e-mail communication, a feat that many of us today may feel hard to comprehend.

Next to his Oregon home, he built the Cleft of Rock Lighthouse, a replica of the Fiddle Reef Lighthouse which stood in British Columbia from 1898 to 1978. Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse eventually became an official aid to navigation. The lens in Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse was salvaged from the Solander Lighthouse in British Columbia. It was here, at his lighthouse home, that Gibbs displayed many rare lighthouse artifacts that had been discarded in years past, thus saving them for future generations.

He and his wife also built and previously owned the Skunk Bay Lighthouse which is located a few miles from Point No Point in Washington State. In fact, the lantern room of Skunk Bay Lighthouse came from the Smith Island Lighthouse in Port Townsend, Washington; Gibbs personally saved it from being destroyed shortly before the lighthouse toppled over the bluff. Gibbs sold the Skunk Bay Lighthouse to a group of investors.

Among the many artifacts that Gibbs also saved shortly before they were going to be sold for scrap for their brass fittings were the 4th order lens from Washington State’s long lost Semiahmoo Lighthouse, and the 4th order lens from Patos Island Lighthouse, also in Washington.

Gibbs was a very religious man and proud of his long-time association as deacon and lay pastor of the Yachats Baptist Church. In fact, his lighthouse was named from the hymn He Hideth My Soul in the Cleft of the Rock based on the Bible verse from Exodus 33:22. If there is a lighthouse in Heaven, Jim will surely be there, making sure its light is shining down upon all of us.

Thank you, Jim, for the path you paved for those who followed. You may be gone, but your legacy will live on forever.

This story appeared in the December 2010 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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