On May 17, 2021 seven men who served as lighthouse keepers and assistant keepers at the Nauset Light Station in Eastham, Massachusetts were honored with U.S. Lighthouse Service Memorial Markers at their gravesites at the Evergreen Cemetery in Eastham, Massachusetts.
The keepers honored and their dates of service at Nauset Light were:
Benjamin H. A. Collins (1843 to 1849 and 1853 to 1861)
Henry Y. Hatch (1851 to 1853)
Michael Collins (1861 to 1866)
Peter Higgins (1866 to 1869)
Heman Gill (1870 and 1873)
Nathan A. Gill, Sr. (1873 to 1879)
Alfred H. Gill (1879 to 1882)
Attending the ceremony were members of the Nauset Light Preservation Society (NLPS), the National Park Service, the Eastham Historical Society, descendants of keepers Gill, Higgins, and Collins, and Richard “Dick” Ryder who was the driving force and designer of the U.S. Lighthouse Service Memorial Markers. Acting as Master of Ceremonies for the event was Betsy Richards, president of NLPS. Previously, the NLPS had placed a marker at the grave of keeper Joshua Crosby at the Orleans Cemetery in Orleans, Massachusetts.
All of the keepers honored served at the three masonry lighthouse towers known as Nauset Beach Light Station. None of these towers exist today. They were replaced in 1892 with three new wooden towers.
Even though it had three lighthouses, the light station was staffed by only one keeper until the position of assistant keeper was added in 1867. The assistant lived with the head keeper and his family in the station’s one dwelling. This was later changed when a new dwelling was built in 1876. Nathan A. Gill, Jr., who was head keeper of the lighthouses from 1869 to 1883, had two of his brothers and his father who served with him at various times, until the position of assistant keeper was eliminated in 1882.
The Bureau of Lighthouses finally decided to change Nauset to a single light. Two of the wooden lighthouses were removed and the center one was moved back, given a white light flashing three times each ten seconds (a tribute to the Three Sisters), and attached to the keeper’s house. In 1918, the defunct towers were bought for $3.50 by the Cummings family of Attleboro, Massachusetts, and incorporated into a summer cottage on Cable Road. The lighthouses each contained an upper and lower bedroom. The cottage was later used as a dance studio. By 1923, the remaining Sister was in poor condition and needed to be replaced. Meanwhile, Chatham Light was changed from a twin to a single light station. The discontinued twin tower from Chatham Lighthouse was dismantled, transported to Eastham, and installed on a concrete foundation to become the new Nauset Light. The last of the three wooden towers then passed into private hands and became the cupola of a residence known as “The Beacon.”
Eventually, the National Park Service purchased all of the 1882 Three Sisters of Nauset towers. In 1983, the National Park Service placed the Three Sisters of Nauset in a park setting, 1,800 feet west of Nauset Light, where visitors will now find the restored towers lined up in their original configuration, a straight line with 150 feet between towers.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2021 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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