Bloggin' the Whole Story

Thanks to everyone who frequents this website for the photos and blogs. On this blog site there will be a variety of photos and descriptive posts. Some posts involve extensive research, both from interviewing locales and supplemented from the internet, while others are posted for the simple photo alone. Please enjoy and don't be afraid to give back your comments, good or bad.

Cape Florida Lighthouse-The Dead Man Beside Me

February 20, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Cape Florida LightCape Florida Light

The Dead Man Beside Me

The history of the Cape Florida Lighthouse is 200 years long and protracted with such events as construction fraud, destructive hurricanes, beach erosion that threatened the tower's stability, death, struggles for survival, violent attacks by indigenous people, fires, oil lamp explosions, civil war vandalism, then reconstruction. This short blog will recap but a few events in its colorful history. Stay tuned for the Rest of the Story in a future blog. . . 

In the early 1820's, a parcel of three acres of land on Key Biscayne was sold by the Waters Davis family to the federal government. Keep in mind it was only in 1821 that the US government took control of southern Florida from Spain. Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce De León had named the southern tip of Florida as Cape of Florida in 1513.
After surveying the southern Florida coastline, the U.S. government was eager to erect a light tower that would significantly aid maritime navigation around the southern tip of Florida. Hopes were that it would also greatly reduce future ship wrecks on the Great Florida reef and minimize black pirate activity along the Florida coastline. The lighthouse was located at a slight land projection that came to be known as Cape Florida and was the closest land mass to the prevailing Gulf Stream ocean currents and trade winds. Coupled with the North Atlantic Drift further north, the Gulf Stream helps accelerate traversing the north Atlantic to Europe. 

Soon after being awarded the contract to construct the first lighthouse in southern Florida on Key Biscayne, as well as one in Key West and Dry Tortugas, Samuel Lincoln set sail from Boston to Florida in August of 1824 with plans and construction materials on board. He and his crew never arrived and were never heard from again. Assumed lost at sea, he was replaced by Noah Humphreys to build the lighthouse at Key Biscayne. The original 65 foot brick tower built with a concrete base set on a coral reef had an internal wooden staircase, and was completed by the end of 1825. ( It was later determined that the contractor had defrauded the government by making the upper brick walls of the tower hollow so as to save the cost of brick and to make the schedule.) The area of land where the lighthouse was being built was a vital sailing off point for black Seminoles escaping slavery to freedom in the Bahamas where slavery had been outlawed. Known as the Saltwater Railroad, the building of the lighthouse and the bustling activity in Key Biscayne hindered this escape route.

After being appointed as the first lighthouse keeper, Captain John Dubose, found it necessary, after a few years, to move his wife, 5 children and two former African-American slaves to safer surroundings in Key Biscayne, just north of the lighthouse. However it soon became apparent to him, this was not far enough away from the local Seminole tribes that were growing increasingly hostile. He then moved them to Key West. Hostilities grew even bolder by 1830 when, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, formed in 1824, tried enforcing the Removal Act passed by Congress. By coercing the Seminole nation to relocate to the Indian Territory, established in what today is known as Oklahoma, they outraged them even further and began the Second Seminole War. Subsequently, on July 23, 1836 a band of Seminoles attacked the lighthouse compound in their growing hostility to the US government. 
When in early July, Dubose decided to visit his family in Key West, he left only assistant keeper John W.B. Thompson in charge at the compound along with Aaron Carter, an older African-American handyman. The Seminoles aggressively attacked with muskets in hand. Seeing the attackers coming, the two men escaped from the keepers' quarters and made it to the top of the lighthouse tower with their own muskets and keg of gunpowder. The wooden staircase and wooden windows were set aflame by the attackers. Fires were heightened by the leaking 225 gallon lamp oil tank at the base of the tower which had suffered musket ball holes. The heat from the burning staircase and the subsequent breaking glass lenses and window panes in the lantern room forced the two men out onto the two foot wide open grate metal balcony. Now being targets of the Seminoles from below, Aaron Carter succumbed to a total of 7 musket ball wounds. It is recorded that the elder Carter, with tears in his eyes said to Thompson, ". . . I am wounded, save yourself " and took his last breath. Thompson, laying beside Carter, was not much better off having endured repeated musket fire from below and suffered life-
threatening wounds to his feet and legs. He laid there on the balcony grating in a semiconscious state for almost 12 hours enduring thirst, hunger, musket ball wounds and fire burns all the while with attackers continued their rampage below.

With his clothes now on fire, Thompson, stood up to the railing and was considering jumping to his death after recommending his soul to God as he later stated. But rather, he managed to hurl the remaining gun powder keg down to the bottom of the fully inflamed wooden staircase hoping to end his misery by toppling the entire tower in an explosion. The result however was that only the staircase collapsed and the fire extinguished. The explosion and resulting pillar of fire was seen by the U.S. Naval schooner Motto, some 12 miles away. By morning, when they reached the Lighthouse, the seamen from the ship found Thompson barely alive at the top of the tower, and the attackers temporarily gone. Thompson was unable to get down due to the staircase's destruction and his serious injuries. With a series of ropes and pulleys, and some ingenuity, two naval seamen from the Motto were able to reach the top of the tower and rescue Thompson.

Thompson was sent to a military hospital in Key West and later to Charleston, South Carolina to recover. Though severely handicapped by his injuries for the remainder of his life, he continued to live out his days. 

In light of the ongoing hostilities with the native Seminole nation, the island of Key Biscayne was uninhabitable for settlers and the lighthouse lantern went dark from 1836 until 1846. But in 1847. . . .


Cockspur Island Lighthouse - In The Line of Fire

February 02, 2024  •  Leave a Comment



Cockspur Island Lighthouse - In The Line of Fire

Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island, Georgia (to the left side and out of view in this photo) was fully occupied as a Confederate fort with a garrison of about 361 men at the beginning of the Civil War. But the Union wanted to end the choke hold that allowed the South to protect the port of Savannah. On April 10, 1862, Union forces began firing varying sized rifled artillery rounds from 11 artillery batteries equipped with 36 of the newly invented “Parrott” rifled cast iron cannons. Artillery batteries were stretched out along the north beachhead of Tybee Island across the Savannah River. The furthest east battery positions on the beach were still able to reach the walls of the Fort with shells despite being some 3400 yards away. This was entirely possible only because of newly invented precision military technology of the rifled cannon. Closer batteries, with smaller sized ammunitions, were located less than 1600 yards away from the walls of the Fort. After 30 hours of relentless precision bombardment, the Confederate forces surrendered Fort Pulaski. The Fort had been built between 1829 and 1847 with roughly 25 million bricks, 7.5 ft thick walls, 25 feet high, and built by enslaved peoples rented from nearby plantations. It was one of over 42 coastal “Third System” fortifications built by the Federal government after the War of 1812. Once thought invincible to standard cannon ball munitions, the new technology of rifled cannons made the U.S. coastal forts very vulnerable.

The Cockspur Island Light located at the SE tip of Cockspur Island was only accessible by boat or by foot at extreme low tide and was directly in the line of the artillery shelling by 3 batteries easterly positioned on the Tybee Island beach. The Light had been extinguished at the beginning of the Civil War so as to not aid Union naval blockades or assaults. The tower was not the military objective of the Union attacks on the Fort but stood in the direct line of fire of those 3 battery positions. In order to be an effective bombardment on the Fort, the Union’s "Parrott" rifled artillery rounds and percussion shells were hurled in such a trajectory over the brick Lighthouse Tower that it suffered no significant damage. 

Courtesy of Google and American Battlefield Trust here is a Link to the Union Pre-Attack Strategy Map:

The original brick Light tower on this site was only intended as a daymark and was built between 1837 and 1839, but was also destroyed by a hurricane in 1839. Six years later, the famous NY architect John S. Norris was commissioned by the US government to rebuild the original lighthouse but as an illuminated tower. By 1848 this Lighthouse and Keeper’s quarters were completed on this islet consisting of oyster shells and rip-rap rock. The brick tower of 1848 was again destroyed by a hurricane in 1854 but rebuilt in 1855 on the same foundation albeit enlarged. This is the current tower shown in the photo. After the Civil War, in 1866, the light was relit. After the hurricane of 1893 it was also painted white to serve as a daymark for navigation . In 1909 this seemingly insignificant little brick tower Lighthouse's beacon was finally extinguished as a navigational light on the Savannah River. By 1909 major commerce was increasing to the Port of Savannah and sea traffic was redirected to the deeper north channel of the River.

By August 1958 President Eisenhower signed into a proclamation a transfer of ownership of the Cockspur Island Light from the US Coast Guard to the National Park Service. Preservation of this Light Tower, Georgia’s smallest, is ongoing. In 2007, the Light was relit for historic recognition.



BHL-Nuclear Light

January 05, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Baltimore Harbor Light_MarylandBaltimore Harbor Light_Maryland

America's Only Nuclear Powered Lighthouse-

Originally funded in 1894, construction was not completed until 1907 and finally lit in 1908. It is located on Chesapeake Bay, as the last lighthouse built on the Bay it marks the entrance to the Craighill Channel near the mouth of the Magothy River leading to Baltimore Harbor. Construction difficulties included flooding and subsequent sinking of the caisson, re-erecting the caisson and fierce winter storms delayed the completion for almost 18 years. As it turns out, the BHL (Baltimore Harbor Light), as it was known, became one of the most difficult lighthouse construction projects ever built in the United States. Above the waterline it stood 53 feet and some 88 feet below the mean water line, resting on 91 pilings driven into the muddy bottom of the Chesapeake Bay.

It was a partially filled with concrete, steel caisson foundation with a 30 foot diameter building platform, painted white brick octagonal two story super structure measuring 24 feet in width, mansard shaped slate tile roof and with a black lantern enclosure to top it off.  The original caisson engineering criteria was that it needed to resist 100mph winds, 30,000 pounds of ice pressure per square foot and almost constant 3 mph underwater currents.

In 1964, the U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender White Pine installed a 60-watt nuclear isotopic power generator about the size of a 55 gallon drum weighing 4600 pounds, as an experiment to see if such a power source could be used in remote areas for sustainable long term power. The BHL was America's only, and the world's first, nuclear powered lighthouse. After two years, the nuclear powered generator was removed having proved itself worthy. As a side note, while the generator was being installed, the lighthouse was passed by the world's first nuclear powered cargo-passenger ship, the historic NS Savannah, now currently moored at the Port of Baltimore, Maryland.

The lighthouse lantern is currently solar powered and still maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard; the lighthouse is fully restored and privately owned.

Photo taken in September 2023 from the shoreline along Shipsview Road near Cape St. Claire, Maryland using a Nikon D850 DSLR, Nikkor 500mm lens (hand-held), manual exposure setting f/14, shutter speed 1/250, ISO 125.





Standby To Standby

September 07, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

French Castle_Red Coat Soldier_NYFrench Castle_Red Coat Soldier_NY

Standby To Standby -

Harsh winters, starvation, scurvy, drunkenness, disease as well as attacks by native Americans and foreign armies plagued Fort Niagara at one time or another over its' 300 year history. In the late 1600's the French were especially hard hit by starvation and disease. In 1687 while it was named Fort Denonville, 100 French soldiers were left to winter here, only 12 survived. Of particular concern for British command in the years between 1759 and 1796 was boredom among the rank and file. British red-coat soldiers, also known as "lobsters" and "bloody backs" (as labelled by colonists) were stationed here to secure the entrance to the Niagara River which led to the Great Lakes and to carry out raids on American colonists. Yet in standby preparation, the garrison of British soldiers stationed at Fort Niagara's 1726 era French-built Castle "mansion"  were required to be always ready in full uniform. 

I photographed this British Red Coat re-enactor while visiting Fort Niagara in July 2021. In my brief interview with him, he was stoic and a man of few words. He did convey his role as an era-correct contingent of the garrison. Here was a non-commissioned British regimental soldier, a private or corporal at best and as he put it. . . plagued with extreme boredom. He was enacting smoking a tobacco pipe as so many did and portraying playing cards on the table as a relief for the boredom. Despite being well disciplined troops, this boredom often led to gambling with cards, drunkenness and brawling, all strictly against British military regulations for a British soldier but they did so nonetheless, he stated.

A British soldier was rationed roughly five pints of small beer per diem (usually diluted to avoid excessive drunkenness). Winter boredom would have consisted of much the same, more or less, but with the added difficulty of staying warm in subzero temperatures even while inside. In the French Castle, fireplaces were common in every room to avoid freezing. Supplies would come from England every two months or so but at other times not at all. These soldiers also faced disease and scurvy under harsh winter conditions. Some were married with wives housed at the fort as well. Marriage was greatly discouraged by Commanding Officers.

Fort Niagara in western New York has a long history as a conflicted military stronghold. It was a strategic location for controlling all maritime traffic entry from the Atlantic Ocean into the Great Lakes. The first military settlement at Fort Niagara located at the mouth of the Niagara River off Lake Ontario was established by the French as Fort Conti in 1679. The trading post and military fortification protected their fur trading interests with the indigenous people and their continuing exploration and settlements around the Great Lakes. The indigenous peoples of the Iroquois Confederacy included originally Five Nations: the Mohawks, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayugas, Senecas and later in 1722 the Tuscarora peoples to make it Six Nations. To protect their affairs, the French strived to form an alliance with the Six Nations for the purpose of defeating any invading forces namely the British. However the alliance with the Iroquois tribes especially were strained at best. In 1726 the French were allowed by the Iroquois Confederacy to build what they called a "House of Peace", yet built of stone. The French conned the Confederacy and built the French Castle at Fort Niagara in the form of a french styled mansion so as to minimize the appearance as an armed fortification. But the building housed garrisoned military personnel and munitions storage. See the following link to other Fort Niagara photos taken by myself on this same tour in July 2021. In those photos you will see the stone Castle, the reinforced stone Redoubts used for perimeter protection as well as the bermed fortifications with artillery batteries.

Fort Niagara Photo Tour

The French continued to fortify and strengthen the Fort during the King George's War of 1744-1748 and during the French and Indian War beginning in 1754 through 1757 by building massive earthen berms, structures for provisions and munitions storage. Then in 1759, besieged by night and day bombings, an overwhelming British force and tunneled intrusions, the French held Fort succumbed to a 19 day siege by British forces. In 1770-1771 the British built two stone Redoubts to shore up their perimeter defenses around the Fort. The British held control of the Fort throughout the American War for Independence and used it as a base for raids against American colonists and as a refuge for Native allies, the Tories and British loyalists in the colonies. However in 1796 Britain was forced under treaty to turn over the Fort to the Americans.

During the War of 1812, Fort Niagara was again captured by British troops as a stronghold. They again forfeited control back to the Americans by treaty in 1815. By 1825, the building of the Erie Canal greatly diminished the strategic importance of Fort Niagara.

The Fort has been used for U.S. troop training and staging for the Union during the Civil War, troop readiness for the Battle of Manila in 1899 in the Philippines, and for WWI and WWII. In 1944 it was used as a prisoner of war camp for German and Austrian POW's.

Today the Fort welcomes some 200,000 tourists annually.

Since this photo was taken in very dark interior conditions, camera settings were adjusted accordingly: ISO 1600; aperture f/8; shutter speed was reduced to 1/20 using a Nikon D850 with a 28mm lens but hand held. 




Crossing the Bar

April 13, 2021


Crossing the Bar

Over two hundred shipwrecks have been recorded in and around the mouth of the Columbia River where it empties into the Pacific Ocean.

The earliest records date to 1775 when Spanish explorer Bruno de Hezeta (Heceta) discovered and mapped the area. Illnesses among his crew stopped him from any further exploration. In 1788 English explorer Captain John Meares, in an attempt to further discover the Great Northwest Inland Passage, as mapped out by Heceta, landed on the north river bank of the Columbia, but frustrated he could not find the actual river. In his frustration he named the high cliffs point Cape Disappointment. American trader Robert Gray crossed the bar in 1792 in his ship The Columbia and gave the river its current name. There is evidence that earlier Spanish ships may have floundered and crewmen lost as early as 1679 at the mouth of the Columbia River. Evidence suggests that some periled crews of sunken ships made it to shore only to be captured by local Indian tribes such as the Chinook and Clatsop then traded to other tribes as slaves. Hundreds of crewmen and passengers are known to have perished by drowning. Since 1850, the mouth of the Columbia has been labelled the Graveyard of the Pacific.

The fierce currents, winds and tidal actions here create an underwater shifting sand bar that causes ships to run aground or drift off course only to be dashed on the rocky banks of the River. Today's large ships wait as long as a week for the fog, winds and currents to be just right for the crossing of the bar. River pilots are needed to navigate safely across the sand bar. All throughout the 1800's mariner traffic was essential for providing Portland and other inland inhabitants with supplies. Exporting products such as grain and timber was also vital for the areas' economy. The shifting underwater sand caused such concern in the late 1800's that Congress appropriated funds to build a jetty extending out from the Clatsop Sand spit on the south side of the mouth in 1914 and a northern jetty in 1925. This in hopes that it would mitigate the shifting sands. Elevated railroad tracks were built out into the River to deposit large rock for the jetty. Even today, the channel is regularly dredged to keep the channel depth acceptable for marine traffic. Currents are so fierce at the mouth of the Columbia that salt water flow has been registered as far as 106 miles up River and fresh water plumes reach out into the Pacific for a 100 miles. This is no normal river delta. 

In 1856, Congress decided it was vital to build a lighthouse high atop the northern cliff above the Cape. This photo shows the 53 foot high conical shaped Cape Disappointment Light at an elevation of 220 feet above the River. (The small observation deck structure in front of the light tower is used by the Coast Guard to observe the constantly changing sand bar and alert mariners of pending dangers.) By 1870 it was discovered, after several shipwrecks, that the lighthouse was so high above the River level that it often could not be seen during thick fog and the bell mechanism not heard due to the noise of the waves below. The location also was too far east from the ocean and could not be seen by ships approaching from the north. A second light, the North Head Light, was erected in 1897 about two miles further north atop the cliffs facing the Pacific Ocean.

Photo taken May 2019.

Herring Cove Nova Scotia

February 02, 2021

Herring Cove_Nova ScotiaHerring Cove_Nova Scotia

Herring Cove, Nova Scotia

Driving to the southwest out of Halifax one morning in August 2019 on highway 253, we were on our way to photograph the Chebucto Head Light at Duncan Cove off Highway 349. About 15 kilometers down the road from downtown Halifax, I spotted a little fishing cove that certainly looked picturesque. With camera in hand I had to stop. This was Herring Cove, a regional municipality suburb of Halifax of about 3000 people. The town had been a productive fishing community and remnants were still very visible. However, that working industry had faded. One of the last locally famous full-time fisherman of decades past retired in 2018. Today's fishing activity here consists mostly of a few lobster boats moored to the old docks in the cove, some of which can be seen in this photo. 

What I did not realize at the time I took this photo is that this little rural bedroom community is the major North American hub of internet cabling between Europe and the U.S. / Canada. Who knew ? This fact is so obscure that not even some of the locals are aware of its significance. Herring Cove Nova Scotia is the shortest point between our continent and England and subsequently the rest of western Europe. As of 2015 it is the landing point for the densest cluster of sub-50ms (millisecond) trans-Atlantic fiber optic cables between the two sides of the Atlantic. There are several major routes that "land" here including those from London (5500km), Liverpool and Dublin Ireland. Branch cables run 750km from Herring Cove to Lynn, Massachusetts (north of Boston) connecting to the U.S. 

Hibernia Networks began work just prior to the year 2000 ( and finished in 2003 ) to establish a 30,000 SF landing point station at Hospital Point in Herring Cove . In 2015, Hibernia Express ( later sold to Global Tech Telecommunications in 2017 ) expanded the investment when they laid the newest high tech clusters of 8 pair copper clad fiber optic cables across the Atlantic that enabled sub-50ms connections. The term "sub-50ms" speaks to the latency or delay in the internet connection signal. Today's cable connections to London provide a "ping" rate of less than 45ms and better. In layman's term, that means that a signal sent from New York for example can reach London and back again in less than 45 milliseconds. Milliseconds, that's a very big deal, the speed of light kind of a deal. The cabling laid in the initial cabling in 2003 were producing rates at only sub-70ms. Today, financial markets in New York can make virtually instantaneous trades with European markets. Very important indeed in today's business world.

The world is not connected by the "Cloud" as they say, but rather by the speed of light undersea cabling signals.

Who knew this about Herring Cove Nova Scotia anyway ? Now we know. . . . 







Bergen Night Lights

January 06, 2021

Bergen Night LightsBergen Night Lights

Bergen's Historic Wharf Front -

Though second in population to the capital of Oslo, the Norwegian city of Bergen is the countries largest in port traffic and commerce for both freight and cruise ship passengers. Over 300 cruise ships travelling up and down the Norwegian coastline during the summer dock in Bergen, disembarking some 500,000 tourists on a yearly basis. Many of the cruise ships also venture inland on the many fjords. Norway has over 53,000 miles of ocean coastline, fjords, bays and inland waterways. Sognefjord, just north of Bergen, is Norway's longest and deepest fjord, stretching some 204 kilometers inland.

There is historic evidence that the City of Bergen began in the year 1020 AD and was established officially as a township in 1070 AD. Some of the two and three story gabled-roof wooden buildings seen along the eastside of Vågen Harbor wharf in the background of this photograph date from this period. Others are a little newer, around 1702, rebuilt due to devastating fires of the original buildings.This wharf area is known as old historic Bryggen (the dock) or Tyskebryggen, meaning the German dock. As trade grew more robust in the centuries after 1020, it became the central location of commerce for the Hanseatic League trading companies beginning as early as the 1300's. I have toured many of these historic wharf buildings. My Norwegian heritage as well as my personal interest in these structures as a preservation Architect and photographer, underscores to me the relevance of saving these historic remnants from the past. 

The city began as a destination trade hub for German merchants who would sail into port for trade with Norwegian merchants from the north. Norwegians would trade fish products, primarily dried cod, while Germans would trade dried cereals and grains from Europe.

In modern day, Norwegians take to the roads during the summertime as well as to the waterways in their boats. Ports such as Bergen see an influx of vacationing foreign tourists and Norwegians alike. Night time activities are brisk along the wharf all throughout the summer months.

This photo was taken in August from the west side of Vågen Harbor looking east toward the old wharfside, ten o'clock at night.


The Lost City of Saint Joseph

April 07, 2020

St. Joseph Point LightSt. Joseph Point Light

The Lost City (and Lighthouses) of Saint Joseph -

The St. Joseph Bay Lighthouse was a white washed brick conical 55 foot tall tower built at the northern tip of the 15 mile long St. Joseph Bay peninsula. The oblong shaped peninsula is about 6 miles at its widest point off the Florida mainland gulf coastline and is now a wildlife preserve. The bay is open to the north and had as much as 60 feet of depth for ships seeking shelter from the Gulf storms. Built in 1838 due to the ever growing popularity of the town of St. Jospeh on the mainland, the old lighthouse marked the entry into the natural harbor of St. Joseph Bay.
No images of this lighthouse exist. It had only one lightkeeper and was abandoned in 1847 in favor of a new light at Cape San Blas, rebuilt at the southern tip of the peninsula elbow which jetted out into the Gulf of Mexico. All remnants of the old St. Joseph Bay Light were washed away in 1851 by a storm surge. The short story of the town and the lighthouse that was built to serve it follows below. . . .

Saint Joseph Bay was a perfect natural harbor for ships seeking shelter. One of the few such harbors on the gulf side of the Florida panhandle. 
Wealthy land owners and businessmen from nearby Apalachicola 20 miles inland to the east and as far away as Tallahassee moved their enterprises to the shores of this natural harbor to take advantage of the economic boom here. They wanted to establish a hub for the cotton trade and more, to draw business from nearby Apalachicola that was hampered by a shallow bay where barges were used to load/unload ships. St. Joseph unofficially started in 1822 but began real expansion in 1835. By 1838 it had more than 10,000 people calling it home. A railroad was vital since the bay had no rivers feeding into it and therefore no barge traffic. The railroad was built to help support the cotton and lumber trade shipping out of this strategic port location. It was Florida's own first major railroad, and by 1839 was renamed the St. Joseph & Iola Line. In 1838 the territory of Florida held a convention in St. Joseph for drafting the territory's state constitution. By all historic accounts, Tallahassee was the capitol of the Florida territory at the time, but St. Joseph was preparing itself to become the new state capitol due to its increasing popularity and rising affluence and prestige if it had not been for what was to transpire. Florida was admitted to the Union as the 27th State in March of 1845. The town of St. Joseph would never see it.

By 1839, Saint Joseph was Florida's largest city and flourishing to the point it rivaled Charleston and New Orleans for beauty, prestige and influence with a population of as many as 10,000. The town was laid out on a grid pattern with a majestic beauty that competed with other large cities having designated areas for houses, churches, cotton mills, brickyard, lumber mills, banks, hotels, city parks, a race track, industrial areas with warehouses for the cotton trade and then the large, wealthy slave plantations located slightly inland bordering mosquito infested uncontrolled swamp lands. Most large buildings including the warehouses were built of brick but houses and others were made of wood. Commerce Street was main street that ended with an 1800 foot long pier out into the Bay allowing railroad cars to come ship side to load bales of cotton and lumber. By all accounts, this was a thriving, booming new city on the Gulf. Hopes were high and business was good.

But along with all the good came the bad that festered corruption and according to local newspapers of the time. . . wickedness. The brothels, gaming houses, drinking establishments, gambling all were a part of it. Seaman loved docking here for those activities. At first, the town was revered more as a resort town but that quickly changed. By late 1839 it was known as Sin City throughout the territory and had an aire of vice and evil.
In 1837 came the financial panic throughout the country. Though not immediately affecting St. Joseph, it did play a role in its downfall.
Early in 1841, banks around the country were beginning to fail and the price of cotton tumbled, which led to the 1842 bankruptcy of the local railroad which was then sold at auction. The estimated worth of the railroad in 1839 was at $500,000; at auction in 1842 it sold for just over $17,900.

In September of 1840, the Schooner Herald of Boston in route north from the West Indies docked at St. Joseph to bury its captain Geo. L.L. Kupfer who had died two days earlier at sea; cause of death - yellow fever. 

Other ships also docked with sailors carrying yellow fever. Sick sailors on board these ships were left behind to recover. But instead of their recovery, it led instead to an epidemic the town was not prepared to deal with. Yellow fever spread among the residents by mosquitos from the local swamps. By mid summer of 1841, inhabitants of St. Joseph had been dying by the dozens and buried in large unmarked graves in the local cemeteries. People left town by whatever means they could find with few if any of their possessions. In the fall of 1841, the town also suffered a severe fire that burnt most of the town's wooden structures and a good portion of the wharf was destroyed by a hurricane. In a period of just a few months the population shrank to only a few thousand. Historic records show that some 1100 persons in town died from yellow fever between those late months of 1840 until mid summer of 1841. Many people fled town in hopes of escaping the devastation. But what they did not know was that the yellow fever "death" followed them, they were already infected and they later died in their hometowns where they thought they were safe. By early 1843 there remained only 500 people in old Saint Joseph, then nothing more than a small fishing village. The final destruction of the town came by way of a hurricane storm surge in 1844 that broke through and over the narrowest strip of the peninsula separating the Bay from the Gulf. It leveled what was left of the once prosperous town of old Saint Joseph. By 1854, the town of Saint Joseph was no more, the last U.S. post office had closed it's doors. The town remained abandoned for some 40 years. In the early 1860's the Confederates started up a salt works factory in St. Joseph that was destroyed by shelling from a Union gunship.

The lighthouse keeper at the St. Jospeh Bay Lighthouse from 1838 until its government closing in 1847 was Ephraim Andrews who never contracted yellow fever. He had remained isolated from the mainland and the town while living out on the northern point of the peninsula.

In 1902 the area saw a resurgence with a new town called Port St. Joe, located about two miles north of the old town site. The new town even today still shares the old cemeteries, segregated into blacks and whites including the large unmarked grave sites of the yellow fever victims. The mainstay of the new town was not only cotton and lumber but also oranges brought in by rail.  The resurged popularity of the area also brought the need for a new light station located on the mainland at Beacon Hill and just slightly north of town in parallel with the original St. Joseph Bay Light at the north end of the peninsula some five miles west. The Beacon Hill light was actually a rear range light and built more like a private square shaped house with wrap around porch having a lantern atop. It was deactivated in 1960 and sold to a local farmer in 1967 for $300 who moved it inland and used it as a barn. The lantern was destroyed in the move. It again was sold and moved in 1978 to Simmons Bayou on St. Joseph Bay. That owner took decades to restore the lighthouse structure to its former glory including a new lantern atop but without the lens itself. The photo of this lighthouse now named the St. Joseph Point Lighthouse is included above in this post. It is located about 8 miles south of the current township of Port St. Joe.

The Cape San Blas Light at the southern tip of the peninsula, since its inception, has been under the threat of destruction from the constant erosion and storms of the Gulf. The Air Force closed the Lighthouse District in 2012 and had considered dismantling the skeletal light tower permanently. But through negotiations and release of ownership of the Light and the keepers dwellings in 2013, the Cape San Blas Light and dwellings (see the last blog on our website: were relocated in 2014 some 12 miles north, to Core Park in Port St. Joe where it stands permanently on display for visitors and local town folk alike.

Photo taken with Nikon D850; Lens: VR24-120mm set at 38mm; AF-S; f/14 at 1/50s; Manual Exposure; ISO 125.

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