So much history in these beautiful old lighthouses. It’s a joy to see a Massachusetts lighthouse so well maintained. If you read more, you’ll also learn that CPA funds were used to restore this local, regional, and national treasure.
We took photos from the grounds of the lighthouse, and from all around Scituate Harbor.
In May, 1810, the US government appropriated $4,000 for a lighthouse to be built at the entrance of Scituate Harbor. The lighthouse was completed two months ahead of schedule, on September 19, 1811, making it the 11th lighthouse in the United States. In September, 1814, during the War of 1812, Rebecca and Abagail Bates warded off an attack by British soldiers by playing their fife and drum loudly. The British retreated since they thought the sound came from the Scituate town militia.
In 1850, the lighthouse was removed from service due to the construction of the Minot’s Ledge Light. It was put back into service in 1852, after a storm destroyed the first Minot’s Ledge Light, and it received a new Fresnel lens in 1855. In 1860, the light was once again removed from service after the second tower at Minot’s Ledge was built. Over the next 60 years, the lighthouse fell into disrepair.
In 1916, the lighthouse was put up for sale, and in 1917, it was purchased by the town of Scituate for $4,000.
In 1930, a new replica lantern was added. In 1962, the lighthouse was in a state of disrepair. The Scituate Historical Society appropriated $6,500 for repairs. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. In 1991, the lighthouse was relit with the light visible only from land; the light was made visible from sea as a private aid to navigation in 1994.
Occasional tours are available from the Scituate Historical Society. The keeper’s house is a private residence.
Although it is the fifth oldest lighthouse in New England and the eleventh oldest in the United States, Scituate Lighthouse, on the South Shore of Boston, Massachusetts, is far more famous for the actions of two quick-thinking girls — The Army of Two. These heroines of the War of 1812 lived at Scituate Lighthouse and have been immortalized in a number of books and publications.
While Scituate’s small, protected harbor encouraged the growth of a notable fishing community, mudflats and shallow water made entering the harbor tricky. In 1807, the town’s selectmen were petitioned by Jesse Dunbar, a shipmaster, and other residents to construct a lighthouse, and in 1810, Congress appropriated $4,000 for the task.
Unlike sites where the land was purchased, the plot on Cedar Point was seized under eminent domain. Its disgruntled owner Benjamin Baker later denied access through his land and feuded with the first keeper.
Three men from nearby Hingman—Nathaniel Gill, Charles Gill, and Joseph Hammond Jr.—built the one-and-a-half-story house, the twenty-five-foot-tall, octagonal, split-granite-block tower, a twelve-by-eighteen-foot oil vault, and a well for $3,200. The trio managed to finish the work in September 1811, two months ahead of schedule, and Captain Simeon Bates was appointed first keeper that December. Captain Bates, his wife Rachel, and their nine children lived at the lighthouse, where Bates remained in charge until his death in 1834 at seventy years of age.
The Boston Mariner’s Society proposed that Scituate Light be eclipsed and some of its range obscured to differentiate it from the fixed Boston Light. Some sources say the light was first lit in September 1811, but a Notice to Mariners published in January 1812, gives the date as April 1, 1812. When Boston Light was eclipsed and Scituate was established as a fixed light, many mariners were dismayed.
On June 11, 1814, during the War of 1812, British forces burned and plundered a number of ships at Scituate. A few months later, Keeper Bates and most of his family were temporarily away from the light, leaving his twenty-one-year-old daughter Rebecca and her younger sister Abigail in charge, along with a younger brother. The girls were horrified to spy the British warship La Hogue anchored in the harbor along with redcoat-filled barges rowing toward shore. Hurriedly, they sent the boy running to warn Scituate Village.
Rebecca knew she could kill one or two of the British with a musket, but realized the others would retaliate on the village. And during the embargo, the town could scarcely stand to lose the two vessels at the wharf loaded with flour.
Rebecca told her sister to take up the drum and she’d grab her fife. “I was fond of military music and could play four tunes on the fife —Yankee Doodle was my masterpiece,” Rebecca said. The girls hastily took cover behind a dense stand of cedar trees, playing louder and louder hoping to deceive the British into believing an American militia was massing to meet them. The British withdrew, and thus the famous story of Scituate’s Army of Two was born. The fife played by Rebecca is still on display in the keeper’s house.
Records show the British ship La Hogue was at another location at the time, but research indicates the story is likely true; the sisters were simply confused about the name of the vessel. There are those who claim that even today the sound of the drum and fife can be heard in the wind and waves at Scituate.
In 1827, complaints from mariners led to the construction of a fifteen-foot-tall brick extension to the original granite tower and the installation of a new lantern room to increase visibility. Red bricks were mortared atop the existing granite blocks to add the needed height. After the addition, seven lamps and reflectors produced the fixed white light that shone from the lantern, while eight lights and reflectors produced a red light from windows fifteen feet lower in the tower. Red glass laid in front of the windows imparted the red characteristic.