History of the Dunkirk Lighthouse
Dunkirk Lighthouse 1885
|The light was first
established on Point Gratiot in 1827.
acted in tandem with a pier head beacon to guide ships to the safety of
the Dunkirk Harbor.
It was refitted with a 3rd-order Fresnel (pronounced
"Fraynel") lens and lantern in 1857 and remains today.
The light which cost $10,000 was
made by Fresnel and imported from Paris, France.
But by 1874 the tower was reported in
| In 1875-1876, a
61-foot stone tower and a beautiful Victorian residence were constructed
to replace the original tower, which was threatened by erosion. These
structures still stand today. Bricks from the original keeper's house
formed the foundation for the new house. The old cylindrical tower was
moved adjacent to the new keeper's residence. A square tower was built
around the old tower "to be more compatible with the keeper's
house." (Tinney, Burdett-Watkins, p. 13; Seaway Trail Video)
Lighthouse in 1903
with assistants dwelling
Lighthouse Keepers ( they maintained the light and lived on the premises
Walter Smith (1827 1831), Abraham Day (1831 1841), Joseph B. Hall
(1841 1845), John Cassity (1845 1849), Wilber Gifford (1849 1853),
John G. Cassity (1853 1861), Henry Severance (1861 1869), Charles G.
Harrison (1869 1870), Jefferson C. Richardson (1870 1872), Henry
Severance (1872), Byron Rathbun (1872 1873), Benjamin F. Averill (1873
1884), Robert T. Taggert (1884 1887), Samuel A. Penfield (1887),
Peter J. Dempsey (1887 1902), John T. McDonough (1902 1928), Francis
D. Arnold (1928 1950), William R. Gannon (1950 1956), Arthur G.
Bauman (1957 1961).
Assistant: James S. Comstock (1867 1873), Elias D. Hart (1873 1874),
William Sinfield (1874 1885), John D. O'Connor (1885), Peter J.
Dempsey (1885 1887), John T. McDonough (1888 1902), Andrew
Fredenburgh (1902 1907), Tom H. Holtan (1907 1909), Francis D.
Arnold (1909 1928).
Reservation Grounds - The Dunkirk Light ship is
located on these grounds
War of 1812 -
The first shot of the 1812 War was fired near the west bank of the
Civil War Union Soldier. Cpl. Cryus
James of Dunkirk was the first soldier killed in the war.
Served in Company G, 9th New York Volunteer
Cavalry. In the very opening of the Battle of Gettysburg, he was killed
in a skirmish north of town with Ewell's forces, prior to the main
engagement that began west of town on McPherson's Ridge. It is believed
that he was the first soldier to be killed.
grounds are located
Gettysburg National Cemetery. New York Plot, Row G, Grave 81Plot:
New York Plot, Row G, Grave 81
WW II - Twelve
active Coast Guard personnel were stationed at the lighthouse along with
the lighthouse keeper.
|The waters of Lake Erie off
Dunkirk have been the site of several notable shipwrecks.
- The lake's
first steamboat, the Walk-on-Water, was lost to a storm in 1818.
- 1841 the Erie burned with the loss of 141 lives. The fire was
blamed on painters who stored turpentine and varnish on the deck above
the ship's boilers.
- In 1893, the steamboat Dean Richmond, which
carried sacks of meal, flour, copper sheet, and gold and silver bullion,
sank off Dunkirk. Dunkirk residents salvaged hundreds of bags of damp
flour after the wreck.
- 1897, the freighter Idaho was lost.
Some of its cargo of Christmas items, including slabs of chocolate, were
recovered by the locals. (Roberts, Jones pp.29-30)
Several pier lights have
marked the Dunkirk harbor
- The first two collapsed under the weight of
- The third was removed in 1939 (Seaway Trail Video), and a
skeleton tower was built to mark the mouth of the harbor.
- This was later
replaced by the present tower - a cylindrical cigarette-like white tower
with a red band.
The Dunkirk Light house is privately owned
& operated by volunteers.
by: The Lancaster Amateur Radio Club, Inc.
our Ham Radio Web Site
All rights reserved
Administrator: L. Calianno