Since July of 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the first Lightkeeper, Early keepers were civilians employed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Usually, they were accompanied by their families who displayed remarkable resourcefulness and resilience in turning a life of isolation and hardship into opportunities for unusual hobbies and vocations. Here are a few of the colorful personalities who served under the USLHS and then (1939) under the U.S. Coast Guard.
Griffing of Guilford was the first lightkeeper for newly-built Faulkner’s Lighthouse at an annual salary of $200, a long succession of lighthouse keepers helped the American lighthouse earn its enduring symbolism of integrity and reliability.
The record shows that in his 33-year tenure, longer than any other keeper, Capt. Kimberly often risked his own personal safety to rescue many a sailor from a watery grave during an era when commercial marine traffic in Long Island Sound was significantly increasing. Kimberly retired to Guilford village where his house still stands at 173 Whitfield Street. “Kimberly’s Reef” in the Sound is named after him.
Capt. Brooks was a man of strength and daring who distinguished himself by heroic rescues of shipwrecked sailors. His daring rescue of five people aboard the Schooner Moses F. Webb in 1858 brought him national acclaim as well as recognition from the U.S. Congress, which boosted his annual salary from $350. to $500. The family’s mainland home was at 49 Church Street in Guilford village.
Like his predecessors, German-born Capt. Hermann practiced subsistence farming, dividing his time between the relentless demands of lighthouse duty, cultivating a garden, and keeping livestock. The family’s mainland home was at 44 South Fair Street.
English-born Capt. Poe was cited for bravery in the March 1906 Shore Line Times newspaper. He defied a raging blizzard to steer his small boat back to Faulkner’s island, with wife and daughter aboard, to start the oil engines for operating the light station’s fog signal.
A Norwegian immigrant, Jensen went to sea at age 14 and later served in the Navy during the Spanish-American War. He enjoyed music and kept a record player on the island, rejoicing in the freedom from social strictures that island life provided.
Herbert Greenwood was born in Westerly, Rhode Island and entered the U.S. Lifesaving Service in 1906. He passed a probationary stint as keeper of Fire Island, NY Light Station and from there was transferred to Faulkner’s Island as Assistant Keeper. Capt. Greenwood became head keeper during the middle of the tumultuous World War I period, when he was required to keep a sharp lookout for potential invaders.
Capt. Fuller, a native of Florida, became controversial as keeper of the light. He served during Prohibition when rum runners carried on a lively illicit trade in Long Island Sound. A number of Guilford residents, including an Internal Revenue Service officer, were suspected of coordinating such activities. It is alleged that Faulkner’s Island was an important stopover for the smuggling boats and that Leonard and his brother, Samuel, who succeeded him as keeper, were in on the action.
Capt. Zuius was the last civilian keeper in the old lighthouse establishment before it merged with the U.S. Coast Guard. He kept the light burning at Faulkner’s Light Station during the devastating New England Hurricane of 1938, which swept away the boat house. The following year, Zuius put away the kerosene oil lamps when electric generators were finally installed on the island.
Capt. Robinson was actually a U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain Mate whose first assignment was with the Search and Rescue Division of Group Long Island Sound in New Haven. When transferred to Faulkner’s Island as keeper or officer in charge (OIC), his friends were shocked. They couldn’t believe that island life in Connecticut would hold any promise for a young Virginian. The island offered remoteness for quiet recreation and thinking. Every two weeks he could spring free for one week of compensatory leave. That’s where he was during the fateful day of March 15, 1976––on leave––when the light station was destroyed by fire. He returned to Guilford in 2002 to participate in the gala Bicentennial celebration of Faulkner’s Island Lighthouse.