In 1989, the U.S. Coast Guard was planning for Boston Light on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor to be the last light station in the United States to be automated and destaffed. Instead, Congress mandated that the station be operated and staffed permanently by the Coast Guard.
In 2003, the active duty Coast Guard personnel that had been assigned to the island were relocated to meet the needs of Homeland Security, and Sally Snowman was named the new keeper. She became the first civilian keeper since 1941, and the first woman keeper in Boston Light’s long history, which stretches back to 1716. She is the only official light keeper in the U.S. still employed by the Coast Guard.
In this episode of Light Hearted, we hear part one of a two-part interview with Sally Snowman. With host Jeremy D’Entremont, she discusses how she came to be the keeper of America’s oldest light station. She also talks about the recent 300th anniversary celebrations and about life on an island in Boston Harbor. She and her husband, Jay Thomson, discuss their 1994 wedding on Little Brewster Island. Sally also tells the story of being with some of the children of a Boston Light keeper in a boat in Boston Harbor on a memorable day — September 11, 2001.
Also featured is a segment with Jeremy and co-host Michelle Jewell Shaw about the “Lighthouse Tragedy” of 1718 that took the lives of Boston Light’s first keeper, George Worthylake, and five other people. Benjamin Franklin, 12 years old at the time, was urged by his brother to write a poem based on the disaster. The young Franklin wrote a poem called The Lighthouse Tragedy and sold copies on the streets of Boston. No copy of the poem was known to exist until 1940, when a copy was discovered on a nearby island by Maurice Babcock Jr., son of the principal keeper of Boston Light.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org