Like his father before him, young Joseph Hindley went to work in the textile mills of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Looking for a more adventurous life, he joined the Revenue Cutter Service in 1921. After some time in the Merchant Marines, Joseph joined the Lighthouse Service. He spent more than a decade as an assistant keeper, first at Whale Rock Light in Rhode Island and then at Butler Flats Light in New Bedford. Hindley joined the Coast Guard when they took over the management of lighthouses from the civilian Lighthouse Service, and his time in the Coast Guard included 18 months in Greenland.
When Hindley returned from Greenland, he went back to being a civilian lighthouse keeper, first as the head keeper at Sakonnet Point Light in Rhode Island from 1947 to 1950. Hindley and his family then moved to Gay Head Light Station at the western end of the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
The Hindley family spent six years at Gay Head, leaving when the light was automated in 1956. The keepers’ house was demolished a short time later. The Hindleys moved on to Nobska Point Light in Woods Hole on Cape Cod, where Joseph served as an assistant to Keeper Osborne Hallett until 1968. When Hallett retired, Hindley became the principal keeper.
In 1967, while Hindley was at Nobska Point, he was honored with a Gallatin Certificate from the Coast Guard as one of the last three civilian lighthouse keepers in New England.
He retired in 1972 as the very last civilian keeper in the New England region.
This episode features reminiscences of life at the lights in an interview with Betty Hindley Hatzikon, Joseph Hindley’s daughter.
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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