In 1998, Teresa and I took our kids on a short vacation to St. Simon’s Island off the coast of Georgia. It would turn into one of the most memorable vacations that we would take over the course of the years. It was there that we begin to chase lighthouses scattered along the coastlines of America. To this date we have visited in the neighborhood of thirty different light houses and been able to climb 12 to 15 of them. The St. Simon’s Lighthouse was the first one that we visited and climbed. The passing of years has proved to me that St. Simon’s Island is probably one of my favorite places to go and unwind.
As we “chased” lighthouses, we have discovered numerous stories about those who were the light-keepers. Perhaps the most arresting story was discovered in September of 2001. I am going to relate that story to you.
In 1898, a hurricane straddled the coastline of South Carolina. A keeper of the light, Adam Fripp along with his daughter ran the harbor light. During those days the light keeper usually would have to climb the tower (which is quite a challenge for the physically unfit like myself) with a five gallon container of kerosene oil as fuel for the light. Adam Fripp fought the storm for two days. The wind was of such strength that the tower seemingly began to sway in the onslaught of the storm. During the first day of the storm, he went up into the tower and did not return to the keeper’s quarters in a timely fashion. So his eighteen year old daughter became worried about her father and climbed the tower during the storm to check on him. When she reached the light platform she found her father had collapsed on the deck in the throes of a heart attack.
She understood that her father would not be able to live through the storm. However, in his final minutes of life she told him how much she loved him and to keep the faith that he would make it through the storm. Intuitively, something told her that his life here was limited. So the waning last few minutes of his life he gave her some very important instructions. Never let the light go out. . . . . no matter what. With that final commission to his young daughter, Adam Fripp died keeping his light. His daughter managed to pull him inside the light tower on the top of the steps and he would lay there for several more days before help arrived to bring him down the steps of the lighthouse to a proper burial.
So committed was his daughter to the cause, that for several days, isolated, alone, afraid, she lugged the heavy five gallon fuel container up the stairs and stepped over her fallen father to “keep the light.” She poured the fuel into the light so that it could provide safety for ships. His charge of keeping the light functioning was something she took to heart. She would die two years later from her own grief over her father. But during the storm, when she was needed most to keep the light, she fulfilled the role of service.
On that wall of the lighthouse I noticed the following rules given in the early days of the U.S. Coast Guard being designated for the Keepers of the Light. They are listed as follow:
Instructions to Lighthouse Keepers
• You are to light the lamps every evening at sun-setting, and keep them continually burning bright and clear till sun-rising.
• You are to be careful that the lamps, reflectors, and lanterns, are constantly kept clean, and in order; and particularly to be careful that no lamps, wood, or candles, be left burning anywhere so as to endanger fire.
• In order to maintain the greatest degree of light during the night, the wicks are to be trimmed every four hours, taking care that they are exactly even on the top.
• You are to keep an exact account of the quantity of oil received from time to time; the number of gallons, quarts, gills, consumed each night, and deliver a copy of the same to the superintendent every three months, ending 31st March, 30th June, September, and 31st December, in each year, with an account of the quantity on hand at the time.
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