Florida Lighthouse was first built in 1825 at a cost of $24,000.
The brick tower was 65 feet tall. The lighthouse generated many
complaints in its early years, with most of the blame centered on
the light's first keeper, John Dubose. At one point, Dubose
admitted to living in a house on the mainland 5 miles away while
his black slave, a woman, kept the lighthouse. After being
reprimanded, Dubose returned to the lighthouse.
Florida Lighthouse, probably in the late 1870's.
area around present day Miami was abandoned in mid 1835 when
Seminole Indians massacred the wife and children of William Cooley
near present day Fort Lauderdale. The refugees gathered at the
Cape Florida Lighthouse for protection before fleeing the area
entirely for Key West. Two days later, William Cooley volunteered
to return to the lighthouse to restore the light. Dubose finally
returned to the lighthouse a few months later. In July 1835, there
were three guards posted at the lighthouse to assist Dubose.
Desiring to sail to Key West for supplies, Dubose and one of the
men sailed away, leaving John Thompson and Aaron Carter (an
elderly black man who was probably a slave) to keep the light.
the afternoon of July 23, 1836 the lighthouse was attacked by a
large group of Seminole Indians. After a drawn out gun battle, the
Indians set fire to the wooden door of the lighthouse, forcing
Thompson and Carter up to the top of the lighthouse. Forced
outside onto the ledge of the lighthouse by the heat and smoke,
Carter was killed and Thompson wounded several times in the feet.
In an act of desperation, Thompson flung a keg of gunpowder onto
the stairs of the lighthouse, hoping to kill himself to avoid
further suffering. The blast destroyed the lighthouse's interior
wooden stairway, keeping the fire from further injuring Thompson.
Thompson feigned death, and the Indians later withdrew. Thompson
was rescued the next day by the crew of a U.S. Navy schooner. To
get Thompson down, the sailors fired a ramrod with a piece of
string tied to it over the top of the lighthouse. Thompson caught
the string and was able to haul a heavier rope to the tower's top.
Two seaman hoisted to the top hauled the injured Thompson down. It
was later reported that the top of the lighthouse had more than
200 bullet holes in it.
Florida Lighthouse in the mid-1980's.
of a new lighthouse were appropriated in 1837, but the continued
threat of Indian attacks prevented construction of a new tower
until 1846. With continuing complaints about the quality of the
light, it's height was increased to 95 feet in 1855. At the same
time, a 2nd order Fresnel lens was installed.
lighthouse suffered again during the Civil War when the center
portion of the lens was smashed by three confederate sympathizers
on the night of August 21, 1861. One of the attackers was A.
Oswald Lang, an assistant Lighthouse Keeper at Jupiter Inlet
Light. The light wasn't relit until 1867.
lighthouse was discontinued on June 15, 1878 when nearby Fowey
Rocks Light was first lit. the tower and property were sold to
various private owners the keepers' dwelling eventually washed
away. In the late 1960's the area was slated for development. The
state of Florida saved the lighthouse by establishing Bill Baggs
Cape Florida State Park. The state restored the lighthouse and
keeper's dwelling. On June 15, 1978, 100 years after it was
extinguished, the U.S. Coast Guard reestablished the light using a
glass 375 mm lens. The condition of the tower deteriorated in the
early 1990's to the point were scheduled tours were canceled.
Hurricane Andrew on Aug 24, 1992 uprooted most of the trees on the
point, but the lighthouse and dwelling survived with only moderate
1996, a million dollar restoration was completed returning the
lighthouse to its 1855 appearance. As part of the restoration
work, the top of the tower was removed and a new top fabricated
using the original plans.
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