TURKEY POINT LIGHT STATION
Turkey Point Lighthouse is located on four acres on the southern most end of the Elk Neck State Park in beautiful Cecil County, Maryland. Turkey Point is easily accessed by following MD-272 to the park parking lot and hiking 8/10ths of a mile. The historic lighthouse tower and oil house are situated on a 100-foot bluff at the confluence of five rivers as they meet the Chesapeake Bay.
Plans for a lighthouse at Turkey Point began as early as 1812 by the U.S. Lighthouse Service known today as the Coast Guard. The land to build the light station was purchased by the federal government in 1832. The Turkey Point Light Station was to be a “family station” that required a keeper’s house and additional buildings necessary to sustain a family and maintain the light station. John Donohoo, a civic minded lighthouse builder from Havre de Grace, Maryland completed the light station in 1833. He built 11 more lighthouses on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland (of which seven still survive) including Concord Light in Havre de Grace. He built one lighthouse in Virginia.
The original configuration of the Light Station buildings included the 35-foot lighthouse tower, the keeper’s house, a fog bell tower and several service buildings. All that remains today is the lighthouse tower, the oil house and concrete fence posts that surround what used to be the light station’s garden. The keeper’s house and outbuildings were demolished in the early 1970’s.
The lighthouse’s beacon guided mariners down the Elk River to the mouth of the newly completed Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. The lantern room of the lighthouse also had a pane of red glass (called a “Red Sector”) to warn sailors aaway from the Susquehanna Flats.
The lantern used a fourth-order Fresnel lens imported from France. The lens consisted of a cylinder of brass and glass prisms. Turkey Point has the highest lantern room of any Maryland lighthouse located on the Chesapeake Bay.
The Fresnel prisms had to be cleaned daily and polished weekly in order for the light to be seen 13 miles down the Bay. Also, three brass oil lamps had to be filled and cleaned daily. The last lamp used an Aladdin oil lamp because of its superior brightness. The light only used a single lamp but a second lamp was kept ready for emergency service and a third was used to go between the lighthouse and the keeper’s house.
In early 1943, the lighthouse was electrified reducing the light keeper’s frequent daily trips to maintain the light to one. The need for the keeper’s house was eliminated when complete automation was achieved. The brass lamps were still maintained in case the electricity failed until Fannie Mae Salter, the last lighthouse keeper, retired in 1948.
The light was initially a fixed light but after complete automation in 1948,
the light was changed to a flashing light.
Turkey Point was assigned a flash pattern of one second “On” and five
seconds “Off”. Today the beacon
is powered on and off by a light sensitive sensor.
Power is provided by a solar panel that stores electricity in two
deep-cell marine batteries residing up in the lantern room.
At our visit in 2011, the lens was a
250 MM Lantern, Serial No 60117.
At our visit in 2011, the lens was a 250 MM Lantern, Serial No 60117.
KEEPERS OF THE LIGHT
It took a special kind of person to “keep a light.” The Fresnel prisms had to be cleaned every day, the fuel carried up to the light, the wick trimmed and replaced if necessary and the lamp lit in the evening and extinguished in the mornings. This was a daily job irregardless of the weather. When the fog bell tower mechanism malfunctioned, the keepers had to physically ring the warning bell at the proper interval, sometimes for long periods of time.
Turkey Point Light Station was an isolated, self-sufficient existence for the keepers. While some supplies came by boat from Havre de Grace, North East (the nearest settlement) was over 12 miles away, a considerable distance in the pre-automobile era. As a result, the keepers and their families farmed the adjacent land, raised livestock, hunted wildlife in the forest, and harvested the bounty of the Bay.
List of the Keepers and their dates of service:
Purchase copies of this postcard here.
1833-1841: Robert Lusby
John C. Waters
1843-1844: Robert Lusby
Elizabeth Lusby, wife of Robert Lusby
1862-1865: Edward Clonan
1865-1873: John Crouch
1873-1895: Rebecca Crouch, wife of John Crouch
1895-1919: Georgiana Brumfield, daughter of John and Rebecca Crouch
1920-1922: Caleb Stowe
1922-1925: Clarence Salter
1925-1948: Fannie Mae Slater, wife of Clarence Salter
1948-2000: Automated (had no keeper)
Spring 2000: De-commissioned by U.S. Coast Guard and leased to TPLSI for
November 2002: Relit as a Private Aid to Navigation
Spring 2006: Deed was transferred to the State of Maryland and remains leased to TPLSI as Turkey Point’s Chief Operations Agent.
Spring 2007: The current Spiral Stairs were rebuilt using the original blueprints. The outside of the lighthouse and the lantern room were also completely refinished. These improvements were funded by TPLSI.
Of the ten keepers at Turkey Point, four were women and three were wives
THE KEEPER’S HOUSE
Our current plans are to reconstruct the light keeper’s house as a fully habitable building. While faithful to the original blueprints, we intend to provide access ramps for physically handicapped visitors.
The light keeper’s house will house displays and artifacts highlighting the Chesapeake Bay, Turkey Point Light Station and surrounding areas. As you see today in the lighthouse, staff will be available to answer questions about the Light Station, its history, and its keepers.
The beautiful view from the lighthouse and the bluffs overlooking the confluence of five rivers and the Chesapeake Bay provides many opportunities for photographers and artists. You can enjoy a picnic lunch or read a book under a shade tree in our field overlooking the water. One might see an ocean-going ship making its way to or from the C&D Canal or hiking to the west side of the neck allows visitors to enjoy a magnificent sunset.
250 MM Lantern (2011)
Click image above for larger view
(Opens in new window)
View from the top, where 5 rivers
meet the Chesapeake Bay
TURKEY POINT LIGHT STATION INC (TPLSI)
Turkey Point Light Station Inc. (TPLSI) is a non-profit organization of civic and historically minded folks who desire to restore the Turkey Point Light Station in the scenic Elk Neck State Park to its original condition.
Dean Rice, a retired North East, MD high school teacher, founded the organization in 1995 after painting the lighthouse for a local service organization project. The organization has grown from one person’s dream to a group of over 250 members.
We have taken up the challenge of raising funds to accurately reconstruct the light keeper’s house in its original location next to the Turkey Point Lighthouse. We did not expect to replace the steel ladder and platforms inside the lighthouse with the rebuilt white oak spiral staircase using the original blueprints first.
WE NEED VOLUNTEERS
PLI works towards achieving these daunting goals and are seeking new members, volunteers, and individual or corporate sponsors.
With our improvements to the lighthouse, the number of visitors coming to Turkey Point has increased tremendously. This is the first time in over 50 years that people can climb the stairs to the lantern room. We need volunteers to greet visitors, advise them of the safety rules for climbers, and share the history of the Lighthouse and surrounding areas. Whether you are older or younger, we would appreciate your help. CAN YOU VOLUNTEER? If you are willing to volunteer some of your weekend time each month, we ask that you contact us using the information shown below. WE NEED YOU!
Organization: (email) TPLS@tpls.org
Current estimates to accurately reconstruct the light keeper’s house are approximately $400,000. This does not include the $35,000 to $50,000 to run underground electricity out to Turkey Point and additional funds to furnish and maintain the Lighthouse and the Light Keeper’s House. To achieve these goals, we continue to launch aggressive membership and fundraising drives seeking interested citizens, businesses, talented individuals, and other contributors.
Turkey Point Light Station merchandise and gifts can be purchased in our gift shop on the Lighthouse grounds each weekend between mid-April and mid-November. We also sell bottled water and soda for your hike back to the parking lot. Merchandise is also available at England’s Colony on the Bay and Kathy’s Corner on Main Stree in North East.
A special Maryland automobile license plate depicting the Turkey Point Light Station may be purchased from the state by dues paying members.
We now have a Penny Press Machine located at the Elk Neck State Park Camp Store. Pressed pennies showing the two different views of the Lighthouse can be purchased at our gift shop on the Lighthouse grounds.
TPLSI is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donations are tax deductible.
The above information was taken from a pamphlet received when the light was visited in 2011.
As such, information may have changed.
Email and website addresses are correct as of December 30, 2019.