The Light Station is Established
By 1860, according to a history of Point No Point Lighthouse compiled by Margaret De Witt in June 1993, there were several lighthouses along the Strait of Juan de Fuca but none in this area or south of here. Ship captains had to navigate by dead reckoning. After several ships ran aground near the point, a lighthouse was requested in 1872. Maritime traffic was expected to increase when the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Tacoma from the east. Local lighthouse officials wanted the lighthouse at Foulweather Bluff but the current site was chosen after four years of negotiations with owners of the land, Francis and Mary Anne James, who finally agreed to sell 40 acres for $1,000.
In 1879, J.S. Maggs, the first lighthouse keeper who arrived at the point in late December, found the construction still not complete and the lens, lantern and glass had not yet arrived. With crafty determination, he hung up canvas over the south window frame to block the wind and lit a household kerosene lantern in the tower on January 1, 1880, two weeks after Port Townsend’s Point Wilson Light was illuminated.
A fifth order Fresnel lens and lantern glass finally arrived in February and was installed in a masonry structure 27 feet high. Maggs and his assistant Henry Edwards scrambled to complete the duplex dwelling where they were to reside and that same month Maggs’ pregnant wife arrived.
As roads hadn’t made it out to the point, all people and supplies came by boat including a cow Maggs bought before his daughter was born. It was delivered on a schooner, slipped over the side of the ship in a sling, and made to swim ashore.
The fog bell that had been used at New Dungeness Lighthouse arrived in April. When fog came in, the keeper had to ring the bell continuously. Though the bell was replaced by a steam-powered horn and fog signal building in 1900, the blaring trumpet didn’t prevent two passenger liners, the S.S. Admiral Sampson and Princess Victoria, from smashing into each other in 1914 with such force that within five minutes the Sampson sank in 320 feet of water with the loss of 16 lives. There were other shipwrecks and daring rescues off the point but none so deadly.
Contributed by Rebecca Pirtle, former editor of the Kingston Community News, and a charter member of the Friends of Point No Point Lighthouse. Portions of this article were first published in the Kingston View and Kingston Community News.