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In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
In 1789, the United States government began establishing a network of federally-controlled lighthouses along the nation's seacoasts. The earliest such structure to be constructed in Buzzards Bay off southern Massachusetts, Clark Point Light, was built in 1799 at the mouth of New Bedford Harbor and functioned until 1898, when nearby Butler Flats Lighthouse was established. A lighthouse on Cuttyhunk, one of the Elizabeth Islands at the entrance to Buzzards Bay, was constructed in 1823, to be followed by Dumpling Rock Light at the entrance to New Bedford's outer harbor in 1828. Another lighthouse in New Bedford Harbor on Palmer Island was established in 1849. All of these Buzzards Bay lighthouses continue to function with the exception of Clark Point Light, dismantled in 1907, and Palmer Island Light, currently out of federal control.
Records in this collection relate to the operations of five Buzzards Bay lighthouses between 1828-1943. A major portion of the collection focuses on Butler Flats Lighthouse. These records include account books, 1898-1918, correspondence, 1880-1943, and diaries, 1903-1908, of Amos Crowell Baker Jr. (1839-1911), who first served as a lighthouse keeper at Clark Point from 1879-1898, then fulfilled that role at Butler Flats Light from 1898-1911. Other records relating to this lighthouse include a guest register, 1898-1911, which also lists names of guests at Fort Rodman; historical sketches and plans, ca. 1898-1966; and biographical sketches of the Baker family, lists, bulletins, and programs, ca. 1900-1929. Cuttyhunk Lighthouse records consist of journals, 1864-1888; bills and receipts, 1864-1888; reports on shipwrecks and disasters, 1866-1872; and correspondence, 1869. The journals of the keeper, Samuel Austin Smith (1817-1889), not only describe daily routine occurrences at the lighthouse, but also reflect his own activities. These materials are complemented by tax records, licenses, and memoranda, ca. 1870-1889, most of which concern Smith's life as a New Bedford, Mass., farmer after serving at Cuttyhunk from 1864-ca. 1885.
Also represented by records in this collection are Clark Point, Dumpling Rock, and Palmer Island lighthouses. Clark Point records include journals, 1872-1898, account books, 1883-1898, and a guest register, 1894-1898, which also records guests at Fort Rodman. The account books feature notes by Amos Crowell Baker Jr. concerning his activities and details about the construction of Butler Flats Light. Similar journals and account books exist for Dumpling Rock Lighthouse, 1828-1900, and Palmer Island Light, 1856-1901.
Materials in the Lighthouse Records Collection have been organized into sub-groups representing journals, accounts, and other records for each lighthouse. The sub-groups have been listed in the inventory in alphabetical order. Records are organized into series by type of document and arranged in chronological order. Published works which may serve as a guide to the lighthouses represented in this collection include Famous Lighthouses of New England by Edward Rowe Snow (1945) and Lighthouses of New England by Malcolm F. Willoughby (1929).
Arrangement of Collection
Access to the Collection
Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 29 [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if fulfillment of the order is judged in violation of copyright or federal or state privacy law. This institution also places restrictions on the use of cameras, photocopiers, and scanners in the research room.
Removed to Photographs Collection
- Photographs of interior of Butler Flats Lighthouse, 1908. 4 items.
- Photograph of two oil lamps, ca. 1920.
- Photographs of Amos Crowell Baker Jr., ca. 1900, 1911. 2 items.
- Photographs of Charles A. Baker, 1906, ca. 1930. 2 items.
- Photograph of men aboard United States light vessel, ca. 1905.
Removed to Printed Collection
- Dutton, George. "Is the Harbor of New Bedford of Any Importance to Its Inhabitants?" ca. 1865.
Removed to Objects Collection
- Calling cards for American House, Portland, Me., and Bugbee & Hatch, North Attleboro, Mass. 7 items.
The major portion of this collection was donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by four individuals: Nathan B. Nye on 22 April 1938; Arthur G. Tuell on 30 August 1955; Mrs. Channing Frothingham in August 1960; and Amy Baker on 17 February 1966. Additional documents relating to Cuttyhunk Lighthouse were purchased by the Society on 10 May 1938.
Processed by: Judith Downey, ca. 1982
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 15 August 2011; box list appended by Mark Procknik, 8 March 2012
Funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Account books--New Bedford, Mass.--1883-1898
Baker, Amos Crowell Jr., 1839-1911
Baker, Charles A., 1877-1963
Butler Flats Lighthouse, Mass.
Clark Point Lighthouse, Mass.
Cuttyhunk Lighthouse, Mass.
Diaries--New Bedford, Mass.--1903-1908
Dumpling Rock Lighthouse, Mass.
Fort Rodman, New Bedford, Mass.
Fort Taber, New Bedford, Mass. SEE Fort Rodman, New Bedford, Mass.
Guest registers--Mass.--New Bedford
Lighthouse keepers--Mass.--Butler Flats
Lighthouse keepers--Mass.--Clark Point
New Bedford, Mass.--Fortifications, military installations, etc.
Palmer Island Lighthouse, Mass.
Smith, Samuel Austin, 1817-1889