Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Tragedy at Deer Island Light - 100 Years Ago

Early postcard of Deer Island Light
Joseph McCabe arrived as assistant keeper of Deer Island Light in Boston Harbor in June 1908. He made the pages of the Boston Globe in March 1913, when he purchased a piano and had it delivered to the lighthouse to "break the monotony of the lonely life in the isolated tower." Less than three years later, McCabe, who rented a room in East Boston when he wasn't at the lighthouse, became engaged to Gertrude Walter, a resident of that community. The couple planned a wedding on Easter Sunday, but it wasn't to be.
On Saturday, February 19, 1916, McCabe left the lighthouse to meet his fiancée on Deer Island, where they wrote out wedding invitations together. When he was ready to return, McCabe found that ice around the island had trapped his boat.
Wesley Pingree
He decided to borrow a pair of rubber boots and walk across the spit to the lighthouse. He was followed by his friend, Wesley Pingree, a former keeper who was by then an employee of the pumping station on Deer Island, and Pingree's 15-year-old son, Philip. As he jumped forward to make it past a gap in the spit, McCabe lost his footing and disappeared into the turbulent waters of the harbor. Employees from Deer Island rushed to the scene in a dory, but it was too late. The body of Joseph McCabe, who was 28 years old, was never recovered.
The lighthouse was replaced by a fiberglass tower in 1982. In late 2014, it was announced that the fiberglass tower and the foundation of the 1890 lighthouse would be removed, and a new pile-supported platform and light would be erected in their place.