Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, went into service on January 10, 1791 -- 225 years ago today. President George Washington approved the appointment of Capt. Joseph Greenleaf, a veteran of the American Revolution, as the first keeper.
At first, Greenleaf received no salary as keeper; his payment was the right to fish and farm and to live in the keeper’s house.As early as November 1791, Greenleaf wrote that he couldn’t afford to remain keeper without financial compensation. In a June 1792 letter, he complained of many hardships. During the previous winter, he wrote, the ice on the lantern glass was often so thick that he had to melt it off. In 1793, Greenleaf was granted an annual salary of $160.
Greenleaf died of an apparent stroke while in his boat on the Fore River in October 1795. According to the Eastern Argus newspaper, he had “faithfully discharged his duty to the satisfaction of those who occupy their business on great waters.”