The Point Lookout Lighthouse

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Francis Hart Interview
by Robert Hall

Laura and Robert interviewed Francis Hart and his daughter Carol in August 2002.   Unfortunately, Mr. Hart had been ill and passed away September 9, 2002.   The following is a high-level summary of the discussion that occurred as Francis shared his pictures and memories.

Francis Hart was born on June 7, 1918 and was the great-grandson of  keeper William Yeatman, the grandson of Virginia Jackson Yeatman Ardeeser (Ginny) and the son of Rose Jeannette Ardeeser Hart and Francis Aloysius Hart.  After the lighthouse keeper William Yeatman died in 1908, the Yeatman clan began leaving the area.    Due to a family disagreement, his mother did not speak to the rest of the family for a number of years.    Francis parents married in 1915, however, Francis Aloysius Hart died soon after his son Francis was born in 1918, so his mother had to go to work and Francis was raised by his grandmother. 

Mr. Hart remembered Aunt Cora, another daughter of William Yeatman.  Cora was a big heavy woman and was late in years.   At one time, Aunt Cora lived just outside the lighthouse in a shack.   She had a billy goat that would buck hard and hurt you if you werent careful.    Aunt Cora eventually moved in with her sister, Amy Greenwell, in Scotland.   Aunt Cora succumbed to breast cancer, but back in those days you didnt talk about such things.  

Mr. Hart also remembered Uncle Will, who was partly deaf and the lighthouse keeper at Piney Point.   He transferred to Point Lookout as an assistant under Keeper Willis, after  Piney Point Lighthouse was closed.   Mr. Willis had a son named George Jr. who was in the merchant marines during World War II, and his ship was sunk in the Atlantic in 1942.  Mr. Willis also had a daughter named Mahalia.   Will was very popular with the ladies and chewed tobacco.   Mr. Hart would visit Uncle Will and enjoyed playing with his cousins; eating canned peaches, covered with condensed milk was their big treat.  Uncle Wills wife had passed on.

Mr. Hart remembered his first trip to southern Maryland, riding there in a Model T Ford for 5 hours!    The old Model T would get hot and steamy and you would have to pull over to the side of the road to add water to the radiator.  The vehicle had trouble climbing hills and flat tires were always a problem.    He also took a boat down to the point from Baltimore a few times when he was a kid.

Mr. Hart remembered playing at the point and walking out on the sandbar (which was a lot more prominent back then); Civil War Trenches outside the lighthouse, a two acre garden plot, a smokehouse, a hotel and an electric generator at the causeway.   The road was so narrow that if you didnt retreat before high tide, you would be stuck at the lighthouse.   Fishing was a very popular activity at the point.

The children were told that if they touched the fresnel lens that it would turn their fingers black, presumably from the heat of the light.    Glass batteries were used to store electricity for the light.

When he was older he would stay with friends- the Wilkersons of St. Jeromes Creek.  He would fish with their children.  Their mother would say you go catch some fish for dinner put our lines in and we would catch all the fish we wanted.

Mr. Hart said that he never heard anything unusual in the lighthouse.    However, he did say that he saw a ghost somewhere else, but couldnt remember the details.

In the original interview, some information is misleading because we often had multiple conversations going on at the same time, and we were trying to scan in a wealth of pictures.   We greatly appreciate the time that Mr. Hart and his daughter Carol spent with us, and we were greatly saddened to learn of his passing so soon after we met.   Also, thanks to Laura Berg for transcribing the entire interview; her notes formed the basis of this article.

 

For the complete interview, click here.