Point Lookout Lighthouse
Robert's Research of Point Lookout Keepers
This has been a labor of love, involving many hours of searching,
trying to find documents to verify dates of service, and much disappointment to
learn that some of the most important records were destroyed in the
fire of January 10, 1921. I began this quest about 5 years ago when
I found a mysterious list in the Calvert Marine Museum Files, that referred to
RG 26. I would later become very
familiar with Record Group 26, the National Archives (NARA) classification for
information about lighthouses. I
made several trips to the National Archives, and after spending hours and
finding very little, I engaged the services of Candace Clifford to use her
extensive skills, knowledge, and familiarity with rules, regulations and
Archive's Staff to continue the search.
Efficient and prolific do not even begin to describe Candace's research
work and in a very short amount of time I was inundated with a wealth of
information from NARA lighthouse records.
I spent many long hours trying to read, decipher, transcribe, categorize,
summarize and organize the findings, literally hundreds and hundreds of pages.
At the same time, I began a mission to pull personnel folders for
the 20th century light keepers.
The problem was that I needed to know so much information about the
records I was requesting, (including full name, dates and locations of service,
birth date, death date and Social Security number), that it was all but
impossible to request the information I needed. I joined Ancestry.com, and spent hours searching and
guessing. Since a lot of
the census data has not been indexed, I had to view the original,
handwritten census images to look for names and occupations.
I had a few lucky breaks, and was able to obtain the folder for George
Gatton. Among the many rules I would soon discover, I learned that since he was
born over 100 years ago, the information was no longer restricted under the
Privacy Act and was available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
without providing proof of death.
During one of the lighthouse open houses, I spoke with someone who
had lived in the county all her life, and she told me that Herman Metivier was
still alive but in the nursing home and "bad off".
I contacted all the nursing homes in the vicinity, but there were no
current residents name Metivier. I
contacted the St Mary's County office on aging and the St. Mary's Historical
Society, and they had no records of Metivier in the county.
The nice lady also told me where Mrs. Metivier lived, so I drove to the
area near Ridge Middle School, looking at mailboxes and asking residents about
the Metiviers. Once again, I
had no luck locating the elusive Metiviers. After
some lucky guesses on Ancestry.com, I was able to locate the Social Security
number, birth date and death date for Herman Metivier.
I decided to test the waters with the Center for Personnel Records (CPR),
and sent off my request to the Military Branch, assuming that the keepers were
Coast Guard employees (responsibility for lighthouses was taken over by the
Coast Guard in 1939). One
day, I received a phone call saying that none of the records could be located.
I was very puzzled, but while I had the nice gentleman on the phone I
troubled him to look up a few additional names, without much success.
As I had suspected, the keeper lists that have been published were
woefully inaccurate, with many errors and misspelled names.
The helpful clerk suggested that I check with civilian records branch, so
I sent my request with the additional information like Herman Metivier's Service
Number, to the CPR. I was
elated when a large package of papers arrived in the mail a few weeks later, with
the records of George Gatton and Herman Metivier. I confirmed that Mr. Metivier died in 1975, so my hours
of trying to track him down was a pointless exercise. The records did confirm that Mr. Metivier was hired as
an assistant keeper in 1939, converted to the Coast Guard in 1942, and became
the Officer in Charge (OIC) in 1943 after the keeper, Robert Fulcher suffered a
stroke and retired on disability. The records were a bit confusing
because of the Coast Guard takeover of the lighthouses; I spoke with Mr.
Metivier's daughter Eunice, and she helped me to make sense of the
records. I found one single piece of information, in of all places
Zaddock Sturgis' folder that said Mr. Metivier would "still be in
charge". Under George Gatton, a civilian was the keeper
and the BM1/C's were the assistants, so roles were not always consistent.
Candace made copies of the lighthouse logs from 1949 ,to 1964, which
provided a comprehensive list of all personnel who were stationed at Point
Lookout. Some of the
pages contained signatures, followed by titles such as lighthouse keeper,
lending further proof to the list of keepers.
Many of the non-keeper, Coast Guard rotations were for a year or less.
After many more hours of searching Ancestry.com, I was able to
cobble enough information for my second CPR request for information about Z.W.
Sturgis, Robert Fulcher, George Willis, and William Yeatman (who served as an
assistant keeper in the 1930s). I
actually tracked down Robert Fulcher from a WWI draft form that was on
Ancestry.com; I tracked Mr. Fulcher in the census to North Carolina,
and based on other information I was pretty sure I had the correct Social
Security number and birth date for him.
Also, as in previous CPR folders, there were references to previous
keepers, such as Thomas Jacobson, that were enormously helpful in confirming
dates of service. The information in the personnel records provided more evidence and a
clear picture of the lighthouse keepers at Point Lookout.
At the Lighthouse Challenge 2002, I met Earl and Nancy Mullens, who
are friends of former keeper Charlie Kidd.
I interviewed Charlie Kidd and he was ever so kind as to share his photos
from his tour of duty at Point Lookout. On May 21, 2004, Laura and I accompanied Charlie Kidd
and his family to the lighthouse for a special reunion tour; Mr. Kidd had not
seen the inside of lighthouse since he left the station back in 1959. Charlie also told me about Fred's Place, a website
where former "Coasties" can find former shipmates. At Charlie's suggestion, I posted a message
asking for information about the lighthouse and my desire to contact anyone who
was stationed there. Within
days, I received an email from Raymond Hartzel.
I interviewed him, and he also was kind enough to share his photographs
and memories of his time at Point Lookout.
He was the last keeper
I also contacted Jim Claflin in Massachusetts, and he researched the
lighthouse reports and provided me with copies of all the information relevant
to Point Lookout. I order two
books from him, Sentinel of the Coasts and Lighthouses and Lightships of the
United States written by George Putnam, Head of the Bureau of Lighthouses.
Laura has tracked down a number of Yeatman family members over the
years, and all have been very helpful to identify family pictures, and to point
out when we were mistaken about the identity of people in the photos.
We interviewed Francis Hart and scanned a number of his pictures; sadly,
he passed away about a month after we met him in person.
Laura has remained in contact with the descendents of William Yeatman,
and has received numerous documents and pictures from the family collections.
It has been an interesting journey so far, and in the beginning I
had no idea where to start but I just kept searching, and with a lot of luck,
perseverance and the help of some great people, I have managed to compile a lot
of information about my favorite lighthouse!
The next step is to research the assistant keepers and other support
personnel stationed at PLO.