As I scanned through a list of those who served as Keepers of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, I had to smile. Within the list were thirteen men whom I could claim kinship to. Eight alone are Jennettes. And that doesn’t include the others in this line of my family tree that served at various other lights, up and down the coast.
Jennette, it is a name notorious with lighthouses. It is a heritage that I’m proud of and one that I do my best to preserve. And every time I take out the file of my Great Grandfather, Devaney Farrow Jennette, I am reminded of how important a task that really is. The hand written letters found among it’s pages, tell of his life…and those of others…who were dedicated to making sure that those at sea, had a beacon of light in which to guide them safely home. A very noble lot, indeed.
For quite some time, I have been pondering the idea of a blog that would share the genealogical connection between some of these lighthouse keepers. Today will be the first installment of that attempt. We’ll start off with the relationship between Devaney Farrow Jennette, Unaka B. Jennette, and Utah Cole Jennette, and a request to come home.
Devaney, Unaka, and Utah Jennette, were first cousins. Devaney was the son of Isaac Littleton and Hosannah W. Jennette. Unaka and Utah were brothers and were born to Benjamin F. and Dorcas L. Jennette. Benjamin and Isaac, their Fathers, were brothers. All were from Cape Hatteras, NC. And to this day, many of their descendants can still be found living on this barrier island.
Devaney entered into the United States Lighthouse Establishment in 1908. His first appointment was that of Assistant Keeper at the Thomas Point Shoal Light Station, located in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. This appointment only lasted six months. On April 10th, 1909, he became the Second Asst. Keeper of the Smith Point Light Station, which was located in Virginia.
The above two documents are just a few out of many that have given me a glimpse into the life of my Great Grandfather. As with most keepers at some point, long distance travel was inevitable. Which also led to long periods of not seeing one’s family and loved ones. The next two documents gives us a true look at how travel to and from Cape Hatteras, really was in 1909.
Please click on above images for larger versions
So as you can see, the road home was a long one. Many times in Devaney’s light keeping career, he thought of the island he had left years earlier in order to make a living. And many times he tried to return through requesting appointments at stations that were closer to home, such the Currituck Light. He even requested a transfer to the one he loved most dearly, the Cape Hatteras Light. But his request fell on deaf ears. The Lighthouse Service had rules against those with close kinship being stationed at the same light. Below you will find the correspondence regarding the relationship between Devaney F. and Unaka B. Jennette and the USLS’ take on the subject.
Devaney F. Jennette, never did get any closer to home. He was appointed to the Cape Fear Lighthouse in 1919 and stayed there until his death in 1932. Unaka B. Jennette, served thirty eight years in the USLHS. Eighteen years of that he spent as Keeper of the Cape Hatteras Light Station and was it’s last keeper while in the hands of the service. Utah Cole Jennette, spent from the late 1930’s, until his retirement in 1954, as Assistant Keeper at the Cape Henry Lighthouse, in Virginia.