Monthly Archives: December 2011

A week of lighthouses

Atop the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse: Dawn F. Taylor, Malcolm Peele, Elizabeth B. Fox

This has been a week of lighthouses and coincidences. From Cape Hatteras to Cape Fear, seems like those light keeping ancestors have been at it. For those who have already read my last blog regarding the return of the bulls eye panel back to Bald Head Island, NC., you know where it is that I am coming from. For those who haven’t, you really should read it. Then there is the lady who I met through Facebook just the other day. She is the owner of a prism that was from the Cape Fear Light. Another piece of the puzzle, I hope to see put back in place.

And today…it has been nothing short of amazing. Started the morning off by telling my Father that I was going to run down to the lighthouse for a couple hours, and then I’d be back. By now, I should know not to say that. The OBXmas and climb Cape Hatteras Lighthouse event was in full swing. Visitors were able to climb the lighthouse at no charge. They were enthusiastically greeted by members of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, who were there to educate the public about the history of the light and to also make them aware of their mission to preserve the light houses of eastern North Carolina. Kudos to this mighty fine group.

Now for anyone who is from Hatteras Island, you know that you can’t go anywhere without seeing someone you recognize or someone that is kin. Hence, I ran smack dab into my running buddy and Cousin, Elizabeth B. Fox. Accompanying her, was her long time friend, Dr. Malcolm C. Roberts,of the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

🙂 Onward…we three amigos ended up, after repeatedly saying that I was NOT going to climb the light because of a bad knee, all the way up top. Man what a climb that was, but what a great memory that Cousin Liz, Malcolm, and I now share.

Inside the Cape Hatteras Light - Dawn Taylor and Malcolm Peele

Liz and I never seem to go just one place, when we get together. That old proverbial “snowball”, must somehow know the exact moment we pull out of the driveway. And today that snowball came in the form of a loon. Yes, a loon. One thing that I admire about Liz and her brother (Lou Browning), is that they truly care about the wild life of the island and the environment. That is what has led them both in assisting those that are in distress. Lou is the operator of the Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation.

So…”Snowy” (yes, I’ve named him/her), was trying to cross NC12 by some form of flapping, scooting, hopping, and waddling. According to Liz, he was trying to make his way to the sound in order to take flight. And since they are not known for their fine walking technique, he found himself in quite an ordeal. That is until we stopped to lend a hand. Liz slowly walked up to Snowy and talked him into getting into the car with us. Okay, so she really didn’t talk him into getting into the car. But I will say that even though I was worried about him attacking the back of my head with his beak, he did make a fine passenger.

After inspection by Lou, “Snowy” turned out to be alright…for the most part. By now, he may be flapping his wings somewhere over the sound. Hope he will always remember that car ride and the good hearted humans that cared enough to stop on their way to the Holiday Open House, at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras. I know we’ll never forget him.

Elizabeth B. Fox with "Snowy" the Loon

I have always enjoyed visiting the museum. Plenty of holiday cheer and exhibits greeted us as we walked through it’s door. Walt Fulcher, met us in the foyer. He has done such an amazing job of organizing the United Methodist Men’s Food Bank, on the island. Danny Couch was also there. He is a noted local historian and Chairman of the Friends of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Always an interesting conversation with him. And Joseph K. Schwarzer, who is the museum’s Executive Director, was present. Between he and Danny, I now know where to look for more info on my lighthouse keeping Great Grandfather. Thanks to you both. And thanks to all who made this day, truly wonderful.

Elizabeth B. Fox and Malcolm Peele

Dawn F. Taylor


A keeper and his lighthouse…

Keeper Devaney F. Jennette with Grandchildren

Devaney Farrow Jennette, was born and reared on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. In 1908, he entered the United States Lighthouse Establishment. In 1932, he took his last breath and fell over into the arms of Capt’n Swan, in the Lantern Room of the Cape Fear Lighthouse. Over eighty years later…Dawn Farrow Taylor, relit the memory of a Great Grandfather, she never knew. Through listening to old family stories and genealogical research, she came to learn about his life as a dear father, a trusted friend, and a destined lighthouse keeper. And he became a man whose memory…she would never again, let fade.

Keeper Jennette's Grandchildren in front of the Cape Fear Lighthouse

In the winter of 2004, I decided to take my Father on a trip back to his childhood. To a time spent playing on the sandy beaches of Bald Head Island, underneath the shadow of the skeletal tower known as the Cape Fear Lighthouse. This island, this place that Pop called home for 13 years, had become as much an inseparable part of our lives as our dearest family members.

Cape Fear Lighthouse

Often, I sit and look at the black and white photographs that were taken during that era. There are images of Aunt Nonie, holding a doll as she sat in a small chair belonging to Keeper Swan’s children. And there is one of Mom (Great Grandmother Ella Gray Jennette),gracing the front porch of the keeper’s quarters,which faced the barren beach. This is the same beach where Pop fished and the family swam. But we were there to also make new memories. We met Keeper Swan’s son, Reece and his nephew, Ron Hood. We sat and chatted over coffee, with Anne Mills and Marilyn Ridgeway, of the Old Baldy Organization. We had made the journey and thought this would be the end of the story. But Devaney F. Jennette, had other plans…

Keeper Jennette holding Granddaughter in front of the Cape Fear Lighthouse

Have you ever thought that you were in a certain place at a certain time, for a reason you just couldn’t explain ? Call it cosmic forces. Call it fate. You can even call it divine providence. I’ll just say it was Pop’s doing, and leave it at that. One morning I found myself at the home of Rhonda Bates and Wes Lassiter, in Frisco, NC. I was helping to remove some of Rhonda’s art prints from under a piece of furniture. It is then that I spotted what appeared to be a large and heavy object, made of brass and very thick glass. Being out of the Jennette family of lighthouse keepers, it didn’t take long for me to realize what I was looking at. It was a bull eyes panel from a lighthouse ! I turned to Rhonda and asked her, “Where did you get this ?” Her response was one I’ll never forget. “Think it came from some place called Bald Head Island. Wes’ Dad bought it”.

At that point, I believed I knew exactly where it came from. Old Baldy Lighthouse was still standing on the island. But in 1958, the Cape Fear Lighthouse was demolished and the Oak Island Light, took it’s place. Before it’s destruction, the demolition company removed the lens and sold them to an antique dealer in Wilmington, NC. It was that antique dealer who sold the panel to Wes’ Dad. To make a long story short…the lens is now back where it belongs, on Bald Head Island. Guess Pop is still tending to his light. According to Keeper swan’s family, after Pop’s death, one could still hear his footsteps climbing those stairs to the top…one by one. Guess a keeper’s work is truly, never done.

All photographs are from the private collection of Dawn F. Taylor.

Cape Fear Lighthouse ~ Bulls Eye Panel

Dawn Taylor holding bulls eye panel from the Cape Fear Lighthouse


Outer Banks Lighthouse Society ~ 2011 Winter Newsletter

The OBLHS’ Winter 2011 Newsletter, will soon be posted to their website. You will need to be a member to view it. This is a special issue for HIGPS, the island, and for my family. So if you’d like to read why and also help to preserve the lighthouses of the Outer Banks and the heritage of their keepers, please join today. I’m a member. You should be too !