All is Well at the Twin Lights in the 1890's




It was January 1890, and David Caulkin was the lighthouse keeper at the Twin Lights, with Charles Thompson his assistant. There were only forty-two states in the Union in January, with Wyoming and Idaho making it 44 in July. New York was considered the largest urban area with 1.51 million residents, with Chicago second with a half million less. It was two years before Ellis Island began immigration policies and procedures and seven years before the Twin Lights became the first lighthouse to use kerosene fueled lamps.


Locally, Dr. Henry A. Hendrickson had just arrived in Atlantic Highlands and began a partnership with Dr. John H. Van Mater. People were still talking about the need for a bridge across the Navesink River and couldn’t decide whether it should be near Red Bank or closer to Locust.


Ordinary times. Ordinary people living ordinary lives. But Keepers Caulkin and Thompson were busy tending their lights, doing their daily chores, and keeping records of the temperature. From the beginning of the year, they recorded in their logs that the weather was mild , or moderate, or with a breeze. But on Jan. 9, they recorded a gale, followed by four days of moderate breezes before another gale on Jan. 13 , then two more gales on Jan. 16 and Jan. 21. None seemed to last more than a day. None seemed to create any havoc at sea.

The actual log of the keepers from the 19th century is one of the displays in the Lighthouse keeper’s Room in the Twin Lights Museum, neatly hand-written records that show little of the events of the day and nothing of the events of the world other than the weather and how it combined measured up with the weather reports throughout the month. Also on display are the instruments, clothing and photos of the keepers and their families.

The Lighthouse Museum is open at no cost Wednesdays through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the North Tower open for climbing also at no cost in the off-season. Grounds are open every day from 9 a.m, to 4:30 p.m. For those preferring a guided tour and history of the Twin Lights, tours are also available by reservation Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost for guided tours is $12 for persons over ten years of age.

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