Old Scituate Light turned 200 in October of this past year. As keeper and as a Trustee of the Historical Society, I had begun to research the Light and the families that lived in the Cottage from the first weeks after my family arrived. The stories have multiplied steadily and the discoveries this past year were significant.
The Bates family is the most famous of the families and their legacy is both here at the Lighthouse and at the Bates House on Jericho Road. (The latter was purchased this spring by the Town and will be managed by the Historical Society in same manner the Lighthouse has been since 1967.) Several notes from Simeon Bates, the first keeper, were discovered in the National Archives last February; one where Captain Bates requested a seawall in front of the Tower upon moving in, and another from 1817 where he requested $170.00 to build the room, "a porch" that currently serves as my kitchen. When Town Meeting approved Community Preservation Act funding of seawall work this spring it proved that some topics are timeless.
Zeba Cushing was the second keeper. He was a builder and it had been established prior that he had built the Baptist Church that is currently the GAR Hall. Research this year revealed that he also built the utility wing of the Keeper's Cottage in order to house a tenant. Naval officer Edward Carpender was critical of keeper Cushing for turning over care of the Light to this tenant. Ebenezer Osbourne followed Cushing and when members of his family visited this year, they shared that Osbourne's son William lived at the Lighthouse as an infant and in his maturity won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service at Mulvern Hill. That is a story that will be developed more fully in the coming year.
These nineteenth century stories were amazing slices of life here in Scituate from times it can be a challenge to imagine. Research on the twentieth century gave us just as much new information that rounded out our knowledge of life here at Cedar Point.
John Francis Cushman lived at Scituate Light longer than anyone else. He moved into the Cottage as keeper in 1904 and stayed as keeper and caretaker until 1937. Newspaper articles were found that describe Captain Cushman as he fought with other captains who would not let him fulfill his role as harbor pilot. During the reconstruction of the utility wing this fall evidence of the store Bernice Cushman operated in the twenties and thirties was discovered. The name Roy was found carved into a wall stud and the 1920 census established that this was likely a Roy Spear who was related to the Captain through marriage
Cora and James Arthur Cobbett held the post as caretakers in the late thirties into the forties. Licenses were issued to Cora to run the store and when Mr. Cobbett was not working on a WPA crew or as "Special Officer for Lighthouse Park", he may have been working as a cobbler here at the Lighthouse. Lots of leather and several tools were discovered here as work was done in September.
Just prior to the Society taking over the management of the Lighthouse, the family of Edward Cole lived here at the Light. The Society was very pleased when Jesse Cole Minehan
Morrell shared home movies of her years here, telling a missing chapter of the story. The O'Neils, The Abels, The Gillises, and The Downtons followed the Coles and each shared that living here at the Light one of the thrills of their lives. The 200th Birthday Party for Scituate Light gathered many of those families at the Barker Tavern where the Historical Society was able to offer them a Certificate of Gratitude for their many, many contributions to the most important landmark of the town.
With 200 years behind it, Scituate Light moves into its third century as a magnet for residents and guests alike. It is a siren for lovers of history and admirers of a setting that is second to none. Find the time in the coming year to visit the Light during an Open House. Come and find out what other stories the Keepers Cottage and the Light have to tell.