The Minot Ledge Lighthouse


My father lost his life on that lighthouse. I stare at it every day and my loathing of it – and of the engineers who had built when died – grows. It consumes me. His death left my mother and me in penury. We live hand to mouth, doing whatever we can to get by.

That damned structure had already been swept twice from the rock ledge on which it was being built by storms in the summer of 1847. Clearly, the construction was wanting. Work recommenced in 1848 with the placement of nine iron piles drilled into the rock and braces between them at intervals, except at the lower part of the tower. A cast-iron spider, or capping, was secured to the top of this piling. There was no stone surround, just open pilings and braces. The keeper’s quarters were erected on top of this, and then a 16-sided lantern room at the very top.

I talked to both the first keeper of the light, Isaac Dunham, and the second, Captain John Bennet, who both believe the light was not safe and had asked for it to be strengthened. Nothing was done.  In March of 1851, a terrible storm set the tower to pitching and swaying and after that the braces were tightened. Early during yet another storm in April, Captain Bennett departed for the mainland leaving my father and another man to keep the bell ringing and the lamps burning. As the winds blew and the waves pounded, the central support snapped so only an outside pilings held up the lantern tower. Then the pilings broke and the tower bent over, and the huge tower plunged into the raging sea.

My father’s body washed up on Nantasket beach the next day.

A new, stone tower took five years to build, and keepers finally lit the light in August of 1860.

During the intervening years, my mother and I sought recompense from the builders, the engineers, the local government, and then the federal government. She and my father, being Portuguese, apparently weren’t worth listening to. She died in my arms of consumption a few months ago.

Today the sea is calm, and I’ve taken a row boat from Cohasset. I’m sorry I took it and I hope God will forgive me. It’s not a long row to the lighthouse, just a mile, and I manage the soft waves well. I tie the boat to the bottom of the ladder leading up to the door halfway up. Then I begin the climb, rung by rung, remembering with each step memories of my father – his smile when he swung me around, then throwing me in the air, the stories he told of Portugal after an evening meal of alheira de mirandela, a meal of Portuguese sausage and bread. We could never afford to make a meal like that after he died.

Finally, exhausted, I reach the door. The light keepers are probably awaiting me above. I turn and face the sea. I will join my father.

I selected this picture in response to a challenge from Dan Antion to find an interesting door and write a story about it .



60 thoughts on “The Minot Ledge Lighthouse”

  1. Wow! I believe this is the first time I’ve read one of your short stories. I was swept away as I read, absolutely captivated. Now I’m ready for you to expand on it and turn it into a historical fiction. I could perfectly visualize it while gazing at the lighthouses.

    1. Thank you so much, Deanne! I have published one historical fiction novel, The Last Pilgrim, which was long-listed for the Devon and Cornwall International Book Prize, and have another almost ready to go to my editor/publisher that started out just like this one – a short story I wrote for a prompt. It’s called Daniel Boone and Me. I be doing promos on my blog soon!

  2. This is a great story, Noelle. I am using your image as inspiration for my first story (shooting for Sunday), but this is fantastic. I was sucked in from the first line. Your entry will be listed as soon as I create the story table on the TDWC Page.

  3. I agree. It is a fantastic story, Noelle. Very atmospheric, gripping, and moving. I’ve always been fascinated by lighthouses, and the prompt clearly got your inspiration going. Thanks, Noelle.

    1. In order to understand why the original versions of the lighthouse kept being swept away, I had to do some digging. The current stone one is stable! Thanks for your comment, Teagan, the original door person!

    1. Thanks, Rosie. It all started with the door. I’m not sure where I’d seen the lighthouse before but when the door challenge came in, I thought of it.

  4. Oh my. What a tragic story, Noelle. Well done. I was captivated. That was a great prompt from Dan and you certainly rose to the challenge. I was wondering if it was a tease from a new book!

  5. A very moving story, Noelle. I thought it was true at first! It could be though. That would have been a very tough job in the days before technology.

    1. The story IS true except for the girl. Two men did die on the earlier version of the lighthouse that was swept away. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. The first line of the post moved me for a minute as I thought it was for real. I was like Ouch, but then I quickly realized that it was a story. As I read the comments I found that the story is true except for the girl. I’ve never seen a lighthouse personally yet, but I went for a late-night beach party once that had a lighthouse and it was so good to see that powerful beam of light. By the way, loved the story, and a good attempt for Thursday Doors Challenge.

  7. Wow superb blog layout How long have you been blogging for you make blogging look easy The overall look of your site is magnificent as well as the content

  8. Hello my loved one I want to say that this post is amazing great written and include almost all significant infos I would like to look extra posts like this

  9. Your writing has a way of resonating with me on a deep level. It’s clear that you put a lot of thought and effort into each piece, and it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.

  10. Your blog is a beacon of light in the often murky waters of online content. Your thoughtful analysis and insightful commentary never fail to leave a lasting impression. Keep up the amazing work!

  11. This story is compelling. Descriptions of the light houses are so vivid I can see them in my mind. Then comes the heart break that pulls at the reader with each sentence. I could NOT stop reading. The bureaucracy of the time is much like today. Rights of the poor are rarely heard and can lead to tragedy. – Very Well Done Noelle.

  12. Hi Neat post There is a problem along with your website in internet explorer would test this IE still is the market chief and a good section of other folks will pass over your magnificent writing due to this problem

  13. An amazing story Noelle and like others it swept me away from the first line… brilliant..♥

  14. Thanks so much, Sally. I love to write stories that combine real history with some fiction. That lighthouse was a real problem for a long time and did cost the lives of two brave men!

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