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United States of America Off The Beaten Path: 302 reviews and 511 photos
We first saw this lighthouse in 2000 when we went down Hawk Channel (the Atlantic Ocean side of the Keys) to Key West.
In the spring of 2004, we visited Bill Baggs State Park by land and took the lighthouse tour with a docent. I actually climbed to the top of the lighthouse, and we both toured the keeper's house. I was particularly impressed by the story of this lighthouse during the Seminole Wars of the 1830s.
From the lighthouse website, this is the story:
On July 23, 1836, a band of Seminole Indians attacked the tower. ..Only the assistant .. Thompson and his Negro handyman .. were there when the Seminole arrived... Thompson and his handyman barricaded themselves inside the tower... the Indians set fire to the door which spread to a 225-gallon tank of oil. Prudently, they brought with them muskets and a keg of powder, but their weapons did little to shield them from the intense heat of the burning stairs and the flying glass from the rupturing windows and lanterns.
As the flames increased, they were forced outside onto the two-foot-wide iron balcony. The ..handyman was killed .. Thompson, already shot in the foot from the initial onslaught, was wounded again. .. his clothes on fire, Thompson threw the keg of powder down into the flames, hoping to end his misery. The explosion.. did not kill him, but it did destroy what was left of the burning staircase,..the partly conscious Thompson.. had collapsed on the balcony.
This blast did more than remove the burning staircase; assuming Thompson was dead, the Indians turned their attention to setting fire to the keeper?s house and then left, while a Navy vessel, hearing the explosion, came to shore to investigate. By the next day the crew had discovered the burned lighthouse and the wounded assistant keeper, stranded high above the ground. The resourceful captain managed to rescue Thompson by firing twine from his musket, which Thompson caught .. two seamen were able to hoist themselves to the tower and help Thompson descend.
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