Cohasset in Norfolk County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
Antoine and Wilson Memorial
Location. 42° 14.33′ N, 70° 47.33′ W. Marker is in Cohasset, Massachusetts, in Norfolk County. Marker can be reached from Government Island Road 0.1 miles north of Border Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is on Government Island (now a peninsula). Marker is accessible when leaving Cohasset center by traveling east on Border Street. Immediately after crossing the bridge, turn left. Marker is at or near this postal address: 92 Border Street, Cohasset MA 02025, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Minot's Ledge Lighthouse (a few steps from this marker); Early Boundary Line (approx. 1.1 miles away); Gannettís Corner (approx. 1.4 miles away); Cudworth House (approx. 3.2 miles away); Hull Williams-Barker House (approx. 4 miles away); Paragon Park (approx. 4.1 miles away); Old Scituate Lighthouse (approx. 4.4 miles away).
Regarding Antoine and Wilson Memorial. Roughly two miles offshore from the Massachusetts towns of Cohasset and North Scituate sits Minotís Ledge, a normally submerged hazard well-known to mariners since Capt. John Smith had a close call there in 1614.
Following a sharp increase in shipwrecks early in the 19th century, mariners clamored for a lighthouse to be erected on or near that ledge. A thorough assessment was conducted in 1847 by Capt. William H. Swift, United States Engineers, who strongly opposed a stone tower. Instead, he favored an iron-pile structure that would present much less resistance to powerful waves in a storm. In supervising the actual construction, Smith sank his iron pilings five feet into the ledge and extended them 50 feet above the water. Atop these “stilts” he perched a storeroom, keeperís quarters, and lantern room, so that the overall height became 75 feet.
Sadly, on October 6, 1849, less than three months before the lighthouse was to be lit for the first time, the Saint John, carrying immigrants to America
According to the log of keeper Isaac Dunham, the light was lit for the first time on January 1, 1850. But within weeks Dunham began to have serious misgivings about the structureís safety. For example, on April 6, 1850, he wrote, “The wind E. blowing hard with an ugly sea which makes the Light House real like a Drunken Man = I hope God will in mercy still the raging sea = or we must perish.” By October of that year, completely unnerved, Dunham quit.
The next keeper, John W. Bennett, initially scoffed at his predecessorís fearfulness. Then in December he, too, petitioned to have the structure reinforced. Yet as late as January 9, 1851, engineer Smith wrote a long newspaper article explaining why the lighthouse could not possibly fall over.
In mid-April 1851, a major noríeaster descended on the New England coast. Flood waters undermined railway beds south of Boston, and the city itself briefly became an island. In its April 16th afternoon edition, the Boston Evening Transcript wrote, “Great apprehensions are felt in regard to the lighthouse at Minotís Ledge. The weather is still too misty to distinguish if it is still standing.” That same day, a man with a telescope on the Cohasset beach thought
As late as 10 p.m., Cohasset residents could still glimpse the lighthouseís beacon, and around 1 a.m. they could hear its bell being rung. But the light of dawn revealed the awful truth: The lighthouse was gone. The body of Antoine later washed ashore at Nantasket, several miles north of Cohasset. Wilson apparently managed to swim to Gull Rock, which is somewhat closer to shore than Minotís Ledge, where he too died.
In the years immediately following this tragedy, a lightship was temporarily anchored at Minotís Ledge as plans were made for a much more massive structure to be built (see the link, above, to the adjacent marker).
[The above summary is based on Edward Rowe Snowís classic, The Story of Minotís Light (Halliday, 1940, 1955).]
Also see . . .
1. Minot's Ledge Light. Wikipedia entry (Submitted on May 2, 2011, by Roger W. Sinnott of Chelmsford, Massachusetts.)
2. Minot's Ledge Light History. New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide (Submitted on May 2, 2011, by Roger W. Sinnott of Chelmsford, Massachusetts.)
Categories. • Notable Places •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 1, 2011, by Roger W. Sinnott of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. This page has been viewed 568 times since then and 27 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on May 1, 2011, by Roger W. Sinnott of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.