As a volunteer this summer, Dirk Langeveld transcribed and annotated letters from the Ingoldsby Work Crawford Collection in the Frank L. McGuire Maritime Research Library. Ingoldsby W. Crawford (1786-1867) was the U.S. Customs Collector in New London, Connecticut, in the 1830s. As Collector, he oversaw many federal matters including the building of the 1833 New London custom house, area lighthouses, and lightships.
Collector's Office, District of New London
October 30, 1833

Sir,

At the request of several gentlemen interested in the navigation of the Connecticut river, I transmit their Petition for an attention of the lighthouse at Lynde point.

Ship Masters & Pilots have represented to me that the light is often too dim to be seen where it is wanted most; and they desire that the Lamps may be raised twenty five feet or more above their present height.

I give full merit to their testimony respecting the condition of the light; but I have no confidence in the remedy which they propose. The dimness complained of is caused by a dense fog which frequently hangs over the river and the marshes in the vicinity of the lighthouse; and that fog, I apprehend, would still obscure the lights to persons near the surface of the water, if the lamps were elevated ever so much. Besides, the present lighthouse, in my opinion, is not susceptible of the alteration suggested. It is a wooden structure, having no greater diameter at the base than is necessary to support its original height. It has been erected about thirty years; and with some repairs from time to time, it may last many years longer; but the addition of twenty five feet to its height would endanger the stability of the whole. The erection of a new building, it appears to me, is the only means by which the lamps can be safely raised to the height requested by the petitions; and even with such a building it is probable that the light would not be improved, unless the number of lamps should be increased.

Respectfully, Sir, I have the honor to be your most obedient servant,

I.W. Crawford, Collector


Stephen Pleasonton Esqr.

Fifth Auditor of the Treasury

Washington

Stonington 10 August 1838
In a unique case in 1839, the Connecticut customs districts became involved in supplying a lightship off the coast of New Jersey. These letters detail the process whereby Benjamin Pomeroy, of Stonington, won a contract to establish the lightship 14.7 miles off the Jersey shore on Five Fathom Bank. The final contract price was $14,584, coming in under the $15,000 appropriation. Crawford also makes frequent references to Charles F. Lester, who would succeed him as the New London collector.

The 90-foot lightship, LV-18, remained on the scene for 30 years. Two lanterns and a hand-operated bell served to warn sailors of the dangers; reflectors replaced the lanterns in 1855. After the ship was blown off its moorings several times in the 1860s, it was replaced by LV-37 in 1869. Found "unworthy of repair" in 1875, LV-18 was sold to the Navy for $985.46 and sunk as a torpedo target off Newport, Rhode Island.

LV-18 replaced the first lightship on Five Fathom Bank, a vessel described as "decayed and leaky." Lightships continued to mark the site until 1972, when the last one was decommissioned. A navigational buoy has since been established there.


Collector's Office, District of New London
February 6, 1832

Sir,

  Inclosed with this communication is my account of expenditures for the light house establishment during the quarter ending on the 31st of December, amounting to $1343. The salaries of the light house keepers, at the rate now established, will amount at the end of the current quarter to $437.50. It is not supposed that any expenditures for repairs will be required in the present quarter; but in the next or the succeeding quarter it will be necessary to make considerable repairs at Stonington point, and some improvement at Lynde's point.

  In pursuance of your instructions of May 31st I made a contract for plastering the light house at Stonington point with Roman cement, to be completed, under the superintendence of the keeper, by the first of September. The contractor failed of performance within the time stipulated. With the implied assent of the keeper he neglected the work till the weather became so cold that I believed the cement, if then put on, would not acquire a sufficient degree of hardness before it must be exposed to the action of frost, and its adhesive quality be destroyed. I therefore directed that the work should be postponed to the next year, with the exception of some plastering of immediate necessity, and of a temporary nature, for which no charge will be made. The house was very imperfectly built at first, and no degree of repair can ever make it good. The outer walls have so long been penetrated by every wind and rain, that the timbers and floors within are destroyed decayed and rotten; they must be renewed, or the house must be abandoned. The location of it, in my opinion, was opinion as injudicious, as the construction was defective. The ground is so low that it has many times been covered with water overflowed, and so soft that it is constantly wearing away by the attrition of the waves. Within one year past the sea has encroached on the land about twelve feet, leaving the light house now at the distance of about twenty feet from low water mark. Unless some barrier be erected against further encroachment, it is probable that the house, in the course of two or three years more, will be swept away.

  The expense of repairing the sea wall at Lynde's point has exceeded the first cost of the building. But being convinced by personal examination, that the original work was totally inadequate to the purpose for which it had been erected, and believing that the public interest required a wall of such materials and construction as would probably need no repairs for many years to come, I have acted accordingly. It is believed that the present work must be permanent. The front is composed of stones thicker and much broader than the terms of the contract required; and they are placed in such position as to break the force of the surf.

  The light as this point is located precisely where it ought to be kept for the convenience of mariners; but where the keeper is subjected to some peculiar privations and inconveniences. Far from any other human dwelling, he is confined to a dreary sand beach, entirely destitute of vegetation, and of fresh water, and so low that the tide often flows up to the house, and fills the cellar with salt water. There is no garden, no well or cistern on the premises; and the family procure their vegetables and fresh water from a distance of nearly two miles. With a desire to meliorate their condition, which is now far below an equality with that of any other keeper's family in this District, I would respectfully recommend that a well for their use be dug on the premises next summer; that an embankment be made of earth and stones sufficient to exclude the salt water from the well and the cellar; and that the keeper's salary be increased by an addition of ten dollars a year, commencing with the present quarter.

  A contract was made last summer for replacing a spindle on Race rock in Lord Island sound; but continued high winds, producing a heavy and dangerous surf, prevented a full performance. The contracted procured a spindle for the purpose; and he holds himself pledged to set it up at a more favorable season. The ancient spindle in Lord's channel has lately been broken and carried away by the ice & waves. Another ought to be placed in its stead the ensuing spring.

  The building of the Beacon on Branford reef was commenced by Charles H. Smith at so late a period that the severity of the weather compelled him to suspend the work before it was completed. It will be returned and finished as early in the next season as the state of the weather will permit.

  It is to be regretted that so much public money has been expended in this District for works which have proved to be of little or no value. The light house and keeper's dwelling house at Stonington point were built without regard to convenience or durability; and they must, on that account, continue to be a source of expense for repairs. The sea wall at Lynde's point, as originally built, was wholly insufficient to resist the force of the waves; and it could never be made sufficient without an addition of other and heavier materials. The Beacon erected near Black Rock harbor, builtat an expense of several thousands, was entirely swept away within a few weeks after its erection. This destruction was not oweing to any peculiar exposure to violence, but to the wont of suitable materials, and of skilful and faithful workmanship. With full knowledge of these facts, and of their injurious consequences, I have felt a deep solicitude for the utility and permanence of the works which have been erected under my superintendence. On examining what had been done in other similar works, I could find no ground of hope for improvement in their construction without giving my personal attention to their plan and execution. I have therefore devoted much time to these works; and have subjected myself to personal expenses, which, I humbly conceive, ought to be defrayed by the Country for whose benefit they have been incurred. A considerable part of the sum charged for my services in relation to the light house at Morgan's point, and which, I was informed, could would not be allowed at the Treasury department, was expended in purchasing and surveying the land, and in paying the Secretary of this State for official papers, before any person agent could be appointed to superintend the building of the house. For some of these expenses I have regular vouches; but for many small items I have none. I hope, Sir, that on further consideration you will think it proper that I should be allowed for the sum claimed in my letter of October 29th.

  Respectfully, Sir, I have the honor to be your most obedient servant,

Ingoldsby W. Crawford, Collector.

Stephen Pleasonton Esqr.

Fifth Auditor,

Washington

_____________________________________________________________________

Stonington 10 August 1838

Hon. Stephen Pleasonton

Sir In answer to your's of 13th inst. This day received, I will build, furnish, (except the moorings) and deliver, the Light Vessel to be Stationed on five fathom Bank in all respects comformable to your advertisement of 17 July, for Fourteen Thousand four hundred and forty Dollars.

I remain very Respectfully your most ob Servt,

R. Pomeroy

P.S. If my proposals above are accepted, I will deduct from the sum named four hundred and forty Dollars, if allowed to deliver Said Vessel in New York. R.P.

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Treasury Department
Fifth Auditors Office
August 23rd 1838

Sir,

I inclose herewith an enefitedtly under date of the 17th July last; inviting proposals for building a Floating Light to take the place of one which is unseaworthy, at Fifth Fathom Bank at the entrance of the Delaware Bay.

Several offers were received for building this vessel, all of which were above the appropriation of 15,000 dollars. The offer of W.B. Pomeroy, at Stonington, was the lowest but his was above the appropriation and could not be accepted. I requested to know from him what he would build and deliver the vessel for, if the moorings were excepted from the contract, and his answer is now enclosed, by which is appears he is willing to build & deliver the vessel at her station for 14,440 dollars the mooring excepted.

As the moorings of the old vessel are believed to be good, I have concluded to accept this office, and to request you to enter into a contract with him agreeably to the advertisement excepting only the moorings. After completing and executing the contract you will appoint a suitable person to oversee the work and materials and to oblige the contractor to faithful compliance with his engagements. You may allow to such persons not exceeding 2.50 dollars per day. For your trouble and responsibility you will be allowed one per cent on the sum which you will pay under the contract.

The vessel cannot be received at New York as proposed by Mr. Pomeroy, but must be delivered at five fathom Bank & moored in the place where the old Boat now is. It will be proper for you to send out a hemp cable & anchor for the use of the old Boat, in going up the Delaware after she shall be relieved by the new one, and this you will charge in your quarterly Light House account.

Although it is stated in the advertisement that the vessel is to be approved by the Collector of Wilmington Del., yet you will provide in the contract that it is to be completed to your satisfaction or of such persons as you may appoint to inspect the same.

I should be very glad if Mr. Pomeroy could finish this vessel even sooner than December next. The sooner he finishes it the sooner he will be paid.

I have the honor to be very respectfully your ob servt,

S. Pleasonton

Ingoldsby W. Crawford Esqr.

  New London
  Conn

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Collector's Office, District of New London
December 24, 1838

Sir,

  In obedience to your instructions of the 10th instant, I employed Julius W. Adams Esqr, an Enginer of experience and reputation, to examine the new tower for a lighthouse at Lynde point; and I have now the honor to inclose his report.

  Mr. Pomery is making daily progress in the building of the light vessel for five fathom bank; but he will probably not be able to finish it before the middle of January. The work is under the daily superintendence of a skillful ship carpenter from this city. I have personally inspected it once, since the frame was set up; and have found the timber to be abundant, and of the first quality.

  Respectfully, Sir, I am your most obedient servant,

I.W. Crawford

Stephen Pleasonton Esqr.

Fifth Auditor of the Treasury

  Washington

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Treasury Department
5th Auditor's Office
4th January 1839

Sir,

  Your letter of the 2d came to hand yesterday Sunday.

  The same Mail brought me a letter from the Master or Keeper of the old Floating Light at Five Fathom Bank stating that in his opinion that vessel would ride safely at her station until the spring and that it would be dangerous until then to shift the moorings to the new vessel. He therefore recommends that the new vessels should not be carried to the Five Fathom Bank until the return of good weather in the spring.

  As Mr. Pomeroy will soon have the new vessel completed and I presume would not be willing to retain the vessel at Stonington until spring, I consider the best course to be that of obtaining a suitable chain cable and anchors to send the new vessel to her station as soon as she is completed. I have accordingly to request that you will, if possible obtain suitable moorings for the new vessel and as soon as you possible can, and desire Mr. Pomeroy to cause her to be navigated to her station and there anchor as soon as possible. This will supersede the necessity of employing temporary cables & anchors for which Mr. Pomery proposed to charge us.

  I will direct the Superintendent at Wilmington to send a Revenue Cutter to the Five Fathom Bank in order to bring the old vessel into the Delaware, so that Mr. Pomeroy need have nothing to do with her. Let me know whether it be in your power to obtain suitable moorings or not.

  I have the honor to be very respectfully, Sir, your obt Svt,

S. Pleasonton

Ingoldsby W. Crawford Esq

  New London
  Cont

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Collector's office, District of New London
January 30, 1839

Sir,

  I have the honor to submit the following estimate of expence for the lighthouse establishment in this District during the current quarter, viz.

  Salaries of lighthouse Keepers...$437.50

  Do. Master of the light vessel...125.00

  Pay & allowance to seamen of do....343.00

  Oil & fuel for do....104.75

  Stove & blacksmith work for do...23.00

  Repair of lantern at Morgan's Point...7.00

  Do. Keeper's dwelling house at New London...3.00

  1043.25

  Commission at 2½ percent 26.08

  $1069.33


  The moorings which I was directed to procure for the new light vessel, and to charge in the lighthouse account, have nearly all been purchased, by Mr. Pomeroy, at New York and Stonington. The expense, partly ascertained, and partly estimated, will probably amount to $1260.

  Commission at 2½ percent...31.50

  $1291.50


  The severity of the weather, for some time past, has been such that the light vessel has not yet been launched; but it is progressing towards completion, as rapidly as circumstances will permit.

  Respectfully, Sir, I am your most obedient servant,

I.W. Crawford, Superintendent

Stephen Pleasonton Eqsr.

Fifth Auditor of the Treasury

  Washington

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New London, February 15 1839

Sir,

  I have the honor to inform you that the light vessel for five fathom bank will probably sail from Stonington within seven or eight days from this time. I inspected it yesterday; and was perfectly satisfied with the materials & workmanship. As my successor in office has done nothing in relation to the contract or to execution, it is expected that the warrant for payment, when the vessel shall be delivered at her station, will be transmitted to me. A bill of all the charges will be made at an early day.

  The sum stipulated to be paid for building & fitting up the lighthouse at Lynde point exceeds six thousand dollars. The contractors have informed me that it can now be completed for less than five hundred. I presume that I shall be allowed the usual commission on the sums already expected.

  All your instructions relative to the lamps & reflectors at Morgan's point were promptly communicated to the contractors. They have supplied new reflectors, & new burners; but have refused to provide new lamps. The old ones are still in use, and they will permit the oil to overflow.

  Respectfully, Sir, I am your most obedient servant,

I.W. Crawford

Stephen Pleasonton Esqr.

Fifth Auditor of the Treasury

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New London, March 18, 1839

Sir,

  In pursuance of your instructions dated the 12th instant, I have drawn on you for 14440 dollars payable at sight to Benjamin Pomeroy or his order, according to the stipulation in the contract made with him for building the light vessel to be stationed at five fathom bank. Payment of his bill for anchors & cables, and of Mr. Beckwith's bill for superintending the work has been suspended, to give Mr. Pomeroy an opportunity to address you, and obtain further instructions on the subject. The [unclear word] contract is inclosed, together with the [signed?] certificate of the superintendent, and of the keeper of the Bank.

  Respectfully, Sir, I am your most obedient servant,

I.W. Crawford

Stephen Pleasonton Esqr.

Fifth Auditor of the Treasury

  Washington

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New London, March 28, 1839

Sir,

  I have the honor to inclose my account of payment for the building of the Light Vessel stationed on Five Fathom Bank. Payment for the cables & anchors, and for superintending the work, is still suspended at Mr. Pomeroy's request.

  Respectfully, Sir, I am your most obedient servant,

I.W. Crawford

Stephen Pleasonton Esqr.
Fifth Auditor of the Treasury
Washington

New London, February 15 1839
The difficulties at the site, as well as deterioration of the wooden building, would lead to the construction of a 65-foot brownstone tower in 1838. This lighthouse remains standing today and is known as the "Inner Light" at Old Saybrook, following the establishment of Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse ("Outer Light") in 1886.
February 6, 1832
Crawford's fears about the Stonington Harbor Light were well-founded. The 30-foot tower and keeper's dwelling were first built in 1823, but rapid erosion at the site presented a continuing risk. The seawall suggested here was never built, as estimates for its construction were nearly as much as the estimated cost of a new lighthouse. In 1840, the building was dismantled and moved to its present location, and many of the same stones were used to build the 35-foot tower and keeper's dwelling.

The Stonington Harbor Light was deactivated in 1889 when a 25-foot beacon was built on the breakwater. The keeper of the breakwater light continued to use the old keeper's dwelling for a time, but in 1925 the federal government offered the Stonington Harbor Light for sale. The Stonington Historical Society made the only bid for the property and opened it the next year as the first lighthouse museum in the country. The year of 1926 also marked the removal of the breakwater light, which was replaced by a skeleton tower.
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