[Excerpt from "Bolivar!" by A Pat Daniels]
was built in 1872 and towers 117 ft.
above sea level. It guided mariners for 61 years and was retired in
1933 when it was replaced by the South Jetty light.
It is now privately owned and not open to visitors. A lighthouse which
may have been erected by the Republic of Texas was dismantled during
the Civil War and plans for the present Bolivar light made after that
lighthouse is of brick sheathed in cast iron plates riveted
together. It once glistened with a white-and-black banded exterior, but
now is covered with rust and is almost a uniform black.
The 52,000 candle-power beacon guided ships through the channel, which
in earlier years was undredged, safely from the Gulf of Mexico into the
Port of Galveston.
the lamp was fed by kerosene, contained
in storage tanks on the lower level, and the kerosene was forced
through nozzles into a mantle where it became gas, burning with great
intensity. Eight rays of light were produced every 15 seconds as the
lamp slowly revolved throughout the night. Inside the lighthouse the
brass finishings always were kept brilliantly polished, and it was
considered one of the most attractive and efficient lighthouses on the
Texas Gulf Coast.
From Mrs H. C.
Claiborne, wife of the first lighthouse
keeper: "Life at the lighthouse is very lonely and friendless. There is
very little visiting because travel is non-existent from the point to
Galveston. We pass most of our time by reading books."
for larger view
withstood the onslaught of two of the
worst storms recorded on the Texas Gulf Coast, the 1900 and the 1915
report said after the 1900 storm -
which claimed an estimated 6000 lives on Galveston Island - that,
"through the keeper's efforts, the lives of 125 people were saved, and
to my personal knowledge, he harbored and fed a large number of them
for a considerable period".
At one point
during the storm, according to the story
of one historian, the hurricane winds caused the tower to sway so badly
that the machinery for the light failed to work, and that night
Claiborne rotated the machinery by hand to keep the beacon bright.
Winds of 126
miles per hour were recorded in the 1915
hurricane, and still the lighthouse withstood the pounding of wind and
The light in
the tower burned every night during the
years of it's service except two nights of that storm, Aug 17 and 18,
when the supply of oil used to light the lamps floated away after the
surging waters of an 11-foot tide burst open the door at the base of
people took refuge in the lighthouse during
that storm, huddling on the iron steps during the night as winds rocked
the tower, and peering out the windows during the daylight to see their
homes and crops being destroyed.
Two houses, on
stilts for protection from rising
tides, were built near the lighthouse for the lighthouse keeper and his
two assistants. H C Claiborne retired and was replaced by Capt J B
Brooks in 1918.
sold the lighthouse as surplus property
in 1947.The E W Boyt interests entered a private bid of $5,500 which
was $500 higher that the only other bid.
for larger view
29,1933, after 61 years of service, the Bolivar lighthouse was
officially retired. The inner mechanisms have been removed. The lamps
and reflector lenses have been reassembled in the Galveston County
Museum. In 1952, the land and buldings were sold to Pat E. Boyt.
1968, the movie "My Sweet Charlie". starring Patty Duke and Al Freeman,
Jr., was filmed at the lighthouse. No longer painted and maintained,
the lighthouse has rusted to a uniform shade of black. It stands, near
Highway 87, a visual delight and a symbol of the romance and adventure
of long-ago times at sea.
Photos taken by Marie Henson, Dayton, Texas (April 2012)
Lighthouse survived Hurricane IKE