Pat Shingleton: "Lighthouses and The Charter Oak"
Louisiana boasts 14 lighthouses having the oldest dating back to 1839. August 3rd was the anniversary in 1789 when the First Congress federalized existing lighthouses. Built by the colonists, funds were appropriated for lighthouses, beacons and buoys. As noted in a previous column, the lighthouse safely directed ships through episodes of fog and storms. Sound was used to guide ships and in colonial times, cannons, fired from shore, warned ships away from foggy coastlines. A fog bell was first used in 1852, a mechanical bell in 1869, a fog trumpet in 1872 and an air siren in 1887. Members of the Lighthouse Service maintained the lights, often performing their duties in extreme hardship. On August 7, 1939, the administration of the lighthouses was transferred to the Coast Guard. In closing, Dutch explorer, Adrian Block described in his journal an unusually large white oak tree growing in a clearing on what is now Hartford, Connecticut. In the 1630s, a delegation of Native Americans approached the property’s owner where the tree was located. Intending to remove the tree, Samuel Wyllys preserved it because it was planted ceremonially for the sake of peace when their tribe first settled the area. Local legend states that in 1687 the cavity of the tree was cored to hide the Constitution Charter from King James II. At that moment it was renamed the “Charter Oak.” August 19th marked the 161st anniversary of the tree and on August 21,1856 it was severely damaged by a fierce wind storm.
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