Let’s go back in time to 1853 when the U.S. Congress appropriated $35,000 to erect a lighthouse to warn ships of the reefs lying off Jupiter Inlet.
Jupiter Inlet was the end of the line of civilization. There were no inhabitants south of the inlet except for a few Indians and people in Key West.
Lt. George G. Meade, later a Civil War general, designed the lighthouse, and the building started in 1855 on a high point of land where the Indian River meets the Loxahatchee River. The work ceased for a while due to trouble with the Indians.
Jupiter Lighthouse, built of brick and standing 105 feet high cost nearly double the original amount allowed. First lighted 10 July 1860, it has beamed its light to sea continually except for a period during the Civil War when it was ordered darkened by the Confederacy. A.O. Lang and James Paine dismantled the lamp and buried the parts in Lake Worth Creek. After the war, assistant keeper James A. Armour found the parts and Jupiter Lighthouse was relighted 28 June 1866. Two years later, Armour became the keeper, a job he kept until his retirement forty years later.
In those early days there was a keeper and two assistants. Each had to climb the 105-step spiral stairway to clean the lens, be sure there was enough oil and do other maintenance. At first, the three families lived in the same house. In 1883, a larger house was built to accommodate the keeper, and the old house was upgraded. Many of the early settlers took jobs as assistant keeper, one of the few ways of earning cash. A partial list of keepers and assistants includes:
Dwight Allen, H.D. Pierce, W.H. Moore, Charles Moore, M.E. Spencer, H.P. Dye, Charles Carlin, James A. Armour, A.O. Lang, James Paine and Capt. Wm. B. Davis.
For a complete history of Jupiter Lighthouse, see Bessie Wilson DuBois’ book by that name. This Lighthouse is the oldest structure in Palm Beach county.
Photo from 1880's (Photo from jupiterolddays.com)