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Ponce De Leon (Formerly Mosquito) Inlet Lighthouse Timeline

1513
Ponce de Leon, sailing for King Phillip II of Spain, explores this area as one of his ships disappears at 29 degrees latitude. He enters an inlet where three rivers form a cross shape and names the area Rio De la Cruz. These rivers are thought to be the Halifax, Spruce Creek, and the Indian River.

1563
French explorer Jean Ribault enters the inlet and places a marker in the area to claim it for France. His pilot on this journey was Spanish and still loyal to Spain. The pilot alerts the Spanish who return the following year to destroy the French marker.

1565
By this date the Spanish have established a permanent settlement in Florida. The first attempt may have actually been at the New Smyrna area, but St. Augustine claims the honor.

1716
The first lighthouse in the American colonies was the Boston Light in Boston Harbor.

1754
Conflicts between the British and French over colonial territory begin to heat up. In 1756 official war is declared.

1763
The Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian War, and the British victors take Florida from Spain.

1768
Dr. Andrew Turnbull brings nearly 1500 colonists from the Mediterranean area to Florida, landing in St. Augustine and marching to New Smyrna in the heat of the summer. This proves to be one of the largest colonial endeavors in the New World by the British. The Turnbull grant includes 50 acres on the north side of Mosquito (now Ponce) Inlet. (Antonio Pons and Andreas Pacetti are part of the Turnbull group and will later figure in the history of what will eventually become the Light Station.) As troubles beset the colony, the settlers eventually move to St. Augustine.

1774
The British Royal Governor establishes a bonfire beacon on the north side of Mosquito Inlet to assist ships "crossing the bar".

1783
Second Treaty of Paris at the end of the American War of Independence returns Florida to Spanish rule as the British in America are defeated. The Spanish give land grants to those St. Augustine residents who were loyal to them and Antonio Pons receives land on the north side of Mosquito Inlet.

1789
The ninth law of the new government of the United States creates the Light House Establishment. The Federal Government assumes responsibility for all aids to navigation and takes over all the lighthouses. Financing for lighthouses is placed within the Treasury Department, and direct control of the finances goes back and forth between the Commissioner of Revenue and the Secretary of the Treasury for many years.

1812
An ongoing and secret "Patriot's War" supported by President Madison in Florida has colonists trying to get rid of the Spanish rule and have Florida annexed as a US territory.

1820-1852
Aids to navigation fall under the control of the 5th Auditor of the Treasury Department, Stephen Pleasonton. He is notoriously thrifty, and lighthouse construction and upkeep falter under his leadership. He relies on inexperienced political appointees and friends for advice, and uses the lamp design of his friend Winslow Lewis for lighthouses rather than the superior Fresnel lens technology.

1821
The Spanish realize they cannot control Florida and turn it over to the US government.

1821
The Fresnel lens comes into use in France.

1835-1836
A lighthouse is constructed on the south side of Mosquito Inlet. This 45 foot tower is never illuminated since the oil needed for the lamp is never delivered. In 1835, the tower is first damaged by a violent hurricane and later ransacked by the Seminoles. In early 1836 the tower, whose foundation was previously undermined by storms, collapses into the sea.

1835
The Second Seminole War begins. (1842 is given as the date this war ended, but war breaks out again and eventually hostilities continue until the 
1890s.)

1843
Bartola C. Pacetti, a grandson of Andreas Pacetti, comes to the Mosquito Inlet land grant. Andreas' first marriage had been to Gertrude Pons and this may have been the connection that eventually resulted in Bartola becoming the owner of the Mosquito Inlet portion of the Spanish grant to Antonio Pons.

1845
Florida becomes a state.

1852
Congress creates a nine-member US Light-House Board and the lighthouse service becomes more professional and standardized. U.S. Light-House Establishment uniforms are introduced.

1854
Mosquito County becomes Volusia County. Until 1887 this area includes most of today's Lake County, which officially becomes Lake County in July of that year.

1860-1864
The American Civil War. The Mosquito Inlet area becomes a hiding place for Confederate Blockade Runners attempting to smuggle goods past Union blockade ships.

1860
Bartola Pacetti marries Martha Jane Wickwire at the Dunn-Lawton Plantation.

1860
Union forces come to the area and bombard a salt factory nearby. Bartola Pacetti takes his family to Spruce Creek for the duration of the Civil War.

1862
The April 12, 1862 Harper's Weekly, page 225, reports a "Fatal Affair at Mosquito Inlet, Florida". The Navy Department sent an expedition from the fleet of Commodore Dupont into Mosquito Inlet via the gunboat Penguin, commanded by Lt. F.A. Budd, and by the gunboat Henry Andrew, under the command of W. Mather, to close the inlet to Confederate blockade runners, capture a large stockpile of seasoned timber, and destroy a salt work facility new present-day Oak Hill.
Treating the mission more like a Sunday outing than a military exercise, the Union sailors were caught completely by surprise by two Confederate companies hiding behind an earthen mound near the old stone wharf in New Smyrna. Having recently arrived from Jacksonville under the command of Capt. Bird, the Confederates had been sent to New Smyrna to safeguard a large shipment of Enfield rifles and to protect a vast amount of live oak timber that had been left to season on the banks of the Halifax River. (This may have been a famous pile of lumber amassed by the Swift Brothers that was said to have been as much as 40 feet high and nearly a mile in length. The lumber was eventually burned by Confederate sympathizers to prevent it from falling into Union hands.)
Unaware of the Confederate garrison lurking nearby, Lt. Budd and Mr. Mather led their men blindly ashore. Confronted by Ca pt. Bird with one foot still in his whale boat, Lt. Budd refused to surrender and was promptly shot. His death was quickly followed by those of Mr. Mather, six seamen, and an escaped slave who was serving as the Union's river pilot. Seven other seamen were wounded during the one-sided exchange. Although the six seamen and slave were buried near the inlet, the bodies of the Lt. Budd and Lt. Mather were returned to the Federals under a flag of truce by Capt. Bird, commanding officer of the Confederate forces in New Smyrna.
The ill-fated Mosquito Inlet expedition was part of the U.S. Navy's plan to seal off the entire Confederate coastline. Although initially unsuccessful, the Federals quickly responded to the attack by shelling New Smyrna and burning any buildings believed to have been used in harboring or aiding the enemy. Within months, the U.S. Navy succeeds in sealing off Mosquito Inlet and it ceases to be of any strategic value to the Confederacy.

1867
A first order Fresnel lens is ordered by the US government and sits in storage in France until it is sent to the Mosquito Inlet Light 20 years later.

1868
Florida readmitted to the United States

1876
The Light House Board begins distributing small boxed libraries to the lighthouses. These are exchanged during the quarterly inspections of the stations. The libraries contain a mix of novels, histories, biographies, adventure stories, religion, and magazines.

1883
Congress approves $30,000 for the purchase of land and construction materials for a new lighthouse at Mosquito Inlet. Chief Engineer Orville Babcock and a party of surveyors come to the inlet to locate a site for the new lighthouse.

1884
Ten acres of land is purchased for $400 from Bartola Pacetti for the light station. Orville Babcock, former Personal Secretary of President U.S. Grant and Chief Engineer, is drowned in the inlet as he attempts to row ashore just as the project is about to begin. Major Jared A. Smith is appointed Chief Engineer.

1886
An issue of the weekly Halifax Journal reports that "out of the eight or ten schooners employed in the lighthouse work five have been wrecked..." on the bar or in the river. As many as six men had been drowned.

1886
Congress approves an additional $50,000 for the light station.

1886
Bartola Pacetti builds the Pacetti boarding house with his profits from the sale of land for the light station. His son Henry loses a leg while helping to bring in bricks for the construction of the lighthouse and later dies of complications related to the injury.

1887
The light station is completed and the first order fixed Fresnel lens (which cost a little over $15,000) is lit on November 1. The first Principal Keeper is William Rowlinski whose starting salary is $600 and is soon raised to $750 per year plus a quarterly food allotment which was to include salt pork and beef, flour, brown sugar, coffee, tea, rice and beans or peas. In 1890 the quarterly rations are stopped and the keeper's salary is increased to $760 per year.

1887-1893
William Rowlinski is Principal Keeper at Mosquito Inlet.

1893-1905
Thomas O'Hagan is Principal Keeper.

1897
Stephen Crane, author of the "Red Badge of Courage", sails on the Commodore as part of a filibuster expedition to Cuba as an undercover journalist. The Commodore sinks about 12 miles off Daytona Beach, and survivors, including Crane, row toward the Mosquito Inlet light. Crane later publishes a renowned short story about his experience titled "The Open Boat".

1898
The Spanish-American War results from about 50 years of Spanish/Cuban conflict.

1898
Repairs and upgrades are made to the tower. A spar with halyards for ship to shore communication is added to the balcony railing.

1898
Bartola Pacetti dies.

1890s
At about this time a one-room schoolhouse is created at Ponce Park. In 1903 Ianthe Bond Hebel comes to Ponce Park as school mistress. Her salary is $30 a month for the five-month term. She boards first with the Rowlinski family.

1902
An open-sided palm thatched boat house is constructed at the river landing. This structure is replaced in 1907.

1905
Principal Keeper Thomas O'Hagan leaves Ponce Inlet. With the departure of O'Hagan and his twelve children, there is no more need for the one- room school at Ponce Park.

1905-1924
John Lindquist is Principal Keeper.

1907
The entire Light Station is repaired and renovated. A windmill is added to the Light Station to ease the collection of water from the station's sulphur-water well. The windmill never works properly and is torn down in 1914. The windmill pumped water up into a cypress wood tank atop a water tower. The water tower remained until about 1952. A keeper's log notation mentions that telephones were received, but there is no further mention of telephones at the Light Station until 1917. A wood frame boathouse and dock are constructed at the river landing. An original thatch-roof boathouse on shore remains and comes to be called the "Buoy House" in the keeper's logs.

1909
On the morning of December 29 at 7 am, Head Keeper John Lindquist records a temperature of 8 degrees below zero at the top of the tower. In August, the old tramway to the river is covered with a cement walkway. A new Incandescent Oil Vapor lamp is installed in the Fresnel lens at the top of the tower.

1911
The keepers at Mosquito Inlet are given permission to tear down the 1884 construction office.

1912-1935
The Light-House Board becomes the Bureau of Lighthouses.

1914-1918
World War I. In 1917 the US formally declares war on Germany. Woodrow Wilson is president. The lighthouses and Coast Guard facilities in Florida are linked by telephone lines.

1915
The US Revenue Cutter Service and the US Life-Saving Service are merged into the newly founded US Coast Guard .

1916
A road paved with shell and connecting Daytona to the Light Station is completed. The lighthouse keepers' duties are expanded to include tending the buoys in Mosquito Inlet and the nearby waterways. Each keeper receives a pay raise. The Principal Keeper's annual salary is now $880, the First Assistant's is $620, and the Second Assistant received $516.

1917
Martha Jane Wickwire Pacetti dies.

1917
A pump house replaces the old windmill site at the Light Station. A generator-powered water pump is now in use. A telephone is installed that connects the Mosquito Inlet Light Station to to the Jupiter Inlet Light Station to the south. .

1919
Joseph Davis, the First Assistant Keeper, dies in the tower and has to be carried down by Ben Stone, the Second Assistant Keeper.

1920-1933
The 18th amendment of 1920 prohibits the importing, exporting, transporting, selling and manufacturing of alcohol. The amendment is followed by an act authored by Andrew Volstead which defines intoxicating liquor as anything having an alcohol content of 0.5 or above. The Volstead Act also sets up guidelines for the enforcement of prohibition. The result is the creation of a huge illegal industry revolving around alcohol production and sales. Mosquito Inlet becomes an important location for rum runners who bring rum from Cuba and the Bahamas into the inlet area and bury it there until needed. The McCoy brothers of Holly Hill are the most notorious of the local rum runners. Their product is so respected on the east coast that the phrase "the real McCoy" originates in response to their product's quality.

1921
Indoor bathrooms are added to the keepers' dwellings. The brick walkways are redone into their present configuration. A small wooden pump house attached to the dwelling is seen in a 1921 photograph of the First Assistant Keeper's dwelling. We speculate that a pump to move water from the cistern to the sink was located there. We believe that this little structure was removed by 1925 because it no longer appears in any photographs of the Light Station after that date.

1922
William Lindquist, son of and assistant to, Principal Keeper John Lindquist, is kicked by a horse and eventually dies of his injuries.

1923
The keepers' dwellings are electrified by a new Fairbanks-Morse Light Plant installed in the Pump House. Ceramic knob and tube wiring insulators are installed. The new generator could run on either kerosene or gasoline, but gasoline proved to be the best fuel for the job because it caused fewer problems with the motor.

1925
By this year, the front porches of the keepers' dwellings have screened enclosures. A foundation capable of supporting new oil tanks that will replace the old 5 gallon oil cans is laid in the Oil Storage Building

1924-1926
Charles Sisson is Principal Keeper.

1926-1937
John Butler is Principal Keeper.

1926
Mosquito Inlet is renamed Ponce de Leon Inlet. .

1927
A storm damages the Oil Storage Building. It receives a new roof and new oil tanks are installed.

1933
The lighthouse beacon is electrified. The Bureau of Lighthouses decides to change the characteristic of the Ponce Inlet light, and a new third order rotating Fresnel lens is installed. The beacon's new characteristic is a white light with six half-second flashes in 15 seconds followed by a 15 second eclipse. The new lens is illuminated by a 500 watt electric lamp. The old first order lens is shipped to the Lighthouse Service supply depot at Staten Island, New York. This lens disappears until the 1990s when it is discovered at the Mystic Seaport Museum and returned to us by the Coast Guard in 1997.

1934
The old Buoy House (on the shore) is replaced by a new one on the dock at the Lighthouse landing.

1939
The U.S. Coast Guard takes over the Lighthouse Service and assumes responsibility for the maintenance and operation of all aids to navigation. Former Lighthouse Service personnel are given the option of retiring or joining the Coast Guard.

1937-1943
Edward Meyer is Principal Keeper. He chooses to join the Coast Guard in 1939 and becomes Officer in Charge of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station until 1943.

1940
A radio room is established by the Coast Guard possibly in the main bedroom of the First Assistant Keeper's Dwelling. A lightning strike in July burns out the fuses and the radio beacon does not go into operation until August. The station's call letters are WWCX and it transmits the Morse Code numeral 1 (dit dah dah dah dah) at 290 kilocycles on the twenty second and fifty second minute of every hour in fair weather. In bad weather the signal is sent every three minutes. Mariners use the signals from Ponce Inlet and Cape Canaveral to navigate around Hetzel Shoal.

1941-1945
World War II.

1942
Keepers' families are removed from the Light Station and the Station becomes a Coast Guard barracks. The tower beacon is dimmed to 50 watts (from its pre-war 500 watts), and the tower is used as a lookout post. Coast Guard weather monitoring equipment is added to the top of the tower. Coast Guard personnel man observation posts along the coast and patrol the beach.

1943
In December, Keeper Meyer turns the station over to CBM T.T. Galloway. The radio room addition is made to the generator building in April, May, and June. The radio beacon set-up is moved from the First Assistant Keeper's Dwelling to this new location.

1945
Florida Power and Light installs electric service in the area and the Station goes "on the grid".

1946
The 1934 Buoy House is no longer needed and is moved via a raft to the nearby fish camp owned by former Keeper Edward Meyer. The dock is deteriorating and eventually washes away.

1945-1949
Charner Smith is Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Light Station. His daughter Suzanne is the last child born at the Ponce Inlet Light Station.

1950-1952
Coast Guardsman Henry Jones is the OIC. His family and also his assistant, Herbert F. Smith, live on the Station. After 1952, the Coast Guard families move to the south side of the inlet and there are no more resident keepers.

1951
Battelle Institute sets up tests for marine coatings, paints, and other products on the Light Station grounds. A small water tower is erected for use in these tests. Battelle discontinues these tests in 1957.

1953
The beacon is by now fully automated. A Wallace and Tiernan model FA-148 lamp changer was installed in the third order lens. Resident keepers are no longer needed and the Light Station is abandoned except for weekly visits from the Coast Guard. The property deteriorates through vandalism and neglect.

1963
The town of Ponce Inlet is incorporated and uses the Second Assistant Keeper's house as a town hall.

1964
All Battelle equipment is removed from the Light Station property.

1966
The Ponce Inlet Women's Club begins to clean up the Light Station.

1967
The Coast Guard installs a new Crouse-Hinds lamp changer holding two mogul base 1000-watt lamps into the third order Fresnel lens.

1968
The Coast Guard installs a light on a 50 foot tower on the south side of the inlet.

1968-1972
The Army Corps of Engineers installs two jetties at the mouth of Ponce Inlet, one on the north side and one on the south. Repairs due to erosion and bad weather are made to the the north jetty in 1978, 1981, and 1982-1983.

1970
The beacon at Ponce Inlet is extinguished. The third order lens is removed to protect it from vandals, and the Oil Storage Building is vandalized. Concerned Ponce Inlet residents urge the Town to take ownership of the Light Station.

1972
The Coast Guard declares the Light Station to be surplus property and deeds it to the Town of Ponce Inlet.The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association is formed to manage and restore the site. The Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and eventually becomes a National Historic Landmark under the management of the Preservation Association in 1998.

1973
The 1933 third order rotating Fresnel lens is returned to the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station from the Coast Guard Museum in New London, CT. It is reassembled and put on display at the Lighthouse museum.

1975
Volunteers from the Preservation Association work to restore the keepers' dwellings.

1977
A new wooden entrance building is constructed. This will eventually become the Education Building in 1985 and will undergo renovation in 2008. The First Assistant Keeper's Dwelling is named in honor of long-time Ponce Inlet resident Gladys Meyer Davis, who was born there when her father was a keeper.

1978
Restoration of the metalwork at the top of the tower is begun.

1982
The Coast Guard officially reactivates the Light Station beacon when a new condominium building blocks their tower light. The new lamp is a modern Carlisle and Finch DCB-24 aero beacon with a range of about 25 nautical miles. A partial restoration of the tower is done at this time.

Mid-1980s
The Coast Guard removes the DCB-24 and installs an AmerAce Corporation FA 250 AC rotating beacon with a six-lamp changer in the tower. The rotating lens flashes once every ten seconds.

1989
The Oil Storage Building is restored. (The building had been burned and vandalized in 1970.)

1985
Ann Caneer, who had volunteered at the Lighthouse since 1972, is hired as Operational Manager and later becomes the Association's first Executive Director. She retires in January, 2008.

1987
The historic wooden tug F.D. Russell is moved to the Light Station grounds.

1989
The Oil Storage Building is restored. The woodshed building for the Second Assistant Keeper is transformed into the Woodshed Theater.

1992
A new entrance/gift shop building is added to the Light Station. The Gift Shop is based on 1884 plans for a single multi-family keepers' dwelling that had been originally designed for the Station but never built due to increasing complaints by lighthouse personnel regarding the lack of privacy created by multi-family dwellings at other light stations.

1994-1995
Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building is constructed.

1996
Lightning hits the tower and destroys the beacon. A Vega-VRB-25 beacon replaces the destroyed FA 250. This 1000-watt marine beacon rotates and features a characteristic of one flash every ten seconds. Because the Vega's rotation mechanism requires frequent service, the Coast Guard provides a Stimsonite 250 mm flashing lantern with an acrylic barrel lens as a backup.

1997
The Station's original first order lens is returned by the Coast Guard and restoration of the damaged artifact is begun by the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association's Lens Restoration Team.

1998
The Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station becomes a National Historic Landmark.

1999
The courts grant joint ownership of the Commodore wreck site to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Association and to Don Serbousek, a diver who originally located and identified the wreck.

2000-2001
The Light Station tower is restored.

2001
The Gay Wind, one of the first charter fishing boats to operate out of Ponce Inlet, is moved to the museum's Boat Yard display.

2001
The Administration Building is completed.

2002
The Generator Building is stabilized after its foundation is threatened by the digging of a town retention pond nearby.

2003
Restoration of the Light Station's original fixed first order lens is complete and the lens is placed in the museum. Restoration of the original 1933 third order Fresnel lens begins.

2004
In April, the restored third order Fresnel lens is returned to active service in the tower. The beacon's characteristic is 6 half-second flashes in 15 seconds followed by a 15 second eclipse. The Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station becomes a private aid to navigation, and the beacon is now maintained by museum staff.

2005
In May, a new tour entrance and restroom facility is completed. In October, a building that once served as the main entrance to the Light Station is converted to an education workshop.

2006
The Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association relinquishes its partial ownership of the Commodore wreck site. 

2006
A weather monitoring station is installed in the Generator and Radio Room Building. In the fall, the museum board agrees to de-accession the wooden tugboat F.D. Russell. Documentation of the boat is sent to the state historic preservation office in Tallahassee.

2007
Restoration of the exterior brick and mortar of the keepers' dwellings begins.

2007
The Coast Guard Radio Beacon House is recreated.

2008
The restoration of kitchen/living room area of the Second Assistant Keeper's Dwelling is completed.

2008
The Association restores a fixed third order middle Chance Brothers Fresnel Lens purchased in December of 2007. The newly restored lens is installed in the Lens Exhibit Building along with its pedestal, oil tanks, and I.O.V. lamp. A BBT fourth order bi-valve lens is also added to the Association's collection. The laundry shed of the First Assistant Keeper's Dwelling is restored. 

2008- 2009
The Pump House undergoes restoration.

2009
The Principal Keeper's Kitchen area is restored and the United States Light House Establishment Airways Division exhibit is installed in the finished space.

2009
The exterior of the porch addition to the Principal Keeper's dwelling undergoes restoration. 

2010-2011
A four-phase project to repaint tower metalwork, re-glaze the windows, and touch up the masonry is completed.

2011-2012
The interior of the First Assistant Keeper Dwelling undergoes restoration.

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(386) 761-1821

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Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association
4931 South Peninsula Drive - Ponce Inlet, FL 32127
(386) 761-1821
Open Daily to the Public at 10:00 a.m.
Last admission one hour before closing

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