ISS4 2017

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 48 of 63

to New York and ran aground off Gay Head on a bitterly cold night in January 1884. One hundred passengers and crew drowned within twenty minutes of the grounding. Led by Gay Head Lighthouse's white keeper Horatio Pease, Wampanoag tribal members volunteered to brave the wind and weather and launched a surfboat into the waves. In their first attempt, the surfboat capsized in the heavy seas, but the crew returned to shore safely. The surfmen tried again and reached the survivors still huddled on the steamer's deck. On the return trip, the overcrowded surfboat capsized again, but all the crew and survivors made it to shore safely. Overnight, the Wampanoag lifesavers became heroes, risking their own lives to rescue nearly thirty C ITY OF C OLUMBUS passengers and crew. The members of this Native American volunteer force received medals and cash awards from the Massachusetts Humane Society, and several of them later served at the Gay Head Lighthouse and the Gay Head Life-Saving Service station when it was established in 1895. In reporting the story of the rescue, the press believed them "deserving of all praise and the fund for their benefit and encouragement should assume large proportions. Without any expectations of reward they periled their lives for others." Wampanoag Coast Guardsmen have also served with distinction in time of war. Carlton West, a Wampanoag citizen of Nantucket, served as an enlisted man in World War I and World War II. And, in 1919, Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal member Charles Vanderhoop was assigned as keeper of the Sankaty Head Lighthouse under U.S. Navy control. When he took charge, Vanderhoop became the first known principle lighthouse keeper of Native American ancestry and the first Native American supervisor of a federal installation. In 1920, the Coast Guard appointed Vanderhoop the keeper at the Gay Head Lighthouse. His duties required around- the-clock supervision of the lighthouse, including cleaning, maintaining and providing fuel for the lighthouse's first-order Fresnel lens. Standing twelve feet tall and weighing several tons, the massive lens incorporated over 1,000 glass prisms. Vanderhoop's daily routine included climbing the narrow spiraling staircase to the lantern room and lit the lamp at nightfall and during any low-visibility days. Each morning, he ascended the stairs again to extinguish the lamp and clean it. He was responsible for polishing all the light's brass appurtenances and resetting the lantern wicks in preparation for the next illumination. Keeper Vanderhoop was the tenth principal keeper at Gay Head, and he became renowned for providing tours of the lighthouse for visitors. Over the course of his time as keeper, he did so for approximately 300,000 men, women and children, including celebrities such as President Calvin Coolidge. By the early 1930s, Vanderhoop had manned the light through hurricanes and tropical storms and provided local shipping with decades of faithful lighthouse service. However, years of climbing the tower had taken their toll on him physically and he finally retired on disability in 1933 after twenty years in the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Native American tribal members, such as Charles Vanderhoop, have served in the Coast Guard and its predecessor services for over 200 years. Like all other service members, their efforts have benefitted all who serve in the military, federal government and the nation as a whole. � Wampanoag Carlton West during World War i . n ative Americans served with distinction in Coast Guard predecessor services since the early 1800s. ( n antucket Historical Association Collection) Locally famous lighthouse keeper Charles Vanderhoop, of the Gay Head Wampanoag community, who oversaw lights on n antucket and Martha's Vineyard. Coast Guard Collection Issue 4 • 2017 � RESERVIST 47

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Reservist - ISS4 2017