Posts Tagged Pooles Island Lighthouse
Even though you don’t see at APG the huge photovoltaic solar panels that are widespread in Florida, California and the Southwest, our installation is making strides towards harnessing sunlight to power our lives.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 and other Department of Defense energy mandates require military installations to improve energy efficiency and reduce reliance on fossil fuels by using renewable resources like the sun. Read about solar energy initiatives at APG in the June 23rd, 2011 issue of the APG News (http://www.apgnews.apg.army.mil/).
For more information on Solar Air Heating: click here
For more information on Daylighting Solar Tubes: click here
Seventy-two years of darkness was overthrown with the flick of a switch as Aberdeen Proving Ground relit the Pooles Island Lighthouse, the oldest standing lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay at about 9 p.m. May 21.
More than 300 spectators watched the show from the Spirit of Baltimore as part of a cruise sponsored by the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, Office of Economic Development, and the Army Alliance in cooperation with Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Among those watching the historic event were APG and Research, Development and Engineering Command Commander Maj. Gen. Nick Justice and APG Garrison Commander Col. Orlando Ortiz. A representative of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was also present to read a proclamation commemorating the occasion. A number of leaders from the civilian communities around Aberdeen Proving Ground also attended.
The night sky
Justice and Ortiz led a ceremony from the open top deck of the ship to mark the event from within sight of the lighthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As darkness settled on the historic island the two Army leaders joined the leaders of the Chamber and the Alliance who fired a flare into the night sky.
That signaled a team ashore to fire eight cannon shots, the last of which was followed by the lighthouse’s beacon piercing the night for the first time in decades. The beacon began blinking in a four-three pattern to alert mariners they are passing the home of Team APG.
That signal brought on a great sense of accomplishment for Terri Kaltenbacher, the project officer for the restoration.
“Back in the 90s, there was some talk of relighting the lighthouse, but nothing ever came to fruition until current senior leadership expressed interest. Fifteen years later, it was almost surreal to see it light up again,” Kaltenbacher said. “All the hard work by APG and our community partners has paid off handsomely–we now have a historic landmark to be proud of, whose flash will be a constant reminder of this celebration.”
She said the fact people got to see it from the water as mariners will added a layer of meaning to the event.
“Sharing that experience with 325 people on the Bay, on a gorgeous Saturday evening, was magnificent. This was the first cruise celebration that APG has ever participated in, and it went smoothly with everyone having a fabulous time,” she said.
Ortiz put the importance of the event in context by sharing some of the history of APG with those aboard during his opening remarks. He oriented the guests to APG as seen from the Bay and recounted the post’s history of accomplishments and support to the Army and the nation since it was established during World War I.
“For example, ENIAC, the first electronic digital computer, was developed for the Ordnance Corps and operated here,” he said. “The installation developed and tested machine guns, armored vehicles, rockets, anti-aircraft guns and bombsights. Some of the more notable technologies developed or tested here include the JEEP, flamethrowers used during the Korean War, the M-1 Tank and the NASA lunar rover.”
“That focus on research, development and testing has sharpened during the installation’s current transformation with the loss of the Ordnance Center and School and the addition of units such as the Army Test and Evaluation Command and the Army team that develops and fields equipment for the service’s critical Command, Control, Communications and Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions,” Ortiz said.
This change led O’Malley to note in his proclamation that, “by illuminating the lighthouse, the installation is lighting a path to the Army’s future in research, development, engineering, and contingency response efforts.”
The installation’s focus on the future is matched by its care for the past, Ortiz said.
“Our support to our nation goes well beyond the contributions we make to national defense,” he said. “As you can see with tonight’s event, we’re dedicated to preserving our history. We are also dedicated to protecting our nation’s environmental resources.”
Ortiz noted that the installation’s most prominent success story is its Bald Eagle Management Program, which has helped increase the number of bald eagle nests from one in 1965 to 112 today.
The big picture
But the land around the lighthouse is a microcosm of the larger success of turning thousands of acres back into forests teeming with perhaps the most diverse and thriving wildlife population on the Bay.
“Prior to the Army’s 1917 purchase of the property, the land that is now APG was open fields with very little wildlife remaining. Although the bay itself remained bountiful as far as aquatic wildlife and ducks were concerned. The trees had been used to build houses and the land primarily used to support the farming effort. Much of the wetlands were drained to support farming.
“Mother nature has a way of returning the flora and fauna, however, and Soldiers helped by bringing back the deer, introducing the beaver and raising pheasant and quail for release. Other wildlife began to arrive on their own, and today the installation is one of the best locations on the east coast for all types of hunting and fishing and home to an impressive population of wildlife,” Ortiz said.
A living link to that time was a group more than 30 descendents of the last longtime lighthouse keeper Capt. Stephen Andrew Cohee, who used the occasion to gather for a family reunion.
Justice summed up the swell of emotion by thanking the group during his brief remarks right after the relighting.
“Thank you for joining us here tonight I can only imagine what witnessing this event must mean to you, because I get goose bumps just to be able to bring this piece of history back to Maryland,” Justice said. (To view more photographs click here)
(From left) Garrison APG Commander Col. Orlando W. Ortiz and RDECOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Nick Justice take a summer 2010 tour of Pooles Island and its historic lighthouse. The commanders will lead the installation and community in the relighting of Maryland’s oldest standing lighthouse May 21 as part of APG’s Armed Forces Week celebrations. A Harford County dinner cruise will transport participants to the site of the relighting. Tickets for the Spirit of Baltimore cruise can be purchased from Harford County Chamber of Commerce by calling 410-838-2020.
Updated link to journal article (here) on the Pooles Island Lighthouse.
I received an early Sunday morning message from the granddaughter of Capt. Steven Andrew Cohee, the last light keeper of the Pooles Island lighthouse.
I’d only discovered a few days earlier that Betty O’Leary existed, and living right around the corner in Bel Air! This discovery was, for the history enthusiast in me, a direct connection to the past, stirring up images of maritime nostalgia, life at the turn of the 19th century, and memories of days gone by.
You see, Cohee was more than just a man who kept watch over Maryland’s oldest standing lighthouse for nearly four decades, he was and still is a part of our national history, — our national identity, our … shared Chesapeake Bay heritage.
Several days later, I found myself in O’Leary’s Bel Air home, chatting with her and first cousin Stephen Conner, Cohee’s great-grandson. We compared historic photos that we had collected over the years, and traded anecdotes about the Cohee family and island life back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some of the photos show O’Leary’s mother Gladys as a little girl, posing on the lighthouse steps and running around the island with the chickens and dogs and her seven siblings.
O’Leary was not yet born in 1917 when the Army purchased the island and her grandfather gave up his duties as light keeper. Cohee returned to the mainland, settled at Willoughby Beach and became a commercial fisherman. But O’Leary has many fond memories of the island and lighthouse since her family continued to visit the island for family picnics up until it was used as an artillery range in the 1930s.
A brief history
In 1996, when APG and U.S. Coast Guard Reserves restored the Pooles Island Lighthouse, I became fascinated with the pre-installation history of the island and the few folks who lived, worked, and braved the elements on this isolated, 200-acre emerald isle in the upper Chesapeake Bay.
I had let my fingers do the walking in a local phonebook and found Peg Cohee and Agnes Bowman, both relatives of the captain. Subsequently, I met several times with both elderly ladies to interview them and make copies of the numerous historic photos they had of Cohee, his family and life on the island.
They described to me the plentiful perch and crabs they would scoop up for dinner right off the shore of the island, armed with only a peach basket and a garden rake. They reminisced about “Grandpop” going to town in April and October, when the Bay was ice-free, to stock up on supplies like hog’s heads cheese, barrels of sugar and flour, canned goods, and medicines for the large family.
The captain’s children attended primary school, weather-permitting, by taking a boat to either Galena or Chesapeake City. Otherwise, learning was done on the island, with one son, Bill, educating himself by reading by the light of oil lamps in the upper part of the lighthouse. At the time of these visits, the ladies were in their mid-eighties and I doubted if they were still living; Betty confirmed that they were not.
Back to the present
I returned to work at APG after a nearly 10-year absence to find that senior commanders had taken quite an interest in our cultural resources, specifically our dormant lighthouse.
Our leadership’s vision has resulted in grand relighting plans during Armed Forces Day May 21, coinciding with a Harford-County sponsored dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of Baltimore. Upon hearing this news, O’Leary was overwhelmed.
“I am so happy that APG is doing this because I was afraid the lighthouse would dissolve into oblivion,” she said. O’Leary plans to be on the cruise ship with about 30 other Cohee family members traveling from as far away as Florida in a quickly-assembled reunion, to reminisce about days gone by and celebrate the historic relighting of our Chesapeake Bay treasure with APG and other members of the community.
I will be proud to stand alongside our leadership, the Cohee family and our community and witness this historic moment. Please consider joining us for a fun-filled evening aboard the Spirit of Baltimore—contact Harford County Chamber of Commerce for more details—hope to see you there!
Check out the APG Live Blog here for more information on the Pooles Island Lighthouse history. (by Terri Kaltenbacher)