ELK NECK — If you’re from Cecil County, then you’re probably familiar with our very own lighthouse, the Turkey Point Light Station. With its height and breathtaking views of the head of the Chesapeake Bay, it’s hard to mistake for any other Maryland lighthouse.
Maybe you have hiked out to it a time or two, or maybe you have seen it while out boating, but are you familiar with its history? Turkey Point is distinct for a number of reasons, but the most notable being that it was operated by more female lightkeepers than any other lighthouse on the Chesapeake. Turkey Point has hosted a total of 10 lightkeepers, four of which were women. The four female lightkeepers held the position for 86 out of the 114 years before the light was automated, far surpassing their male counterparts. Since August holds a special place in the lighthouse’s 186-year old history (which I’ll get to later), it seemed only fitting that we highlight a fun fact about the lighthouse in this week’s Our Cecil — the female lightkeepers of Turkey Point.
Turkey Point’s first female lightkeeper was a woman named Elizabeth Lusby. Elizabeth and her husband, Robert, moved to Turkey Point in the summer of 1833 so that Robert could assume his duties as the station’s first lightkeeper. Robert was appointed to the position on Aug. 10, 1833, a position he served in until Aug. 18, 1841, when he left the position. Robert was succeeded for a short period of time by a man named John C. Waters, but Robert and Elizabeth eventually returned and Robert, once again assumed the position on June 3, 1843. The following year, in 1844, Robert died, leaving Elizabeth to take over. She was officially appointed as lightkeeper on May 8, 1844, and remained there until at least 1861.
Rebecca L. Crouch was Turkey Point’s second female lightkeeper. She, like her predessecor, acquired the position after her husband passed away. Rebecca’s husband, John, served as lightkeeper from 1865 until his death on July 3, 1873. Rebecca officially assumed the duties on Oct. 2, 1873, and remained lightkeeper until her death on July 11, 1895.
The third female lightkeeper was Georgiana S. Brumfield (nee Crouch), John and Rebecca’s daughter. Georgiana had moved to Turkey Point at the age of 16 with her parents when her father first took over as lightkeeper in 1865. After her mother died, Georgiana assumed the position just 15 days later on July 26, 1895. She remained the lightkeeper until 1919, when at the age of 70 she decided it was time to retire. In total, Georgiana spent a total of 54 years at the Turkey Point Light Station, 24 of which were spent as the lightkeeper, by far the longest inhabitant, as well as longest serving female lightkeeper in Turkey Point’s history. She died in June 1934.
Finally, Fannie Mae Salter was the last and probably the most well-known of the female lightkeepers. Not only was she the last of the Turkey Point female lightkeepers, she was also the last female lightkeeper in the United States.
Fannie and her husband, Clarence, moved to Turkey Point in 1922 so that he could assume his duties as the new keeper. Three years later in February 1925, Clarence died from complications following surgery to have his appendix removed. Like previous female keepers, Fannie applied for the position, assuming she would be the natural selection to succeed her husband. However, the Civil Service denied Fannie’s request, citing that at the age of 47, she was too old for the position. Fannie appealed the decision, taking her grievance to her senator, who in turn took it to then-President Calvin Coolidge.
President Coolidge overturned the Civil Service’s decision and granted Fannie the official position as lightkeeper, a distinction that no other female lightkeeper can lay claim to. Fannie remained the lightkeeper until she retired in August 1947 at the age of 65. After she retired, she moved just 6 miles away where she could still see the light every night. Fannie died in 1966 at the age of 83.
So why is the month of August significant in Turkey Point’s history? August marks the month that the very first lightkeeper was appointed to the position (Robert Lusby appointed in August 1833), as well as the month in which the last lightkeeper retired from the position (Fannie Salter, who retired in August 1947).