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Lighthouse Tales: What's in a name?

For all of you who grew up in Crescent City, you no doubt know how Battery Point got its name. For you

newcomers, it is time you heard the story.

Crescent City became an important port in the early 's during the gold rush. With the lumber industry thriving as it filled the needs of the San Francisco builders and other explosive growth after 1849, Crescent City was on its way. People were coming to California by the thousands and they wanted a place to live. Not only were ships leaving Crescent City loaded down with lumber, but also this area was a stopping off point for steam ships that carried people and goods up and down the coast.

One such ship was the Ship America. She made regular trips up the coast from San Diego to San Francisco and continued up to the Puget Sound in Washington State. She pulled into Crescent City on one Sunday afternoon in June of 1855 with 132 infantrymen and her ship's company.

It was a sunny day and after the mail and a few other items were off-loaded she would be on her way up the coast.

Ship America up in flames

After she entered Crescent City about 3:20 p.m., large quantities of smoke were seen coming up from the coalbunkers. About 15 minutes after she anchored, flames confirmed that she was on fire.

The ships company and Crescent City citizens tried their best to put out the fire but it was soon determined that their efforts were hopeless. She made her way into shallow waters in the harbor and she was there scuttled.

No lives were lost but the Ship America would sail no more.

According to her master Albert G. Jones, "The officers and crew of the vessel performed their duty faithfully, and worked incessantly amid the flames and suffocating gas and smoke, and never left their posts for a moment, until they were requested to do so and take to the boats."

Her owner J. T. Wright announced that there was no insurance on the America and the loss was more than $140,000.

Battery Point's namesake

As part of the salvage operation three cannons were recovered from the ship. They were brought up to the island that is where the lighthouse was being constructed that very year. As two or more cannons make up a "Battery," this battery of three cannons brought up to the island became known as Battery Point.

The cannons were said to only be used on the Fourth of July celebrations and were never used to defend the harbor. The cannons have been gone for many years but the name stuck. The Crescent City Light Station is now officially called the Battery Point Lighthouse.

When you visit the lighthouse, try to imagine what life was like in the mid-1850s. Life was hard; the nation was facing a civil war and Battery Point Lighthouse was on its way to becoming a beloved icon in the community.

Randy Ansley, the Battery Point Lighthouse keeper, can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 


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