Jeffrey a war veteran before keeping lighthouse

June 23, 2007 12:00 am
John Heatley Jeffrey was a captain in the 56th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War. He later moved to California with his wife and they became lighthouse keepers in Crescent City from 1875 to 1914. (Photo submitted by The Del Norte County Historical Society).
John Heatley Jeffrey was a captain in the 56th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War. He later moved to California with his wife and they became lighthouse keepers in Crescent City from 1875 to 1914. (Photo submitted by The Del Norte County Historical Society).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

The seventh keeper of the Battery Point Lighthouse, John Heatley Jeffrey had already lived quite a life before he ever came to Crescent City.

A naturalized American citizen who moved to this country at age 6, Jeffrey had fought in some notable Civil War battles.

They included the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Seige and Capture of Petersburg. Jeffrey also saw Gen. Robert E. Lee surrender at Appomattox.

Three years after mustering out of the Grand Army with the rank of captain, Jeffrey married Ellen Hamilton on Jan. 24, 1868 in Boston and headed to California via the Panama Canal.

After working in Custom House in San Francisco for several years, Jeffrey entered the Lighthouse Service and took a job at Battery Point for the next 40 years.

He and his wife initially lived at the lighthouse. They raised their four children at Battery Point, although sometimes Ellen Hamilton Jeffrey and the children rented rooms in town during the school year.

Ellen Hamilton Jeffrey stepped in as assistant keeper of the lighthouse and held the position until the she was notified that her services were no longer needed in 1882. The government had approved a reduction in its appropriation for lighthouse keepers' salaries.

Jeffrey also worked five years as keeper of the Pacific Grove Lighthouse in Marin County.

He retired from active lighthouse duty in 1918.

The Jeffreys celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary less than one year before John Jeffrey died at the age of 85 on May 11,1929.