Digest>Archives> March 2002

A Mystery from the Past

Keeper Arrested for dereliction of duty in death of Assistant Keeper

By Timothy Harrison


You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
Greens Ledge Lighthouse in Long Island Sound ...
Photo by: Geri Mease

In the Lighthouse Digest archives we have an original page from the New York Times dated February 24, 1911. One of the headlines from this paper reads, “LIGHTHOUSE HERO DIES FROM VIGIL,” with a sub-headline that says “Mr. Leroy C. Loughborough Succumbs to Disease Brought on by Long Attendance at Beacon.”

The story is amazing and one where there are many missing facts, creating what we call an unsolved lighthouse mystery.

Following is the entire text of the story:

“As a direct result of the experience he passed through last March when, without food or the means for summoning aid, he remained for eleven days at his post as assistant keeper of the Norwalk Lighthouse in Long Island Sound, off South Norwalk, Conn., Mr. Leroy C. Loughborough, twenty-seven years old died here last night.

For ten days after being left alone by John R. Klarkson, the lighthouse keeper, who was later arrested in Bridgeport, Mr. Loughborough, growing gradually weaker from lack of food and sleep, kept the light and fog horn going almost continuously. On the eleventh day he collapsed and, with his pet dog beside him, was found unconscious near the lighthouse engines by John S. Haywood, assistant superintendent of lights, who was notified of the sudden failure of the light and fog horn at a time when a heavy mist made navigation dangerous.

Mr. Loughborough was left alone by Klarkson when the latter went to Bridgeport in the only boat kept at the lighthouse. When the keeper did not return, the assistant found himself with only a few dog biscuits and potatoes as food. These gave out after the eighth day, although used sparingly, and Mr. Loughborough’s constant vigil without sleep made even more severe the strain under which he was suffering.

When he was at last rescued and revived it was found that Mr. Loughborough’s hair had turned gray. He was complimented by government officials and a leave of absence granted in which to recuperate. Tuberculosis developed and a month ago physicians attending him gave up hope of saving his life.

Soon after Mr. Loughborough went to live with his father at Point Judith, and had remained there since. His brother was appointed to the post of light keeper which Mr. Loughborough’s faithfulness made vacant.”

We have to assume that the lighthouse referred to in the story in Green’s Ledge Lighthouse, since it replaced Sheffield Island Lighthouse, which was often called Norwalk Harbor Light.

What remains, as a mystery is what happened to Keeper John R. Klarkson? Was he found guilty, was he sentenced to jail time or did he go free? Why did he leave the assistant keeper at the lighthouse with no food? Why did he make no effort to return to the lighthouse with supplies?

How long did Loughborough’s brother remain as keeper at Green’s Ledge Light and was their father the keeper at Point Judith Light in Rhode Island?

The answers to these questions can probably be found somewhere in the dusty pages of history. If you can help solve the mystery, let’s hear from you.

This story appeared in the March 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.

to Lighthouse Digest

USLHS Marker Fund

Lighthouse History
Research Institute

Shop Online

Subscribe   Contact Us   About Us   Copyright Foghorn Publishing, 1994- 2024   Lighthouse Facts     Lighthouse History