An 86-year-old lobsterman from Cohasset, Massachusetts saw his dream of many years come true when the town of Cohasset dedicated a memorial to the two lighthouse keepers who lost their lives when Massachusetts’ first Minot Ledge Lighthouse was destroyed in a storm 149 years ago.
In ceremonies attended by about 300 people on Government Island, next to an exact replica of the lantern room, housing the original Fresnel lens from the Minot Ledge Lighthouse, the new memorial was unveiled and dedicated.
Although Jason has had the dream for most of his adult life, his dream started to become a reality approximately four years ago when he and his grandson John Small went to the Hingham Institute for Savings Bank and established a bank account to start raising the funds. They started with $100 out of their own pockets and, believe it or not, the bank pitched in with a $1000 donation.
Herb, his brother Kenneth, and grandson then drew up some plans for what the memorial would look like and made a small model. However, the local historical society was not as enthusiastic as Jason and Small were, wanting instead a brass plaque to honor the former keepers. However, Small said this was not even close to what they envisioned, they wanted a memorial that would be totally separate from the first and second lighthouse — it needed to be a memorial dedicated entirely to the two men who gave their lives while trying to keep the light burning to save other lives.
Eventually, the town selectmen endorsed the idea and allowed them to proceed. Jason assured the town fathers that it would not cost the town a dime, the money would be raised for the memorial from the private sector.
Herb Jason said he is still mystified to this day as to why a memorial was not built at the time of the tragedy, especially since Cohasset had, and still has, such strong ties to the sea.
Even more amazing is that to this day nothing is really known about Joseph Antoine and Joseph Wilson. Were they married? What did they look like? Did they have children? Where were they from? Where are they buried? All of this information has been lost in the pages of time.
The last time the two keepers were even honored was when New England’s famous author and historian Edward Rowe Snow held a memorial service in the current Minot tower in the late 1930’s.
The new memorial is a granite compass rose set in brick with a 12-foot round base and a slab of polished black granite for the central monument. Anthony “Scout” Barbuto did masonry work for the memorial, and the black granite was imported from India. The words were not cut in as is done with most tombstones, but etched in by engravers from Romania. It weighs an amazing 3000 pounds, and as Herb Jason says, “It will last forever.”
He went on to say, “The sacrifice made by these two young men, lighthouse keepers who left this spot 149 years ago, never to return, with the help of this monument, will always be remembered.”
Although the memorial is now dedicated as a monument, Jason said they still owe about $12,000. Hopefully, Lighthouse Digest readers will help to pay off that debt by sending a donation to the Antoine & Wilson Memorial Fund, c/o Town of Cohasset, Highland Ave., Cohasset, MA 02025.
This story appeared in the
July 2000 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.
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