Guests to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum can now learn even more about the maritime history of our area. New Nation’s Oldest Port® Demos reveal stories about daily life of a St. Augustine Lighthouse Keeper, how sailors navigated the seas before GPS, and how our Lighthouse Archaeologists discover artifacts underwater on shipwrecks – along with other maritime topics during these interactive and fun experiences.
“Guests can now customize their visit to the Museum through a wide variety of location, theme and time options, making their experience more meaningful to them,” said Brenda Swann, Director of the Interpretive Division at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.
“These fun demos create memories and a connection to the historic site and the region’s maritime heritage that will last a lifetime. We love this new opportunity to engage with our visitors!”
also can take a walk with one of our Lighthouse Keepers (Rick Cain and Jason
Smith) and learn about Lighthouse history on a behind the scenes tour. New
Keepers’ Tours are held at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; and at 10
a.m. Wednesdays. The one-hour tours are $19.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors
and children under 12. Reservations can be made by calling 904-829-0745 or ask
in the gift shop.
Nation’s Oldest Port® Demos are included with the cost of admission to the nonprofit Museum. The educational and interactive programs run each half hour from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the grounds. See the list of demos below.
Regular admission fees to the Museum are $12.95
for adults; $10.95 for seniors and children under 12; and free for children
less than 44 inches (unable to climb the tower). St. Johns County residents
with ID can pay for one day and receive a pass for a complete calendar year.
Membership packages also are available. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
through Memorial Day, then 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week during summer.
For more details about the St. Augustine
Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call
904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse,
Instagram.com/stauglighthouse, and twitter.com/firstlighthouse
Dead Reckoning: Learn how sailors navigated the high seas and inland waters before GPS,
radar and accurate maps.
Tools of the
Trade: Discover how early boatwrights
bent and shaped wooden beams and made waterproof craft.
and Superstitions: Hear common and
not-so-common phrases and words that were a matter of life and death aboard
Challenge: Find out if you could
handle being the keeper of the St. Augustine Lighthouse in the late 1800s at
this fun program that demonstrates and discusses daily life of the keepers.
Improv at the
St. Augustine Lighthouse: Help your
docent decide what stories to tell from Lighthouse past and be surprised by
what you hear!
Way: See how lighthouses throw light
19-25 miles out to sea and learn the importance of lighthouses to early
shipping and navigation.
Shipwrecks and Why They Matter: Learn
how archaeologists search for and find shipwrecks buried under the ocean floor
and discover why these nonrenewable resources are important.
Beneath the Waves: Working underwater
in low visibility offshore of St. Augustine, archaeologists often document
shipwrecks using only their sense of touch. Try your hand at this and “see” how
knowing the artifacts and their location on the shipwreck reveal stories not
Artifact? Uncover more stories in the
lab and find out how artifacts unlock the secrets of shipwrecks and the people
On June 26, 1916, readers of the St. Augustine Evening Record read an entertaining interview with 68 year old Oregon Dunham offering “very interesting reminiscences” from a man “whose remarkable memory…retained so much of what happened in the earlier days.” Dunham recalled significant events in the Oldest City, including the Civil War and some of the local folklore. “Oregon” was a nickname for Francis Philip Fatio Dunham. His mother, Mary, was the daughter of his namesake, Francis Philip Fatio, who arrived in Florida during the American Revolution. His father, David Ross Dunham, born in New York City, came to Florida to oversee his family’s sugar plantation in New Smyrna. The Dunhams proved to be one of several prominent families in Florida’s history. Interestingly, of all the Lighthouse Keepers, Oregon Dunham held the shortest tenure at the station. On April 1, 1875, William Russell and his family moved out of the tower and delivered the keys to then-Assistant Keeper Dunham. On April 15, Dunham accepted the official appointment as Keeper of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. By November 18, a new Keeper, William Harn, arrived.
Oregon Dunham certainly had the pedigree to position himself into a government job such as the Keeper at St. Augustine. As William Russell discovered, government jobs in St. Augustine often depended less on skill and training than upon connections with the rich and powerful. Dunham’s family connections certainly placed him at the top of the applicant pool. He began working at the light station on October 15, 1874, as the First Assistant Keeper under Keeper Russell. Once he received the appointment as Head Keeper, the Second Assistant Keeper, Philip J. Canova, received a promotion to First Assistant. Canova stayed only a few months and then resigned. In order to fill the vacancy, Second Assistant Daniel Mickler was promoted to First Assistant. Such a personnel change may suggest contentious issues at the station; however, we have no record of what prompted Dunham’s dismissal. Nevertheless, the Keeper’s Log provides some hints to the cause.
Within a few months of Dunham’s appointment as Head Keeper, an accident took place. The tower was literally less than a year old when on June 21, 1875, “a little after two o’clock the weight of the mechanical lamp fell through the receiving well carrying the bottom off of the flange and fell into revolving machinery thereby springing some of the shafts so badly as to prevent the ‘revolving’ of the lens.” Although the extent of the damage is not known, the result was that the light ran only as a fixed light, meaning that the lens did not rotate. Thus, the light station could not display its night mark. The log records that the light was back in operation by June 26, 1875, following a visit by the United States Lampist who “placed [the light] in perfect order.” The log also records that the Captain Inspector, AEK Benham, made two more visits to the light station, once on July 28 and another on August 29. Each visit apparently entailed repairs to the site. On the July 28 visit, the Captain Inspector, in his own hand, wrote in the log, “Written the Principal + assistants are to absent themselves from the station until all work is finished and the light + appurtenances are ready for inspection.” In the Light Station Service, multiple visits from the Lampist hinted at a problem perhaps with the light itself; however, multiples visits by the Inspector General within a few months’ time, meant that something was fundamentally wrong with the way the station was run.
Since the tower was relatively new, the Light House Service was bound to be concerned about the job Keeper Dunham was doing. In fact, on November 18, 1875, a new Keeper named William Harn arrived to take command of the Light Station. Although there is no mention in the Keeper’s Log of the removal of Oregon Dunham, we do know that it took place prior to Harn’s arrival. The Keeper’s Log does not record any major incidents for well over a year after Harn’s arrival and appointment.
to Oregon Dunham? As in the case of William Russell, Dunham remains an elusive
figure in historical records. He remained
in St. Augustine, and most of the city directories mention him as a
gardener. He resided in the home of his
mother, Mary Dunham, located on Charlotte Street behind the St. Francis
Barracks. She owned two pieces of
property: one on Charlotte Street and the other just behind it on south St.
George Street facing Maria Sanchez Creek.
With the death of his mother, Oregon inherited these two pieces of
property. The city directory lists a
boarder with a “b” by Oregon’s name until 1890 when he became an owner, marked
with an “o.”
there are no additional records mentioning Oregon until December 7, 1911, when
he sold the property which he had inherited from his mother. He sold it to his brother, David L. Dunham,
for the sum of ten dollars. The warranty
deed records only the monetary transaction, not why Oregon sold the land. The next mention of Oregon appears in the article
in the St. Augustine Evening Record
of June 26, 1916. In September of 1916,
Oregon Dunham applied for residence in the Florida Confederate Home in
Jacksonville. Created by the Florida
Soldiers Home Association in 1888, the facility was a retirement home for
Confederate veterans. The Association
had purchased ten acres of land along Talleyrand Avenue for the construction of
an Italian-styled building with nine rooms.
An adjoining home contained two additional rooms. Residents had to furnish proof of their
Confederate military service as well as their honorable discharge or
10, 1861, Oregon Dunham, only 14 years old, had enlisted in Company B of the
Third Florida Infantry, otherwise known as the St. Augustine Blues. His older brother, David Lewis Dunham,
enlisted in Jacksonville with Company H of the Second Florida Infantry. Oregon served for only a short time before
his parents pulled him out of service because of his youth and a physical
disability. He hired someone of the same
age to serve in his place and to answer to “Oregon Dunham.” However, the substitute was discharged on
November 2, 1862, in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Dunham remained in St. Augustine throughout the war. Refusing to take the oath of loyalty to the
Union, he found himself in custody. When
the other Confederate supporters in St. Augustine were deported to Confederate
lines, the Union commander ordered that Dunham remain in St. Augustine and daily
report to the Union Provost Marshall.
Dunham detailed his war experiences in his application for a Confederate
pension in 1909. Unfortunately, when
Dunham filed the paperwork, he used his given name, Francis Philip Fatio
Dunham, not Oregon Dunham. The State
Board of Pensions denied the request since there were no records filed under
his given name. A second application included
both names, but met with the same fate since Oregon had used a substitute. Using their connections in state government,
the Dunham family requested that Oregon be awarded his pension. Therefore, on June 13, 1913, the Legislature
of the State of Florida passed State Bill Number 127 requiring the State Board
of Pensions to “accept proofs submitted by the said Oregon Dunham as proofs of
service and place his name on the roll of pensioners to whom has been allowed a
disability mentioned by Oregon Dunham in his application for a Confederate
pension is known as varicocele, the enlargement of the veins in the scrotum
(very similar to varicose veins which occur in the legs). The condition can cause a great deal of pain
and usually leads to infertility. Even
with today’s medical knowledge, the exact cause of the condition is unknown, and
there are no known risk factors that contribute to the diagnosis. The common treatment for the condition was
surgery; however, it is doubtful that Dunham would have opted for such an
invasive procedure. One of the major causes
of death during the Civil War was not wounds inflicted upon soldiers but the
conditions in field hospitals and operating rooms where infections ran
Dunham supervised the St. Augustine Light Station for only a short time, his tenure
there was historically important. Despite
the unfortunate incidents that seem to have cut short his career in the Light
Service, Dunham’s service demonstrates that family connections and prominence in
the community provided him an opportunity to serve. We must remember that following the Civil
War, appointments for most government offices were rarely based around experience. The civil service exam would not determine
eligibility for government service until the Pendleton Act of 1883, and even
then the number of government positions within the government that required the
exam was minimal. Following his time as Keeper, Dunham remained in St.
Augustine and was employed as a gardener.
More than likely, his disability kept him from pursuing farming or any
other physically demanding occupation. He
died in 1916 and was buried in St. Augustine’s Evergreen Cemetery with other
members of his family. When William Harn
arrived in St. Augustine, the Light Service sought a Keeper who could avoid the
errors of the former Keeper while bringing stability to the station.
Oh the stories the St. Augustine
Lighthouse would tell if only it could talk! From the first watch towers to
today, weekly camp themes explore different episodes of St. Augustine and
northeast Florida’s maritime past. Take a journey through time this summer at
the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum! See registration for
details on weekly themes.
Completed 5th– 7th grades
Discover how people have lived and interacted with the marine environment from the early 1500s to the present. Practice boatbuilding skills, fish from shore and on the water, row locally made wooden watercraft, visit modern shrimping and boating operations in St. Augustine, go on an eco-tour by kayak, and more! *All activities weather permitting.*
IF THE LIGHTHOUSE COULD TALK!
Completed K-4th grades
Week 1: 1st Explorers
Learn how the first explorers
navigated here, their life aboard ship, and how they fared when they
arrived. Make coquina, build a watchtower, try a ship’s biscuit, and take
a look at the native plant resources that would have been available.
Campers can practice some of what they’ve learned on the water with a trip on
the Schooner Freedom!
Week 2: My How My Island
has Grown! June 3-7
Who was working the Lighthouse and
developing our area? St. Augustine has a history diverse in its population,
including the Lighthouse keepers. Delve into some of those cultures
through food, art, maps, and traditions. Try your hand at net casting at
Anastasia State Park or line fishing! Weather permitting
Pharology…what? June 10-14
Discover the masterful engineering
that makes me a Lighthouse. Participate in activities related to
technology changes in how the Lighthouse is lit. Take a look at
lighthouses all over the world and learn more about pharology.
Campers will visit the Lightner and complete a unique architectural scavenger
hunt in down town St Augustine!
Week 4: Keeping
Watch June 17-21
From the Spanish period to WWII,
someone has always been looking out from our coastline to keep our maritime
community safe. Campers will take a deeper look into our coastal history
through stories from the past, maps, and documents. Take the tower
challenge, design a modern sentinel, and create your own submarine. Finish the
week with a trip to the fort to see the canons fire!
Week 5: I’m Still
Shining! June 24-28
I’m still looking out at the maritime community of artists, tourists, archaeologists, sailors, and other folks. I’ve witnessed many changes in my 145 years (birthday this October). Learn how Flagler’s train kick-starts St. Augustine’s growth to become the town she is today and experience some of the art and food that makes her unique. See how our archaeologists piece together the past and spend some time at the Fountain of Youth.
COASTAL COMMUNITY CAMP
Completed 5th– 7th grades
This camp is designed to show
students how St. Augustine’s people have been tied to the ocean for over 450
years. This will be accomplished by doing activities on and near the water and
traveling to locations in the area to participate in varied maritime
experiences. Campers will discover how people have lived and interacted with
the marine environment from the early 1500s to the present. They will practice
boatbuilding skills, fish from shore and on the water, visit an underwater
archaeological investigation, see modern shrimping and boating operations in
St. Augustine, go on an eco-tour by kayak, and more! Daily activities are
outlined below. All activities are weather permitting.