Nixes Mate Daybeacon

Nixes Mate Daybeacon at High Tide
Nixes Mate daybeacon at high tide
Nixes Mate is an unlighted, or day, beacon built in the early 19th century. In 1636 the 12 acres of Nixes “Island” were granted to John Gallop “if the island be so much,” suggesting either that the acreage was in question or that the island was already eroding (Shurtleff 1890:537). Gallop used the island for grazing sheep, and Nixes Mate was still being leased for pasturage in 1735 (Snow 1971:97; Shurtleff 1890:538). The most notorious use of Nixes Mate in the 17th and 18th centuries, however, was as a place to execute and bury pirates (Shurtleff 1890:541).

By the beginning of the 19th century, Nixes Mate had eroded to a low rocky shoal which, lying at the head of the Narrows—the main entrance to Boston Harbor at that time—was a navigational hazard. In 1803, the Boston Marine Society asked Congress to build a seawall surmounted by an unlighted beacon around what remained of the island. Congress declined, so in 1805 the state purchased what was left of Nixes Mate and had the wall and beacon built, the latter by Ozias Goodwin (NPS n.d.; Rowlett 2008). In 1832, the federal government finally purchased Nixes Mate and built the existing stone platform, likely using stones from the 1805–06 wall, and a pyramid beacon. That beacon was struck by lightning and burned in 1841, but was soon rebuilt. Today, the beacon is a hollow wooden octagonal pyramid with a light coating of concrete that was probably applied between World Wars I and II (NPS n.d.).

Prepared by Nancy S. Seasholes, 2009


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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