Portion of 1871 blueprints for the third Bodie Island Lighthouse
1871 blueprints of third Bodie Island Lighthouse

Library of Congress

Quick Facts

Significance:
Primary Keeper of First and Second Bodie Island Lighthouses
Place of Birth:
Nags Head Woods, NC
Date of Birth:
March 29, 1798
Date of Death:
April 8, 1876
Place of Burial:
Nags Head Woods, NC
Cemetery Name:
Tillett Cemetery

Appointed the first primary keeper of the first Bodie Island Lighthouse in September 1847, Samuel Tillett assumed his role after January 1848, having to wait until the arrival of chimneys and wicks for the lamps. 

Lighthouse keepers were often at the mercy of politics in the mid-nineteenth century, many times being transferred or removed when a new administration assumed power. Such was the case with Tillett, who was quickly replaced by John B. Etheridge in 1849. Tillett and Etheridge consistently replaced each other throughout the early 1850s, with Etheridge remaining primary keeper from 1854 to 1858, when the first lighthouse’s foundation was found to be eroding rapidly into the sandy soil, necessitating its closure.

The second Bodie Island Lighthouse was built in 1858 and, once again, Samuel Tillett became the first primary keeper. At an advanced age by this point, Tillett was allowed to assume the role of assistant keeper until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.