Drum Point marks the northern side of the mouth of the
Patuxent River. A lighthouse was proposed for the site
in 1853. Several ships had previously run aground at Drum Point.
Others often took shelter in the lee of the point during
severe weather. $5000 was allocated for the project in 1854.
A site was selected by 1856, but by 1857, title of the site
had still not been obtained.
It was not until 1883 the a lighthouse was actually built
on the site. $25000 was appropriated for a pair of range
lights - one at Drum Point, the second on Sullivan Island.
The second light was ultimately deemed unnecessary, and
only the Drum Point light was built. The new screwpile
light, constructed from prefabricated materials and
standing in only 10 feet of water, was constructed in
33 days. Benjamin Gray was the station's first keeper.
The Drum Point light housed a 4th order Fresnel lens.
The prisms covered only a 270 degree arc - the empty
space corresponding to the landward side. The light
was fixed red due to a red chimney placed around the lamp.
A 1400 lb fog bell cast by McShane Bell Foundry
of Baltimore was installed,
along with a striking mechanism driven by a weight.
The weight required re-winding every two hours, and
a keeper was allotted only two minutes to
rewind the striking mechanism once the weight was completely
James Weems served at Drum Point for over 25 years.
He requested a transfer to a station on land, as he
wanted to be near his family and his sick infant daughter,
Mary. Weems was transferred to Drum Point in 1891.
Keeper's families typically did not live on screwpiles,
but Drum Point was an exception. Unlike other screwpiles,
Drum Point stood only a few hundred yards from shore.
Sadly, Mary died in 1893. Another daughter, Anne, died
in 1901 at age sixteen. Not all news was bad, however -
a granddaughter, Anna, was born at Drum Point in 1906.
Weems retired in 1919.
While life at Drum Point was typically uneventful,
change did occur in the 20th century.
In 1909 the red chimney was replaced with three red
panels - the light now shone red in three sectors and
white in two. Ships could navigate the river entrance
by following the white lights. A phone was installed
in 1919. In 1933, a storm swept away the station's
motor boat and flooded the first floor. Keeper
J.J. Daley went for assistance by swimming to shore
to report the damage. The light received electricity in
1944. The light was automated in 1960, and discontinued
entirely in 1962.
The biggest change to take place at Drum Point was the
changing landscape. Unlike many lights that were undermined
by erosion, the shoal at Drum Point built up to the point
where the light was on dry ground at low tide by the time it
was decommissioned. This made the light easy access for
vandals. Doors and windows were broken, and at least two
fires set in the abandoned lighthouse.
After the station closed, the State of Maryland planned
to open the lighthouse to the public. However, the light
was accessible only via private property. In 1966
the Calvert County Historical Society began a
project to save the lighthouse. Restoration work began,
and in 1973 the lighthouse was placed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
After years of negotiations with state and federal agencies,
the society was given the lighthouse but not the site.
The lighthouse would be moved two miles to the Calvert Marine
Museum. B.F. Diamond Construction Company moved the light.
A tugboat moved a barge and crane to the site; the tug's
engines were used to backwash the site and allow the
barge to reach the landlocked light. It took two days to
cut through the screws, which were solid iron ten inches
in diameter. The light was hoisted onto the barge
and transported to the museum.
In 1978 the lighthouse was dedicated and opened to the public.
Anne Weems Ewalt, granddaughter of Keeper James Weems who
was born at the lighthouse,
oversaw refurnishing of the light, and even donated the
original china used by the Weems family. Ms. Weems also
guided visitors at the light, passing along childhood
tales of life at the lighthouse.
Bay Beacons, Turbyville pp. 60-63
The Lighthouses of the Chesapeake, de Gast p. 71
Lighting the Bay: Tales of Chesapeake Lighthouses, Vojtech pp. 63-67, 151-153, 174
Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses, Roberts and Jones p. 66
Drum Point Lighthouse (Calvert Marine Museum)