The OES visited Hilton Head’s Rear-Range Lighthouse on June 17, 2016. Also known as Leamington Lighthouse, the 95-foot tall lighthouse was built in 1879 to guide ships in Port Royal Sound. The $40,000 complex on Hilton Head Island consisted of the Rear-Range Lighthouse, a Keeper’s House, water cistern, oil house, and a shorter Forward Beacon mounted on a second Keeper’s House nearer the beach. Six concrete piers were used to anchor the cast iron skeleton of the Rear-Range Lighthouse. 112 steps led to the hexagonal Watch Room, with the Lantern Room just above. Oil was used to light the Fresnel Lens, which had to be washed with wine every two months. The lamps inside the lens were alternated every fifteen days by the keeper. The light from the tower could be seen for fifteen miles.
The lighthouse complex was taken out of commision in 1932 and the forward beacon was dismantled. The site became the location of Camp McDougal (known locally as Camp Dilling) in 1937, used to train the U.S. Coast Guard’s Southeastern Shore Patrol. It was transferred to the Marines during World War II as a training station for anti-aircraft units and defense battalions. 600 recruits passed through the camp every week. Two large guns known as “Loud Lucy” and “Big Betsy” were installed nearby. The Marines abandoned the camp sometime after the war. The two Light Keepers’ homes were moved to the Harbour Town area in the 1960s as it was being developed into a tourist attraction. The homes were cut in half during the process and reassembled with an extra five feet added to each house and they are used as commercial buildings today. The Rear-Range Lighthouse, oil house and cistern were refurbished and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. A decorative sodium vapor optic was installed, but serves no navigational purpose today.
The lighthouse hosts its own legend as well. Hilton Head Island took a direct hit from a hurricane in 1893 (other sources say 1898). Keeper Adam Fripp and his daughter Caroline worked throughout the night to keep the lanterns lit during the storm. Water around the base of the lighthouse was said to be three feet high. Reports vary, but Adam was said to have collapsed and died either that night or the next day. Caroline’s fate was not as clear. Some say she died a few days later due to exhaustion and grief over losing her father, others say she lived a full life before passing away. In either case, her ghost, known as the “Blue Lady” is said to haunt the lighthouse and the Keeper’s homes that were relocated in the 1960s. We recorded for electronic voice phenomenon and checked the electromagnetic field while visiting the lighthouse but received nothing out of the ordinary, although we visited on a sunny afternoon rather than a stormy night.
Location Information: Gated Community
Rear-Range Lighthouse is located on a golf course off Leamington Lane in a gated community on Hilton Head Island; SC.