Rhode Island First Day of Issue Covers
Ratification of the Constitution - Rhode Island Bicentennial
Issued May 29, 1990 in Pawtucket, RI - Scott #2348
Stamp Design is the Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI

Beavertail Lighthouse on Conanicut Island, RI (Jamestown)
Hand Painted Cachet by Gary Davis

(Personal Beavertail Story Followed by History of the Beavertail Lighthouse)


This cover brings back a lot of memories. My father and I fished off the Beavertail rocks for Tautog (Blackfish) on many occasions and we also used to watch the America Cup Races from Beavertail. My most enduring memory and a day I'll never forget happened on a day late in October of 1959. We were fishing off the point in my father's 18 foot lapstrake boat. (The big codfish came in close during the winter months.) We had missed seeing the whole gale flag that was flying on our way out. 

The wind really started to blow hard and we decided to head in, but our old 60 horse Evenrude wouldn't start and the wind kept getting stronger. Our anchor wasn't holding and the wind was blowing us towards the rocks on Beavertail where the surf was breaking about 15 to 20 feet up. (Not a good feeling, I can tell you!) My father jumped up over the windshield and tried to snug down the anchor, letting some more line out in an attempt to get it to hold. (Neither of us wanted to end up on those rocks.)

In the meantime I was fiddling with the motor and I popped the cap on the gas tank and then replaced it. Low and Behold - the old engine started right up; evidently the fuel-line had gotten a vapor lock in it. Well, we beat back up the bay and it took us over two hours in those heavy seas. (It only took twenty-five minutes coming out.)

When we got back into the landing at Wickford Harbor, I happened to look down at my father's trousers and noticed that one of his pant legs was all red. He had a hole in his thigh that must have been close to a half inch in diameter. When he had jumped up onto the bow to try and get our anchor to hold, he had put the cleat right through his leg and we were both so pumped up with adrenalin that neither of us noticed until after we were back in port and feeling safe again.


Beavertail Light is located on Jamestown (Conanicut) Island and was first established in 1749. It was the third officially sanctioned light established in the American Colonies.

As a result of the hostilities in Europe, the Town Council felt compelled in 1695 after the beginning of Queen Anne's War, to order "that there shall be a chimney built to the watch house by the Indians belonging to this town of Beavertail..."; and in 1712 the council proposed building a beacon. A warrant was granted to Benedict Arnold (Not the same Arnold of Infamy) to look after the watch and see that it was faithfully kept.

This beacon, if used to direct vessels, could be considered to have been the first lighthouse on the continent. The Commerce Department, however, gives this honor to the Little Brewster Island Light in Boston Harbor.

The colony's leadership in 1738 proposed replacing this watch house with a formal lighthouse. The watch house was believed to have had a stone platform upon which a fire was maintained as a beacon. The original structure was destroyed by the British during the Revolutionary War.

In 1838 the new light stood 98 feet above sea level and had a distance visibility of nearly 16 nautical miles. Maintenance of this lighthouse suffered under the hands of inexperienced keepers and it was eventually destroyed by fire in 1854.

The present structure, the third at the site, is a square granite tower connected to a white painted brick dwelling. The light, group stands 64 feet above sea level with a distance visibility of fourteen nautical miles. The beacon was automated in 1972 as part of a program which essentially ended the profession of lighthouse keepers in the United States. The last Keeper at Beavertail Light was Dominic Turillo.

In 1989 the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum was opened to the public.

Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association 

Beavertail State Park 
Jamestown and Newport Ferry Company 
Jamestown, RI Visitor Information

SEE ALSO: Rhode Island Superlatives

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