Editor’s note: This is another in a continuing series on local pioneers and local history. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the beginnings, the building specifications, for lighthouses in the area.
These next few weeks, I'll be sharing some letters about our local lighthouses.
This could not have been completed without giving "thanks" first to Mark Curenton and the Apalachicola Historical Society. Several years ago Mark let Marlene Womack and I go through boxes of old papers found in the cottage at the Raney House in Apalachicola.
These boxes covered many areas of local history, one folder covering our lighthouses, and I was lucky enough to get the chance to copy these files.
This week we'll cover the Cape San Blas and the Cape St. George Lighthouses.
Here you will see that when they advertised for bids on rebuilding the lighthouses, this included both buildings and that they were built alike.
“Treasury Department, 5th Audit Office, April 26th 1848
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the letter of the Hon' McCabel, with its’ indorse, which you referred to me this morning.
In answer, I have to state, was in September last Mr. Spencer, the Collector and Superintendent of Lights at Apalachicola was directed by this office to advertise for proposals to erect two new Light Houses at Cape San Blas and Cape St. George, in place of two which had been built at St. George's Island, and St. Joseph Island, agreeably to plans and descriptions sent to him from this office. The contactor was to use such of the materials in the old houses as would answer including the lanterns and lighting apparatus. Mr. Spencer was directed in order to save time, to accept the lowest bid and enter into a contract with the party provided it was written to the appropriation and forward a list of all the bids to this office.
On the 5th of November he sent me a list of the bids, informing me that he entered into a contract with Edward Bowden for $13,400 dollars, whose bid was the lowest and had required bond and security for the faithful performance once the contract, in the sum of $10,000 dollars. This last measure, however, was unnecessary, as no payment was to be made until the building were finished, and this afforded sufficient security that they would be faithfully built.
The buildings were to have been done by the 1st of March last, but I have not yet heard whether they were finished or not.
The following is a list of the bids received from by:
Thorn & Oakley $14,400
Henry F. Simmons $13,995
Wm G. M. Davis $13,500
A.T. Bennett $13,500
Edward Bowden $13,400
The appropriation for the two Light Houses was 16,000 dollars.
I have the honor to be, Sir, very respectfully,
Your Obit, Servant.
The Hon. Robert J. Walker, Secretary of the Treasury
5th Audit Office
November 8th 1848
In an account just received from you I find charged the sum of $276 dollars, for services of A.T. Bennett as Inspector (or Overseer) of the building of the new Light Houses from the 1st July to 30th September last, which as a charge against the agreement is clearly inadmissible.
In my letter to you the 22nd June last, after stating that the contractor ought to have had both the Lights done two months preciosity (your advertisement only till 31st March) I expected to inform him that if he did not proceed with almost dispatch to finish the Cape St. George Lighthouse. I would with his payment as long as he had exceeded them; and in your ___ letter you informed me that his contract allowed him to the 1st of June, I must now add, that this last date is the latest to which I can consent to subject the Government to the expense of an overseer of the work, and that all further claims for such service must be refused to the contractor himself, the accounts and vouchers is herewith continued.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
Your Obit, Servant
S. Pleasonton .
Samuel W. Spencer, Esq.
Superintendent of Lights
November 20th 1848
Your letter of the 8th November returning the vouchers of A.T. Bennett for $276 as overseer of Light House now building in this District, as a charge which is deemed inadmissible against the Government is received.
I am at the lost to understand why the accounts is rejected, as I had from you a promissory order to employ a suitable person for such service, and have made the order revoked by any ___ communication.
In your letter dated November 19th 1847 fore say, "You will appoint a suitable merchant or overseer of the work (the building the Light House) and will include him to attend to it day by day to progress and most upon the being well done, you will allow him $3 dollars per day whilst the work is necessary progressing."
In your letter of 22nd June last to which you refer, you say "You will inform the contractor that if he does not use the upmost departed, you will withhold his pay so long as he has acceded the time in which he should have finished the work. In that letter before me, there is no mention made of the overseer, and there was no other instructions in regards to him except those of the 19 November 1847, which authorized me to employ one to attend on the building day by day during the necessary progress.
P.S. You will be pleased to advice me at what period you now calculate upon having the Cape St. George Light House lit up?
5th Audit Office
November 29th 1848
I received this morning your letter of the 20 inst.
When it is considered that the contractor for building the Cape St. George Light House, was to have finished in it agreeably to his contract on the 1st March, and he was allowed by you until the 1st of June for certain consideration to complete it, and when I could have had all this work by the 1st March by Eastern Workmen, that you should send in account for an overseer of the work, at $3 dollars a day, from the 1st of July to the 30th of September amounting to $276 dollars, when it appears they could not have been anything for him to do, for it would have finished the building before the 1st of June.
I am ____ observed that this whole business has been such as to afford me great cause to complain; first in your prolonging the time to the 1st June, and afterwards apologizing for the delay on the part of the Contractor to finish the work, when you ought to have given him notice to quit, as leaving for failed to contract. But I have the greatest reason to complain of your sending me an account for the pay.
Nothing was the same in that letter of my referring the charge for such services to the contractor, as you have spoken of in your last letter. The work has been progressing (although slowly) since services, and believing that I should act in accordance with my first and only instructions. I have employed Mr. Bennett constantly up to this day. He has ___ the service and been paid by me. I could not do otherwise without neglecting the interest of the Government. The work has been delay but not through my neglect of inattention. I was unable to complete the contractor proceed faster, the reason for which I have stated in my letter to you forwarded on the 6th of time, nor could I with the instructions before me allow him to proceed at all without some competed overseer. I have done the best circumstances allow, and feel greatly disappointed that any delay should have occurred.
I hope therefore you will reconsider the matter, and pay the account.
The completion of the work is now progressing more rapidly, and will be finished and the House ready for Lighting by the 15th of December, as stated in my letter to you of the 6th of time.
Your Obit Servant,
(signed) Samuel W. Spencer
Stephen Pleasonton, Esq.
5th Audit Office
*Note: Eastern Workman … (US Federal Case Law)
5th Audit Office
August 9th 1849
In the year 1847 Congress made appropriations for building a Light House at Cape San Blass and Cape St. George in Florida, and the Collector at Apalachicola, Samuel W. Spencer, Esq.; was directed to advertise for proposals and accepts the lowest bids for erecting both building.
Edward Bowden was represented to be the lowest bidder for both buildings and contract was entered into him by W. Spencer, for $13,400 dollars for both buildings to be completed by the 1st of March 1848.
The one at Cape St. George however, was not, completed on the 1st of March, and W. Spencer prolonged the time to the 1st of June 1848. He was directed to employ a suitable overseer of the work day by day as it project, and to allow him $3 dollars per day whilst employed.
This authority of course extended only to the time they contract had to run, which in the case of Cape St. George building located on the 1st June.
On the 1st October 1848, W. Spencer sent me a account from the overseer of $276 dollars as his compensation from 1st June to30th September, at $3 dollars per ann____.
This account was returned and W. Spencer as inadmissible, in a letter, a copy of which is unclear.
Dated, November 8th 1848.
In reply to the letter, under date of the 20th November following, he expresses astonishment that I showed reject to this claim; as he had from me a presenter’s order to employ a suitable person for such service, and had never had the order revoked, when the authority was clearly limited to the duration if the contract and there was no occasion to revoked it.
The truth is, as appears by W. Spencer's letter, that the contractor had lost his boats, and was unable to go on with the work until late in the Fall, and did not finish the Cape St. George Lighthouse, being the last, until 23rd December, and as stated by Mr. Simmons, the attorney of Bowden, the overseer was not present at the building one week, during the whole time from June to December; and yet Spencer, as Mr. Simmons states, he deducted from the contract price not only the $276 dollars rejected by me, but a further sum for the wages of the overseer to the time of the completion of the building. The sum so deducted he claims to be restored to him by the United States, to which I am altogether approve for in the first place, it would be a virtual payment of the claim, of the overseer, which has no foundation and in the next place it does not appear by W. Spencer accounts that he has deducted anything from the contracts, for he has forwarded his receipts for the entire contracted price, $13,400 dollars.
I respectfully submit the case however, to you consideration, and demand, upon the request of Mr. Westcott and Mr. Simmons the attorney of the contracts now herein.
I have the honor to be yours respectfully your obit servant,
The Hon. William M. Meredith
Secretary of the Treasury
Custom House, Boston
Dec. 5th 1851
The proposals for rebuilding the Light Houses in Florida were opened this day, in conformity with your instructions of the 15th ____; of here with I send for a list of the several bids, Viv:
Dog Island Cape St. George
Thos.' B. Grose $7,445 $8,445
Jas R. Dockray $6.995 $7,995
Hersey Howell $8,142 $10,814
W.A. James & Thos. Boyd $9,585 $12,570
Caleb King $6,493 $7,445
Charles Emerson & Edwin Adams $5,248 $6,398
Charles W. Geymoun $8,442 $11,500
You will observe that the offers made by Emerson & Adams, are the lowest, but their aggregate bid is 11,48 dollars higher than the sum limited in January letter, I have there- fore declined to enter into contract and wait for further instructions in the premises.
I am your very respectfully your obit servant,
Philip Greely Jr. (clerk)
Samuel Pleasonton, Esq.
Should I conclude to accept the bid of Emerson & Adams, I take pleasure in saying that they are responsible persons.
Fifth Audit Office
December 11, 1851
To your information, I have the honor to enclose a copy of an advertisement, which the Superintendent of Lights at Boston, was instructed to publish, inviting proposals for rebuilding the Light Houses at Dog Island and Cape St. George, Florida, which were undermined by the sea and destroyed, August last, during a tornado, together with a copy of this letter containing a list of all bids he had received for erecting the work, these buildings are to be completed ___ will perceive, by the 1st of May next and will be paid for out of the annual appropriation for maintaining the Light House establishment.
For rebuilding Cape San Blas Light, which was not considered as important as the other two, I have inserted a sufficient sum in my estimate for the service of the next fiscal year. With the materials of the old Light House at the above named places, as they were not fit to form a part of the new towers, I have directed the Superintendent at Apalachicola, to erect a new dwelling for the keeper at Cape St. George, in place of one destroyed, and repair the one at Dog Island, which was only partially destroyed.
The buildings now to be erected are to be put upon piles, the ____ which was to be believed to exist when the former buildings were erected. It was than suffused the water from the sea, could never reach their foundations, in which case it was well known there can be no better foundation than sand.
Being undeceived in this respect, I have now provided that these Houses shall be built in such manner, as to preclude all apprehension for their safety in the future.
I have the honor to be Your very respectfully, your obit servant,
The Hon. Thomas Coswin, Secretary of the Treasury
Samuel W. Spencer:
Florida Militia Colonel Samuel W. Spencer, a Maryland-born forty-four-year-old physician from Franklin County, who had resided in Florida for a decade.
Remembered mostly for his work in establishing the Lighthouse Establishment. He was appointed to oversee operations of the United States Light House Establishment.