~ family life ~
The Davis Family
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Insights into life as a lightkeeper are very interesting. Our opportunity to understand life on Morris Island is enhanced by the fact that several children of the last lightkeepers on the island have shared their pictures and stories with us.
See the Archive Article: Living on Top of the World for another story.
One such family is the Davis family. Katherine Davis Craig is the oldest child of Lightkeeper W. A. Davis. Pictured here are the last two keepers to serve on the island, W. A. Davis (left) and Captain William Hecker (right). Both men were transferred elsewhere in the lighthouse service when the Old Charleston Light was automated. Katherine Davis took these pictures with her "Brownie" camera as a child in the 1930s. Fortunately, they have survived in excellent condition.
The lighthouse complex consisted of the lighthouse tower, the dwelling house for all who served on the island, and numerous outbuildings. The complex was connected to the back of Morris Island by a long walkway. The walkway was attached to the boat dock for the lightkeepers.
Here in the second picture of the extended walkway, you gain an appreciation for the length of this deck system.
Of course, living on an island, much of your work and recreational time is spent on water-related activities. Here are the Davis and Hecker families on an afternoon at the beach. Mr. and Mrs. Davis are on the left with their daughters, Katherine and Sara. Captain and Mrs. Hecker are on the right.
Here are the five Hecker children on the beach at Morris Island.
All of the Hecker children were born in Charleston but one. Mrs. Hecker would move into Charleston with each pregnancy prior to delivery for comfort and proper medical attention. However, when their fifth was due, a large storm hit Charleston, preventing Mrs. Hecker from getting into town. In fact, it almost prevented Dr. Lebby from getting to Morris Island. Esther was nicknamed, "the storm baby." Here is Mrs. Davis holding Esther- "the storm baby" with Mrs. Hecker looking on.
In Charleston County, the school system would provide a teacher to any barrier island that had at least five children elementary school age. Here is schoolteacher Elma Bradham and her five pupils, four Hecker children and Sara Davis in the dark dress. Ms. Bradham would arrive by boat on Monday morning. She'd then teach the children and live with the families on the island during the school week, returning to her home on Johns Island for the weekend.
Here is Sara Davis with her pet rooster at the chicken coop.
Captain Hecker moved a Model T to the island to drive from the lighthouse to the various range lights on the island. When the car quit running, it became the chicken coop. But how do you get a car to Morris Island? This picture from Katherine Davis Craig answered that question. You simply lash three rowboats together and balance the car on top. While in this delicate balancing act, you simply row across Folly Inlet. Kids, do not try this at home!
As we noted, the Davis and Hecker families were the last to leave Morris Island. Here you can see the sea easily reaching the wall immediately surrounding the complex. Mrs. Davis and Sara are pictured here on the seawall. Katherine Davis Craig recollects that at night on a high tide, she could hear the water at the outside wall of her bedroom.