Family Life

The Davis Family

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.

Here you can find some conceptualizations for Phase I of the preservation of the Morris Island Lighthouse. Plans were provided by the Hayward-Baker Company.

Changes to the original Phase I plans needed to be made before the actual construction. For photos of the Phase I preservation construction, see the photo gallery below.

The base of the lighthouse will be surrounded by a cofferdam composed of circular sheet piles. This drawing is view looking down from above the lighthouse.

The base of the lighthouse will be surrounded by a cofferdam composed of circular sheet piles. This drawing is view looking down from above the lighthouse.

Grout will be injected beneath the lighthouse to stabilize the foundation. The view is looking down from above into the lighthouse's foundation.
This drawing shows section B-B through the drawing above. The view is looking across the base of the lighthouse.
Phase I - In May 2007, work began on the first phase of the lighthouse stabilization. The contractor, Taylor Brothers Marine Construction, from Beaufort, NC, drove the sheet piles that formed a cofferdam around the base of the lighthouse. The contractor worked all through the fall and winter to complete the work. His jack-up-barge can be seen from a great distance while it sits next to the lighthouse to drive the piles. All types of monitoring devices were installed inside and outside the lighthouse to help monitor the conditions as the piles were vibrated down into the sand. A local company, WPC, provided this part of the monitoring for the contractor. The devices monitored cracks for potential growth, possible lean, and general vibration during daily work. All of the windows in the lighthouse have no glass and the birds love to stay inside and even raise their young if not disturbed. The Phase I effort was completed in March of 2008, with a cost of just over $3 million.

Aerial photos were taken by Mr. Larry Workman.

You can view some conceptualizations for Phase II of the preservation of the Morris Island Lighthouse. Plans were provided by the contractor, Palmetto Gunite.

Page 1 shows the layout for the new micro-piles that were installed around the perimeter of the lighthouse foundation. There were a total of 68 micro-piles installed at 75 tons each capacity.

Page 2 shows the actual location of the micro-piles and how they were spaced around the foundation. All of the work was inside of the cofferdam installed in 2008.

Page 3 shows an elevation view of the new piles in relation to the original piles. The new piles were installed into the marl layer under the lighthouse. The area between the cofferdam and the foundation was filled with sand and capped with stone.

For photos of the preservation construction, see the photo gallery below.

March 1, 2010, we awarded our Phase II contract to Palmetto Gunite Construction Company, Ravenel, SC, for just under $2 million. This was a design/build contract to install new concrete piles under the foundation. This contract also filled the inside of the Phase I cofferdam with sand to help stabilize the foundation. The installation of 68 new micro-piles rated at 75 tons each was completed a month ahead of schedule. The jack-up barge pulled away on July 31, 2010.

This work will surely stabilize the tower so that we can continue to restore and preserve it in subsequent phases.

We survived Hurricane Irene. The Army Corps of Engineers requires periodic inspections.

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