St. Clement's Island Lighthouse

38370 Point Breeze Road Coltons Point, MD 20626

St. Clement's Island Lighthouse

History: On May 19, 1864, Confederates raided St. Clement’s Island to destroy the 1851 lighthouse. Capt. John Goldsmith, a county resident who had once owned the island, led the attack, having joined the Confederate army in Virginia. In a thirty-foot sailboat, Swann, Goldsmith slipped past a United States gunboat anchored nearby and landed on the island, intending to blow up the lighthouse.

Keeper Jerome McWilliams, a former neighbor, knew Goldsmith and persuaded him that it would be dangerous to McWilliams’ pregnant wife to move her from the keeper’s dwelling adjacent to the lighthouse. Goldsmith gallantly abandoned that part of his plan, and contented himself with destroying the lens and lamp and making off with the oil and light tender.

More to Explore: Tour the St. Clement’s Island Museum and discover the story of Maryland’s first colonial settlement, established to bring religious freedom and tolerance for Trinitarians. Learn about their voyage on the Ark and the Dove, which departed from the Isle of Wight in England on the feast day of St. Clement, the patron saint of mariners. Follow the treacherous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and their venture up the Chesapeake Bay.

Learn about Father Andrew White's written account of the landing on St. Clement's Island and their negotiation with the Native Americans for a permanent settlement. Take the ferry from the museum across the Potomac River to see the island and the first settlement. 

Photo Credits:

1. Blackistone Lighthouse, St. Clement’s Island, circa 1920 – Photo courtesy of St. Mary’s County Museum Division
Potomac River dory of the “black nancy” type – Photo courtesy of John Barber, The Barber Gallery