During the late 19th Century, at least two keepers had their families with them at Seven Foot Knoll – a practice which was not strictly permitted by the Lighthouse Service at offshore lighthouses. This practice may have been both the cause and result of the staffing difficulties at Seven Foot Knoll.
The following letter of resignation from Assistant Keeper Joseph Worthington gives a rare glimpse into the domestic side of life at Seven Foot Knoll:
“Baltimore, February 26, 1870
To George S. Boutwell, Secretary of the Treasury
A few days ago I was appointed an assistant light house keeper at the Seven Foot Knoll [when] Edward Bell resigned. I have since understood that Mr. Lucas, the principal lighthouse keeper has his wife and two children living there which is the first time that I ever knew that the government allowed this. As all knoll lights have a principal [and] 2 assistants and all shore lights have 1 man and his family the result [is] that Mr. Lucas and his wife and children live together- that is cook and eat…while the other two men that are put there by the government have to do their own cooking – Mr. Lucas by this way of proceeding will always cause dissatisfaction among the assistants, and it will be hard [to] get any man to stay any length of time because he is violating the rule by having his wife and children living in a knoll light… and the other two men must live in one corner of the lighthouse while him and his wife must play the king and queen in the other part a nice state of things I must confess- when I was on a visit at the knoll in the summer of 1868 there were 3 men who mess together and there was no trouble but since Mr. Lucas has been down there with his wife and children and changing the rules there has been a great deal of trouble about getting a man or men to stay there. My reasons for addressing you this letter is that [I] intend to resign my commission as assistant keeper at the Seven Foot Knoll under the above circumstances and my reasons herein are stated hoping you are enjoying excellent health.
I am with the greatest sincerity Joseph F. Worthington No. 11 N. Central Avenue North of Baltimore St. Baltimore, MD”
James T. Bowling, a keeper at the lighthouse from 1874 to 1879, also kept his family at Seven Foot Knoll, though it is not known if this was officially sanctioned. Bowling's daughter, Knolie, who was born at the lighthouse in 1875, painted an interesting picture of life at Seven Foot Knoll in the following excerpts from a 1936 Baltimore News story:
"There are five large rooms and we had a piano and a big bookcase with no end of books which occupied our time during the long winter evenings. Mother had been a school teacher and she taught us, because we had no way to get to and from shore for school.
“Father had many friends among the tugboat captains and at rare intervals he would signal one of them to stop and take him to shore.
“Once when a storm blew up and prevented his return my mother tended the light and rang the fog bell all night.
“Part of our equipment was two small boats and in good weather Father would row to the nearest shore ....We had nets and lines and an abundance of sea food, which we traded with the farmers for vegetables.
“Under the living quarters we had a hog pen and chicken yard and there we kept our coal and wood. Several times our ‘barnyard' was swept away by storms, but we always managed to rescue the livestock and keep them in our living quarters until Father could rebuild their home. We even raised some vegetables in boxes on the big balcony, but it was hard work.
“On stormy nights wild fowl would lose their way and fly directly into the light. It was a simple matter in the morning to gather up enough fowl for our larder. Water was caught in rain barrels. In summer we had lots of visitors – fishing parties – but in winter no one came. In spring when the ice broke up it would pile up against the lighthouse, rocking it and scattering our furniture around. That was what made us change our home finally.”
Evidence suggests that the increased regulation within the Lighthouse Service in the late 19th Century put an end to the families living at Seven Foot Knoll. In fact, regulations published in 1880 stated that at “isolated stations, where there are two or more keepers, no women or children will be allowed to reside, unless by special permission of the Light-House Board previously obtained.”