Pooles Island circa 1940.
The lighthouse on Pooles Island was built by John Donahoo and Simon Frieze in 1825. They were builders of other lighthouses including the one in Havre De Grace. The lighthouse was automated and on June 12, 1918 was the last day that saw her lighthouse keeper. In 1939 the Pooles Island Lighthouse went out of service, and the tower became a day mark. The Island was used for target practice by Aberdeen Proving Ground and is now off-limits due to unexploded ordinance. It was fitted with a solar light and commissioned on May 22, 2011.
This lonely island located in the upper part of the Chesapeake Bay, was once home to farmers and a lighthouse keeper’s family. One of the last lighthouse keepers was Stephen Andrew Cohee (1859-1932). He was appointed November 24, 1893 and he resigned in November 1915.
Over the course of 22 years he buried a wife, Anna, took a second, Agnes and gave his eight children, and later his grandchildren, the run of the island with a pack of water dogs. One son, Bill, educated himself by reading near the oil lamps in the lantern of the lighthouse. The Cohee's kept chickens and hogs for winter meals and in the summer months the girls "fished" for perch by scooping them up in peach baskets. They reportedly used a garden rake to catch crabs.
Keeper Cohee was paid only $1.50 per day. So, he supplemented his income by catching rockfish and selling them in the Chesapeake City markets. His wife made the most of the children's clothes and the captain bought their shoes during his twice-yearly trips to "town." He measured the children's feet with a forsythia switch to be sure he would buy the right size.
During Captain Cohee's tenure, the light station became a complex with many outbuildings, including a chicken house, stables, a boathouse, sheds and an oil house. The large keeper's dwelling was adjacent to a 200-acre privately owned farm.
After Stephen Cohee left the lighthouse service, he moved to Otter Point on Bush River. Otter Point is now Willoughby Beach (near Edgewood, MD). He and his son William bought two adjoining pieces of land and built houses ordered from the Sears Robuck Company. He held a captain's license for years and became commercial fisherman. He also operated a small convenience store from a building behind his new house.