The lighthouse at Pass Manchac

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The last time you were boating near Pass Manchac, the Amite River or the Tchefuncte River, did you notice the lighthouses or should I say the ruins of the lighthouse? Ever stopped to wonder about the history behind them? Most people take them for granted, just saying, “Well, there’s the old light house.” As I pass these old lighthouses, I often wonder if only they could talk, what stories it could tell. Well, since they can’t tell us of their great experiences, I will share a little history on our area’s lighthouse at Pass Manchac.

The lighthouse at Pass Manchac was authorized in 1834 at a cost of $6,000 and was completed in 1837. It was located on 15 acres which the Federal Government had set aside for the lighthouse. From 1834 to 1980 there have been four lighthouses at Pass Manchac, and the ruins of the fourth one look across the lake today.

The second lighthouse was rebuilt in 1846 and stood 32 feet elevating its lens 34 feet above sea level. The red light that shone was visible for 13 miles. The third lighthouse was begun in 1857, and its light shined for the first time in February of 1857. Its light was 45 feet above sea level but was only visible for 10 miles. The first three were built in the same general area, but the fourth and present lighthouse was moved inland a ways and rebuilt.

The third tower was built just prior to the rebellion. Because the structure was heavily damaged by armies on both sides, the fourth structure was built. The square brick structure beside the tower is where the lighthouse keeper had his home and lived.

While scuba diving in this area, I have found that the lighthouse was built on large cypress timbers and also found old bottles and cannon balls. The 15 acres has all but washed away, and now the lighthouse that guided the boats in the still of the night quietly sits in the darkness, being beaten up by the tide that never stops washing the land away.

The Louisiana Treasures Museum has items on display that were found in this area and can tell you more about the history of these lighthouses. For more information or to schedule tours call me at 225-294-8352.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.