This Delaware Bay Lighthouse was named after a ship,
the Ship John. The vessel was built in
Massachusetts, and was under the command of Captain
Folger, and was carrying a cargo of glass, hollow ware,
gin, iron sheeting cloth, toys, nails and window glass
from Hamburg, Germany to Philadelphia when it grounded
on a shoal near the mouth of the Cohansey Creek in
Aboard were about 60 German passengers. Vessels from
Greenwich, New Jersey rescued the passengers and
Captain, and salvaged some of the cargo. By spring, the
ship had been cut through by heavy ice and storms and
gradually it settled into the sand. Drifting sand
accumulated around the wreckage increasing the area of
the shoal. After the ship was sunk a wooden lighthouse
was placed there to mark the shoal, but in 1876 the
wooden lighthouse was destroyed by ice.
A lighthouse was finally built in 1877 on a caisson
foundation. A steel cylinder was sunk 30 feet below the
surface of the water and filled with rock. This
foundation was then surrounded by rip-rap, to ward off
ice flows and protect the structure from sea action.
The light flashes white on the channel side and red on
the shoal side, and is of 20,000 candle-power. The
lighthouse is also equipped with compressed aid
fog-horns which emit a blast every 20 seconds when in
use. A Victorian-style cottage sits atop the caisson
foundation, and has a copper roof, and quaint panel
windows. On a rip-rap island next to the lighthouse are
tanks for fuel.
The Cumberland County Historical Society has the wooden
figurehead of the Ship John as well as a bell
from the Ship John Lighthouse.
The Cape May Historical and Genealogical Society Museum
at Cape May Court House, New Jersey, has the frame of
the ships rudder, which was retrieved some years ago
when it appeared in an oyster dredge and was brought to
the surface by Captain Zadak Sharp. It was presented to
the museum in 1930.