Better known as a pre-Revolutionary War physician, Major General John Thomas and his wife Hannah doubled as the light keepers at the Gurnet Light, marking the entrance to Plymouth, Massachusetts harbor.

Photograph courtesy National Archives

In 1768, residents built a twin lighthouse on land rented for five shillings a year from John and Hannah Thomas. John served as the first keeper until joining the Continental Army. After serving admirably during the Siege of Boston, the Continental Army recognized his leadership talents and sent him to Canada to assume leadership of the stalled Rebel invasion. Taking over command, Thomas led the retreat of the overmatched Continental Army until he died of smallpox at Fort Chambly, Quebec, on June 2, 1776.

Memorial Marker Fort Chambly, Quebec, Canada

Along with raising their three children, Hannah took over John’s lighthouse post, making her the first female lighthouse keeper in America. For more information on the Revolutionary War events associated with the Gurnet Light, see the Lighthouse Friends website and the Hull Lifesaving Museum.