Egmont and Jewfish Keys
Egmont Key was named in honor of John Perceval, the second Earl of Egmont Key, who played an active part in Tampa Bay history. Egmont Key witnessed the passing of Spanish Conquistadors and English Privateers in wooden sailing ships. This was the struggle between brothers in blue and gray with ships of steam and iron, and finally the giants of today, steel hulled, oil driven and satellite guided.
In the 1830's the town of Tampa had begun to develop into a bustling seaport. As the shipping increased so did the number of groundings on the sandbars off Egmont Key. To remedy the situation the citizens of Tampa petitioned the Federal Government for construction of a lighthouse at the entrance of the bay. On March 3rd, 1847 Congress authorized funds to erect a lighthouse on Egmont Key. The Egmont Key lighthouse construction was completed in May 1847 at a cost of $7,050.00 by Francis A. Gibbons of Baltimore, Maryland. At the time it was completed the Egmont Key Lighthouse was the only one between St. Marks and Key West. The first lightkeeper, Sherrod (Marvel) Edwards, did not remain on the island very long. The great hurricane of 1847 struck between September 23 and the 25th, 1847 and did extensive damage to the Egmont Key Lighthouse.
The tides during the hurricane were reported to be almost 15 feet above normal and the island had over 9 feet of water over it. Edwards and his family sought refuge in a small boat he had tied off to a cabbage palm. They rode out the storm in the boat and after the winds and the seas had subsided, Edwards rowed the boat to Tampa and resigned on the spot. Damage to the Egmont Key Lighthouse by this and subsequent hurricanes in 1848 and 1852 prompted Congress on August 10th, 1856 to appropriate $16,000.00 to rebuild the Egmont Key Lighthouse and also the lightkeeper's dwelling.
In 1848 the second Egmont Key Lighthouse designed to "withstand any storm" was completed. A tribute to the men who designed and built it, this tower still stands today. The new Egmont Key Lighthouse was approx.120 feet tall and it's lighting equipment was the most modern of its time. The lantern consisted of a fixed fourth order fresnel lens with an Argard lamp which burned whale oil.