Justice for Stella Prince
Pictured Above: Stella Prince (right), who served as the keeper of the Horton Point Lighthose. |. Southold Historical Museum photo
Former Horton Point Lighthouse Keeper Stella Maria Prince Terry is taking her rightful place in history, after the Coast Guard added her to the official list of Women Lighthouse Keepers on February 17, 2023, 120 years after she served.
Ms. Prince was the only woman lighthouse keeper at Horton Point Lighthouse. From June 1903 through November 1904, she officially served as the ‘Acting Assistant Keeper’ – a federal job title indicating the holder to be the temporary head keeper by order of President Theodore Roosevelt. She lived with her family at Horton Point Lighthouse for 34 of her 60 years.
Mary Korpi, a volunteer docent at Southold Historical Museum’s Nautical Museum at Horton Point, learned of Ms. Prince’s work and searched original sources to uncover the untold story. From that research, Ms. Korpi wrote “The Lady Lighthouse Keeper,” a 2022 work of historical fiction based on the life of Stella Prince.
“I am proud of the work I did to get Stella the recognition she deserves,” said Ms. Korpi. “It took a LOT of persistence and patience but it has paid off.”
Ms. Korpi will discuss her campaign for “Justice for Stella,” along with her book, at the Suffolk County Historical Society on March 18 at 1 p.m..
“I will be speaking about my journey with Stella, from researching the book through getting her on the Coast Guard’s list,” she said. “The Suffolk Historical houses the Prince family collection donated by Helen Prince’s sons and last week I had the privilege of revisiting the journals I used for research and family photos. I felt like I was in an episode of Finding Your Roots. We selected a few of the artifacts that will be out for visitors to view the day of the talk.”
According to the Southold Historical Society, “one of the original documents Korpi examined was the Coast Guard’s Official list of Women Lighthouse Keepers authored by researchers Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford. The list included 138 women keepers who served between 1828 and 1947 but not Stella.”
Ms. Korpi worked with with Mark Mollan, Coast Guard Deputy Historian in Washington, D.C., to rectify this oversight.
“Over many months of email exchanges, Mollan explained that the Coast Guard required documentary evidence of Stella’s employment,” according to the Southold Historical Society. “However, since the Coast Guard did not oversee lighthouses until 1939, they did not have access to employment records for employees prior to that time.”
Mr. Mollan suggested Ms. Korpi contact the National Archives to obtain Ms. Prince’s employment history.
With the assistance of Reference Librarian Jerry Matovcik from the Mattituck-Laurel Library, Ms. Korpi contacted an archivist at the National Archives in New York City, where federal employment records are housed on microfiche. After many months of email exchanges, she obtained proof of Stella’s employment.
More info about Stella Prince’s work can now be found on the Coast Guard’s website.