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How Rachel Became “Rachel”

| March 27, 2021
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Personally, I cannot believe it is nearly the end of March.  To me it seems like only “a couple of days ago” it was February and I was trying to find something really good for my wife’s birthday (which I didn’t find by the way).  Now – poof – in less than a week it will be April, Easter weekend and, of course, April Fools’ Day.  As a man raising two daughters, I will not let March past without touching upon Women’s History Month.

If one were to initiate a simple internet search like I did of “interesting women in history” you could spend hours, again like I did, sorting through all sorts of search results.  One of the better, concise articles I read is this one: https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/03/28/25-of-the-most-influential-women-in-american-history/  Of course there were many, many more results I could have shared.  However, I want to share a story that is personal to my family and it is about a woman to whom I am semi-related.  That would be my great-great-great-great-great (yes, five ‘greats’) Grandfather’s second wife: Rachel Wolcott.

Let’s start with my Grandfather: Benajah Wolcott (yes, this is how I am related to Oliver Wolcott, signer of the Declaration of Independence).  Benajah moved to the Firelands area of Ohio after the Revolutionary War.  He became the first lightkeeper in 1821 when what is now called the Marblehead Lighthouse was built.  Benajah died during a cholera outbreak in 1832.  Rachel Wolcott then took over the duties of keeping the lighthouse lit for two years until she remarried.  She is credited as being the first female Lightkeeper, although this fact was obscured for many years.  The story I had heard from my Grandparents (and you may need to take this with a grain of salt), is that it wasn’t until the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society was formed in the late 1990’s that a factual representation of the “Keepers of the Light” was researched.  It took some work but Rachel Wolcott finally got her recognition and the history books got the record straight.  Prior to the work by the historical society, there had been no mention of Rachel’s work and only Rachel’s second husband was credited for being the second Keeper after Benajah.

Today it is commonplace to see Rachel Wolcott’s name where it belongs in the records of the Marblehead Keepers.  Even the Coast Guard, the current Keepers of the Light, acknowledge her in their publications:  https://coastguardnews.com/legacy-of-light-marblehead-light-etched-in-great-lakes-history/2019/08/06/

If you ever find yourself along the southern shores of Lake Erie and are looking for a quaint outing, you may want to check out the Lighthouse in person.  You can obtain more information here: https://www.marbleheadlighthouseohio.org/

If you do visit the Lighthouse, please be certain to walk through the museum.  Inside you’ll find the story of Rachel Wolcott, which also means you’ll be standing in the same spot where my then 7-month pregnant wife once stood.  She looked at me and said “Rachel!  If it’s a girl we’ll name her Rachel.”  Two months later, that’s exactly what we did.  (And a small note from the editor, Heather: I am sure I was reading a sign outside of the nearby Keeper’s house when I read and decided on the name Rachel, but the strength and role of Rachel Wolcott still stands.)

Please remember that we are “here” and available for you as well.  If you have any questions or concerns, financial or otherwise, please do not hesitate to call or email.  If you have friends, family, or neighbors you feel would benefit from a conversation with me, I’m more than happy to have a call or jump on a Zoom meeting with them. 

As always, I hope that you are doing well, and staying safe & healthy! 

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