Construction of island’s first lighthouse a historic thriller | Local News

Even way back when he was a little kid growing up in land-locked western Massachusetts, James Gould wanted someday to build a lighthouse.

But this childhood fancy grows to dramatic proportions in the capable hands of author Eugenia Price, the best-selling romance novelist famous for setting her characters on her beloved St. Simons Island.

“A dream,” Gould tells his new bride in Price’s 1971 bestseller, “Lighthouse.” “That’s all they mean. A dream. I’ve nothing to show for it except these plans — for the one thing I’ve ever wanted to build.”

Spoiler alert: James Gould goes on to build the first lighthouse on St. Simons Island, a 75-foot high structure completed late in 1810. But not without first going through heartache, triumph, tribulations galore, wilderness adventures in Spanish Florida, love, loss and laughter. It is all right there in Lighthouse, Price’s fictional take on the real-life journey of the man who built it.

A friend loaned me Lighthouse a few weeks ago, asserting that anyone writing about local history needs to read Price. I am an avid reader, but stomaching the syrupy stuff of romance novels has never sat quite well with me. But I heeded my friend’s advice and tackled Lighthouse. Sure enough, not only is the story set locally, but its very pages must have been produced from our tall Georgia pines. Sap oozes from every page.

But Price (1916-1996), a West Virginian who fell in love with St. Simons Island and made it her home, was a diligent historian. She pored over family letters, government contracts, birth certificates and other documents long before Google searches came along, tracking down elusive records from the Glynn County County Public Library all the way to the archives in Washington, D.C. There is plenty of adventure, romance and…

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