The only woman to ever serve as the Horton Point Lighthouse keeper in Southold more than a century ago was omitted from federal records — until now, thanks to local historians who recently rectified the oversight.
Stella Maria Prince Terry, who lived at the lighthouse for 34 years, held the title of acting assistant keeper from June 1903 through November 1904, but was not added to the U.S. Coast Guard’s official list of Women Lighthouse Keepers until a researcher at the Southold Historical Museum’s Nautical Museum at Horton Point noticed Terry wasn’t listed. The researcher then helped uncover records that corrected the lapse.
“Stella Maria Prince Terry has finally taken the appropriate place in history — with her female peers who served in this most atypical role,” the museum said in a statement. “She was a remarkable and extraordinary woman of her day.”
As of February 17, Terry is now listed among 139 women keepers who served at lighthouses nationwide between 1828 and 1947. The correction was made just in time for Women’s History Month in March. Mary Korpi, a volunteer docent at the museum, discovered the omission while researching Terry’s story.
Korpi then alerted the Coast Guard of the oversight, but rectifying it required assistance from a local reference librarian and an archivist at the National Archives in New York City, where federal employment records are housed on microfiche, to verify Terry’s title.
The process took months. Korpi later used her research as the basis of a historical fiction novel, The Lady Lighthouse Keeper, which was published last year.