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Ida Lewis: The Girl Who Kept Lime Rock Burning
by [?]

This came to be the accepted fashion among captains of the schooners which in that day plied so frequently between New York and Newport, and many a letter of thanks, or a more substantial remembrance, did she receive from some one she had piloted across the angry bay.

Soldiers trying to reach the fort, or sailors anxious to row out to their ships, always found a ready ferry-woman in Ida, and before the Lewis family had been in the lighthouse for many months she was one of the most popular young persons on land or sea within many miles–for who had ever before seen such a seaworthy young mariner as she, or where could such a fund of nautical wisdom be discovered as was stored in her clear head? This question was asked in affectionate pride by more than one good seaman who had become Ida’s intimate friend at the close of her first year on Lime Rock, while all the skippers had an intense admiration for the girl who not only handled her life-boat with a man’s skill, but who kept the light filled and trimmed and burning to save her father steps, now that he was crippled with rheumatism.

The heat of summer had given place to the crisp coolness of a glorious October day as Ida was just starting to row to the mainland to do an errand for her mother. She looked out of the window, across the bay, to see if there was any prospect of a shower, and her keen eyes glimpsed a sight that made her hurry for the glass. Looking through it, she gave a sharp cry and rushed to the door.

“What is it, daughter?” the captain queried.

But Ida was already out of the house. So he hobbled slowly to the window and, with the use of the glass Ida had dropped, saw his energetic child push the life-boat out of its shelter, drag it to the shore, jump in and row rapidly to the middle of the bay where a pleasure-boat had capsized. There were four men in the water, struggling with the high waves which momentarily threatened to overcome them. When Ida reached them in her life-boat, two were clinging to the overturned craft, and two were making a desperate effort to swim toward shore. The watching captain, through his glass, saw Ida row close to the capsized boat and with strong, steady hands pull and drag one after another of the men into her boat. When they were all in, she rowed with sure strokes back across the stormy water, carrying her load of human freight to shore and receiving their thanks as modestly as if she had not done a remarkable deed for a girl of seventeen. A very fine piece of work was Ida’s first rescue, but by no means her last. She loved to row out in a storm and dare the winds and waves to do their worst, and she grew to think her mission a clear one, as life-saver of the light.

A year after her first experience as life-saver, her father, who had recently been paralyzed, died, and so capable was his eighteen-year-old daughter in doing his duties that she was allowed to continue in the care of the light until her father’s successor should be appointed. When the news came to her, Ida’s eyes gleamed, as if in anticipation of some happy event, and to her devoted Newfoundland dog she exclaimed: “We love it too well to give it up to anybody; don’t we, doggie dear? We will succeed to ourselves!” And she did succeed to herself, being finally made keeper of the light by special act of Congress–the appointment being conferred upon her in 1879 by General Sherman as a compliment to her ability and bravery; doubtless because of the recommendation of those fishermen and seamen whose respect for the brave girl was great and who did not wish the government to remove her. In any case, she was chosen for the responsible position as successor to her father, and to herself, as she quaintly put it, and more and more she became devoted to every stone of the small promontory, and to every smallest duty in connection with her work and her island home.