Round Island is located in the shallow Mississippi Sound only 3 miles offshore of the entrance to the Pascagoula River. By the early 19th Century increasing coastal commerce had made the need for a lighthouse critical. This first Round Island lighthouse was completed December 1, 1833 at a cost of $5,895. It consisted of a 45-foot brick tower with adjacent quarters for the keeper and his family. The lamps were said to be visible over 12 miles away. In 1853 a Fresnel lens replaced the older Winslow Lewis Lamps.
Erosion gradually put the lighthouse in jeopardy and a second lighthouse replaced it in 1859 at a cost of $7,130. No records have been found of what happened to the original lighthouse but it is thought to have been storm damaged and dismantled. The new brick tower was 50-feet tall and topped with the more modern Fresnel lens. During the Civil War (1861-65) the light lens was temporarily removed by Confederate authorities to Montgomery for safekeeping from Union forces
The life of a lighthouse keeper, especially in those early times, was a solitary one. Most lived with their family and to break the monotony there were only occasional visitors or a trip back to the mainland. Salary in 1853 was $500 annually. The job was also dangerous. Hurricanes came with little forewarning. During one 19th Century hurricane the keeper and his family, trapped, took refuge in the tower and described waves crashing half way up the brick column.
In 1939 the U. S. Coast Guard took over the responsibility of all American lighthouses. The lighthouse was automated in 1944 but ultimately discontinued from service in 1954. The structure
suffered from the effects of disrepair and unrelenting wave erosion. Hurricane Georges the night of September 27, 1998, brought the tower toppling into the Gulf Concerted private and governmental efforts evolved to transfer the remaining base to more secure land where it rests today. The ventilation ball and lightning rod have been recovered and are in storage. Eventually, with funding, the entire structure will be rebuilt.
Modern navigation aids, including automated beacons and GPS, have replaced the manned lighthouses leaving them as poignant reminders of a past we can only imagine.
Primary Source: 150th Anniversary Round lsland Lighthouse by Brenda Finnegan, The Journal of the Jackson County Historical Society, 2008