Old Neb, the lighthouse horse

Old Neb

Old Neb with his wagon were photographed around 1925 at the Cape St. George Lighthouse. Pictured here are Bessie Roberts, wife of then-Assistant Lighthouse Keeper Walter (Pete) Roberts, Jr., seated on Neb; Malveena Silva, daughter-in-law of Keeper David Silva; and Keeper David Silva.

From St. George Island Lighthouse Association collection
Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 15:18 PM.

Old Neb, a gentle brown horse, was a part of the lighthouse staff and a resident of Little St. George Island for almost 50 years.

In the days when a lighthouse keeper was resident on Little St. George Island, he and his family were aided and entertained by a number of companion animals. In his book “Lighthouses and Living Along the Florida Gulf Coast,” Pete Roberts, a former keeper at the Cape St. George Light mentions a dog named Trixie, a pig named Alice and a Shetland pony named Prince given to the family by Neel Hinckley. Prince was transported to the island by fishing boat. When the pony refused to pull a fire engine red cart purchased from the Montgomery Ward catalogue, a wild goat, Billy, was cut from a herd on Sand Island by Trixie, lassoed and pressed into service, adding another animal to the Roberts’ entourage.

Joe Barber’s family once owned the island and he lived there briefly as a child and visited it frequently to hunt and fish for decades. He said Herbert Marshall once carried rabbits to the island and released them, but they didn’t survive long. Probably a very good thing, in retrospect, since introduced rabbits have decimated the landscape on a number of other islands including Australia.

Marshall also acquired a flock of chickens. At the time, Nick Fortunas had an airplane, and the chickens were herded onto the plane and released onto St. George Island from the air. Barber said they fluttered to earth and the flock reproduced and survived for some years.

Perhaps the most memorable of the animals inhabiting Little St. George was Old Neb.

Barber said Neb was born on the island and lived there his entire long life. He must have been born around the turn-of-the-century and he was still a resident of the lighthouse compound during World War II. He is said to have reached the age of 48.

Neb was one of a small herd of horses kept by Marshall. The animals foraged at will on the rugged barrier island and one was felled by a lightning bolt during a summer storm.



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