Camp McDougal was established in 1937 as an advanced training camp for anti-aircraft units and defense battalions. It consisted of barracks, a mess hall, a hospital, an exchange, a recreation room, a boiler and hot water house, ammunitions shelters, vehicle sheds, a headquarters building, a pump house and a water tower.
During war years, Camp McDougal held a compliment of 500 marines and 250 coast guardsmen. The Commander of the Coast Guard detachment was James Edwin McTeer, who also was the Beaufort County Sheriff for 37 years. Marines paved the first road on the island, which ran from the ferry landing at Jenkins Island to the lighthouse.
During World War II, the structure served as an important lookout tower for enemy ships.
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