Captain Joshua Card here, keeping the light at Portsmouth Harbor Light here on the New Hampshire coast. Today’s entry will be brief. I want to tell you about Asa L. Jones and his son down at Monomoy Point Light Station off Chatham on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Jones was a contemporary of mine.
Asa Jones, a native of the Cape Cod town of Harwich, was keeper at Monomoy Point from 1875 to 1886. Jones, who was born in 1840, had been wounded in the Civil War. His young son, Maro B. Jones, kept a diary that provides us a glimpse of life at the light station in the 1884–86 period.
Here are some excerpts from the diary, beginning when Maro was eight or nine years old:
March 25, 1884: Good weather. Papa killed a black duck.
March 31, 1884: Good weather. Papa bound a book. Seven geese came to the pond. Papa tried to shoot them.
April 6, 1884: Good weather. Papa got three shelldrakes. I scared them for Papa to shoot.
May 3, 1884: Papa went to Harwich. A lonesome day. I sent a letter to Harper’s Young People.
May 16, 1884: Very pleasant day. Papa painted his lantern.
May 29, 1884: Windy. I went with Uncle Willie to haul his nets. I went to the Station. Mama and Papa were worried about me.
June 17, 1884: Awful hot. Papa caught a rabbit.
June 22, 1884: Very good weather. THE INSPECTOR WAS HERE.
August 8, 1884: Mama and I went blackberrying.
August 10, 1884: Papa caught 81 bluefish.
June 19, 1886: The surveyors went home. Papa carried them to Chatham. The ass’t inspector came and wrote “Station in good order.”
June 28, 1886: Papa went to Harwich and he carried the first load of things from here so the people knew we were to move off. The weir men have got a live sturgeon tied and he is tame.
July 4, 1886: Not much of a Fourth of July for me. I never saw as much as an explosion with gunpowder. It is funny that today has been the most lonesome day of the summer. In the PM the drinkers of Harwich Center came after some quahogs for bait to catch black bass.
July 26, 1886: Mr. Ben Mallowes has got a sort of turtle and it looks like a sea cow. No one knows what it is, not even old whalers and Papa is going to write a man to come and get it.
July 30, 1886: Eddie Marshall came up and said the monster was dead. Thank the lord we came off for good. The wind was south west and Mama was seasick. In the bay were the largest waves I ever saw.
After retiring as keeper, Asa Jones ran an undertaking business in Harwich.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org