Kate's Corner

Kate’s Corner #50

Saddleback Ledge Light Station, Maine, in an early 1900s postcard
U.S. Lighthouse Society archives

Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef. Sometimes differences between keepers led to fist fights.

On February 6, 1874, the Inspector of the 1st Lighthouse District informed the Board that during a difficulty brought on by his own conduct, Mr Nathaniel Bowden, 1st Assistant Keeper at Saddleback Ledge, Maine, attacked the keeper of that station, Mr. J.H. Orcutt, and pointed a loaded revolver at his head. “The Inspector does not regard Mr. Bowden as a person fitted for the position he holds, and considers it improper and dangerous for him to remain at the station.” The Board requested the removal of Mr. Bowden.

The Cape Elizabeth “Two Lights” Light Station in Maine in an old postcard
U.S. Lighthouse Society archives

In 1886 Lighthouse Inspector Batcheller wrote the Light-House Board chairman about trouble at Cape Elizabeth Light Station in Maine: “I regret to have to report a serious quarrel between the Principal and the 2nd Asst. Keeper . . . which resulted in an assault by the latter. The altercation commenced about a trivial matter and, had there not been bad feeling already existing between the parties, would probably have resulted in nothing but words . . ..”

Marcus Hanna
U.S. Lighthouse Society archives

“The 2nd Asst. Keeper Mr. Hiram Staples complained to the Principal Keeper Mr. Marcus Hanna, that certain repairs, which he could not make himself, were needed. The Principal Keeper admits saying ‘anyone but a jackass could make the repairs himself.’ The assistant claims he said ‘anyone but a d—–d jackass,’ etc. “Whatever statement is correct, the assistant responded by knocking the Principal Keeper down and, according to the latter, followed the blow with further blows and kicks. This the former denies but admIts his first blow. “The Principal Keeper claims that the Assistant was under the influence of liquor, which the latter denies, and I could find no evidence beyond the Principal Keeper’s statement to sustain the charge.” The Inspector recommended that Staples be dismissed from the service and that Hanna be reprimanded “for his undignified and improper part in the quarrel.”

Marquette Harbor Light Station, Michigan (U.S. Lighthouse Society)

On July 7, 1903, Robert Carlson, keeper at Marquette Light Station, Michigan, reported that “The keeper was assaulted and battered in the worst possible manner at 10 a.m. by Daniel Shelson while keeper and asst was working there.” The trouble arose on the evening of the sixth inst. when keeper informed a picnic party that in accordance with Inspector’s letter of July 1st, 1903 picnic parties and campfires would hereafter not be allowed. . . . [because of severe drought] The picnic was not on the beach, but in a centre of a grove of pine trees on the Lighthouse reservation. Keeper is unfit for duty at present and will be so for some days to come.
Mrs. Carlson is filling the vacancy made by the assault on the keeper. . . .The assistant keeper offered no assistance. . . . On July 9 a doctor examined eye and also throat, stating that the keeper will probably lose sight of eye and have hemorrhage of the throat. He is preferring charges against Mr. Shelson.

Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse, California
U.S. Lighthouse Society photo
by Mike & Carol McKinney

The keeper’s journal at Los Angeles Harbor Light Station in California has the following entry for November 23, 1913: “2nd asst. Keeper Hughes is this day suspended from duty for assaulting the Keeper on the morning of Nov. 14th . All keepers at this station are instructed that in future no distilled or malt liquors are to be brought to this station.”


Information is from National Archives Record
Group 26 Entry 24 and The Keeper’s Log.

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