Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2016

Seven Lighthouse Keepers Honored with Grave Markers

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U.S. Coast Guard salute and final honors ...

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This past July 27th seven lighthouse keepers were honored in a ceremony to place historical United States Lighthouse Service lighthouse keeper markers at their gravesites at the Mt. Height Cemetery in Southwest Harbor, Maine.

The Lighthouse Digest sponsored event was cosponsored by the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum, David W. Granston III, Wreaths Across America, West Quoddy Head Lighthouse Keepers Association, Dorothy Meyer, the Muise family, and others.

Under the blazing heat of the afternoon sun on one of the hottest days of the season, the tent canopies offered little relief from the heat and the humidity as speakers told the stories of the amazing lives of the seven lighthouse keepers who served as far back 1871 and all the way up to 1952 at a large number of lighthouses on the rock-bound coast of Maine. As the speakers spoke and the musicians performed lighthouse songs, the United States Coast Guard Color Guard from Southwest Harbor, Maine stood at full attention under the steamy rays of the hot sun during the hour-long ceremony, never moving a flinch.

Elaine Jones, Education Director of the Maine Department of Marine Resources who oversaw the restoration of Maine’s Burnt Island Lighthouse, spoke of the lives of keepers Joseph Muise and Albert Staples who were stationed at Burnt Island Lighthouse and Cornelia Cesari, president of Keepers of Baker Island talked about the tragic event that befell the Muise family at Baker Island Lighthouse. Diana Bolton, Chairperson of the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum, offered remarks via letter on the life of Joseph M. Gray, and saying how honored they were to be a cosponsor of this historic event.

Timothy Harrison of Lighthouse Digest then covered the lives of the rest of lighthouse keepers who were honored James A Morris, Elmer Conary, Leverett S. Stanley, Joseph M. Gray, and Howard “Bob” Gray.

Harrison also talked about the roles of the lighthouse families, especially the wives of lighthouse keepers. Harrison citied in particular the story of Alice Morris, wife of lighthouse keeper James A Morris, who in 1882 had to row her ill husband and three children in the large lighthouse dory some twenty miles from the isolated and remote Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse to the mainland and a doctor. By the time she reached the mainland, her hands were bloody and blistered from rowing. To make matters worse, the doctors said that James Morris could only be treated at a Boston hospital, so the family took a steamship to Boston. Upon her arrival in Boston, Alice Morris received a telegram telling her that she needed to return to Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse to fulfill her husband’s duties or he might be fired. She returned to the lighthouse and her husband returned shortly thereafter, only to subsequently die at the desolate Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse.

Chief Brain Hawkins, OIC of the Aids to Navigation of the U.S. Coast Guard in Southwest Harbor, Maine, told of the development of lighthouses over the years and of Coast Guard’s modern role with lighthouses. A letter was read from United States Senator Angus King who publicly thanked those who made the event possible, and he reminded those in attendance of the sacrifices that were made by the lighthouse keepers of Maine for the safe commerce of all.

Watch for the individual in-depth life stories of all of these keepers that will appear in future issues of Lighthouse Digest. Interestingly, there are 12 more lighthouse keepers buried in this same cemetery, and they will be honored with lighthouse keeper markers in the very near future. (Photos by Kathleen Finnegan.)

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2016 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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