Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2022

The-Good-for-Nothing Keeper?

By Timothy Harrison


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Sheffield Island Lighthouse in Norwalk, ...
Photo by: Dorothy Monigle

In the mid-1800s, newspapers, and even government officials, had no qualms about what they would put in print about someone. Such was the case regarding Lewis Whitlock who, in 1845, was appointed the keeper of Connecticut’s Norwalk Lighthouse, which is now known as Sheffield Island Lighthouse.

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The gravesite headstone of lighthouse keeper ...

Apparently, the only reason Lewis Whitlock was appointed as the lighthouse keeper of the Norwalk Lighthouse was because of his political affiliation to the party in power at the time. The local Norwalk Gazette newspaper wrote, “Though a good-natured, good-for-nothing creature, Whitlock is about the last object, in which God’s image has not been wholly obliterated, that we should have selected for an officer [referring to the position of lighthouse keeper] of the United States of America.”

In 1850, the lighthouse inspector said in his report that 56-year-old keeper Whitlock lived alone and everything in the keeper’s quarters was a mess and nothing was as it should be. The inspector said that Lewis Whitlock was miserable and that he would continue to be so until such time as he got himself a wife.

In spite of that not-so-glowing report from the inspector, lighthouse keeper Lewis Whitlock remained on the job for another 11 years. However, he was fired on June 12, 1861 for unknown reasons. Government records simply indicate that he was “removed.”

Lewis Whitlock never did get married and he died at the age of 73 on February 10, 1867. The February 14, 1867 edition of the Hartford Courier newspaper reported that the coroner’s jury rendered his death as a stroke, caused by “sudden and violent excitement.” Somehow, we doubt it because of someone saying yes to marrying him.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2022 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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