Digest>Archives> October 2009

From the Dusty Pages of Time

1919 Lighthouse Keeper Denied Compensation For Bull Attack


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West Sister Island Lighthouse as it appeared in ...

You never know what you might stumble across while researching lighthouse history as Neil Hurley, historian of the Florida Lighthouse Association, recently did.

In the “Third Annual Report of the U.S. Employees Compensation Commission of July 1, 1918 to June 20, 1919 the following headline jumped out.


The report went on to read, “Chancie Fitzmorris, a lighthouse keeper at West Sister Island Light Station, Port Clinton, Ohio, was injured on March 31, 1919, when he was attacked and hooked by a bull. Inquiry in regard to the exact circumstances of the injury show that the lighthouse keeper lives on an island in Lake Erie, his nearest point of supplies being about 18 miles away. He raises crops and some live stock on this Government reservation for his own use. Outbuildings for use in this connection are furnished and maintained by the Government. At the time of his injury the keeper was engaged in his usual daily routine chores. The animal which inflicted the injury was the personal property of the claimant. “

“In view of the foregoing facts it is held that the claimant was engaged on his own personal business and the injury was not sustained while in the performance of duty for the Government. Claim for compensation is accordingly disallowed.”

I guess we can’t blame the keeper for asking for some compensation, especially since his request provides some insight and typical dangers encountered by lighthouse keepers in their effort to survive on the meager salary they were paid by the Lighthouse Service. However, the lighthouse keeper should have probably known better than to actually apply for compensation.

While providing some insight into Government bureaucracy, the report also provides some humor for us nearly 100 years later.

This story appeared in the October 2009 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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