The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter


And she herself was the assistant lighthouse keeper.  As Flora Augusta Pearson, she arrived in the Puget Sound area in May 1866 as part of the second Asa Mercer expedition.  Her father, Daniel Pearson, had traveled to Washington Territory earlier with two of Flora’s older sisters among the first Mercer party. He eventually settled on Whidbey Island, where he became the keeper of the Red Bluff Lighthouse.  After joining her father, Flora served as the assistant lighthouse keeper from 1867-1878 (during which time she married, gave birth to a son, and saw her father retire).

In later years, as Flora A P Engle, she wrote prolifically about local history, including a series of articles that appeared in the Island County Times.  Some of this material was reprinted in two volumes in 2003.  Unfortunately, the Pacific Northwest Collection currently is without these items, but we do have a copy of Fifty Years Ago: Fifty Stanzas, a part of a cache of materials known as the “N-Pams,” which were cataloged once in the analog days of the card catalog, but somehow failed to make the transition to the digital era.  We’re trying to rectify that situation, but the going is slow and we sure could use some help.

Our copy of Fifty Years Ago (still the only holding listed in WorldCat) is inscribed, and also contains a newspaper clipping with an additional piece by, as well as a portrait of, its  author (shown above).  As the subtitle suggests, the poem offers fifty stanzas in which Engle juxtaposes the Puget Sound landscape she encountered when she first arrived with 1916 developments.  As a representative example, here’s stanza XXXIII:

No Meany nor Kincaid had we,
Nor other learn’d “high brow”,
But we made hist’ry ev’ry day,
To be studied up, right now.
We talked to the Indians in Chinook;
From our lips it did fluently flow;
And it served us better than Latin or Greek,
Fifty years ago.

Feel free to come in and read the rest.  I’m sure there is much more to be plumbed in Pearson’s career (not to mention in the N-Pams).  I had this title in mind for a blog post when I first cataloged the book, but never found the time to get around to writing it.  In anticipation of Monday’s Libraries Clean-up Day, however, as I started to try to organize a folder of still-unused images which had been scanned for the blog months ago, I was reminded of it anew and decided to write up something about Engle at last.  Trying to refresh my memory about her, I went to have a quick look at some of Engle’s newspaper writings the other day.  Selecting a microfilm reel of the Island County Times almost at random, what do you think I found?  A poem by Flora A P Engle entitled, “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter.”  Coincidence or fate?  You can check it out for yourself.  It’s on the first page of the issue for January 27, 1922.

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Although I am a native New Yorker, I seem drawn to the Pacific Northwest. My current gig as Manuscripts & Special Collections Cataloging Librarian at the University of Washington Libraries represents my third stint out here. Prior to coming to the UW, I have worked at the New York Public Library, King County Archives, New York University, and Columbia University (to name but a few).

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