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.


Thoughts of Alaska

Front cover of "Thoughts of Alaska" by Harry C. Bosch
Front cover of "Thoughts of Alaska" by Harry C. Bosch

I suppose I would be remiss in letting National Poetry Month slip away completely unnoticed on this blog.  In honor of the occasion, here is a sample from one of the more unusual items to surface recently, the final piece in Thoughts of Alaska, a slim volume of poems by Harry C. Bosch.


Go back to Bering–
Still comes the yearning,
Go back again,
When the sun swings around;
Go back with the wildbirds
In Springtime returning
Go back
When the wildflowers peep from the ground.
But my feet are getting restless
Writing this refrain.
Are you going to Alaska?
Is the thought I think again.

So far, the Pacific Northwest Collection holds the only cataloged copy of this collection of poems.  While it may not prove to be the only copy of the book in existence, I would venture to guess that each copy of this work probably would be somewhat unique, “bound” as this one is, between two strips of bark.

And who was Harry C. Bosch?  We certainly would be interested in finding out more.  In spite of Edna’s sleuthing, the most solid lead that turned up was an entry in the 1930 United States Census, which indicated that most likely this same Harry C. Bosch was working as a copper miner at the Erie Mine in Kennicott, Alaska at the time the census was taken.  A few other possible and intriguing facts about Bosch’s life emerged in the course of the limited amount of  time that could be devoted to researching this piece, but these lay more in the realm of pure speculation and will not be shared here.  So, if you do know anything more about Mr. Bosch, please feel free to write in.  For now, just enjoy the poem and contemplate what now reads (to me, anyway) as an equally mournful picture of the Erie Mine site below, taken many years before Bosch may have worked there.

John E. Thwaites photograph of Kennecott Mines Company Mine, circa 1912
John E. Thwaites photograph of Kennecott Mines Company Mine, circa 1912

Image credits:

1. Scan of front cover of Thoughts of Alaska

2. Erie Mine, Kennecott, Alaska,  John E. Thwaites Photograph Collection. PH Coll 247, Negative number THWAITES 247.19