A Lovely Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter

Posted July 3, 2019 at 5:52 am by

Here’s the month­ly His­to­ry Col­umn for July from San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Museum… 

In this Cen­ten­ni­al year for the Lime Kiln Point Light­house, let’s fast for­ward from its open­ing in 1919 to Octo­ber of 1935.

This is when light­house keep­er Arvel Set­tles arrived from his assign­ment in West­port, Wash­ing­ton to start the next phase of his career at the Lime Kiln Point sta­tion. He and his fam­i­ly set­tled into the light­house keeper’s house on the left, pic­tured here and stand­ing today at Lime Kiln Point State Park.

The three bed­room house was quite cozy, as they say, with wife Hel­ga, five chil­dren (Jack, Eve­lyn, Eleanor, Charles, Agnes) and Helga’s moth­er, Hilma Lindquist. Also pic­tured here is Agnes Set­tles in the rose gar­den at the front of the house.

Born at the West­port light sta­tion in 1931, she is our Light­house Keeper’s Daugh­ter. Her sis­ters and oth­er daugh­ters of light­house keep­ers can right­ful­ly claim the title as well, but it’s this pho­to we have of Agnes in the ros­es that helps tell the sto­ry of this spe­cial place.

Hel­ga Set­tles recalled that the ros­es, plant­ed by a pre­vi­ous res­i­dent, were still bloom­ing the Octo­ber day she and her fam­i­ly arrived for what was to be a sev­en year assign­ment until Arvel retired from the Light­house Ser­vice in 1942. Dur­ing their time at Lime Kiln Point, Arvel paid his chil­dren ten cents to wind up the weights that kept the lens revolv­ing for the light­house lantern. (There was also an assis­tant light­house keep­er, with an alter­nate 12-hour shift, sev­en days a week.)

Hel­ga tend­ed a large veg­etable gar­den and cooked on a wood­stove. The Set­tles’ home was illu­mi­nat­ed at night with oil lamps as elec­tric­i­ty from the main­land did not come to the light sta­tion until 1951. Since we can see a pow­er pole in the low­er right cor­ner of the pho­to, we can date this image of the hous­es to the ear­ly 1950s. 

Some­thing else we can see in this vin­tage pho­to is that it was orig­i­nal­ly mis­la­beled as “Oceano­graph­ic Lab­o­ra­to­ries – Fri­day Har­bor.” Indeed, it is not. The dig­i­tized image of this pho­to is cor­rect­ly labeled in the archival image col­lec­tion of the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Muse­um. We are grate­ful for research vol­un­teers who are impor­tant keep­ers of his­to­ry — the accu­rate kind.

After 1942 the Set­tles fam­i­ly lived in town, Agnes grad­u­at­ed from Fri­day Har­bor High School in the Class of 1950, mar­ried Nor­man Mur­ray, and raised five chil­dren on the island. Agnes shared her fond mem­o­ries of a sea­side child­hood at the light­house with fam­i­ly and friends all her life. Anoth­er love­ly pho­to­graph of Agnes may be seen in her 2015 obit­u­ary in the San Juan Jour­nal here. We thank the Mur­ray fam­i­ly for shar­ing pho­tographs and mem­o­ries so dear to Agnes’ heart.

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Categories: History, People
One comment:

One comment...

  1. Thanks for post­ing this, Tim. Hap­py 100 to our light­house! May it for­ev­er beam!

    Comment by Shaun Hubbard on July 3, 2019 at 10:00 pm

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