Throughout the history of lighthouses, keepers could not tend the light or clean the tower from top to bottom without climbing a set of stairs to reach the lantern. It was task that could be required a number of times per day and undertaken as just part of the job. If the lighthouse was a taller tower, the effort could become more physically arduous, but rarely do you read about a mishap involving the stairs.
From time to time, no doubt keepers did trip and/or fall while carrying out their duties inside a lighthouse, but aside from some bumps and bruises, they picked themselves up and went about their business again. However, in the instance of keeper Joseph H. Upton at Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse, a fall on the tower staircase proved tragic.
The following news story appeared in the Lewiston Sun Journal, January 15, 1934…
Keeper of Cape Elizabeth Light is Fatally Injured
Capt. Joseph H. Upton’s Skull Fractured in Fall Down Stairs…Portland, Jan. 14 – (AP) – Capt. Joseph H. Upton, head keeper at the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse station, more widely known as ‘Two Lights,’ died today of injuries he received last night when he fell on the stairs of the lighthouse tower.
Upton had gone up the tower to adjust the auxiliary beacon, which he had lighted when the main light failed after losing its power because of the storm.
When he failed to return, Mrs. Upton called to him and then climbed the stairs to investigate. She found her husband lying unconscious at the foot of the stairs, his skull fractured in two places. A physician was called, but the keeper failed to rally.
Capt. Upton had served in several lighthouse stations along the coast, including Matinicus Rock and Isles of Shoals, off the New Hampshire coast. He was 65 years old.