Jordan was presumably a family member of the W.S. Jordan & Company, a firm
that was hired by the government to furnish supplies to many of Maine’s
Jordan’s journal started in the spring of 1879 and his notes, some very
brief, while others a little longer, continued through 1883 when the written
work became very sparse as though he lost interest in keeping detailed
records. The last written words entered in the journal occurred on January
24, 1884 noting, “Received a letter from a letter, Mrs. Stanley, Monhegan.”
Apparently, Jordan realizing the isolation and lonesomeness of some Maine’s
remote offshore stations such as Boon Island, Mt. Desert Rock, Matinicus,
Petit Manan and Saddleback lighthouses, decided to include, on his own
accord and at his own expense, newspapers, magazines and books in the boxes
of supplies that were shipped out on the lighthouse tenders and to the
lightship, which was anchored in the waters off Portland.
Tim Harrison, president of the American Lighthouse Foundation, said the
unprecedented discovery of this journal opens a new door on saving and
preserving Maine’s lighthouse history, saying, “The written journal exposes
the isolation first hand that the families of many lighthouse keepers
endured. Jordan not only details some of what he sent out and the
correspondence he included to the keepers, he also wrote down excerpts of
the letters he received back from the keepers.” Harrison said it would be
wonderful if some of those old letters had been saved and would surface
someday, but admits that is doubtful.
At one point Jordan tells of how he and a friend, Hattie Shaw, made some
scrapbooks that they sent to such places as Matinicus Rock Lighthouse as
well as for the crew of the Lighthouse Service Tender Iris. Several
months later he received a wonderful letter back from John Grant, the
lighthouse keeper of Matinicus Rock thanking him for all the material and
how much the children enjoyed the scrapbook.
Many times he would ask the keepers, when finished with the scrapbooks that
they sign the book and give it to the lighthouse tender to pass on to other
lighthouses. One scrapbook sent out in April of 1880, circulated to
Saddleback, Mt. Desert, Boon Island, Whaleback, Isle of Shoals, Portsmouth
Harbor and finally arrived in September of 1883 to keeper George L. Upton of
Petit Manan Light near Milbridge, Maine.
In September of 1883, he writes of Mr. Wade, a newspaper reporter, who
discovered what he was doing and wrote a story about it requesting people to
drop off books and magazines to W. S. Jordan and Co. on Commercial Street in
Portland to be included in packages that would be going out by October 1st
of that year.
According to Jordan’s journal, Wade wrote, “The picture books are god-sends
to the children. The families of the lighteners rarely get to the mainland.
One lightkeeper some time ago, situated in a lonely lighthouse out in the
ocean had nine daughters and only once in several years did these girls ever
get to the mainland. All their school books and reading were sent to them
and they were educated at the light. It is astonishing often to see what an
intelligent set of men these isolated hermits are to whose skill and
unwearied attention is due the safety of so many lives and so much
After Wade’s story appeared in the newspaper, Jordan must have been
overwhelmed, as he wrote. “There were many packages, bundles and boxes
coming from all directions.” He went on by saying that he sent packages to
more lighthouses than he had ever been able to do prior with his own
resources. This may have been the reason that right after this, he only
wrote a few notes with the dates and names of the keepers he received
responses from and did not record what was written in the letters.
Harrison said, “As more people find out what we at the American Lighthouse
Foundation are trying to do in saving Maine’s lighthouse history and
heritage more material and rare items are being donated. However, the
biggest obstacle the organization is encountering is the financial resources
to keep documenting and preserving these rare artifacts. Financial
contributions are not keeping up with the preservations tasks at hand. We
asking for the public’s help with financial support to maintain the fast
pace associated with the many projects we have at hand.”
To learn more about the nonprofit American Lighthouse Foundation or their
Museum of Lighthouse History or make a donation you can contact us at P.O.
Box 889, Wells, Maine 04090, Phone number 207-646-0245 or email at: