Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2017

Edward D. Elliot – Last Civilian Keeper at Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse

By Timothy Harrison

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Lighthouse keeper Edward D. Elliot is shown here ...

Born on January 29, 1877 in Digby, Nova Scotia, Edward D. Elliot settled in Lubec, Maine where he worked first as a fisherman and later he worked for Booth Fisheries Co. Some government records and other documents spelled his last name with two t’s as Edward D. Elliott.

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Lighthouse keeper Edward D. Elliot cleaning the ...

Edward D. Elliot joined the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1923 and his first assignment was at Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse. His wife, Maude A. Lyle, whom he married in1898, joined him at Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse, but one of their two sons stayed in Lubec to finish high school with his friends and graduated in 1924. One of his sons, Jack Edward Elliot became a noted minister under the name of J. Edward Elliot and his mentioned in many newspaper stories of the time.

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Maude Elliot (1877-1957), wife of Edward D. ...

Edward Elliot and his wife were good friends of Fred W. Morong Jr., the District Lighthouse Inspector who wrote the famous lighthouse poem “It’s Brasswork.”

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Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse with its Fresnel lens. ...

In 1930 he was sent to Cuckolds Lighthouse in Boothbay Harbor, Maine where he was credited with saving the lives of seven people who were adrift in a small boat.

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Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse as it appeared in 1992 ...

In 1934 Edward D. Elliott was appointed as the head keeper of Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine to replace Joseph H. Upton who had died as a result of a fall at the lighthouse.

In 1939 when the United States Coast Guard took over the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Edward D. Elliot decided to stay on as a civilian keeper, rather than becoming a military keeper, giving him the unique distinction of being the last civilian lighthouse keeper to serve at the famous Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse.

The Cape Elizabeth Historical Society in its publication “Cape Elizabeth, Past to Present,” gave the following interesting account of keeper Elliot:

“Lighthouse keepers were known for the humor they interjected into lives which were often beset with tragic circumstances. Captain Edward Elliot, last keeper of the Cape Elizabeth Light before it came under the aegis of the United States Coast Guard, relieved one of the tensions of World War II days in a manner uniquely his. He owned a cottage in nearby Staples (Hannaford) Cove that he rented to a lady who had repeated complained of the beams from the lighthouse interrupting her sleep.

“On the morning that he received his orders to shut down the light due to coastal blackout, he paid his tenant a visit. He apologized for the light disturbing her sleep and told her he had decided to turn it off. The lady was most grateful to him, thinking it a personal favor until she read the newspaper the next day.”

Edward D. Elliot retired from Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse in 1946 and spent much of his retirement years visiting family and friends in Lubec, Maine. He died on April 22, 1961 and was buried in the Seaside Cemetery in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Hopefully the day will come when his tombstone will be marked with a U.S. Lighthouse Service Memorial Lighthouse Keeper Plaque.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2017 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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