Tuesday, August 10, 2010



In Flanders Field the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place......

Louis J. Herman
Flanders Field American Cemetery
108Th Infantry Regiment
27Th Infantry Division
O'Ryan's Roughnecks

I remember the day, the hour, the moment I first saw the entry written in the pen of the head lighthouse keeper, Charles Hunter. Recorded shortly after the close of WWI it simply stated, "Keeper Edward Herman is planting a walnut tree on the Marblehead lighthouse grounds in memory of his cousin who was killed during the war."

The name was not recorded in the log book on that particular day, in that hour, in that moment of time. Until that entry caught my eye I had no knowledge of any individual in my family killed in any war. Now, I was staring at an acknowledgment of one such person. Who, I wondered was he, or she for that matter? I asked family members. I received no answers. There were no answers because no one remembered. Since no one remembered I was drawn to find the answer.

The answer would take a long time to find. It would take over a year and I would learn it almost to the day of his death. You see, history, as I have said before, has it's own time, it's own place and one cannot expect an immediate answer. And, history has a way of finding it's rightful owner.

In November of 2009 I visited the Marblehead Lighthouse for the first time since the late 1970's when it had stood as a ghostly reminder of a once glorious past. Now, I was going back to a place that held for me a different light. One, which was guiding my research and my path on a journey to learn about my family and about lighthouse history. I did not know that November I was taking back to Texas a remnant of that history. I also did not know just how significant that little souvenir would be in the greater picture of my life.

I took back a walnut from one of the trees that stood guard over the keeper's residence. Not because I was drawn to it as a remembrance of a past, but as a remembrance of the here and now.

The walnut grows inside a large outer shell. Squirrels must gnaw the outer covering to expose the shell. The other-worldly sound made by the gnawing of the outer shell was in competition with the wind in the tree branches. My husband took a photograph. It was to remember this place. It was of a walnut tree. It was of my past. I did not know that on this particular day, hour, and moment.

Then I read the entry one night. And I needed to know the history. My husband reminded me of the walnut we had taken that afternoon in November. Slipped silently into our suitcases, it now graced the shelf in my husband's study. I wanted to hold it, to touch a part of my own history, the one I did not know. And so, it came home to sit on my shelf, in my study. And I wondered about the person whose memory had caused it's planting.

A cousin is a nebulous word. In a large family it can mean many persons. Which part of what family did this cousin come from? Edward's mother or father? Ten or fifteen siblings can amount to a forest of cousins. Another needle in a hay-stack. I seemed to have many of them.

All of my research tricks came up empty. Was this cousin from Western New York State? Perhaps he was from family that had moved to Michigan, Illinois, or Wisconsin. Suddenly, there seemed to be multiple needles and many hay-stacks. Searches through census records and military records filled my ancestry.com shoe box. They gave me nothing for all my trouble.

It was summer, 2010. It was Memorial Day. I was working on the material for the Captain Herman web site. I was reminded of the unfinished walnut tree, an entry in a lighthouse log book and a person who was killed in a war. Once again, I began to search for the name. I needed to know.

May, June, July. Nothing. August arrived with the roar of the cicadas beneath my windows and the heat of Texas. I was working on the materials from the Edward Herman Collection. Suddenly, here it was. It always had been. It just had not been history's time for sharing. "It" was a Memorial Day program. Saved because it had a secret to share. It was for WWII Gold Star Mothers. I had never looked beyond that page. Until now. I opened it to see above the WWII Gold Star Mothers a handful of WWI Gold Star Mothers listed. And there I found my answer. Mrs. Mary Herman.

I did not know her. I did not know much about my great grandfather's family except where they were buried. All of them. Except one. Now I searched through the census records and learned Mary Herman had a husband, John and three sons in the 1910 census record. I searched the 1920 census records. John and Mary listed only two sons. I knew the answer to my question. I did not know the depth of that answer. Until I typed in Louis J. Herman into the military records for WWI, WWII, Korean War casualties. His was the first name on the list. He was from North Tonawanda, Niagara County, New York State. He was also not buried in the family cemetery.

He was killed at the age of twenty-one, before he ever had the chance to live life and he was buried far away from a mother and father and loving family. He was buried in Flanders Fields.

Now I remembered the name of John Herman. I was a small child holding tightly onto my grandmother's hand. We were at the North Tonawanda farmer's market. It was August. It was hot and the cicadas hummed in the Western New York trees. We were buying eggs on that particular day, that hour, that moment. A man came up to my grandmother and started talking to her in a language I didn't understand. It was the language of my ancestors. It was German. Half-way through the conversation, my grandmother must have remembered the little child who still held tightly onto her hand. She looked down at me and said, "This is my father's brother, John Herman." It was a strange way to be introduced to my great grandfather's brother. He was mine too. But she didn't tell me that.

It would take almost fifty years and a foreign country to realize the connection. It was to be found on Flanders Field. His name was Louis Herman. And he had a walnut tree planted in his memory by a lighthouse keeper. Now, part of that same walnut tree rested on a shelf in my study. And, his father had spoken to my grandmother in German while I held her hand one day in August. I had an answer to my long searched question.

I looked up the Flanders Field American Cemetery on line. I typed in his name. On this day of August 1o, 2010, Louis J. Herman was listed as follows;
War: WWI
Title: Private First Class, U. S. Army
Rank: Private First Class
Service: U.S. Army
Division: 108Th Infantry Regiment, 27Th Infantry Division

Date of death; August 13,1918.

He had served in the same Infantry Regiment and Infantry Division as Edward's younger brother, Charles Herman. Only, Charles returned home.

I am traveling to Europe in January. I am going to do something his Gold Star mother never had the opportunity to do. I am going to place flowers on his grave. And, maybe, just maybe a walnut.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Captain Edward had a brother, Charles Louis Herman. I also met him once many years ago. It was my first trip to Washington D.C., a trip that changed my life forever. I was a child in grade school. It was long before the civil rights movement, equal rights for women, the assassination of President Kennedy and the Vietnam War. It was mid-summer and it was hot-a heat unknown to me growing up on an island in the middle of the Niagara River.

It was also the first time I witnessed segregation, molasses on grits, immense poverty mixed with opulent white richness and plantations. I had read about them in history books. And now, I was seeing those pages with my own eyes. Pale green plates in diners filled with cakes of grits, covered in molasses and half filled pale green cups of coffee were images that have stayed in my memories. And there was another memory. Signs. Signs that were posted over falling apart drinking fountains and shabby unclean public restrooms. The only thing well kept were the signs that read, "Colored only". While we were looking at a history past, I did not realize I was living a history present.

It was this summer that my parents took me to Washington D.C. and I met Charles Herman. I did not know then he had served in the Revenue Cutter Service, went to war in France during WWI, had suffered the effects of mustard gas and had been employed at the Washington National Monument.

What I learned that week stayed with me and influenced how I "saw" history. Not through my eyes, but through the eyes of a person who cared deeply about preserving and caring for our nation's heritage. The wall in his living room was filled from top to bottom with signed photographs. All of them thanking him for the personal tour of the Monument and "making history come alive" for the signers. History had never come alive for me. Certainly not in school books.

Then I saw Washington D.C, our nation's capital. Through the eyes of Charles Herman. There were no security checks, no guards to stand over us, just Charles and my family. Lines stopped so we could go to the top of the Washington Nation Monument. The Lincoln Memorial, Robert E. Lee Mansion, The National Archives and more, much more. He laughed, he talked with the guards and everyone seemed to know him by name. He pointed out little bits of history-sure to have been missed by my childish eyes. "Look there", he would say, bending down to point out some feature on a monument.

And then, the "creme da la creme". It came the final afternoon of our visit as we were walking down the National Mall. He asked me if there was any place I might wish to see. Never ask a child that question. I looked up and saw a man standing at the top of the Capital Building. I thought to myself if he was up there then I wanted to go below. So, I told Charles I wanted to go into the basement of the Capital Building. Down we went to a place filled with objects and a dank, dark musty smell. But it was also the smell of history and I remember it well along with the grits, molasses, plantations and "Colored only" signs. That day became "my history".

When the decision was made to attend the National Archives wiki planning meeting and to finish digitally photographing the muster rolls for the Revenue Cutter Service ship the Lot. M. Morrill, I knew I had to find Charles Herman's grave. The summer before a cousin mentioned he had been in D.C. many years before and tried looking up his grave in the Arlington National Cemetery. We had always believed Charles was buried there. Looking through the on line data bases now available I was not able to locate his grave. Charles' niece gave me photographs and information last summer and the confusion was soon learned. He was not buried in Arlington. To be sure it was a National Cemetery, just not Arlington and it was located in Virginia.

Armed with directions written 50 years ago by his now deceased sister, we decided to drive to to Virginia the day of our arrival and find Charles' grave site. I did not know I would find myself looking for a needle in a hay stack.

Much had changed over the landscape, but little had changed in the directions, for they were amazingly accurate. Driving through the immense rolling green cemetery looking out over the Virgina landscape I remembered my first meeting with Charles. Now, a different side of history was beneath my feet. In an odd way, he would still be telling me a story. Only this time, it would be one filled with sadness and humiliation.

The vast open site soon alerted us to the fact there was no way we were going to locate his grave. Doubling back to the start we headed into a freshly painted funeral home on the grounds. The woman behind the desk was impressed that the directions written down 50 years ago were so accurate. She looked up his name and gave us some idea of the "block" he was buried. Off we went. In search of the needle in the hay stack. Graves are marked by bronze markers flat into the ground. The grass obscures the plates, so it is by walking and looking at individual markers history is revealed. They are not in nice neat rows.

Plate after plate I walked. Soon in despair of ever finding his grave, I was hot and sweaty and tired. Tired of looking at names, death and history. Killed in action in wars, children of fallen soldiers, wives, daughters, all buried beneath my feet. And, all with a history and a story to tell that I did not know. "Let's go", I shouted to my husband at the far end of the site. "No, we are here now. We will find it", he yelled back. Then I heard my name being called. He had found it.

This was the beginning of my humiliation. It was partially covered in dirt and leaves, a nice bronze plate with the letters "HERMAN" across the top. To the right was Augusta B. Herman with her birth and death dates. To the left was nothing. There should have been a plate with Charles Louis Herman along with his birth and death dates. There were no visible signs there had ever been one.

Back to the funeral home. There must be a mistake. It would be rectified. Yes, there was a mistake. A very nice, helpful gentlemen came out to offer assistance. Unfortunately, my husband had told the woman behind the desk Charles had been the Head Custodian for the Washington National Monument. There was no turning back now. The helpful man disappeared to the back. We waited and waited. Then he returned. "Is he actually buried here?", he asked. There is no record that the bronze plate was purchased through us although that was not uncommon he told us. Furthermore, there was no evidence a plate had ever been installed. He checked again and came back out. "He is listed in our records as being buried in that site. Would there be any other family name to check to see who was responsible for the arrangements?" I gave him every possible name I could think of at the time.

Again, we waited and waited. He returned shaking his head. There was nothing. In all his years he had never had this situation happen. For fifty years a man who "had dedicated his life" managing one of the most important national monuments over-seeing every aspect of its daily operations was buried in a National Cemetery and not one of his family returned to check on his grave site. Until now. I felt my checks turn red. I tried making excuses. There really were no excuses.

"People who live in glass houses shouldn't through stones." How often had I been told that little ditty? History, preservation and its accompanying story had been my mantra for so many years. Yet here I sat with a history lost. Because a family hadn't bothered to preserve it. Not that Charles was an important historical figure, or that his name was chiseled on the top of a building or that he changed the course of history in any great way. No, yet he had "kept" a part of history alive and he had preserved it for me and my generation. And he was just one of many. But little histories are important for the big picture. And for those who lose sight of the trees and the forests, the big picture in time will also become lost. Our heritage is "ours" whether it is painful to remember or glorious to recount.

We cannot assume someone else will attend to its saving. For in the end its saving
is our individual responsibility. And it all starts within our own family. They are after all, an important part of the forests and the trees. "History is one generation and one story away from extinction." Perhaps it should be added "and one act of human intervention".

Post Script: For more information on the history of the Washington National Monument, one built to honor our first president, yet also surrounded by controversy surf the web. Controversy, it seems still abounds!

The position of Head Custodian was created shortly after the completion of the Washington Monument. It has nothing to do with janitorial services.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Mother's Day, May 9Th. I used to love that day when I was a child. Mainly, because for me it was a day of atonement. In one day I could wipe out all the sins of my childish bad behavior for the year. The behavior I knew hurt my mother, which never-the-less as a child and then teenager, was the necessary growing process for our species. If children (especially teenagers) did not, parents would never let them go into the world. And, so for me, I could one day a year make my mother understand what she "really" meant to me. And then, my sins of the past year were once again wiped clean.

Then suddenly, without warning time stopped and Mother's Day took on a whole new meaning. My mother died. She died the last day of the first month into the New Year. There were no more Mother's Day-of Atonement for me to embrace. Just an empty hollow place, a deep, deep chasm into a heart that ached.

The history of Mother's Day is really quite interesting. Started by a woman named Ann Jarvis, the first unofficial Mother’s Day was begun as a way of healing the pain of the Civil War. Mrs. Jarvis devoted her life to procuring the event as a national holiday. The first official Mother’s Day was held in 1908 at Andrews Methodist Church with over four hundred in attendance. Ann Jarvis sent five hundred white carnations to be worn by those attending the service. The idea was so well received, by 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day should be celebrated the second Sunday in May, a national holiday.

We tend to think of lighthouses in terms of their "male connection". Perhaps, it is because traditionally the history of lighthouses has been written primarily by men. Yet, history as another story to tell. And, this is what happened at one lighthouse, written down in the log books of the Marblehead Lighthouse.

Edward Herman was transferred to the Marblehead Lighthouse October, 1913. This was his first year at a lighthouse far from his family and his own mother. It was a time to learn the routine for the new lighthouse and that also meant getting to know his new head keeper, Charles Hunter.

Charles Hunter's mother arrived in Marblehead shortly after he began his new duties in 1903. This lighthouse was different. Women, not men were the history of its soul. In fact, the very first woman of the Great Lakes to tend a light was the widow of keeper Wolcott,the first lighthouse keeper. Her name was Rachel Wolcott. That happened almost one hundred years before Charles Hunter arrived.

History did not end with her death. Keeper George McGee began serving at the lighthouse in 1873, his wife Johanna was his unpaid assistant. He was a faithful keeper with an untimely death. At the age of 45 years keeper McGee died. Now, there was no keeper. Yet, the light did not die with his sudden death. Why? Because a woman, his spouse kept it going. She buried her husband, tended to her family-yes, she had children, young children and she never, never failed the vessels of the inland seas. On her unofficial watch, the light remained to guide.

Johanna McGee was appointed the lighthouse keeper on July 8, 1896, the same year her husband died. When Charles Hunter arrived on March 16, 1903 she had tended the light, the grounds, the keeper's residence and her family for 30 years. She was the " Good Mother".

So, when Charles Hunter brought his mother to live at the light, the people of Marblehead were already accustomed to women who were "mothers" at the lighthouse.

The year of 1914 witnessed two "firsts" at the Marblehead Lighthouse-the beginning of the last lighthouse keeper's duties and the beginning of a new national holiday. And, something else happened. The "Good Mother" embraced her children once again. Who would have known her influence or her guidance might still be a presence in the lives of a people? But it was and this is what happened that first May, 1914.

Assistant keeper Edward Herman learned the month of May at the new lighthouse meant the beginning of an endless round of painting and whitewashing. The tasks kept the keepers busy all through the summer months into early fall. May this year of 1914 also meant a new national celebration. Mother’s Day was now an official American holiday.

They were not prepared for the events. It seemed an ordinary Sunday until they began to arrive. Dozens of them, families old and young. Women with children, women without children, women who had lost mothers, women who were mothers came. Groups of tourists celebrating the first National Mother’s Day arrived at the lighthouse, beginning a tradition that continued for the next thirty years. Only war and the closing of the lighthouse grounds to the public interrupted the yearly event.

It must have been a difficult holiday for Keeper Hunter to record in the logbooks. His mother, Jane Hunter, had only been dead for twenty months.

The month of May and the new national holiday welcomed not only the arrival of tourists, but also a new life saving boat. As the navigation season began to witness increasing ship traffic, the new life saving boat was soon put to use. Edward’s ability to perform rescues was given an early baptism when a launch went ashore near the lighthouse. Unlike the Buffalo shoreline, Marblehead peninsula was jutted with rocky out cropping, making it difficult to get from the shore to the boat. In good weather, the rock posed a hazard from the constant wave action. In bad weather, the rocks not only were wet, they were slippery and rough waves made launching any vessel difficult. The "Good Mother", now had a new boat and in honor of her new holiday, was saving the life of sailors.

After the Mother’s Day holiday, the routine of painting began in earnest. The lantern room was painted followed by the watch room. Both activities took up most of the month. When the light tower was completed the wooden flagpole was painted, and if needed, the keepers were responsible for making a new pole. Even the essential wheelbarrow was dutifully painted. Life, it seems went on, for those who had lost a mother and those who had a mother far away.

When I read the log books, I was moved by how drawn the people of Marblehead were to the lighthouse on Mother's Day. Every year the numbers increased so that keeper Herman recorded many years later, "crowds of tourists at the lighthouse on Mother's Day". He had given up counting their numbers.

There have been other "Good Mothers". Ida Lewis is perhaps the most famous. In a path of unlikely history, I am connected to this "Good Mother". The year keeper Edward was born, Ida was making the news. The New York Times ran an article begging the government, Congress, to give keeper Lewis a pension. She was still serving at the lighthouse "all by herself", the article reported.

Ida, it seems had a father who was a captain in the Revenue Cutter Service. She was no stranger to the perils of the seas. Edward also served in the Revenue Cutter Service. Ida served the Lime Rock Lighthouse.

Until this week, I never realized the connection. Lime Rock is located in New Port, Rhode Island. I was born in New Port not far from the lighthouse Ida Lewis faithfully served. In fact, I realized I was born surrounded by lights. All, the "Good Mothers" to guide me on life's journey. I never knew this, until now, more then half a century after my birth.

The "Good Mother", she has been there with me and for me and a sentinel since the day I first entered this world. This weekend I am going to be at the National Archives in Washington D.C. surrounded by all the history of the "Good Mothers". And, this year May 9Th will be different. Like the lighthouse keepers, the "busy-ness" of everyday life must go on, even if it means painting the lowly wheelbarrow.

And, this year, I realize I have found myself not mourning the loss of a mother after so many years, but celebrating the discovery of the all the "Good Mothers" I never knew were a part of my life. Yes, May 9Th, Mother's Day, is both a celebration and a healing of pain. Thank you for being my light.

Friday, April 30, 2010


This is inspired by Carmen Cepeda. An Charraig Aonair, an Irish lighthouse.

I rarely weep over things in life. Oh, well, yes I confess I did shed tears over Lassie Come Home and when I read the book, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, but those were long ago and I was still a child. I find myself shedding tears more often now as I age and move into the "other" categories on sheets of paper that have little or no consequence of business for me. Perhaps its hormones or a realization that life has silently passed me by without a single thought about MY feelings on the subject. Perhaps its because I realize that when history is lost, it is gone forever and it makes those who have participated in that history a voice lost too. And then, I know I cannot have what is so desired, yet denied to me-knowledge.

Carmen shared a bit of history on the Captain Edward:The Lighthouse Keeper page on An Charraig Aonair (I like the Gaelic even though I do not have a clue how it is pronounced), an isolated Irish Lighthouse . Just the picture of its majestic tower awash in swaths of emerald seas and frothy white waves moves me. I also like to see bits and pieces of history side-by-side, it connects me to my past and makes me feel a part of something greater then myself, my country and my world. It makes me feel human.

And so, I had the inspiration given the fact the story she posted is about the Lighthouse keepers and the Great War and the Lusitania,- I thought it would be interesting to explore log books from lighthouses other then the United States. After all, lighthouse keepers were operating on the global village theme long before it was coined a bright new modern idea. And saving lives was just that-no questions asked and I doubt the keepers were asking the country of origin, racial background, or political and religious views of ship wrecked victims. I doubt the victims really cared if they were being saved by a Spanish, Irish, African American, British, or Japanese lighthouse keeper. After all, a rescue boat is a rescue boat and a life saved is a life saved.

I have already wept over the loss of lighthouse log books-the Horseshoe Reef Lighthouse, Edward's first lighthouse assignment. An especially poignant loss since the lighthouse remains a perching place for birds and a science lesson on the effects of water and decay. Today was different and I was optimistic about my search. I was not prepared for the spoils of war.

It was a war I was not born of but born because of and I knew about its effects and affects on humans from my father. I also knew about it because one day it was thrust into my world and it did not make me feel human. It only connected me to a horrible past that I could not change. Its human voices were lost forever. But some of them remained etched in the skin of its still living victims.

I happened to sit next to her in a college course. She was a tiny Polish woman who befriended me. She had trouble with the language and wanted me to help her. She always wore long sleeves, even on warm spring days. And, so it was on this particular day when she sat beside me. We were going over a piece of literature written by a Yiddish author when the spoils of war became my silent voice and partner. Her sleeve caught the end of the book and moved up her thin pale arm. She took no notice at first, but I saw them. Numbers tattooed on her forearm. I was nineteen years old. I stared and my voice went silent, for after all what was I to say?

She noticed eventually, and as if the routine were all too familiar a tiny hand reached down to quickly slide the sleeve back over a history she was born to and because of -her religion-she was Jewish. I never asked and she never told me. I regret (terribly) my mistake. She did not return to class or the university. I never saw her again. It has been a long while since I thought about her. Until today, when I searched for lighthouse log books.

Before I could get to Irish lighthouse log books I came upon the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section. This was the "Sources for Lighthouse History". It read, "The Corporation of Trinity House is the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and Gibralter". Well, I am to be in Europe and England January of next year, so I felt a sense of excitement thinking I might be able to digitally photograph log books from the same time period that Edward was at his lighthouse!

I scrolled down to "Records Of Individual Lighthouses".

"There are no series of records about individual lighthouses. Most records of the lighthouse and light vessel appear to have been destroyed in the 1940 bombing of Trinity House."

It was then my thoughts about another spoil of war returned. I once again saw the numbers tattooed on an arm. A human history lost, a people and voices unheard and log books-all lost, gone and now denied a generation, a thousand generations after because their history was silenced.

I am not going to argue political agendas or the merits of war. It is not a productive discourse for something I do not have the power to change. Next Friday I will be in Washington D.C. to participate in the National Archives wki project. What I do have is the power to change our access to history and the stories I know are silently waiting to be told. Mine, yours and ours. It is the people's story-it is the human story and it connects us to something far greater then our "self". It connects us to life, it "is" what makes us human and it goes far beyond the politics of the small world we live in today.

If you are reading this I strongly urge you to read about the project and let me know "your thoughts and ideas" so I may share them with "your National Archives". Even if you are not from this country, we are connected by lighthouses and history and preservation. Feel free to share your ideas. After all, a rescue boat is a rescue boat and a life saved is a life saved. And, so is a history.

www.commissionersofirishlights.com For information and stories on Irish lighthouses. Go to the site map. Scroll down to Information on Lighthouses. Select a lighthouse. Scroll down a little more then half-way to Publications from the Beam Magazine. Three of my favorite stories;

A Singing Lighthouse Keeper, by John McGuiness.

John Richardson Wigham 1829-1906, by Jonathan P. Wigham. (He was a Quaker)

The Higginbothams of Ballincourty, by Eddie Cantwell.

There are many more stories-share yours!

Thank you Carmen!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Margaret did return to Hudson for visits. It is recorded in the lighthouse logbooks. Yet, she never returned for extended periods and she never again wrote with such despair. Long after her family died and the estates were settled, Margaret and Edward retired to live within the Methodist community at Lakeside. They built a bungalow after tearing down a cottage on the lot they purchased. It was the first real home Margaret would ever own. (The house still stands today and is owned by the couple who purchased the property after Edward's death.) During that time, she heard the call for donations to help fund a new Methodist college in a place she had never been, the state of Alaska. Its purpose was to offer an education and a chance to obtain something the world had denied an indigenous people because of who they were ethnically. Margaret knew what it was to be denied something because of her gender and she knew what her husband’s people had experienced prior to the Great War because of their ethnicity.

Now into her eightieth year, her thriftiness had paid more then a small dividend. Family remembered serving tea to Margaret and Edward. Margaret saved the second tea bag, dipping the first into Edward’s cup and then into her cup. It was remembered with the smiles of those who could never understand what it was like to be the lighthouse keeper’s wife. Who knew when the tender would bring supplies? Or, if you might be stranded for weeks without any supplies? Margaret knew, because it had happened many times.

Perhaps the community she grew up in really had prepared her for the incredible journey she had traveled. Now, that thrifty nature they were so well known for would provide the funds for a college. Margaret answered that call with a sizable donation. Although the donation check was signed by both Margaret and Edward, the acknowledgment letters were addressed to Mrs. Herman. Alaska Pacific University (formerly Alaska Methodist University) remains today an ever-growing educational institution. Although her donation may have been long forgotten by those who administer its programs, it lives on in the minds of those who have received their degrees and contribute to the world beyond.

Now, Margaret had done more then fill her mind with knowledge and she was right where she wanted to be. She had achieved something in life beyond the societal expectations of her 19Th century birth.

When Margaret King Herman died the Lakeside Yard and Garden Club included the following poem above her memoriam.

“It matters not how straight the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll
I am the master of my fate;
I am the master of my soul.”
-Wm. Ernest Henley-

Margaret had fulfilled her destiny.

Post Script: In 2010 Alaska Pacific University was voted one of the best small liberal arts colleges in the United States. They offer undergraduate degree programs in Environmental Science and Marine Biology. Their graduate program includes a Master of Science and a Master of Environmental Science.

For more information; www.alaskapacific.edu

Monday, April 26, 2010


“What Nature has writ
with her lusty wit
Is Worded so wisely and kindly
That whoever has dipped
in her manuscript
Must up and follow her blindly
Now the Summer prime
is her blithest rhyme
In the being and the seeming,
And they that have heard the overword
Know life’s dream worth dreaming.”
-Wm. Ernest Henley- Echoes

The Lakeside Noon Day Club was formed in 1895. It remains one of the oldest Lakeside clubs still in existence. Well over one hundred years old, the club was organized based on the 19Th century tradition of women’s literary clubs. Their constitution reads, “The object of this club shall be the literary and social advancement of women”. The Noon Day Club was by invitation only and when a woman was nominated, the members must vote her in. Membership was limited and the total number never exceeded more than eighteen. Women were expected to present papers each month on various topics such as science, education, history, government and current events. The in-depth papers presented were critiqued followed by a discussion on the topic presented. If a woman presented an inferior paper she was told by the presenter, she had not done well. Some of the members had college educations. The program was a vigorous, multi layered and very exclusive way for a woman to achieve an education beyond the classrooms of a university.

The club’s motto was, “Light, More Light”, -Goethe-.

Margaret Herman was nominated for membership. She was voted into the exclusive circle of members and by 1927 was serving on the executive committee. She was also the club’s treasurer. By 1935, Margaret was the secretary, she had moved up the club’s officer ladder and she was still serving on the executive committee. Margaret was in her element. Her first paper was presented as part of the wider topic, “Educational Aspects of New York”.
Throughout her membership, Margaret presented papers and led discussions on topics from South America, women and their status in 1803, and American women in government. Margaret had filled her mind with knowledge and this education was her fulfillment of something, which had been denied to her because of circumstance and gender. It was not to be a forbidden fruit anymore. When it was offered to her on a golden plate, she took not only the plate, but also second and third helpings. Margaret was once again, right where she wanted to be. The Noon Day Club would often meet at the lighthouse and when her husband became the Head Keeper, he made sure to record it in the logbook. Margaret was a busy person and she was becoming more and more involved in the Lakeside Community as well as her church.

When Margaret began to flourish, she accomplished something beyond the confines of what society expected of her sex. Margaret went on to be a member of the Women’s Society for Christian Service, and the Lakeside Yard and Garden Club. She taught the Adult Church School and given the intellectual atmosphere of the community, that was not an easy task for someone who did not posses a college degree.

The Lakeside Community had been a vacation home to an American President. It had also opened its doors to famous women suffragettes and reformers. When Margaret stepped into her political role during the Great War, she was rewarded with an intellectual fulfillment for all her efforts. She had as a woman achieved the right to vote and the right to a higher education. The Noon Day Club had provided women the right to a higher education since 1895 with a curriculum equal to many colleges. Margaret, it seems, like her mother before her, had done remarkable well for herself.

Noon Day Club Booklets digitally reproduced with permission. Courtesy of The Lakeside Heritage Society Archives.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


The Great War had ended and life was slowly returning to normal. Except it never really would be the same. Margaret’s brother-in-law had survived the war, though just barely having suffered the effects of mustard gas. Tragedies of the war became even more personal for her husband when they learned Edward's cousin had been killed in action. In an entry to the lighthouse log books, Keeper Hunter recorded that Keeper Herman was planting a walnut tree on the grounds of the lighthouse in memory of his cousin who was killed in battle. Those trees still remain today even though the name of the cousin is lost to history.

Now the lighthouse was undergoing changes. The accessibility of the automobile and the construction of new roadways throughout the country meant more Americans were traveling. As with any war fought, the years immediately after were filled with a renewed hope and a zest for the experiences men had longed for on the battlefields, but were almost lost by the close encounters with death. This hope spurned a desire to travel and take in the sights of the country they had just defended. The new roads and cars meant ever-increasing numbers to Marblehead Lighthouse. The 1920’s were the celebration years. For Margaret it was time to re-evaluate her life. The war years had infused her with a sense of responsibility and self -worth. She had made a name for herself; she had done something apart from her husband. She wanted more then her world was offering. January of 1923 landed Edward in the Providence Hospital in Sandusky. The navigational season had ended. There is one letter from his sister Esther wishing him success with his operation. Nothing survives to tell the nature of his medical condition.

Margaret was approaching fifty. It was probably clear to her that she and Edward would not have children. Again, there are no letters to give insight about her feelings on the subject. Yet, the year 1924 provides a clue, which echoes Margaret’s discontent twelve years before when she left Buffalo for Waterloo. This time the postcard is sent from Hudson. It is the beginning of fall and she writes with a lack of intensity as though she were far and detached from her husband. “Dear Ed, Your letter and card received. Am glad you are getting along as well as you are. Do not know just when I will be home. Will let you know”. Her thoughts turn to news about friends and finally she mentions they are having “lovely fall weather”. As if she just now remembered, a reference is made to a “fire”. She is “sorry to hear of it, a dreadful loss.” Whatever the circumstance surrounding the fire it is clear this is not her concern. She is there with family and friends. They are clearly more important then the life her husband is having at the lighthouse. The fire is terrible, yet not so devastating to end the correspondence. She goes on to mention that, “Matie’s little cats are as cunning as ever. Love from all. Margaret”. From 1924 to the beginning of 1928, there are no postcards. On January 18, 1928 a postcard with a hand written note across the bottom, “stopped here over-night, Jan 18, 1928”, is saved. Sent to no one and without any further message the picture on the front is the Long View Lodge, Scrub Ridge on the Lincoln Highway located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is the last postcard written in Margaret’s hand to survive. Her family was still a presence in her life well into the 1940’s. Yet when Edward was hospitalized, the postcards that survive to tell his story are written to Matie in Hudson by his pen, not Margaret’s pen

The celebration years ended two years after the last postcard. Margaret, at some point returned to the lighthouse. She was approaching fifty-two years of age when once again her world changed. A new decade was about to encounter a new disaster when the nation was thrown into what would be called, “The Great Depression”. Margaret’s thriftiness would serve her well, just as it had throughout her life. In fact, her family fifty years later would still remember how thrifty she was. Yet, while many would find not hope but despair during the 1930’s, the Lighthouse Keeper’s wife would experience an epiphany. In the middle of the depression, Margaret found a place for herself in a most unexpected way. When she settled into this place, it would breathe new life into her soul and she would once again thrive. Margaret was home to stay.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


During times of war, women have always been at the forefront of organizing and helping to stabilize the home front. They have also been on the battlefield where they have served as nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers. Some have even fought
along side men. Pre- 20Th century women worked hard to hold down the farms when their men folk were called into battle. They sewed bandages, socks, gloves, prepared medicine kits and visited wounded soldiers in hospitals. They gave birth, raised the children and managed to keep a society going which would have crumbled if they had not risen to the task. In some cases, they had to defend their homes from invading soldiers. They were not passive players to the events around them. They took a very active role.

Both the nature of war and the needs of the home front changed after the turn of the century. The Great War became a war based on the technological developments that had taken place at the end of the 1800’s and the beginning of the 1900’s. The home front consisted not only of farms and rural communities, but also of cities filled with industrial plants and factories. When the men were called off to do battle, someone needed to take their place. The government called on the next available source, women.

There were two separate issues confronting the government. Funding for the war and the stabilizing of the home front. Stabilizing the home front meant keeping the factories and industrial plants working to provide the soldiers with materials to fight. The same government that had tried to keep women from entering the work force and voting now needed them to stabilize the home front and work the factories. Women rose to the occasion on both fronts. They had a little secret up their sleeves, they knew they were not delicate and they were not imbeciles. The government had yet to learn that fact.

Much weight has been given to the role women took on the home front during WWII. Proportionately, the information about women during WWI is not the same. Yet, the role they played had a direct impact on men and society. In fact, the Liberty Bond Movement during WWII is extensively written about whereas the Liberty Bond Movement of WWI has little if any information to substantiate the role of women. Perhaps because women’s issues died after WWI and other movements did not come to fruition until after WWII there is little documentation. It may also be that the Great Depression, which followed the Great War, consumed the time, energy and emotions of society. Women were thrown back into a role they had just started to emerge from when jobs once again became scarce. Only this time it was due to economic forces rather then the dictates of the sexes. So many men were in need of jobs there was no place for women to fill the gaps. The fact was there were no gaps.

Government propaganda has always played an important part in shaping national identity. WWI was no exception. The government needed women to work and they needed women to stay at home to tend to the land and care for future citizens, namely the children. In the eyes of the government, women were still the delicate souls of morality. This image was depicted over and over again in posters and postcards. Women still needed to be feminine, but they needed to do men’s work. The government sought to capitalize the delicate female image with the strong mother who takes care of her brood. The soldiers on the battlefield, Uncle Sam and the American soil became her brood. Women were often portrayed as strong, but caring, beautiful, but capable and menacing, but feminine. In actuality, they were mothers who could multitask. This meant being what men did not think they were capable of achieving. The men were to be proved very wrong on all accounts.

The war was expanding and the government needed huge amounts of money to sustain the war efforts. The idea began in the drawing rooms of the rich society ladies of New York. When called upon by government officials to help with the organization, the wealthy society women stepped forward. The women who had been organizing balls and movements and addressing social issues not only took the reigns of the organizing horse, they hopped onto the saddle and rode into the sunset leaving the men behind in their dust. The Liberty Bond Movement began at the top of the upper crust of society. From there it expanded to the middle class educated women and finally to some extent their poorer cousins. These women organized and built the movement into a multi million-dollar industry, which expanded into multiple bond movements. Women from the industrial cities to the rural farming communities were at the front and behind the scenes all the way down to the grass roots. This meant women like Margaret were the forces behind the local community involvement in the Liberty Bond Movement. They organized both the home front and the women who marched, passed out propaganda, leaflets, and flyers and went door to door to raise funds. They encouraged women to rise up and become independent. This meant dipping into carefully saved money to invest in the war bonds. It meant giving women permission to feel an entitlement to being more then an apron and a baby factory. They worked the fields, the factories, and they rationed everything from sugar, meat, and metal and gave back to the country more then ten fold. When the war ended, the women had performed beyond the expectations of the men.

The same men who would not have considered themselves champions of women’s rights now found themselves singing their praises. And, women had not lost their femininity. They were still wives and mothers, who cooked, cleaned, mended, and loved, their husbands, their children and their homes. And they wanted to vote. It was their right; they had earned every penny of it, literally. The time was ripe for change and they would be silenced no more. The 18Th Amendment had already been ratified. The men did not have to fear women would vote for prohibition. Perhaps, if women could organize an entire nation, maybe they could be useful in garnishing votes for men running for political offices. On June 15, 1919 the 19Th Amendment was passed. Women had earned the right to vote. The War was over.

(digital photographs of WWI Liberty Bond material reproduced with permission and courtesy of Sandusky Public Library Archives. This material may not be reproduced or copied)

Friday, April 23, 2010


Margaret’s husband was German. His family was still culturally and ethnically German. They spoke the language at home and in the community in which they lived. Until very recently the last name had been spelled Hermann. Slowly the spelling of the name changed, perhaps to reflect a more assimilated image in a country experiencing an increasing anti German sentiment. Now that the United States was embroiled in the world conflict and wrestling with the decision to enter the war, that anti sentiment was growing. The second “n” had been dropped by the time the United States entered the war. Ohio experienced a strong reaction to the population of Germans now living in the country. It was not a positive reaction. Anti German sentiment was so high many feared for their lives, even those who had been born in this country and had never even set foot on European soil. The German language was banned in schools and universities, books were burned, German culture was looked at with disdain and people were ridiculed for any connection they might have with anything German. There were lynches and tar featherings in various states. Street names were changed from German to Anglicized versions or completely different names.

The anti German movement was fueled by the Temperance Movement. This movement was gaining steam at a time when the United States government was promoting anti German sentiment with anti German propaganda in the form of posters and postcards and advertisement. Trying to lift the American public’s anti war sentiment, anti German sentiment had to be pushed into the eyesight of the average American citizen. Suddenly, everything German was considered bad including the Kaiser, the people, the culture, and the language. When it reared its ugly head, the consequences were enormous. If opinions other than negative ones were expressed about the Germans, you were not expressing opinions you were simply anti American.

In addition, the Temperance Union was exercising its muscles and sometimes the two were directly intertwined. Running side by side was the country’s growing intolerance for all things alcoholic. The country had been receiving new immigrants in unprecedented numbers since the turn of the century. They came for the most part poor and to already over crowded cities. Social welfare programs were almost non-existent and jobs were for English speakers. Men especially, the traditional breadwinners had been lured to a promise land of milk and honey. Instead, they brought their families to a land of little promise and alcohol. They found for the most part no jobs and no way to take care of the family. The women could find employment as maids, washerwomen, sweatshop workers, etc., and many times became the only breadwinner in the household. Cultural differences widened the gap. Even if your ancestors came from a particular culture, you did not “see” yourself the same as the new arrivals. In some cases, the language had changed to the extent there was no understanding the new arrivals.

Men without the ability to bring home money and living in less then desirable conditions turned to drink and the companionship of other disenfranchised men. Society failed to understand the root causes and correct them. Instead, women who were the champions of the Temperance Movement saw only the disease and not the symptoms. If doing away with alcohol would make society a better place, then it must be banned. No more alcohol meant an end to domestic violence, child abuse, unemployment and life would stabilize. What was meant to be a good cause to eradicate an evil sin eventually helped to fuel an even greater sin. One which was directed toward the German American culture and the consequences it would bring to the American people, namely anti German sentiment.

The Germans were destroying world peace and the German Americans were destroying the country’s families. Their men folk and especially the newly arrived immigrants were turning to drink. Drink was the backdrop for all the other social ills. The Germans had the distilleries and the breweries. (The other ethnic group targeted with such sentiments was the Italians. The Irish also experienced extreme prejudice, but were able to better assimilate into the culture and at a more rapid pace) For some odd reason, the public failed to realize the French had been engaged in the wine making industry for decades, some even in the area of Ohio where the Marblehead Lighthouse was located. The Italians also brought wine making skills and vineyards to this country. They unfortunately, also happened to have a motherland on the wrong side of the War siding with Germany. The Temperance Movement was targeting the German breweries and believed by eliminating them, they would eliminate the evils of society and a more moral, pure nation would exist.

Women marched, they protested, they committed civil disobedience to get the job done. Women who were themselves disenfranchised, who had few if any rights and certainly not the right to vote, saw dysfunctional families and no way to fix them. Frustrated by their own place in society they pressured those who were able to vote. On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified, making it illegal for the sale of alcohol. But the anti German sentiments produced had far lasting effects and some of the very women who rallied to the cause of intemperance now found themselves defending their German husbands and in some cases their own ethnicity.

Margaret Herman was one of those women. There is nothing to indicate Keeper Herman experienced any hostilities toward his ethnicity. Or that Margaret was made to feel uncomfortable being married to Edward. Yet, the lack of postcards from 1916 to 1920 may give an indication of the atmosphere surrounding Margaret and Edward. Charles wrote to them before he left for Europe on May 2, 1918. The only other surviving postcard is dated 1919 or 1920. The postcard was written by Edward’s
youngest sister thanking them for the birthday card sent to his mother and provided information about her health. The last line informs them that “Charlie” was on his way home from the war. The years from 1916-1920 were uncannily silent except for the one postcard from Charles.

Margaret did what she learned to do from her mother. When there are obstacles in life, you turn to face them head on and with determination. Margaret joined the War effort. Becoming a part of the Liberty Bond Movement was the most American thing she could do. If her husband were to be perched on the deck of a Lighthouse saving the lives of sailors, Margaret would be saving the lives of American soldiers. Margaret pursued a most unusual set of actions. She enlisted the help of the head lighthouse keeper, Charles Hunter. Together they would do what the lighthouse keepers and the lighthouse keeper’s wives had been doing for centuries, organizing and helping to save others. Only this time the lighthouse keeper’s wife would be mentioned in the logbooks. (Charles Hunter was so influenced by Margaret’s participation in the Liberty Bond Movement; he went on to help with the 5th Bond sale after the war ended.)