Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, February 20, 2011, pg. 12

This weekís article begins way back in Albion history. Back in the early 1840s, John Maitland and his wife Isabella operated a general store here in Albion. The Maitlandís were British immigrants, and their daughter Emily A. Maitland (1843-1931) was born here on February 22, 1843. Emily also had an older sister, Juliet. Back then Albion was a small village in its infancy and the "new frontier" here attracted many settlers from New York State.

The sister Juliet Maitland married Dr. Melancthon Fish, a New York native who attended medical school here in Michigan. The couple traveled the world, and eventually settled in Shanghai, China for six years. Juliet became pregnant and died in childbirth there in 1859. The baby survived however and was named Juliet after the mother. The same year, Emily Maitland left Albion for China as a teenager at the age of 16 and cared for her sisterís baby. Emily and Melancthon were married, and Emily adopted her sisterís baby Juliet. The whole family returned to the United States in 1862.

Dr. Fish entered the Civil War as a Medical Director of the 16th Army Corps. There he saw action at Vicksburg and Shermanís March to the Sea. Following the War he was transferred to Benicia, California to serve at the Army Arsenal. Liking the area, Melancthon and Emily decided to stay in California, and Dr. Fish established a private practice in Oakland. He subsequently served on the Oakland City Council and was president of the Oakland School Board. Regarding his wife, "Emily took an active part in the social scene in Oakland and San Francisco, acting as hostess to their ever-widening circle of friends, attending balls, the theater, and dinner parties," states Jean Serpell Stumbo in her book "Emily Fish, Socialite Lighthouse Keeper," pg. 4.

In November, 1888, their daughter Juliet was married to Navy officer Lt. Commander Henry E. Nichols, who would reside in West Oakland. A few years later on March 23, 1891, Dr. Fish died unexpectedly of heart disease.

Two years later, son-in-law Commander Nichols became the Inspector of the 12th District of the Lighthouse Service. He mentioned to Juliet that the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove, California, at the entrance to Monterey Bay was going to need a new keeper. She applied for the job, and at the age of 50, began her new career. With her social background, Emily remodeled the living quarters and continued to entertain people at her new residence. There were also 94 acres of land to watch over. Her duties as keeper were very important, as there was much maritime traffic in those days. There were different "watch" shifts, as well as the property to maintain. Author Stumbo writes, (pg. 7) "Emily must have been a strict taskmaster, as the lighthouse logs show that she hired more than 30 men in her 21 years as keeper. Most of them were discharged due to incompetence."

During the Spanish-American War, Commander Nichols died in Manila, Philippines. His wife Juliet, inspired by her motherís rebounding career, subsequently herself became the keeper of the Angel Island Lighthouse in San Francisco Bay.

Emily continued to be active in her community. She was a co-founder of the Monterey-Pacific Grove Chapter of the America Red Cross along with two of her friends, one of whom later became Mrs. Herbert Hoover. She was also the chairperson of the Ladies Welcoming Committee during the 50th anniversary of the landing of Commodore Sloat at Monterey (he claimed California for the United States).

Emily retired in 1914 at the age of 71 and 21 years of service. Her daughter Juliet also retired that same year. Emily died in 1931 at the age of 88 and was interred in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Juliet passed away in 1947 and was also interred there.

The Point Pinos Lighthouse property has been placed on the National Register of Historical Places by the Department of the Interior, and is cared for by the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, and the United States Coast Guard. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of Albion native and lighthouse keeper, Emily (Maitland) Fish (1843-1931).

Emily (Maitland) Fish (1843-1931)

Next: Albion 100 Years Ago - MARCH 1911

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