It was relatively rare to have a father and son serving together at any lighthouse for a long period of time. Usually, one followed the other or, if they served together, it was only of short duration until they split up to serve at different lights in the same district. Such was the case of Oregon’s Tillamook Rock and Heceta Head lighthouse-keeping families in 1920.
As was mentioned in the “Halcyon Days at Tillamook Rock” article in the July/August issue of Lighthouse Digest, there were four young men who enjoyed adventurous camaraderie together at “Terrible Tilly” in 1920. What has been forgotten and buried in the past is that three of their fathers also served together at Heceta Head Lighthouse during that exact same year!
Because of this common bond of lighthouse service, the fathers and sons of the Bays, Hansens, and Haywards shared a unique connection that year. It appears that their relationships were more like an extended family than just serving in close proximity to each other at neighboring lights, even though they all came from other places to settle in the coastal Oregon area near Florence.
The Bay Family
The Bay family moved west from Ohio by the time of Robert Bay’s birth in 1866 in Smith River, Oregon. Robert’s wife, Lillie Varney, had been married previously to Ernest Lawrence; they had a son together, Walter, who was born in Salem, Oregon in 1896. After his parents divorced and Lillie married Robert in 1901, Walter went to live with his grandmother Varney, though he would return to visit his mother frequently all the way through to young adulthood at least.
Robert and Lillie had four children together, the eldest of whom was Raymond Bay, born at North Fork in 1901. Robert was a dairy farmer there on the Siuslaw River before entering the United States Lighthouse Service in 1918 at age 52 as a first assistant at Heceta Head Light. However, he must have had some earlier ties with the lighthouse than recorded, as Raymond is seen in a class picture taken in 1916, attending the same small one-room schoolhouse as did other lightkeeper children from Heceta Head Lighthouse. The class photo also shows Howard L. Hansen, with whom Raymond Bay would later serve at Tillamook Rock four years hence.
Robert Bay stayed at Heceta Head until 1930 when he then transferred to be head keeper at Smith Island Lighthouse in Washington for just a year. Presumably, he left lighthouse service then or shortly afterwards and moved to the Santa Barbara, CA area for his retirement where he died in 1946 at age 80.
Robert Bay’s step-son, Walter T. Lawrence, was barely old enough to try to enlist in the Navy during WWI, but they rejected him due to his flat feet. He next tried the army, which accepted him into the infantry where he did, indeed, walk a lot more on his flat feet than he would had he been on a ship! He was sent to France and fought in the Battle of Argonne Forest.
Upon returning home at the end of the war, Walter Lawrence immediately went into the United States Lighthouse Service and was assigned in 1919 as 2nd assistant keeper at Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. His stepbrother, Raymond Bay, was able to join him there in 1920, having turned 18 by then. They only served together for that one year and then parted ways, presumably more to be able to get married than because they didn’t want to work together; Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was definitely a stag station. During that year in 1920, Walter Lawrence photographed and developed many photos of life, not only on Tillamook Rock, but also at Heceta Head Lighthouse when he would go visit his mother on his leaves.
In 1921, Walter Lawrence was transferred to Umpqua River Lighthouse and married shortly thereafter. He stayed there until 1924 when he left the Lighthouse Service to move to the Newport area where he worked with both fire and water departments, driving the fire truck and performing maintenance on the water pumps and storage tanks for the city. He later moved again to Portland and worked as a guard in the naval shipyards. He was still an avid photographer, at times doing work for other people. He also enjoyed playing his harmonica; and along with his brother-in-law on the guitar were part of a regular radio variety show. He continued to live in Portland until his death in 1961.
Raymond Bay left Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in 1921 to head south to Cape Blanco Lighthouse to serve as 2nd assistant until at least 1924. He, too, was married within a year or so of going there. That was his last United States Lighthouse Service assignment. In 1940, he was living with his family at the Point Arguello Coast Guard station in California, and he was working in the fishing industry. He then went on to become a ferry boat captain in Eureka, California for many years. He passed away in 1995 and was buried in Coos Bay, Oregon.
The Hayward Family
The Bays were not the only family to come to the Oregon Coast from Ohio. Eugene O. Hayward was born there in the early 1870s. He moved west to the Portland area by his late 20s and was working odd jobs, such as a concrete layer and streetcar motorman by 1900. Eugene O. Hayward married Martha Callahan in 1901 and their first child, Orlo E. Hayward, was born in 1902. He also went to Alaska as a young man during the gold rush, but returned after a short time empty-handed. In 1910, he was a teamster in the gravel industry.
The first recorded Lighthouse Service assignment for Eugene Hayward was at Heceta Head in 1920 as a 2nd assistant keeper. At the same time, Orlo Hayward, who was only 17, lied about his age so that he could be stationed at Tillamook Rock Lighthouse as 4th assistant keeper with the other sons of the Heceta Lighthouse keepers. Eugene Hayward was only at Heceta Head Lighthouse for that one year. In 1921, he transferred to Yaquina Head Lighthouse where he stayed until 1926, when he then went to Cape Blanco until at least 1930. According to family information, his last assignment was at the United States Lighthouse Service Lighthouse Depot in Astoria, Oregon. In his retirement years, Eugene Hayward collected agates from the beach near the home he built down the coast on Hwy 101. He made beautiful jewelry pieces with the polished stones and sold them in a shop across the street for many years until his death in 1947.
Orlo Hayward had an amazing lighthouse career after serving at “Terrible Tilly” in 1920. During that year, he met Estella Woodard whose family ran the Florence Hotel, and proceeded to court her by mail when he was transferred in 1921 to Washington at the New Dungeness Lighthouse for a year. Estella kept the letters, which are very interesting reading about lighthouse life there during that time. They were married in 1924, after which Orlo Hayward was transferred again to Cape Flattery Lighthouse In fact, Orlo Hayward was transferred eight more times to different lighthouses in Oregon and Washington over the next 20 years. His longest stint was at Cape Blanco Lighthouse from 1933 to 1944.
Orlo Hayward was eventually given a medical discharge from the U.S. Lighthouse Service due to complications from a fall that he had back at Patos Island Lighthouse when he was painting the water tower and fell off. After retiring from the United States Lighthouse Service, Orlo still worked full time in a Piggly Wiggly warehouse in Milwaukee, Oregon. He died in 1974 at age 72.
All three of Orlo Hayward’s children were raised as lighthouse kids, and they have many wonderful memories of their time spent at the last three lighthouses where Orlo served. The family photos taken during his entire 25 year career and the stories passed down to his children provide an enlightening look at lighthouse life of that era.
The Hansen Family
The last of the three families who served at Heceta Head Lighthouse and Tillamook Rock Lighthouse concurrently in 1920 not only came from outside Oregon originally, but in the case of Olaf L. Hansen, from another country: Norway. Born in 1860, Olaf L. Hanson immigrated to the United States around 1880, and he joined the United States Lighthouse Service on the lighthouse tender Manzanita out of Astoria, Oregon for a period of time before receiving his first lighthouse appointment as 4th assistant at none other than Tillamook Rock in 1894. Shortly after, he was transferred briefly to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse in Washington, and by 1896 he went on to Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Olaf L. Hansen was transferred again to a lighthouse in the Puget Sound area of Washington in 1902, but he came back to become head keeper at Heceta Head Lighthouse in 1904 where he remained until a final transfer in 1920 to Willapa Bay Lighthouse in Washington until his retirement in 1930 at age 70. He remained in the Pacific, Washington area until his death in 1940. It is interesting to note that in that same year, the Willapa Bay Lighthouse met its demise due to a combination of erosion and the Coast Guard dynamiting the remains. The head keeper’s house at Heceta Head Lighthouse, where Olaf Hansen had lived for so many years, was also razed in 1940.
Most of Olaf Hansen’s children were born in the keeper’s house at Heceta Head Lighthouse, including Howard L. Hansen who was born there in January of 1900. Being a lighthouse kid, he was well-acquainted with all the ins and outs of lighthouse life by the time he went to Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in 1919. But, by 1921, he was done with Lighthouse Service when his comrades left Tillamook Rock Lighthouse for other locations. Like Raymond Bay, Howard Hansen also went into the fishing industry. When his father, Olaf Hansen, moved to Willapa Bay Lighthouse in 1930, Howard moved to Washington with him to live in Tokeland, where he married that same year. Sometime after that, he moved back to Empire, Oregon where he worked as a crabman.
In August of 1936, Howard Hansen was on the crab-fishing gas boat Glenora when its tiller chain snapped, and, without a functioning rudder, the boat capsized while going over the Coquille River Bar. Within three minutes, a Coast Guard boat was deployed to aid in a rescue and was able to save the other crew member of the Glenora. But Howard Hansen was swept out to sea; his body was never recovered. He left behind his wife, Carla, and three children to mourn his loss.
It is always a bitter irony when a member of a keeper family drowns at sea. It must have been especially difficult for veteran keeper Olaf Hansen to lose his only son in a boating accident when Olaf was nearing retirement age after having spent so many faithful years in protecting others from the same fate.
It is also ironic when considering that Olaf Hansen had served at Tillamook Rock Lighthouse those many years before, and he knew first-hand what his 19 year-old son would encounter. He knew the inherent danger of that position, yet he supported his son, Howard, in taking that assignment, only to lose him 16 years later in a non-lighthouse related job. All three fathers who watched over their sons from nearby could appreciate the risks involved in the lighthouse keeping profession. They also understood what their sons would gain from such service and dedication. It was a bond that brought these families together in 1920 and kept their family ties strong for many years into the future.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 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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