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Melancholy Mary of the North Head Lighthouse

Alexander K. Pesonen, who had been serving as head keeper at Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, was transferred to North Head to be its first keeper. Keeper Pesonen was born in Finland in 1859, and immigrated to the United States in 1876. Pesonen was awarded the lighthouse efficiency flag for having the model station in the district in 1919.

Freed from the isolation of Tillamook Rock, Pesonen married Mary Watson in 1890, two years after arriving at North Head. In the spring of 1923, Keeper Pesonen took his wife to a doctor in Portland, Oregon, where she was diagnosed with “melancholia,” a condition marked by persistent depression and ill-founded fears. The couple returned to North Head on June 8, and the following morning, Mary arose early and went for a walk with her dog Jerry.

The dog returned a short while later, and its behavior alerted Keeper Pesonen that something was wrong. The local paper explained what happened next: He notified the boys at the radio station and also at the weather bureau, and a searching party was soon organized. The dog led searchers to a spot just under the fire control station near the North Head Lighthouse, and there they found her coat lying on the edge of the cliff. A trail through the tall grass, as though someone had slid down the cliff, was mute evidence of what had befallen the unfortunate woman.


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