1906 SF Chronicle 4

Juliet Emily Fish Nichols (August 12, 1859 – April 20, 1947) was the wife of Capt. Henry E. Nichols, but more famously, was the lighthouse keeper at Angel Island from 1902 until 1914. 2

Nichols was born Juliet Emily Fish in Shanghai, China, on August 12, 1859, to Dr. Melancthon William Fish and his first wife,  Juliet E. Maitland (Fish). Juliet died due to complications from childbirth, and her sister, Emily Augusta Maitland (Fish) came to Shanghai to help take care of little Juliet. Dr. Fish and Emily married, and Emily became not just Juliet's aunt, but her stepmother as well. Emily also served as a lighthouse keeper, at Pt. Pinos near Monterey Bay, from 1893 until 1914. 2

On November 1, 1888, Miss Fish married then USN commander Henry E. Nichols.

c.1892-1898, Juliet Nichols lived at 2304 - 9th Avenue in what is known as the Capt. Henry E. Nichols House.

Capt. Nichols died while in command of a ship in the Spanish-American War in 1899. Juliet was appointed lighthouse keeper at Point Knox on Angel Island in 1902 (another source says 1898). Capt. Nichols had left a very small estate (worth about $361), so Juliet probably needed the income. Her widowed stepmother was already serving as lighthouse keeper at Pt. Pinos.

In May 1906, she had to wind the automatic mechanism every 50 minutes for 72 straight hours. 4,5 On July 2, 1906, after the automatic mechanism broke down, she struck the fog bell with a hammer (some accounts say an iron bolt) every 15 seconds for more than 20 straight hours during a heavy fog. 3

Unlike her stepmother, who became known as the "Socialite Keeper" and regularly entertained guests, 6 Juliet's post was on a small rocky point, isolated from the military barracks on Angel Island. She had a dog for company, but probably didn't get many visitors. The Lighthouse Friends website describes the keeper's house as a "thirty-foot-square, one-story dwelling. ...Access to the main part of the island was via a series of 151 steps, which led up the steep bluff." 7

Death and Burial

Nichols died April 20, 1947, and is buried in the Fish-Nichols family plot along with her parents and Henry.

CC SA-BY Our OaklandCC SA-BY Our Oakland

Links and References

  1. Juliet Emily Fish Nichols on FindAGrave.com
  2. Women Lighthouse Keepers history.uscg.mil
  3. Juliet Fish Nichols: The Angel of Angel Island lighthousedigest.net

  4. The Real Heroine of Angel Island San Francisco Chronicle May 13, 1906

  5. Lighthouse Heroes Washington, D.C. Evening Star May 25, 1911

  6. Emily Fish, The Socialite Keeper The Keeper’s Log Spring 1985 - www.USLHS.org

  7. Point Knox Lighthouse Lighthouse Friends