Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2018

A Little Light Romance: Courting Lighthouse Style

Chapter 3: In Which Orlo and Estella become engaged and finally wed

By Debra Baldwin


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The Courting Couple (Courtesy Jean Hayward ...

When last we left second assistant Orlo E. Hayward at Cape Flattery Lighthouse in Washington, he and his girlfriend Estella Woodard had been corresponding for almost a year. Orlo had settled into his duties on Tatoosh and was enjoying all the people and activities of island life, which included fishing, movie watching, husbandry, cooking, housekeeping and, of course, lighthouse duties.

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Orlo often spoke of writing his letters while on ...

His letters give snippets of the daily life at Cape Flattery in 1923 and of the friendly relationships between the personnel who served at the lighthouse, weather bureau, and radio station. They went on outings together, shared meals, and socialized in off-duty hours. But Orlo was growing tired of being alone and dreamt of the day his “little pal” would join him. Between April 5 and May 31, he wrote the following tidbits:

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Orlo often mentioned gazing at the photos Estella ...

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Head keeper John M. Cowan (r), first assistant ...

Tatoosh, WA

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Orlo E. Hayward mentioned that he was having the ...

Dear Estella,

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In his letter, Orlo E. Hayward (l) mentioned ...

Well, here I am once more in the fog signal room. It is foggy and I am on watch and this old horn is sure putting out some swell music tonight. The old engine is purring away right behind me. The last three days has [sic] been nothing but fog and we are getting short of oil. But the tender is going to bring us some in two weeks.

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Orlo E. Hayward and Estella Woodard Hayward spent ...

I had quite a little trouble with the light when I got up. First the battery gave out and then there was no good one up there, so I chased all over the island to find another. Then the light wouldn’t work good and it took me about 15 minutes to adjust it.

I’ve been fixing up my house a little. Last Saturday I laid my linoleum in the kitchen. Sure looks fine. It’s brand new. Well, we’ve got all of our spading done and will have spuds to plant this week. I am not raising any garden this year for what vegetables I eat don’t amount to much but, oh! How I do hope to have a little pal to do things for next year. I know I could make one happy.

I got my new engine for the boat and now thank the Lord, no more rowing for me. We are going across the straits some nice day and take a look at Pachena Light House. It will be a 24-mile round trip.

So, you want to know my vacation plans. Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve been doing nothing but planning since I’ve come into the Light House Service and they never do turn out right, so I don’t do any planning ahead anymore to speak of.

Last Sunday, one of the weather bureau men and his wife and two radio men and myself took the boat with an Evinrude motor on and went to Sail River about 11 miles from here. We made it up fine and cooked a big chow and then when we were ready to go, the darned old motor wouldn’t go. Well, it took us two hours to get the thing going and we left at 7:30 P.M. We made it within about ¾ mile of this island and we ran out of gas and had to row the rest of the way. Well, it was exactly 10:30 PM when we landed. In spite of the engine trouble, we had a good time.

So, you think you are going to be an old maid, oh! I don’t know. If you are, it’s going to be your own fault.

Well, it is time to put the light out so I will close now.

With lots of love,


Tatoosh, WA

Dearest Estella,

Well, we have been pretty busy the last three days. We painted the whole inside of the tower. Mr. Cowan says we’ve got two or three more little jobs and we will spend the rest of our time taking vacations. We just got through polishing the brass on the fog engines and now I think we are through for a while.

We are sure having fine weather now. We’ve been fishing the last two days. The first day we fished for deep sea fish but didn’t get any. Yesterday we tried trolling and in 10 minutes we caught an 18-pound spring salmon. Had my picture taken with it.

Monday the weather bureau man and his wife and a radio man and our new assistant and myself went over to the bay in our boat and my egg beater of an engine! We made it over all right, but when we started back it didn’t start so we had to get the mailman to tow us back home.

I’m having the time of my life now milking two cows and one of them is mean and kicks all the time. Puts her foot in the bucket and one thing and another. I’ve got 13 little chicks now and another hen to come off soon.

So, you are sewing. What’s the idea, making a hope chest? Well, that’s right. It pays to be ready. I’ve got one more piece of linoleum to lay then I’m through. Yes, I’ll admit it does look kind of suspicious fixing up my house. Well, I’ll admit that I don’t intend on coming back here without that little Pal. I’m sure she’ll like it here, don’t you? You know I don’t intend to stay here all my life.

Well, I must drop the folks a few lines so will close this time.

As ever with love,


On June 6, 1923 after many previous hints of “something special” to tell her, and stating that he was ever so tired of living alone, Orlo finally couldn’t wait any longer and offered this heartfelt proposal:

Girl, I’ve got to tell you something. I can’t hold off any longer. There is not a bit of foolishness about this. I am in earnest. I’ve never seen you much but honest, I’m not making a mistake when I say that I love you dearly and I have everything ready but to ask you to marry me. So now you know what to expect when I come. I know if I do say it myself I’ll make you a good husband. I have nothing to offer you except my two hands and love for you which is enough for the right kind of girl. Think this over and do take it to heart.

From your forever,


How Estella replied and exactly when she accepted, we will never know, but in Orlo’s next letters a few days later, he wrote how happy her reply made him feel and that he knew now that she would be his forever.

After this date, even Orlo would have to admit to himself that his letters entered the state of “mushiness” that he had often used to describe the couples he knew at the lighthouses who were in love and newly married. His expressed devotion to Estella, yearning to be with her and promises of a blissful married life increased up until the last letter before he left to meet her to be married on January 22, 1924 in Eugene, Oregon.

Estella saved only one other later letter from 1927 when Orlo was stationed at Coquille River Lighthouse some three years after their marriage and was in the process of moving to Slip Point Light. Orlo addressed her as “Dear Old Lady” but talked of being so lonesome for her and then signed it, “I remain as ever your beloved hubby,” with many kiss marks afterwards showing his deep affection for her still.

Orlo E. Hayward and Estella Woodard Hayward lived at seven different lighthouses together after Cape Flattery while raising their three children during the next twenty years. They celebrated their golden wedding anniversary on January 22, 1974. In their photograph taken on that occasion after 50 years of marriage, you can still clearly see the man who signed his letters, “Lovingly, Orlo” and the twinkle in his “little Pal” Estella’s eye.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2018 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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