Death of Pittee girls and black child
The children knew they shouldn’t play around construction equipment. The tram car sat on tracks sloping from the lighthouse tower to the roiling sea below. Riding the cart was a tempting fun adventure and probably off limits for the lively youngsters. But July 10, 1873, on the site of the newly constructed St. Augustine Lighthouse Tower, 15 year-old Mary Pittee, allegedly clothed in a blue velvet dress, enticed her siblings and a friend to board the vehicle. Mary and Eliza, 13, encouraged younger siblings Edward and Carrie to climb on. The ten-year-old daughter of a black worker didn’t hang back.
Then, something went horribly wrong. The vehicle took up speed and shot down the tracks pitching forward when it hit the sand and pinning the children beneath it in the ocean waves. Workers scrambled to their aid and rescued Edward and Carrie. Mary, Eliza and the little black girl, whose name we do not know, could not be saved.
Today Mary is seen, sometimes with such clarity that the blue velvet dress can be identified. Occasionally, she appears dripping wet. The two sisters often appear together around the light station. But, as far as we know, the little black girl has never been spotted.
During several months as a tour guide at the Lighthouse House I tried to see Mary and Eliza. Mary appears most often, frequently emerging in the second floor window of the keepers’ house. I would stand quietly waiting for her to materialize — she never did. Then, one summer day I entertained a couple from Ohio who did see the girls, but not in my presence. After the tour, we left the grounds and drove off in different directions. What happened next prompted them to call me a week later from Ohio to tell me their story. They drove toward the pier and as they passed the playground, the car lights swept across a swing set. They saw the image of two girls playing on the swings. The couple stopped and pointed the lights toward them. The girls disappeared.. They turned off the lights and could see the girls and hear the creak of the swings. After a few seconds the images disappeared, but the swings continued to move. Although mystified, the observers did not get out to investigate.
At another time, I was surprised to learn about a sighting by a young boy. It was daylight and I was talking to some visitors on the lighthouse pier about the ghost girls. “I saw them over there,” a youngster standing within earshot said, pointing to the keepers’ house.
He said he saw them “on the steps,” but I don’t recall which steps he was referring to. The only steps inside the residence today lead to the basement. The steps to the second floor are outside the building. Regardless of the location, he clearly saw the Pittee sisters during the day. He did not see the little black girl.
Where is the little girl and why can’t we see her? We don’t even know her name. Certainly there are ghosts of black people just as there are of white? I would like to know if anyone has seen the little girl and not mentioned it. I also would like know more about ghosts of black people. Where are these stories? Why don’t we talk about them? Do you readers have any thoughts on that?