Kate Walker here. I kept the light on Robbins Reef in New York Harbor from 1890 to 1919. That’s a lot of years, isn’t it? And don’t forget that the light had to be kept seven days a week, 365 days a year. There were no days off unless you had an assistant keeper or a substitute you could trust to put a lamp in the tower at sunset, replace it when needed during the night, and extinguish it at sunrise. That substitute was often a wife or a child of the keeper. My son Jacob served as my assistant.
I’m not the only woman to have stayed at my post for a record number of years. Josephine Freeman kept the Blackistone Island Light Station in Maryland on the Potomac River from 1876 until 1912. Harriet Colfax was at the Michigan City Light in Indiana from 1861 until 1904. Ida Lewis was at Lime Rock (later named Ida Lewis Rock) in Rhode Island from 1857 until 1911. Julia Williams kept the Santa Barbara Light in California from 1865 until 1905. Catherine Murdock was at Roundout Creek on the Hudson River in New York from 1857 until 1907. Maria Youngans was at Biloxi Light in Mississippi from 1867 until 1918. Elizabeth Williams was at Beaver Island Harbor Point Light Station from 1872 to 1884 and at Little Traverse Light Station, Michigan, from 1884 to 1913.
Which one of us should get the prize for the longest tenure at a light station?
Was any male keeper at his station longer than these women were? I know about the following men who served many years:
Sedgwick Springs at Bald Head, NC, 1807 – 1837
William Gilley at Bakers Island, ME, 1828 – 1849
Leander White at Cape Elizabeth, ME, 1888 – 1909
Miles Burnham at Cape Canaveral, FL, 1861 – 1885
Enoch Ellis Howard at Ocracoke, NC, 1862 – 1897
William W. Williams at Boon Island, ME, 1885 – 1911
Clinton P. Honeywell at Cape Canaveral, FL, 1891 – 1930
Willis Dolliver at Bass Harbor Head, ME, 1894 – 1921
Peter Rasmusson at St. Augustine, FL, 1901 – 1924
Henry L. Dow at New Point Comfort, VA, 1919 – 1954
Are there others I should know about? [Please reply to this post in order for your keeper to show up in the comments]
Sources: Dates for female keepers are from Women Who Kept the Lights. Dates for male keepers from <www.lighthousefriends.com>.
Submitted August 15, 2017
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