Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef. It may surprise you to know that I spent part of every day on paperwork. John taught me how to keep the records and make the reports, but after he died, I relied on my son Jacob to put my words onto the report forms because writing in English was difficult for me. I always signed them.
I had to submit a monthly report on the condition of the station and make explicit specifications for any needed repairs. Expenditures of oil, etc., and salary vouchers were to be submitted quarterly. Property returns were submitted annually along with receipts for extra supplies and for their delivery. I signed a receipt for all the station property when I took charge.
The 1880 Laws and Regulations Relating to the Light-House Establishment of the United States listed 68 different types of forms used in managing the Lighthouse Service. I was to forward to District Inspector Commander A.S. Snow reports of shipwrecks, any damage to station apparatus, and any unusual occurrence. I kept a daily expenditure book, a general account book, and a journal in which I recorded the work I’d done that day, any visit of the Inspector or Engineer or of the lampist or machinist, or any delivery of stores.
Also any item of interest occurring in the vicinity, such as the state of the weather, or other similar matter. Although it wasn’t specified, I recorded every visitor who came to the lighthouse, because there weren’t many.
Among my unexpected visitors was a box containing a dead baby, which I rowed to the coroner on Staten Island. On another day a young couple out rowing were carried onto the reef by the tide and stove a hole in the bow of their rowboat. The girl was frantic because she couldn’t get home that night. Fortunately a friend of my daughter Mamie rowed out to the lighthouse that evening to pay a call. He agreed to take them ashore, where they promptly got married and avoided a scandal.
I didn’t report these to the Light-House Board.
Information is from the 1881 Instructions to Lightkeepers, National Archives Record Group 26 Entry 1, Volume 753; and the New York Times, March 5, 1906.
Candace was the US Lighthouse Society historian from 2016 until she passed away in August 2018. For 30 years, her work involved lighthouse history. She worked with the National Park Service and the Council of American Maritime Museums. She was a noted author and was considered the most knowledgable person on lighthouse information at the National Archives. Books by Candace Clifford include: Women who Kept the Lights: a History of Thirty-eight Female Lighthouse Keepers , Mind the Light Katie, and Maine Lighthouses, Documentation of their Past.