The Keepers

Q. Who manned the lighthouse and what were their duties?
The staff consisted of a Principal Keeper and two Assistant Keepers. The keepers did not live in the lighthouse but, when they were on duty, they would be found in the watch room at the top of the tower. Originally, the Lighthouse Board provided housing, staple foods, medicine, and a salary up to $800/yr. After the 1880s, keepers wore dark blue wool dress uniforms or fatigues.

They worked at the lighthouse daily performing maintenance, repair and administrative duties. Each keeper was required to stand a 4 hour watch during the night. The time of these watches alternated daily from keeper to keeper. On one day, the Principal Keeper may take the 8 pm to midnight watch, the 1st Assistant Keeper would take the midnight to 4 am watch, and the 2nd Assistant Keeper would take the 4 to 8 am watch. The following night the Principal Keeper would take the midnight to 4 am watch, etc, etc. The keeper on watch at the end of the night would be responsible for all morning maintenance of the lamp and lens to prepare them for the upcoming night.

The keeper's duties included:

  • Hand carrying fuel up to the lantern room and fueling the lamp;
  • Trimming the wicks (later, replacing the mantles and pumping up the oil vaporizer);
  • Regularly cleaning and polishing (with jeweler’s rouge and whiting) the glass chimney, lenses and windows;
  • Polishing vast amounts of brass fittings and tools;
  • Cranking up the weight, latching it, and letting it free when they lit the lamp at night;
  • Lighting and extinguishing the lamp (it was wasteful and unnecessary to burn it by day);
  • Closing lantern room curtains by day to prevent damage from magnified sunlight through the lens, and discoloration of the lens glass;
  • Cleaning and lubricating the clockwork;
  • Painting the structure;
  • Routine maintenance and repairs of all buildings;
  • Greeting and sometimes lodging visitors and inspectors;
  • Writing reports, keeping records, and ordering supplies;
  • Monitoring the light and nearby shipping at night.

Q. Where did the Keepers live and when were the houses built?
The two Assistant Keepers and their families lived in the Double Keepers’ Quarters, built in 1854. The Principal Keeper and his family lived in the small house that was built in 1870.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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