Lighthouse Daughters--Catherine Moore

Monday, July 15, 2013

At least three female U.S. lighthouse keepers started their careers before they reached maturity. Although their fathers were the official lighthouse keepers, they soon became the primary workers.

Mind the Light, Katie, by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candice Clifford, includes the stories of Catherine Moore, Abbie Burgess Grant, and Ida Lewis. Each is a fascinating female who deserves her own post.

Catherine (Kate) Moore was twelve in 1817 when her father became lighthouse keeper at Black Rock Light Station off the north shore of Long Island Sound (in Connecticut). She started assisting him immediately. When he was injured two years later, Kate took over his duties and remained unofficial lighthouse keeper until her father’s death in 1871. It was a long time to serve without official recognition, but perhaps she was happy to give that honor to her father.

Years later, Kate described her evening routine:

During windy nights it was impossible to keep [the lights] burning at all, and I had to stay there all night, but on other nights I slept at home, dressed in a suit of boys’ clothes, my lighted lantern hanging at my headboard and my face turned so that I could see shining on the wall the light from the tower and know if anything happened to it. Our house was [about 700 feet] from the lighthouse, and to reach it I had to walk across two planks under which on stormy nights were four feet of water, and it was not too easy to stay on those slippery, wet boards with the wind whirling and the spray blinding me.

Kate’s light was located on Fayerweather Island. She planted a garden and kept a number of animals, which were her main playmates. As she grew older, she carved and sold duck decoys and had a thriving oyster business. She is credited with saving 21 lives during her years at the lighthouse.

After her father’s death, Kate received the official appointment and continued on until she retired in 1878. She lived another twenty-plus years in a house with a view of Fayerweather Island and Long Island Sound.

Although Kate never married and knew no other life, she appears to have been happy enough. Still, when asked during her retirement years if she missed her island home, she said, “Never. The sea is a treacherous friend.”

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For more information on Catherine Moore and Black Rock Light Station, see pages 7-10 of Mind the Light, Katie and/or check out the following websites:

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The picture from the Coast Guard shows Black Rock Light Station as it probably looked when Catherine Moore served there.

1 comment:

Linda Glaz said...

What a feeling to know you saved all those lives.

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