Kate Walker Story to be told at Robbins Reef

Robbins Reef

Robbins Reef Lighthouse with the New York skyline behind it. Copyright Candace Clifford

The Noble Maritime Collection recently became the new steward of Robbins Reef Lighthouse, a caisson tower off Staten Island in New York Harbor. They plan to restore and interpret the station to how it looked in the early 1900s when Kate Walker was the keeper. We are excited by this development in that we devoted a chapter to Kate in our book Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers and later made her part of the cover image of the kid’s version, Mind the Light Kate: The History of Thirty-Three Lighthouse Keepers.  

21 Dec 1902 - Times Picayune - Kate Walker

Illustration from the TIMES PICAYUNE, December 21, 1902

When Kate’s husband John Walker left the light sick with pneumonia, he instructed Kate to “Mind the Light Katie” which she did for the next 29 years.  According to a letter from the District Inspector dated June 18, 1894, after John’s death in 1890, Katie was paid as a laborer or acting keeper, not receiving the official keeper’s appointment until four years later in 1894. Her son Jacob was appointed her assistant in 1896.

Note in the Register of Keepers below that two men turned down the appointment after John’s death.

Entry for Robbins Reef Lighthouse, Register of Keepers, microfilm publication M1373

Entry for Robbins Reef Lighthouse, Register of Keepers, microfilm publication M1373

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