It could be argued that the two most important jobs along the Eastern seaboard during the 19th century were that of lighthouse keeper and life-saver. The former worked hard to warn ships off shoals, while the latter worked to save those who ships foundered.
At Cape Lookout National Seashore, the history of light-keeper runs back to when the original Cape Lookout lighthouse was first lit in 1812. This fall the national seashore will honor the descendants of both the lightkeepers and those who worked for the U.S. Life-Saving Service and U.S. Coast Guard on the cape.
According to the seashore's historians:
The most important part of the Keeper’s duties was to keep the light operating according to the daily schedule. At Cape Lookout Lighthouse it operated from about 4 p.m. until a little after dawn. But during a storm like a hurricane or a nor’easter, the light had to be kept in operation 24 hours a day until the storm was over.
The Keeper began his day by dressing in the official uniform of the Lighthouse Service. The uniform consisted of blue pants, vest, suit jacket, and hat. The uniform had to be worn at all times on duty. If a
keeper was found wearing the uniform improperly, he could be fined or even fired!
Once the Keeper was dressed, he headed out to the oil shed which might be attached to the lighthouse or
nearby. Once in the shed, he filled one or two five- gallon containers of oil and then started the climb to the light. Climbing a small lighthouse was easy and just a few steps to the top. But in a lighthouse like Cape Lookout, he had to climb 201 steps to the top!
As for the U.S. Life-Saving Service, it operated three stations on Cape Lookout: The Portsmouth (1894), Core Banks (1888) and Cape Lookout (1896) stations.
In cooperation with the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center, the National Park Service plans to recognize and honor those who worked as lightkeepers, life-savers, or for the U.S. Coast Guard during this year’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the lighting of the 1859 Cape Lookout lighthouse. So far more than 80 descendants of lightkeepers and life-savers have notified the seashore that they'll attend this fall's celebration.
If you were a keeper, life saver, coast guardsman, or you are a descendant, or if you know a descendant, please contact Cape Lookout National Seashore, with the following information:
* Your name
* Your mailing address
* Your telephone number
* Your e-mail address
* Your ancestor keeper’s name and time at the lighthouse
* Your interest in participating in the event
* Any photos or documents relating to your ancestor that you would be willing to share that would help enrich the event
Please contact Park Management Assistant/Chief of Interpretation Wouter Ketel by phone at 252-728-2250, extension 3005, for more information.
The 150th anniversary of the lighting of the 1859 Cape Lookout Lighthouse is November 1, 2009. Cape Lookout National Seashore is planning special events beginning on Columbus Day Weekend, October 9, 2009, and continuing until the anniversary day on November 1, 2009, to commemorate this important event.