Kate Moore: Lighthouse Keeper 1813-1899

Kate Moore

Kate Moore

Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

Keeper's House

The lighthouse keeper's house where Moore spent most of her life. 

Black Rock Lighthouse Black Rock Lighthouse

The lightouse, inactive since 1932, was restored in 1998. Photo by Charlie Kellogg

Kathleen (Kate) Moore was four years old when her father, Captain Stephen Moore, was appointed as the keeper of the Fayerweather Lighthouse, which had been built at the mouth of Black Rock harbor. As she grew, the oldest daughter assumed much of the work that it was difficult for her injured father to perform.

In her many years as lighthouse keeper, she was credited with saving 21 lives, and sheltered many shipwrecked men. Some nights, she recalled, there were as many as three or four wrecks, with 200 sailing vessels in the harbor. When storms were bad, she would have to sleep alone in the lighthouse to keep the light going, trying not to slip while walking on two planks which could be under four feet of water. The worst part, she said, was finding bodies washed up on the shore following a bad storm.

At the age of 59, Moore was officially appointed by the U.S. government as the keeper of the lighthouse, a task she had already been performing for 47 years. She took both the work and the isolation in stride, saying that she always had the animals – poultry, 2 cows, and 20 sheep that she sheared herself – to keep her company, and did not have time to be bored.  She had a garden to make and keep, as well as rain water to collect. On long nights when she had to stay up to tend the light, she carved wooden ducks that she sold as souvenirs to island visitors. She also kept a watchful eye on poachers who tried to take oysters from the oyster beds near the island, and would row out to them with her shotgun, yelling, “I represent the United States Government and you’ve got to go.”

She continued taking care of her parents (who lived into their 90s), the gardens and farm animals, as well as the lighthouse until she finally retired and moved to a house near the Black Rock harbor.