The position of lightkeeper was to keep the light station in tip-top condition and keep watch for ships passing by the Diamond Shoals. The lightkeeper’s had a list of duties that needed to be done, including carrying fuel up to the lantern room and refueling the lamp, regularly cleaning and polishing the lenses, windows, brass and tools, lighting and extinguishing the lamp daily, monitoring the light at night, painting, greeting visitors and keeping records and reports. As the light station grew, so did the number of staff.
Along with the lightkeeper, their families lived at the station in the keeper’s quarters. The families had to be self-sufficient and grew most of their own food and kept live stock on the grounds around the lighthouse. As most lighthouses are isolated, the keeper’s families of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse were lucky to be close to town and other people.
Pictured is the last Principal Keeper, Unaka Jennette, who was a native of Buxton. He and his wife, Sudie, raised their 7 children at the lighthouse station from 1919-1936. Once electricity came along, the need for a keeper wasn’t necessary, due to the reliability of the lamp and cleaning soot off the lenses was no longer needed.