Split Rock Lighthouse was staffed by resident keepers from 1910 through 1969, when the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the station. In the early years of the job, the keeper and the two assistants rotated four-hour watches throughout the night. During the day, they kept a keen eye on the weather and operated the fog signal as needed.
1910-1928: Orren "Pete" Young serves as head keeper. A former sailor, Young began his lighthouse career in 1901 serving along Lake Superior’s Michigan coast. In 1910 Young moved to the new Split Rock Lighthouse where he operated the light signal from April to December. His family, a wife and four children would come to live at the lighthouse in the summer months.
1928-1944: Franklin J. Covell serves as head keeper. Covell first arrived at Split Rock in 1913 as second assistant keeper. After three years, he moved on to work at other lighthouses in Superior, WI and Two Harbors, returning to Split Rock to stay in 1924. Like keeper Young, Covell's family visited during the summer until 1931 when they moved to the lighthouse for year-round living.
1944-1946: James Gagnon serves as head keeper.
1946-1947: Morse Rhea serves as head keeper.
1947-1961: Robert E. Bennetts serves as the last civilian keeper.
1969: Lighthouse is decommissioned.
Modern Day Lighthouse
1970-1975: The State of Minnesota acquired the lighthouse in 1970. It became part of Split Rock State Park one year later.
1975: Lighthouse is transferred to the Minnesota Historical Society.
1976-1982: Tom Ellig becomes first historic site manager. Under Ellig, the story of the light station, its keepers and their role in Great Lakes shipping was told. Following this interpretive focus, Ellig oversaw the historic renovation of the site – grounds, fog signal building and keepers house – to its 1920s appearance. Ellig now serves as historic properties manager for all of the Society's sites.
1982-Today: Lee Radzak becomes historic site manager. Radzak joined the Society in 1976 as an archaeologist working on state park master plans and on the Minnesota Statewide Archaeological Survey. In 1982 he became the historic site manager at Split Rock Lighthouse, developing an expanded interpretive program and overseeing the construction of the Split Rock Lighthouse History Center in 1986 and the most recent restorations to the lighthouse and fog signal buildings, in 2008 and 2009.