Digest>Archives> September 2010

The Last Keeper at Split Rock - Book Review

By Timothy Harrison


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It’s not often I read a book in one or two sittings, but this is one of those books that I couldn’t put down. Plus, I’m sure I’ll read it again, probably more than once.

It’s the memoirs of Mike Roberts, the last lighthouse keeper to serve at Minnesota’s Split Rock Lighthouse that is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Roberts served at Split Rock Lighthouse from 1966 to 1969 when he was the last Coast Guardsman to leave the shuttered beacon as it became an abandoned sentinel void of the human life.

Roberts’ book is what he calls “A Memoir,” and that’s truly the best way to describe the book. But what sets this book apart is the refreshing way Roberts has of recalling his observations and experiences of lighthouse keeping duties while mixing in so many interesting family memories and those of the others stationed with him at the historic location.

I especially liked how the chapters are broken down by what I would call subchapters, with each of the concise recollections and memories often ending with a personal anecdote at the conclusion of each one. As I read the pages of the book, I felt like I had actually stepped back in time and was there with Roberts.

An extra touch that this book offers is a glimpse into a Coast Guardsman’s life after being a lighthouse keeper. Often, in the pages of history, we read about the family life of the keeper while stationed at the lighthouse, but very little is known about what happened to the keeper and the family after they left the lighthouse. This book takes you to that next level.

The icing on the cake for the book is the numerous photographs that were included throughout its pages.

The photos really helped me feel as though I was a first hand witness to the memories. You definitely won’t find these images anywhere else.

Roberts did a wonderful job of recounting a way of life that can never again be repeated in the annals of time. I loved the book; it’s a step above many others and I would highly recommend it everyone. You won’t be disappointed, I guarantee it.

The Last Light Keeper at Split Rock is available for $14.95 plus $6 s&h from Ligthouse Digest, PO Box 250, East Machias, ME 04630, 207-259-2121, or www.FogHornPublishing.com.

This story appeared in the September 2010 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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