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National Rivers Hall of Fame Inductees

Hall of Fame inductees are the pioneers, explorers and artists in America's river history. They were movers and shakers from the days gone by and the recent past. These men and women made significant contributions related to America’s rivers, which is why we honor them.


The River People

Jane Muckle Robinson

Inducted in 2016

The careers of pilots, engineers and entrepreneurs who made their living on America’s waterways relied on those who guided the way and marked the channel. Before the advent of electric lights, the river’s twists and turns were especially treacherous. At night, the only safeguards against disaster were kerosene lamps dotting the riverbanks kept lit by dedicated light keepers. Born in Belfast, Ireland, Jane Muckle Robinson came to Dundas, Minnesota in 1881 and began lighting her stretch of the river in 1885 at the age of 23. A lighthouse keeper worked nightly from spring thaw to late fall, responsible for their lights 24 hours a day if needed.

If a light would go out, boat pilots were required to blow their whistles in a series of one long and three short blows until the keeper awoke, rowed out to the lamp, and lit the flame again. Every evening, Robinson would climb aboard a small wooden boat in her billowing skirts and row upstream to her assigned lights she was assigned. She would trim the wick, fill the kerosene, clean the glass, and light the flame. In the morning she repeated the trip so she could extinguish the lamp. Robinson retired in 1921, handing the job over to her son, Robert. She estimated that in her 36-year stint as a government employee she had rowed the equivalent of twice around the globe.