Seul Choix Pt.
Stories from the 1890's
Transcribed by Larry Peterson
Photo: L. Peterson Collection
Source: The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sunday, June 28, 1891, page 2
THREE NEW LIGHTHOUSES
A gang of men is now at work building the light station on Devil's island, the most northern island of the Apostle group, Lake Superior. The tower, owing to the smallness of the appropriation therefor, will be a temporary wooden structure, but will ultimately be replaced by brick. The keeper's quarters will be of brick. This station, it is expected, will be completed and in operation by the latter part of next month. Bids have been invited for material for the construction of the light station at Two Harbors, Minn., and work upon that station will be commenced within two months. Seul Choix point, Lake Michigan, will be the next point tackled. Col. Ludlow will in all probability have the latter two stations completed and in operation before the close of navigation. They are all to be of brick and each will burn a fixed white fourth order light. These will be the only light stations established on the upper lakes this season. In addition Col. Ludlow will do his utmost to have all the ranges and beacons set in the Ste. Mary's river before the season closes.
Source: Inter Ocean, March 15, 1892, page 2
NOTICE TO MARINERS.
Washington, March14 —Special Telegram— The Light-house Board has issued the following notice to mariners: Notice is hereby given that on April 15, 1892 a fixed white light of the fourth order will be exhibited from the temporary structure erected on the extremity of Seul Choix Pointe, northern end of Lake Michigan. The light will illuminate 270 degrees of the horizon, extending from N.N.E.. through eastward and southward to W.N.W. Bearings are true and from seaward. The focal plane is sixty-six feet above mean lake level, and the light may be seen in clear weather, from the deck of a vessel ten feet above the lake, fourteen statute miles. The light will be shown from an octagonal wooden lantern, painted black, surmounting a pyramidal open frame-work tower forty-seven feet high from its base to the focal plane. The upper part of the tower is inclosed. The approximate geographical position of the light-house as taken from Chart No. 10 of the United States survey of the northern and north-western lakes is: Latitude, north, 45 degrees, 55 minutes, 16 seconds; longitude, first, 55 degrees, 54 minutes, 39 seconds.
First Keeper - Joseph Fountain Native American //
"The Three Bill's" Keepers, William Hansen, William Blanchard, William Davis
Photos Contributed by Marilyn Fischer
Source: Kalamazoo Gazette, Sept. 28, 1894 Page 1
ONLY ONE MAN ESCAPED
Loss on the Lake of the Schooner William Home.
SIX OF THE CREW ARE DROWNED,
Story of the Disaster as Told by the Only Survivor—One of the Victims Was a Woman.
Manistique, Mich., Sept. 27. – The schooner William Home, consort of the steamer F. R. Buell, sank off Seul Choix Point during the heavy southeast gale. All of the crew of seven except one man were drowned. There was one woman in the crew. The only survivor, Anton Minga, floated ashore unconscious on a piece of the yawl boat. The body of the woman was picked up on the beach about the same time. The dead are; Captain C. J. Henderson, residence Mexico, N.Y.; Annie--, cook, 18 years old; Keider, a sailor; Walter--, mate; two unknown sailors.
Anton Minga, who resides at 815 Riopelle Street, Detroit, said the Home left Manistique in tow of the Steamer Buell, along with the Alvina and Fulton. The Home had on board 579 tons of pig iron. The boats traveled along without mishap toward the straits until 10:30 o'clock, when the deck load shifted. The strain was too much for the old timbers of the boat and soon water began to pour into the hold.
The crew tried in vain to signal the steamer and the other barges with torches, but could receive no reply. Finding their boat was going to sink from under them in deep water with the towline still fast to the other barges, the line was cut and the crew started for shore under sail. Half an hour after the deck load shifted the schooner went to the bottom. The crew of seven succeeded in getting into the yawl, which soon afterward capsized. All except Minga were washed from the overturned yawl, but he succeeded in holding on and was finally blown upon the beach near the Seul Choix light. He was picked up there by Joe Fountain, the lighthouse keeper, and carried to the latter's home. It was with great difficulty that he was brought back to consciousness. The shore for many miles in either direction from Seul Choix point is strewn with wreckage. The Home's cargo was valued at $10,000 and insured for $0,500.
Light Keeper William Blanchard, third from left
Amanda "Pemble" Blanchard, wife of Keeper William Blanchard
Photos Contributed by Marilyn Fischer
Source: The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Wednesday, October 10, 1894, Page 5
Life Saving Crew Badly Needed.
The recent loss of life from the schooner Home in Lake Michigan, has drawn the attention of mariners to the fact that there is no life saving station on the north shore, between the straits and Poverty passage, and that Seul Choix point, extending as it does so far out into the lake, is a desirable place for a station. A large number of fishermen live on the point and if necessary, a volunteer crew could doubtless be procured if a lifeboat was furnished. The lightkeeper at the point states that not one of the Home's crew would have been drowned if there had been a life saving crew there to direct the men in the boat where to make a landing. It is known that if the boat had been steered five rods further either way it would have been run on the beach in safety. The boat was directed straight for the lighthouse, directly in front of which the fatal reef lay. The breakers capsized the boat and the crew were unable to obtain a hold on it to save themselves; the boat came ashore uninjured, not 100 yards north of where it was overturned. The one survivor caught a line that had for some purpose been fastened to the thwart on which he sat. He held on to it until washed ashore.
Source: The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 15, 1897, page 7.
Old Schooner Kate Winslow Goes to the Bottom
ON LAKE MICHIGAN.
Captain and Her Crew Succeed in Reaching Shore
WITHOUT LOSS OF LIFE.
The Winslow Was Bound From Gladstone to Sandusky With a
Cargo of Pig Iron — She Was Insured for $10,000
Hutchinson & Co, yesterday received a dispatch from Capt E. J. Cuyler, managing owner and master of the schooner Kate Winslow, stating that that vessel foundered on Lake Michigan. The dispatch was dated Whitedale, Mich., a little station on the Soo road on the north shore of Lake Michigan. The Winslow was bound from Gladstone to Sandusky with a cargo of pig iron. She had about 1,200 tons. She was with the schooner May Richards in tow of the steamer Queen of the West. The Queen of the West reached Mackinaw yesterday and her master reported that he lost the Winslow Wednesday night about fifteen miles from Gull island light in a heavy sea. The Kate Winslow was owned by Capt E. J. Cuyler and others of Avon. She was insured for $10,000 in the following companies: Etna Insurance Co., $750; Detroit Fire & Marine, $1,000; Norwood Insurance Co., $2,000; British American Assurnance Co., $1,500; Western Assurance Co., $1,500; Chicago Insurance Co., $1,000; Greenwich Insurance Co., $1,000; Union Marine Insurance Co., $1,250. The Kate Winslow was built by Davidson at Saginaw in 1872. She registered 699 net tons. She was thoroughly overhauled last winter and was given a better rating than she had the year before. Capt. Cuyler and the other members of the crew reached shore in the small boats.
MANISTIQUE, Oct. 14.—The schooner Kate Winslow, heavily laden with pig iron, foundered in Lake Michigan off Seul Choix point early this morning. Capt. E. J. Cuyler and his crew succeeded in reaching the shore without loss of life and made their way to Whitedale, a small town a short distance from this port. The schooner and cargo are a total loss. The Winslow left Gladstone yesterday, bound for Sandusky. She was in tow of the steamer Queen of the West, which also had the schooner May Richards in tow, the Winslow being the last of the three. After leaving Green Bay the vessels encountered a heavy southwest gale on Lake Michigan. Laden deeply with 1,200 tons of pig iron the schooners labored heavily in the sea and every wave swept their decks.
Last night, when the boats were about fifteen miles from Gull island, the tow line holding the Winslow to the Richards parted. The Queen of the West and Richards had all they could do to take care of themselves, and the Winslow was left to her fate.
Driven before the southwest gale, the Winslow ran north, laboring heavily in the sea and making poor work under her shortened sail. Her master was making every endeavor to get under the shelter of Seul Choix point, which would afford a refuge from the southwest gale. Before the schooner could get to this friendly shelter, however, she commenced to leak badly, and when ten miles from the point the crew abandoned her for the lifeboat. She foundered soon after. Once safe in the lifeboat the crew of the Winslow made the land in safety. She was commanded by Capt. E. J. Cuyler, who was managing owner of the vessel. He places the value of the ship at $15,000. She was insured for $10,000 with eight different companies. She had an A2 rating. The Winslow was built in 1872 and measured 699 tons net. She was formerly one of the fleet of fine sailing vessels which were the pride of lake mariners twenty years ago, before the days of steam.
After losing the Winslow from her tow, the Queen of the West proceeded to Mackinaw City and reported her adrift. Then she was headed for Cheboygan, there to wait tidings of the missing boat.
The Light Keepers and area families around the base of the tower.
Source: The Owyhee Avalanche, February 4, 1899
LIGHTS ON THE LAKES
THEY FLASH WARNING MESSAGES TO THE SHIPS.
Seventy Light Stations Serve to Guide Lake Michigan Mariners Through
fog and storm—How the Lights Are Tended-Code of Signals Used.
When the wintry gales howl over the great lakes and ice floes dash against shore and about the foundations of lighthouses the lot of the keeper is not a happy one. When cyclonic storms rage in spring or autumn, when the inland seas are dotted with craft, under press of sail or driven by steam, then indeed the men who are responsible for the aids to navigation have no time for idle dreaming. There was a time when the setting in of the winter would send many keepers to winter quarters: when lights would be put out for the long vacation decreed by Jack Frost, but in the ninth district—the one embracing the 1,100 miles of Lake Michigan—that time has passed.
Six hundred dollars a year is not a big salary. It seems to be still smaller when one considers the nature of the employment, where difficulties and often dangers imminent and terrifying surround. Lighthouse-keepers on the sea coast or around the lakes face perils landsmen are unacquainted with, and which landsmen can scarcely appreciate, yet a paternal government is "fully advised," as they say in court, that $50 a month is a good salary for such servants. Cold, possible privation, possible loss of life itself, are no reasons for increasing the stipend. Men will serve for that salary and the law says it is enough.
Of course, suitable quarters are provided for the keepers. But of all happenings to mortal man isolation, the absolute severance of all communication with his kind, is the worst punishment. Isolation for the greater portion of the year is the portion of him who keeps a light. His home may be, nay, frequently is, out on some jutting reef, removed from land by several hundreds of yards of open water. When the breezes blow too strongly he is cooped in his exposed dwelling as effectually as would be the case if old ocean rolled between him and the shore.
No lake in the great chain has as many sail on its bosom as Lake Michigan. None has traffic any larger, if as large, and none is traversed as late in the winter season. The ninth district embraces all of Lake Michigan, Green Bay and tributary waters. The eastern limit is a line drawn, north and south just east of Old Point Mackinac light in Michigan. This winter lights blazon the pathways of daring mariners as far north as the straits, for the station at Seul Choix Pointe has not been closed.
Men will go down to the sea in ships even when ice floes gather on the shoals and follow the currents in the lakes. These floes may be driven with irresistible force inland or out into the open waters endangering the stanchest craft ever launched. Wrecks innumerable almost line the treacherous shores of Michigan, yet mariners still cast their fortunes to the winds without even an anchor to windward. If they must sail, then they must have aids to navigation. Hence it is that the keepers, aboriginal and American—a strange assemblage of terms, yet one much affected in polite articles— are on duty when snowdrifts pile up about their houses and ice forms a long and safe bridge to the land, possibly far distant.
A Dangerous District
There are many lights in the ninth district. No lake in the chain is so turbulent and so treacherous as Lake Michigan. Storms which would do but little damage if their forces were expended on broad Superior or Huron, when sweeping over Michigan lake cause a woeful disturbance to shipping. Dangerous reefs abound in the tracks of shipping. Shoals protrude their slime-covered noses to grasp the hulls of vessels which deviate from their courses. Rocky beaches on which gallant ships may founder and pound to bits are thick from one end to the other.
The fate of the Chicora, the stanch steamer which put out from Milwaukee four years ago and has never been heard from since, has not deterred the hardy masters and seamen of Lake Michigan from hazarding all on the lake in the dead of winter. In fact, recent years have seen an enoromus increase in winter navigation. Where twenty years ago all vessels would go into haven early in November and remain in shelter until the ice left the Soo in the spring, now many a vessel is in commission twelve months in the year. The authorities have taken notice of the extent of winter navigation, and in many an isolated and exposed station all discretion has been taken from the light-keepers. They are under orders to keep their lights trimmed and burning throughout the entire winter. Others whose stations are exposed to great dangers must remain as long as in their judgment can be done with safety.
Heretofore stations in the northern third of the lake have been closed with the arbitrary close of navigation as fixed by the board of marine underwriters. But now the stations at Plum Island, Pottawattomie, Poverty Island, Seul Choix Pointe, Beaver Island, South Fox Island, North Fox Island, North and South Manitou, Sherwood Point and Sturgeon Bay have been added to those open for the entire winter. The light ships in the dangerous straits remain out as long as it is safe.
The following table shows the number of lighthouses, keepers, assistants, vessels, for signals, etc, at present established in the district:
Masters of light vessels..............4
Keepers of light stations............70
Assistant keepers of light stations.. ..63
Steam fog signals...................28
Steam fog sirens....................3
Gas buoys ...................... 9
Bell buoys, automatic................1
Iron can buoys......................10
Iron nun buoys.....................13
Wood spar buoys....................74
The stations on Beaver and South Fox Islands are well out in the open lake, miles away from the mainland, exposed to all the rigors of the stormiest season. They are well up to the north, and the men who send out the welcome shafts of light to warn mariners are cut off from their kind much of the year. Let navigation cease entirely, and they would be exposed to dangers greater than any to be found on land, no matter how isolated. One can always walk on land to find a bite to eat, if it be nothing more than dog meat. On the water it is different, as lighthouse-keepers realize before many winters have been passed in this service.
Away up on the south coast of the northern peninsula is a point on the rock coast, Seul Choix, it is called, the name having been given by the French settlers years ago. On that point is a lighthouse with a fixed white light which flashes from Manistique on the west to Squaw Island on the east. It envelopes in its shaft of brilliancy that other little sand and rock spit which travels under the singular alias of Whisky Island. It sheds its light over the direct course of vessels making the dangerous straits east or west bound.
Not far from the stately dwelling erected for the use of the keeper and his family is an old hutch. It is dismantled, wavering in intention and wholly dissolute. It is not a fit habitation for man or beast, according to the lights of the civilized white man. Yet it was for years the home of the keeper. Not that the government houses its employees in such disreputable homes. Not at all. It was the home of the keeper from choice. It was not even the "only choix," as the name of the station might indicate, but it was the choice of Keeper Fountaine. Fountaine is an Indian, and the bright new brick house erected for his use was too much for his primitive notions of comfort.
So for years Fountaine and his squaw and pappooses lived in the little hutch which has since been turned into a coalbouse. He built it and he loved it and was loath to give it up even for modern conveniences. In fact, too many modern conveniences almost made the old Indian throw up his job. Now, however, with increasing years and an adult family, the old man has concluded to accept the inevitable and become civilized.
Away up lying in the gateway between the peninsula which forms the eastern limits of Green bay and Washington Island is a small island called Plum. It has a range light to guide the mariner in the difficult passage. Light and fog signals are stationed there in the Porto des Mort—gate of death. It is well named, for many a ship has foundered in the narrow, shoal-llned passageway. Many deaths have happened there and many more will probably happen in the future in spite of the precautions taken by the Government to protect the sailors.
The Code of Signals.
There is a clearly defined code of signals for the use of all mariners on the lakes. Every light station has its own peculiarities, every fog signal has its own notes. Bell buoys ring out warnings at all times and the flicker of a gas jet sends a vessel a couple of points off a bad shoal. The code is furnished to all ship masters, and by referring to it they can identify any station or buoy. Fixed red or fixed white lights disappearing and reappearing at regular intervals of time, as prescribed by this code, tell the story of the relative whereabouts of the ship.
White and red lights are the only ones used at the stations. Some like that on the Chicago pier, revolve with alternate red and white flashes. Intervals vary even if lights are the same; Gross Point carries a double flash of irregular intervals. Calumet pier head shows a steady red light. Wind Point has a revolving light and a steady red showing south to cover Racine harbor. Every station flashes its signal according to the cipher fixed for it.
The same rules apply to the fog signals. If steam whistles the blasts are one, two, three, etc., long or short, alternately long and short, with intervals between blasts fixed by seconds of time. So when a ship master sees a light flashing red across his bows he counts the time until he is greeted by another flash. The colors and intervals tell him which station be is hearing. If the siren slugs a particular song be knows what direction to take to avoid impending danger. Thus all up and down the lake over its hundreds of miles of navigable waters these signals warn or cheer the men who sail in ships.
Carvings on the rocks on the Seul Choix Bay
Photo contributed by Marilyn Fischer
Old Lighthouse -- Fog Signal Building ... Contributed by Marilyn Fischer
Men who built the Fog Signal Building - Contributed by Marilyn Fischer