Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Harbor Refuge Light-Stations at Sand Beach

“A Look Back in history” – PART one
By: Scott W. Bundschuh

            As an author and historian of the Great Lakes, there are subjects or events that inspire me to write about or have them published for those who enjoy reading my newspaper column or my blog. My latest inspiration is on those Harbor of Refuge Light-Stations and some of those individuals that once served at each of them. These navigational aids once stood along the harbor refuge just beyond the outreach of Lake Huron. My decision to write about these light-stations were ignited after I reading through a few archive documents and did some additional research on their long-standing history.

Part One of this newspaper article will concentrate mainly on the four “Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge Light-Stations.” My thought is to talk about the history of each light-station and those keepers and assistance that faithfully spent time serving as members of the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

Part Two of the newspaper article will appear in July or August edition of the newspaper. It will mainly concentrate on the lifesaving station and many of rescues that took place at each of the: “Sand Beach (A.K.A.: Harbor Beach) Lifesaving Station,” and some additional background on those who served there until the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the station. With all of that said let’s begin Part One of our journey.

The Early Years (1870’s to 1872)

Around the middle of the 1870’s the number of wrecks that occurred along Lake Huron shorelines near the area that was called: “Sand Beach.” With the death toll mounting and the number of vessels lost the: “Federal Government” realized they needed to construct a safe harbor of refuge for ships to run to during bad weather. On the 20th day of October 1871, the U.S. Board of Engineers was assembled in Detroit, Michigan. The team of engineers were instructed by the Federal Government to identify the best possible location(s) for a new harbor that would protect vessels running up and down Lake Huron. The team’s initial land and water survey was a deemed a: “Massive Failure.” Based on what I read the original survey team was convinced there wasn’t a single location(s) that fit their new harbor profile. The Federal Government was under pressure to deliver a safe place for ships to run too. After many weeks, had passed, Brevet Brigadier General Orlando Metcalfe Poe summoned Captain Jarad A. Smith to Detroit, Michigan. Metcalf instructed Captain Smith to conduct a second survey along Lake Huron. Captain Smith was told to mainly focus in on areas around Sand Beach and Port Hope.

Author Notes:

            “On the 7th day of March 1832, Orlando Metcalfe Poe was born in Navarre, Ohio.  In 1852, he entered the United States Military Academy, four years later he graduated sixth in his class. Orlando Metcalfe Poe earned the rank of First Lieutenant while appointed to the position of assistant topographical engineer. From 1856 through 1861, he was responsible for surveying the northern Great Lakes.”
Captain Jarad Smith completed the survey of both locations per the instructions he had was given by Orlando Metcalfe Poe. On the 9th day of October 1872, a second U.S. Board of Engineers were once again summoned to Detroit, Michigan. During their second meeting, Captain Smith identified about 7,000 feet of breakwater that could be used at Sand Beach. He also identified 10,000 feet of breakwater that could be considered at Port Hope. After careful consideration by the Board of Engineers, Sand Beach was selected as the perfect site for the new refuge harbor.

Author’s Note:

“What made Sand Beach the preferable spot out of the two locations was the survey of Sand Beach was recognized as the midpoint between Port Huron and Tawas Point.”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers & District Inspectors (Who’s In charge and Where They Resided)

Prior to the early part of May 1886, the Inspector for the Tenth U.S. Lighthouse District was: “U.S. Navy, Commander Francis A. Cook.” Until the 19th day of May 1886, Captain Charles E. L. B. Davis was one of the Engineers serving with the: “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.” Based on the information provided to me, Captain Davis retired and his predecessor was Major Samuel M. Mansfield, “United States Army Corps of Engineers” Detroit, Michigan. Major Mansfield served as a key officer in the Tenth Lighthouse District until the 11th day of April 1888.

The Inspector for the Tenth Lighthouse Districted was head up by Jerome G. Kiah. His office was in Harbor Beach, Michigan. Kiah Assistant Inspector for both the Ninth District (Lake Superior Stations) and Tenth (Lake Huron Stations) Lighthouse Districts was Captain James H. Rodgers, U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. Rodger’s office was on the 2nd floor, Room 204 in the main Post Office Building located in heart of downtown Detroit, Michigan

New Harbor of Refuge

(Construction Begins)

In 1873, a contract was awarded to a private contractor to begin the task of constructing the new piers. Construction work on those new piers began just a few days later. Within a few weeks, the contractor had built ten wooden timber crib foundations that were used a part of the center piers. The rubble stones loaded into the cribbing was provided by local residences and farmers who were subcontracted by one of the private contractor working on the site. Their daily tasks were to provide loads of stone they gathered along the shoreline. They made their way along the shoreline in private boats or they hauled the stone to the lakeshore from inland fields. From there the stones were loaded onto barges and then transport out to the pier line. The record states these rectangular hemlock cribs were built on shore, towed out to the line that was specified by Brevet Brigadier General Orlando Metcalfe Poe. After they were set and properly aligned, the hemlock cribs were sunk in place with loads of rubble stone that was placed by hand in the center of each crib. By 1875, there were two contractors working on refuge of harbor. Government records show the first contractor continued working on the 1,580-foot long main pier and the second contractor was assigned to build the north pier.

Author’s Note:
           
“It’s important to note that each of the four-new harbor of refuge light-stations would become vital navigational aids for the shipping industry.”

Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge Light-Stations

Below are some history briefs on each of those four Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge (A.KA. Harbor Beach) Light-Stations. All of light-stations once stood atop two the stone walkways that were made up of several piers and harbor entrances along the shoreline. Each of them were just outside the waters of Lake Huron.

 Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge

(East Side North (Main) Entrance)

In 1875, the original light-station was built on the East side of the North entrance to the harbor. During that same year, there was an illuminous glow from its Fourth Order Fresnel lens that was installed within a four-sided iron framed, wooden planked floor lantern room. The six-prism lens was fixed with varied “White” flashes off the 360-degree circular beacon, which lit up the entire horizon of Lake Huron. In the center of the lens was a Hain's single wick mineral oil lamp that was surrounded by a ruby screen’s that was on the inside of the six heavy prism glass panels.

The powerful beacon was illuminated for the very first time at the start of the 1876 navigational season. Research shows the color of the iron lantern room was: “Black” and the color that was painted on the exterior of the wooden tower was listed as: “Brown.” The focal plane above the means of Lake Huron was noted as forty-two feet and the height from the base of the lantern room to the large ventilator ball that adorned the top of the iron roof was listed as thirty-five feet. Flashing characteristics were listed as: “Fixed White” varied by “Red Flash” every ninety seconds. The structure was: “Iron.” The walls of the first three stories were lined with brick and plastered with cement finish coat. The fourth story housed the watch room and lantern panels sealed with beaded ceiling some seven eight inches in thickness.

In 1885 the original light-station that stood at the North angle of the breakwater, was moved and rebuilt on the East side of the North Entrance of the harbor. The Fourth Order Fresnel Lens was removed and by mid-September of that same year the apparatus was replaced with a Fifth Order Fresnel lens. Flashing characteristics on the 2nd day of February 1886 was listed as: “Fixed White.”

Author’s Note:

            “Assistant Inspector, Lieutenant William E. Reynolds, U.S. Revenue-Cutter Marines who served under Jerome G. Kiah. His office was on the Fifth floor of the Rand-McNally Building, located in Chicago, Illinois. “

While conducting one his annual inspections of Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge East Side North (Main) Entrance Reynolds wrote the following notations in his report:

 “This light-station has a newly constructed watch room. Inside the room is a cleaning table, a couple of oil butt stands, a box and two spare lamps. Water is: “Ample” and the overall health of the station is: Very Healthy.”

Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge

(North Side East Entrance)

In 1885, the North Side East Entrance Light-Station once stood at South end of the Main harbor breakwater. The concrete wharf once stands ten feet from inner wall of the harbor and was built on North side of main entrance. The wharf railing systems was made up of two inch wrought iron pipe with fittings and there were detachable chain railing at the boat cranes. The wharf was forty feet wide by sixty feet long. It ran parallel to breakwater and was connected by wooden bridge that was six feet wide. The light-station stood some three thousand feet to Jenk's Wharf and four thousand three hundred and fifty from the United States Light-Station to “Sand Beach (A.K.A.: Harbor Beach) Lifesaving Station,” that was built near the “Village of Sand Beach, Michigan.” Traveling by rowboat from: “Village of Sand Beach” to the North Side Entrance of Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge was about a mile.
 


The cast iron circular tower height from base to ventilator ball was: forty-four feet four inches. The height of focal plane above mean high water was listed as: fifty-four feet four inches. The lights flashing characteristics were listed as: “Fixed White” that illuminated off the 360-degree circular beacon. The rubble stone tower foundation measured forty feet by sixty feet. The structure of the lantern room was listed as: “Iron” with brick center pier that supported the cast iron floor plates and center columns. The walls of the first three stories of the tower were lined with brick and plastered with cement to a smooth finish coat. The fourth story of the tower housed the watch room and lantern panels sealed with beaded ceiling was estimated as: “7/8 inches thick.” There was a cellar under circular brick tower that measured sixteen feet in diameter, seven feet in dept. The walls were twelve inches thick and there was an air space of six inches between the brick and smooth concrete inner walls.

Fog Signal Building

The fog signal building was just North of tower and within three feet of the North Side East Entrance Light-Station. The fog signal was put in place to guide vessels into main harbor entrance during snow storms, dense fog and poor weather conditions. House inside the structure is a ten-inch whistle and there were a duplicate set of vertical steam boilers and machinery the U.S. Lighthouse Board had originally designed back in January 1883. Mounted above both boilers were two iron tanks. Water to keep the machinery and boilers operational was drawn from the lake. The whistle height was listed as eighteen inches above the finish grade. The wood frame fog signal building measured twenty-two by twenty-nine-foot studding that was comprised of six-inch by six-inch wood sheathed with two-inch wood planking that was installed diagonally on exterior of the building. Inside the structure was sealed with one inch wood tongue/grove flooring on inside. The roof and sides were covered with Number 18 corrugated iron inside the building and lined with Number 26 smooth iron walls filled with lime and sawdust for insulation. There were two tanks for fog signal Each of them were three feet in diameter by four feet in height. The capacity of each tank was listed as four hundred and twenty-three (23) gallons. The signal characteristics were list as: One five-second blast followed by an interval of twenty-five (25) seconds.

Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge

(South Side East Entrance)

On the 1st day of October 1885, Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge South Side East Entrance once stood on North end of South arm of breakwater on the South Side of the East entrance to the harbor. The structure was a skeleton tripod that was made up of two inch wrought iron pipe, with a small platform of cast iron to receive a tubular lantern. Base plates are screwed to sills which are bolted to deck and stringers of breakwater. Lower panels of the iron structure were stiffened by means of diagonal tie-rods and turnbuckles. A ships ladder was bolted to the base of the tower. The ladder was also made up of wrought iron pipe that continue from the bottom of the structure to top of the lantern room. The “Fixed Red” lantern was screwed into position by two-gun metal clamps. Tubular signal lantern with its ruby globe was a fixed 360 degrees that cast a bright beacon of light some nine miles across the horizon of the lake. Mineral oil container was attached to and once formed part of lantern that had a single Haines flat wick. The height from base to ventilator ball was stated as twenty-one feet to focal plane of the light. The focal plane height of the light above the mean high water was listed as thirty feet.

Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge

(West Side North Entrance)

On the 1st day of October 1885, Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge West Side North Entrance once stood on the East end of Northern arm of breakwater at West side of North entrance to harbor. The structure was a skeleton tripod that was made up of two inch wrought iron pipe, with a small platform of cast iron to receive a tubular lantern. Base plates are screwed to sills which are bolted to deck and stringers of breakwater. Lower panels of the iron structure were stiffened by means of diagonal tie-rods and turnbuckles. A ships ladder that was bolted to the base of the tower, was also made up of wrought iron pipe that continue to top of the lantern room. The “Fixed Red” lantern was screwed into position by two-gun metal clamps. Tubular signal lantern with its ruby globe was a fixed 360 degrees that send a beacon of light some nine miles across the horizon. Mineral oil container was attached to and once formed part of lantern that had a single flat wick. The height from base to ventilator ball was stated as twenty-one feet to focal plane of the light. The height of focal plane of the light above the mean high water was listed as thirty feet.


Light-Station Personnel

The next thought I had was to share a list of all the Keeper’s, 1st and 2nd Assistants that served at each of these harbor of refuge light-stations from 1876 through 1943. As my faithful readers needs to keep in mind, is each of the light-station personnel service dates varies from one archival document to another and in some cases, they are incomplete or missing key information:

Keeper’s:


o   Thomas M. Wallace: 1876 to 1878
o   Loren J. Trescott: 1878 to 1919
o   George E. Mahan: 1919 to ?
o   Archebald Davidson: ? to 1929
o   Otto H. Both: 1930? to 1940?
o   Ellsworth L. Kniffin: 1942 to 1943
o   Thomas E. Radcliff: 1940 to 1943

 

1st Assistant’s:


o   Willis P. Graves: 1876 to 1878
o   Peter Dues: 1878 to 1882
o   Alva J. Trescott: 1885 to 1910
o   George E. Mahan: 1910 to 1912
o   Thomas E. Radcliff: 1929 to 1933
o   Lawrence E. Lane: 1935 to 1936
o   Harold C. Fraser:1927? to 1940
o   Ellsworth L. Kniffin: 1940 to 1942

2nd Assistant’s:


o   Ira M. Goodrick: 1885 to 1888
o   Samuel B. Leddick: 1888
o   George E. Mahan: 1888 to 1910
o   Andrew W. Henderson: 1910 to 1912
o   Clarence J. Brazier 1936
o   Ambrose A. Belland 1937
o   Ellsworth L. Kniffin: 1937 to 1940

Thomas M. Wallace

                In January 1876, Thomas M. Wallace as appointed by the United States Lighthouse Service to the position of: “Keeper.” At the time of his appointment, Thomas tended Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge East Side North (Main) Entrance. Thomas wrote in the station logbook that he was tending this light-station without an onsite keeper’s quarters. Without a permanent dwelling, onsite or comfortable accommodations, Keeper Wallace was forced to find his own place in town to live. Early every morning, Keeper Wallace would leave his place along the mainland and make his way towards the wharf in the “Village of Sand Beach.” From there, Wallace would get into his small boat and row about a mile out to the wood open framed tower. Wallace continued this same routine until 1885, when the new light-station was constructed. Thomas M. Wallace spent his day tending the light and watching the shipping traffic run up/down along Lake Huron.

Author’s Note:

“In 1876, Thomas Wallace home was listed as: 867 Davis Street and 297 Clinton Street, Detroit, Michigan. The biggest problem with the research material is it did not delineate the exact dates he resided at each location. Somewhere between 1876 and 1878, Thomas moved to 867 Dubois Street, Detroit, Michigan. All his personnel records state Wallace’s occupation was: “Lighthouse Keeper.”

Loren J. Trescott

What do we know about Loren J. Trescott and his family? Ancestry.com shows, Loren K. Prescott was born in Ohio in 1844 and passed away in 1923. The Trescott’s made their way from the State of Ohio to: “Sand Beach, Michigan” at the age of twelve. At the age of fifteen, young Thomas began his Great Lakes career as a: “Cabin Boy” aboard the “Schooner Forest Queen.” His career continued aboard the: “Forest Queen” for what was noted as: “Ten Years.” Based on my research so far, Loren father’s name was listed as: “Hunting Trescott.” In 1854, his wife Jennie (McDugan) Trescott was born. In 1912, she passed away and then was laid to rest in: “Rock Falls Cemetery.” Mabel-Adeline Trescott (Moses) came into the Loren & Jennie’s life on the 5th day of May 1887. At the time of her birth the couple was living in Harbor Beach, Michigan. At the age of four years young Mabel caught the measles. Her records stated the measles reduced the young child to skins and bones. This condition was also blamed for her hacking cough Mabel contracted and suffered from the measles. On the 27th day of November 1930, Mabel-Adeline (Trescott) Moses passed away. She was also laid to rest in: “Rock Falls Cemetery.” Her husband William Nelson Moses passed away twenty-six years later.


Author’s Note:

“Loren’s younger brother Alva J. Trescott also known as: “Captain Alva J. Trescott” served as: “1st Assistant” at: “Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge Light-Station” from 1878 to 1919 or 1885 to 1910, depending on which of his service records are: “Correct.”

What do we know about the length of time Loren J. Trescott was part of the: “United States Lighthouse Service & United States Lifesaving Service?” This where it gets interest, one record states: In 1869, Trescott joined up with the U.S. Lifesaving Service and served at a station along Lake Superior and then returned to Sand Beech as: “Keeper-in-Charge” of the light-station. The other record states on the 12th day of October 1878, Loren Trescott received his appointment as: “Acting Keeper” at: “Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge Light-Station.” He remained in that capacity until the 22nd day of June 1880, when the United Sates Lighthouse Service finalized Loren Trescott appointment as: “Keeper-in-Charge” of the light-station. In 1921, Loren service records listed he: “Resigned” his position, however the reason for his resignation was left blank. So, which record is: “Accurate.”

Thomas E. Radcliff

As an author, historian and journalist, I make it point to delve into the family history of those I am writing about. Thomas E. Radcliff is no exception. Let us take a few minutes and talk a little about Thomas E. Radcliff, his family and his: “United States Lighthouse Service” service record. Per Radcliff service records, Thomas’s birthplace was listed as the: “State of Michigan” and his birth year was noted as: “1886.”

In 1913, Thomas received his appointment from the U.S. Lighthouse Service as 2nd Assistant. What I found interesting, his station assignment was: “Left Blank.” What I deemed as his first official assignment was listed as: “Tawas Point Lighthouse.” In 1917, Radcliff was promoted by the U.S. Lighthouse Service to 1st Assistant. He remained at “Tawas” until 1920, when Thomas was transferred to: “Point Aux Barques Lighthouse.” Based on his U.S. Lighthouse Service records Thomas’s rate did not change. He continued to serve as 1st Assistant at “Point Aux Barques Lighthouse” until 1929. He was again transferred to Sand Beach (A.K.A. Harbor Beach) in 1929 and his rate did not change. Thomas remained at Sand Beach until the end of the 1933 navigation season. The start of the next season we now find Thomas E. Radcliff as 1st Assistant at: “Martin Reef Lighthouse.” In 1935, his service time ended at the “Reef.” Late in 1935, Thomas Radcliff was transferred again. His next assignment was listed as: “Grand Marais Lighthouse.” Here is where Thomas’s U.S. Lighthouse Service records get a little: “Sketchy.”

Author’s Note:

“One of Thomas’s service records showed he was transferred to: “Harbor Beach Lighthouse” in 1940. The other service record, I came across shows his transfer date was listed as: 1941.”

The 1940 United States Census, listed Thomas’s (Age: 54), wife Fern Radcliff (Age: 42) and their three (3) children: Son: Laster T. Radcliff (Age: 16), Daughters: Wilma F. Radcliff (Age: 14), and Jean C. Radcliff (Age: 6) were all living in: “Alger, Michigan.” Based on my research and investigation in his death, in 1972, Thomas E. Radcliff passed away and was laid to rest in: “Evergreen Cemetery.”

Author’s Final Thoughts

Today the only remnants of Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge Light-Stations,” that were once situated near the shores of Lake Huron are sketchy at best. The stories and memories from long ago are still vivid in the minds of those family members whose relatives once served there and in the files of the National Archives, but beyond that: “There is only one of these Four Harbor of Refuge Light-Stations left otherwise the other ones have been: “Lost Forever!”

If you would like to learn more about Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge Light-Stations,” or others lighthouses along the “Great Lakes” come checkout my Google Blog called: “Great Lakes Lighthouse Historian” or my Google Website called: “Great Lakes Historian.”

If you would like to have your story told or want to know more about a family member who served along the Great Lakes, please email your request to: surfmen1258@gmail.com or send a letter to me as follows: Scott W. Bundschuh, Author/Historian, P.O. Box 267, La Grange, Illinois 60525-0267.  All requests will be considered, however if your request is approved, there will be a release form that you will be required to sign off, dated, and returned to me for processing. Please understand any/all documentation fees for obtaining records from the National Archives or Personnel Records located in St. Louis, Missouri must be paid to me prior to any/all submission. Once the article has been completed, signed off and submitted for publication and/all paid for documentation becomes property of the requestor.