Monday, July 10, 2017

White River Lifesaving Station

“Let’s Take A Quick Look IN to My History”
By: Scott W. Bundschuh

I wrote a Blog Posting (“Great Lakes Lighthouse Historian”) a little less than four years ago, about “White River Lifesaving Station.” The posting was based on some information I had put together prior to its original postdate on the 1st day of May 2013. It’s now a New Year (2017), and I have some new information to add to what I original wrote. As part of this newspaper article, I will correct some of the dates/facts that were part of the original posting. So, with that in mind let’s move forward with this revised story.

What do we really know about the “White Lake” waterfront area where: “White River (White Lake) Lifesaving Station” once stood? Did the river and lake play an important part in the development of the lumber industry in and around Montague, Michigan?  Was it vital to the shipping industry along Lake Michigan in the early 1800’s? Can we assume the Army Corps of Engineers got it, right when they connected the river to Lake Michigan? Many questions let see if we have all the answers?

Author’s Note:
“The need for these new mills was a direct result of the lumber industry flourishing in that same area. Per the information, I looked through the river passage between Lake Michigan and White Lake was categorized as: “BAD.”

In 1870, the Army Corps of Engineers built a thirty-foot-wide channel that connected White Lake to Lake Michigan. This new wide river passage way was credited with establishing several new sawmills that sprang up along the river passage.

On the 4th day of May 1882, an “Act of Congress” established a new Government Lifesaving Station (LLS) at the edge of White River (White Lake). The “White River Lifesaving Station or White Lake Lifesaving Station” would eventually be constructed in Montague, Michigan near the north entrance of “White Lake.” The new station would be built approximately a ¼ mile east and just north of the “White River Pierhead Light.” The document I went through listed the year of conveyance as: “1884.” Unfortunately, like most government projects this one sat idle until 1886. On the 11th day of January 1887, the United States Lifesaving Service appointed Charles Lysaght to the position of: “Keeper-in-Charge” of the lifesaving station that was just coming up out of the ground. He was responsible for the construction crews working onsite and making sure the structures were being built to the government specifications.

Author’s Note:
            “I was going through some old postal documents from 1903. I was surprised to learn that within those documents Charles was noted too reside at: “White River Lifesaving Station.” I also found the same information on all the other keeper who were responsible for the station.”

C. Lysaght was responsible for overseeing the construction of “White River (White Lake) Lifesaving Station.” On the 14th day of March 1887, the record states the lifesaving station was completed and fully operational. On the 21st day of April, seven surfmen appointed by: “U.S. Government” reported to Keeper Charles Lysaght. Once they settled in the Lysaght gave each of them their duties for the day.

Keeper Lysaght (Transferred)

On the 1st day of March 1904, Keeper C. Lysaght was transferred to “Station Grand Point Au Sable.” As stated in a “U.S. Government” document, Keeper Berndt Jackson was appointed to his new position of: “Keeper-in-Charge” on the 16th day of November 1903.
Weather his appointment date was a documentation error or Keeper’s Lysaght, transfer date was wrong, Keeper Berndt Jackson was transferred to “Lifesaving Station #7 Ludington, Michigan” on the 7th day of November 1905. Here again, we have a similar error with the next keeper’s appointment date.

Author’s Note:
“One has to wonder if the year of Jackson’s appointment should have been 1904 instead of 1903? The item that makes Jackson’s story even better is when he transferred to Ludington in 1905, records don’t show if his rank was reduced.”

Keeper Bedford (Takes Over)

According to several “U.S. Government” records, Edwin E. Bedford received his appointment as Keeper-in-Charge, on the 26th day of October 1905. Bedford tenure at “White River Lifesaving Station” was a little less than three years. On the 10th day of July 1908, the United States Lifesaving Service transferred Edwin Bedford to “Point Betsie Lifesaving Station.”

Keeper Bedford (Transferred)

Eight days before Keeper Bedford’s departure date, Henry Curran was appointed as Keeper-in-Charge of “White River Lifesaving Station” The last “Government” document I looked at Keeper-in-Charge, Henry Curran was still responsible for “White River Lifesaving Station” well after 1915.

U.S. Coast Guard (Takes Responsibility)

Overtime “White River Lifesaving Station” was rename by the “United States Coast Guard” as: “Coast Guard Station No. 286.” This re-designation came well after the “United States Lifesaving Service” and “Revenue Cutter Service” were consolidated into one single entity in 1939.

What’s puzzling about the history of this U.S. Lifesaving Station and after the U.S. Coast Guard change it designation to Station #286 can be summed up in a few key notes & questions that are still left unanswered:
      Records states that some or/all of the land the station was constructed on was donated to the United States Government in 1914. If that true, how did the U.S. Government obtain the land prior to 1882?
2.      The station was abandoned by the United States Coast Guard in March of 1946 and/or 1947 depending on which of the “U.S. Government” records you are reading through. Why was the property abandoned and why did it sit abandoned for so long?
      Sometime after 1946 the abandoned USCG Station #286 was moved just about 200 feet away from its original plot of land. One has to wonder if there was wrong with its original location or is this a preference the new owners had?

Author’s Note:

“What interesting about this is the reason for this change of location wasn’t stated in any of the records I’ve looked over so far.”

Sometime in 2005, the new owners of the abandoned station made some major renovation to the entire structure. From what I have read on the internet, the question has been posed, how much of the old structure is left is questionable at best. What is known, the renovations to the entire building & structure are spectacular.

Author’s Note:
“Today the old “U.S. Coast Guard Station #286” is now a: “Private Residence” that still stands along: “Life Guard Road” in Montague, Michigan.”
Author’s Final Thoughts
If you would like to learn more about White River (White Lake) Lifesaving Station,” or others lifesaving stations along the “Great Lakes” come checkout my Google Blog called: “Great Lakes Lighthouse Historian” or my Google Website: “Great Lakes Historian.” As more information is gathered, I will update this article, but until then this is where we stand.

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: 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.

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