White River Lifesaving Station

“An Early Beginning That Eventually Lead To The Structure Being Abandoned” 
By: Scott W. Bundschuh
What do we know about the area where White River Lifesaving Station once played an important part in the development in and around Montague, Michigan? Well let’s see.

Author’s Note:

“In 1870 the Army Corps of Engineers built a thirty foot wide channel that connected White Lake to Lake Michigan. This new passageway caused a number of sawmills to spring up along the shores and as a result the lumber industry flourished. According to the information I looked through the passage between the two lakes was really bad.”

White River Lifesaving Station was established by an “Act of Congress” on the 4th day of May 1882. The lifesaving station would eventually be constructed in the Montague, Michigan near the north entrance of White Lake about a ¼ mile east and just north of the White River Pierhead Light. Unfortunately like most government projects this one sat idle until 1886. The United States Lifesaving Service appointed Charles Lysaght as keeper-in-charge on the 11th day of January 1887. Lysaght was responsible for overseeing the construction of the new station. The records show the lifesaving station was completed and operational on the 4th day of March 1887. On the 21st day of April Lysaght received the remainder of his seven men that made up his crew. Keeper Lysaght remained at White river until he was transferred to Station Grand Point Au Sable on the 1st day of March 1904.

As stated in historical documents Berndt Jackson appointment was list as the 16th day of November 1903. One has to wonder if the year of his appointment should have been 1904 instead of 1903. In any case Keeper Jackson was transferred to station Ludington on the 7th day of November 1905. Here again we have a similar error with the next keeper’s appointment date. According to the records Edwin E. Bedford received his appointment on the 26th day of October 1905. Bedford tenure was a little less than three years. He was transferred to Point Betsie by the Lifesaving Service on the 10th day of July 1908. Eight days before Bedford date of departure Henry Curran was appointed as keeper-in-charge of White River Lifesaving Station. According to historical records he was still there well after 1915.

Overtime the station name was changed to: “Coast Guard Station No. 286.” I believe this happened after the United States Lifesaving Service and Revenue Cutter Service was consolidated into the United States Coast Guard in 1939. What’s puzzling about the history of this station has to do with a few key notes. The first one is some or all of the land was donated in 1914 and the other one is the station was abandoned by the United States Coast Guard in March of 1946 or 1947 depending on which records your reading at the time. The next one is sometime after 1946 the entire station was moved 200 feet away from its original plot of land. Why this was done was not stated in any of the records I've looked at so far. 
 In 2005 the Old Lifesaving Station or Lifeboat Station went through a major renovation. Today the station is now a “Private Residence” that is situated along “Life Guard Road.”

Photograph Courtesy of Paul Petosky, Author of "Postmarks from the Past"
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