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Mason County Memories

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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News

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This week we'll take a closer look at the Ludington Lifesaving service and early lighthouses on our harbor. The first lifesaving station was constructed at Grande Au Sable and was located on the beach about halfway between the Beach house at the Ludington State Park and the Sable Lighthouse. It wasn't until after the wreck of the J.H. Rutter that a lifesaving station was approved for the Ludington Harbor. In November of 1879 the Rutter had lost its rudder and was subject to the whims of the waves when she became grounded. The crew spent the night clinging to the rigging of the schooner. The Life Saving Station at Ludington was opened in April of 1880. If you have photographs or stories you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at davep@blackcreekpress.com 757-3240 or mail care of Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Mi 49431. Pic 1 This circa 1940 view of the Coast Guard station was taken by Erhardt Peters and shows the tower and the channel view of the station. This is the site of the proposed Maritime Museum to be established by the Mason County Historical Society. Pic2 This circa 1900 view of the fog signal and lighthouse should send a chill down your spine as we prepare to head into another winter, that is of course assuming that we even had a summer this year. At one time there were 3 lights on the two piers attended by one lighthouse keeper, Edwin Slyfield. Pic3 In this circa 1888 view looking westward from the harbor you can see the old south pier lighthouse. The first lighthouse was built in 1870 and was a white framed structure that was only 25 feet tall and fitted with a red lens. The original structure was destroyed in a storm in 1876 and the new structure which opened in May of 1887 was a bit taller at 29 feet. Pic4 In 1883 the station was moved from the island across the channel by Charles Gatke and Andrew Turner , as of 1907 the room for the storage of the lifeboat and one apartment were from the original structure, the rest having been added at a later date. Pic5 In 1892 the crew performed their regular drill practice as seen here for the Inspector of Lifesaving Stations and impressed him so much so that the crew was picked as the best of the Great lakes Crews and asked to represent the lifesaving service at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Captain Tufts, Jason Pratton, Myron Grinnell, John Nelson, Peter Carlson, Berndt Carlson, Oscar Wilkenson and Joseph Mitchell stayed in Chicago for 8 months to perform their drills. Pic6 This is a circa 1888 view of the lifesaving station. In 1880 the lifesaving crew numbered seven men, and included Joshua Brown, Captain, Jesse & Will Brown surfmen were brothers of the Captain, Winnie Beaupre, Arthur Foster, Christopher Robson and Arthur Goodrich. The station was located on the island (Finn Town) at the site of the Taylor Mills Salt Shed.

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