Saginaw Bay lies between Michigan’s thumb and the rest of the state’s Lower Peninsula. As Michigan was preparing to become a state, it adopted a constitution in 1835 that encouraged internal improvements such as roads and canals. A project that was contemplated at this time was linking Saginaw River, which flowed into eponymous Bay, with Grand River, which flowed into Lake Michigan.
The Saginaw River lighthouse stands about a mile from the mouth of the river. It worked in conjunction with a beacon closer to the mouth and, when sailors in the Saginaw Bay align the two lights they knew they were in the channel entering the river.
The Saginaw River lighthouse was one of the first lights to use this “range” technique.
The current lighthouse was built in 1876 in a swampy area north of Bay City to guide ships into the mouth of the river, replacing an earlier light that was built already in 1831. It was deactivated in the 1960’s, but still used by the coastguard as living quarters until the 70’s, when a new station was built across the river.
Servicemen who were stationed at the lighthouse before it was abandoned claimed to have heard strange noises while living in the old building, including footsteps that are believed to be one of two light keepers that died while serving at the lighthouse.
As story goes, Peter Brown was appointed Keeper of the old Lighthouse in 1866 but, being disabled, he had help from his fifteen-year-old son Dewitt, and his wife Julia to maintain the light. Keeper Peter Brown passed away in 1873 before the new range lights were built, but his family remained at the station, and Julia was placed in charge.
The new lighthouse was opened, and Julia served as head keeper until 1877, when George Way, whom Julia had married, was placed in charge of the light. Julia was made first assistant keeper, and served in this role until the position was abolished in October 1882.
Despite the position was reinstated the following spring, the coast guard appointed Leonidus Charlton as the first assistant keeper. Keeper Way passed away in November 1883, and sixty-seven-year old Julia left the station which had called home for seventeen years. There are rumors that Julia may have murdered her husbands to be Head Lighthouse keeper, but that has never been proven.
The lighthouse has been decommissioned for years. It is currently owned by Dow and it is surrounded by property owned by the company. Visitors are not permitted to visit the lighthouse except for special occasions like the Tall Ship Celebrations, the hub for tall ships activity, information, and expertise in America.
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Images from web – Google Research