|Peshtigo Reef, WI|
Description: Peshtigo River empties into Green Bay at a point eight miles south of Marinette, Wisconsin. From the north side of the river, a shoal or reef projects into the bay roughly four miles and presented a significant obstacle for mariners. This submerged obstruction was not easy to mark, and over the years a day beacon, a lightship, and the current lighthouse have all served for lengthy periods to alert mariners of the dangerous reef.
After Chambers Island Lighthouse was completed in 1867, $10,000 of the appropriation remained for Peshtigo Reef, and the Lighthouse Board had plans drawn up for a day beacon. Completed by June 1870, this beacon was described by the Board as consisting “of a wooden crib 30 feet square, surmounted by a pyramdical [sic] skeleton tower, upon which is placed an iron cage.”
In 1892, the Lighthouse Board noted that the “large and important commerce of the vicinity” had for many years been inconvenienced by the lack of a reliable mark on Peshtigo Reef and recommended that $10,000 be allocated for a light and fog signal. An act in February 1893 authorized the light and fog signal but made no appropriation. After requesting funds in 1893 and 1894, the Board apparently reconsidered the project. In 1898, the Lighthouse Board stated that marking the reef with a buoy was difficult as the water deepened rapidly at the twelve-foot line and acknowledged that establishing a lighthouse on the reef “would be a dangerous experiment, due to the tremendous push of floating ice in the vicinity.” Instead, the Board requested $15,000 for a lightship.
After the Lighthouse Board repeated its request for a lightship for Peshtigo Reef each year, Congress finally appropriated $15,000 for the vessel on June 28, 1902. Johnson Boiler Co. built lightship No. 77, a steel-hulled vessel with a length of seventy-five feet and beam of twenty-one-and-a-half feet, at Ferrysburg, Michigan in 1905 under a contract for $13,950. The lightship was delivered by the contractors to Sturgeon Bay in November 1905 and was placed on station on April 28, 1906.
Lightship No. 77 had four staterooms, a bathroom, and a galley and was equipped with a hollow steel mast from which a light was shown from three oil lens lanterns. In times of low visibility, the crew would ring a fog bell by hand up until 1911, when the vessel was equipped with a compressed air fog signal. The lightship was absent from its station from August 18 until September 16 so an eight-inch chime whistle could be installed, and a gas bell buoy was used to mark the reef during this period.
Evidence that Peshtigo Reef needed to be marked year-round was the grounding of the steamer Jupiter on the reef in late November 1914, just days after Peshtigo Reef Lightship was withdrawn for the season and taken to Sturgeon Bay. The Jupiter was loaded with 6,000 tons of coal and was bound from Green Bay to Buffalo when it struck the reef in a dense fog.
The Bureau of Lighthouses requested $183,700 in 1924 to begin the work of replacing the Lake Michigan lightships at Lansing Shoal, North Manitou Shoal, and Peshtigo Reef with light and fog signals on fixed cribs. Plans and specifications were finally drawn up for Peshtigo Reef Lighthouse in 1934, and work on the foundation crib began later that year. Love Construction Company of Muskegon received the construction contract for the lighthouse after placing a bid of $31,800 for the necessary labor. The government provided the materials and equipment for the project.
The following description of Peshtigo Reef Lighthouse was given in the “important works completed” section of the 1936 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Lighthouses.
This station constructed near the outer end of Peshtigo Reef in 10-foot depth and placed in full commission on May 6, 1936, replaces Peshtigo Reef Lightship which has been discontinued, resulting in a material decrease in maintenance cost as well as providing a more effective aid to navigation.
Conrad Stram was keeper of Sherwood Point Lighthouse when Peshtigo Reef Lighthouse commenced operation in 1936. Interestingly, Keeper Stram was Captain of Peshtigo Reef Lightship from 1908 to 1913, and then served at Cana Island Lighthouse, Lansing Shoal Lightship, and Sturgeon Bay Canal Lighthouse before being appointed keeper at Sherwood Point. Keeper Stram used a tuning fork to transmit a tone to Peshtigo Reef where a reed, tuned to the same frequency, picked up the vibrations and tripped a relay to activate the fog signal. Until his retirement in 1945, Keeper Stram would take a boat out to Peshtigo Reef each week to service the light.
Located just under four miles southeast of where the Peshtigo River
empties into Green Bay. The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.