|Sand Island, WI|
Description: In 1871, the Lighthouse Board requested funds to establish lights on Outer Island and Sand Island to mark, respectively, the eastern and western end of the Apostle Islands. Lighthouses had earlier been established on Michigan Island, Long Island, and Raspberry Island to help vessels navigate through the islands, but by this time most maritime traffic was bypassing the islands, headed for the booming port at Duluth, Minnesota.
Outer Island Lighthouse was activated in 1874, and three years later the Lighthouse Board renewed its plea for a light on Sand Island:
In-coming from Duluth the Raspberry Island light is not visible until abreast of Sand Island, and there being no coast-light in this distance of 80 miles, causes much distress and danger to the increasing commerce of the west end of Lake Superior. An appropriation of $18,000 for the building of this station is recommended.
On July 2, 1881, the Bayfield County Press noted the ongoing work on Sand Island.
Supt. Lederle has cleared about ten acres of ground and opened a fine quarry of red sandstone, which will be used for the government buildings. The Light House proper will be thirty-eight by twenty-eight feet in size, and the light will be placed about fifty feet above the water level.
The dwelling’s gables feature gingerbread ornaments, and the tower transforms from a square in its lower half to an octagon in its upper half. A fourth-order, Henry-Lepaute Fresnel lens was installed atop the forty-two-foot tower and commenced showing a fixed white light on September 25, 1881.
Sand Island Lighthouse only had two head keeper’s during the forty years it was staffed: Charles Lederle (1881 – 1891), who stayed on after supervising the construction of the station, and Emmanuel Luick (1892 – 1920). On September 12, 1885, the steamer Prussia bound for Duluth caught fire off Sand Island. The crew of ten men and one woman abandoned the 138-foot vessel and took to two lifeboats in high waves and gale force winds. Keeper Lederlee witnessed the events, rowed the station’s small boat out into Lake Superior, and rescued the entire crew. After being sheltered overnight at the lighthouse, the crew was taken to Bayfield the following day. The captain and crew of the Prussia later sent a letter to Keeper Lederlee thanking him “for going to the rescue of the yawl boats and crew” who otherwise “would most likely have been lost.”
Emmanuel Luick witnessed the end of another vessel, the 373-foot, iron-ore carrier Sevona, on September 2, 1905, but he was unable to assist its crew. The steamer struck a reef off Sand Island and shortly thereafter broke in two. Those on the aft half of the vessel took to two lifeboats and made it to shore, but the captain and six other men on the forward portion had no boat in which to escape. They constructed a crude raft, but it was torn apart by mountainous waves, and all drowned. Sam Fifield used the hatch covers from the wreck to build a Sevona Memorial Cottage, which still stands on Sand Island today.
Here is a sampling of the station's logbook entries (all but one by Ella):
After Ella left in 1905, Keeper Luick went through a string of thirteen assistants over the next sixteen years. Luick married Oramill Buck in 1911, and they had four children during their days at Sand Island, but Luick's second wife never served as his assistant.
“My only neighbors were the wives of fishermen,” remembered Oramill Luick. “But we stuck together. We organized a sewing circle and we sewed for the Red Cross and other things. We met twice a month at each other's houses, and got up nice little parties, besides. We made much of our birthdays, and baked birthday cakes, and made most of everything we had.”
On April 23, 1921, an acetylene gas apparatus started emitting a white flash every ten seconds from the lantern room, and Sand Island became the first lighthouse in the Apostle Islands to be automated. Keepers at Raspberry Island subsequently kept an eye on the light. A forty-eight-foot, steel, skeletal tower was erected near Sand Island Lighthouse in 1933, and the light was transferred to it.
Gertrude Wellisch, a Minnesota school teacher, leased the lighthouse from 1925 to 1942, and John B. Chapple, editor of the Ashland Daily Press, was a tenant after Wellisch moved out. By the time A.D. Hulings obtained a lease for the lighthouse in 1953, the interior of the structure was in poor condition. Hulings pit in new floors and installed plasterboards on the walls and ceilings. Sand Island Lighthouse fell under the control of the National Park Service after the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was created in 1970, but Hulings kept his lease until 1975.
Over the years, the Park Service has performed needed renovations of the lighthouse, which houses volunteers during the summer to welcome visitors. The Coast Guard removed the steel tower in 1985 and returned the light to the lighthouse’s lantern room.
Located on the northern tip of Sand Island, part of the
Apostle Island National Lakeshore. The lighthouse is owned by the National Park Service. Grounds open, dwelling/tower open in season.
The lighthouse is owned by the National Park Service. Grounds open, dwelling/tower open in season.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.