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Detour Lighthouse

1838 – St. Mary river is the last on the list for examination. This river, (or, properly, strait,) connecting lakes Huron and Superior, is navigable for vessels of the largest class in use on the lakes, as far up as the falls, and within a mile of the junction with lake Superior. Steamboats of 600 tons burden have traversed the waters of this strait to Sault Ste. Marie. The gross amount of tonnage arriving at the Sault, in the year 1837, was 2,505 tons; and this year, prior to the 22d of September, 3,304 tons: showing a large increase from the previous season. One-fourth of this amount was from lake Superior.
When the proposed ship canal (already commenced) shall be completed around the falls of St. Mary, a large trade will be opened with the fisheries, minerals, and other valuable productions of lake Superior and its borders. The statement of the commerce annually afloat on this stream, will, I trust, justify me in recommending the erection of a lighthouse near its entrance into lake Huron; the best site for which I judged to be on the left-hand point on entering, where the ground is favorable, and can be farthest seen by vessels on the lake.

1847 – For a light-house at De Tour, where the River Sault Ste. Marie. Empties into Lake Huron, in the State of Michigan. March 3, 1847, $5,000.

1850 – Detour, July 4. This tower is pretty much in the same condition as it was last year, and ought to be made water-tight forthwith; the water drives through the wall in such quantities as to stand to the depth of three inches on the lower floor of the tower; the steps are always wet, and cannot help rotting if suffered to remain in this condition. I would respectfully recommend that it receive a hard finish from top to bottom; this will make a water-tight tower of it, if it is put on right, and care should be taken to employ only such men as thoroughly understand their business. The large tower at Barcelona has a hard finish, which stands well, and the same at Detour would make a tolerably good tower of it; at the same time care should be taken to make the deck water-tight by caulking the crevices between the stones, and afterwards filling them with melted lead, and also to make the copper cap tight. The estimated cost is $400, and any repairs short of this I would consider as entirely useless. Conduct of keeper good.

1855 – Keeper John Stanart $350

1859 – The towers at Whitefish Point, Detour, and Manitou island, all on the coast of Lake Superior, require to be rebuilt. To do this properly will require the sum of $45,000; and it is respectfully recommended that this sum be asked of Congress for rebuilding them. The general appropriations for repairs of all the light-houses ($115,000 estimated) is by no means large enough to bear the burden of so great an outlay in one district.

1860 – Contracts for three iron light-houses at Manitou island, Whitefish point, and Detour, to replace the present towers at those places, have been entered into.

1861 – Three iron pile light-house structures contracted to be built last year were completed early in the spring, and have been erected at Detour, White Fish, and at Manitou island, on the northwest lakes.

1868 – Detour.—Nothing required, the station being in good condition.

1869 – Detour.—The dwelling at this station needs repainting, and a leak in the covered way requires attention; the light-house, which is of iron, should undergo scraping and repainting, having been painted but once since its erection in 1861.

1870 – Detour, Michigan, Lake Huron.—In view of the importance of this station a third-order lens will be substituted for the present one of the fourth order, the light-house having been originally designed for a third-order light, and the lantern being of ample capacity to receive a lens of that order.
The old dwelling and remnants of the old tower remain standing at this station, and will be removed. This is also one of the points named in the appropriation for new and efficient fog signals, and for the same reasons as stated under McGulpin’s Point, an appropriation is recommended.

1871 - Four steam Fog-signals (boilers with whistles attached) have been ordered. They are to be established as follows:
1st. Upright tubular boiler, with 10 inch whistle, at Fort Gratiot Lightstation, Lake Huron.
2d. Horizontal (locomotive) boiler, with 10-inch whistle, at Thunder Bay Island.
3d. Upright tubular boiler, with 10-inch whistle, at Detour Lightstation, Lake Huron.
4th. Horizontal (locomotive) boiler, with 10-inch whistle, at White Fish Point, Lake Superior.

1871 – Detour, Lake Huron.—The proposition contained in the last annual report to substitute a third-order lens for the fourth order then in use at this station, was carried into effect upon the opening of navigation this season, and gives great satisfaction.

1872 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—A steam fog-whistle has been established at this station, greatly to the benefit of navigation.

1877 – During the past year duplicate fog-whistles have been established at Thunder Bay Island and Detour, Lake Huron, and White-Fish Point, Lake Superior. Duplicates have been ordered for South Manitou, Lake Michigan, and Manitou Island, Lake Superior, and a fog-whistle for Milwaukee, Wis. They will be erected during the present season.

1885 – This 10-inch steam-whistle was in operation 267 hours.

1886 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam-whistle was in operation about 216 hours.

1887 – Detour, Michigan.—The 10-inch steam-whistle was in operation about 639 hours.

1888 – Detour, Michigan.—The 10-inch steam-whistle was in operation 575 hours, consuming 63,725 pounds of coal.

1889 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam-whistle was in operation 341 ½ hours, consuming about 19 tons of coal.

1890 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam-whistle was in operation 300 hours, consuming about 18 tons of coal.

1890 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—A landing crib 10 feet wide, 40 feet long, and 5 feet 6 inches high was built 18 feet from the shore line, in 3 feet 3 inches depth of water at the outer end, and in 18 inches of water at the inner end. This is connected with the shore and buildings by a walk 94 feet long and 6 feet wide. A coal-bin 12 feet wide and 20 feet long was built on the lake side of the signal-house. A well 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet 3 inches below lake-level was constructed 3 feet from the lake shore and 50 feet from the signal-house, and 1 ¼ -inch iron pipes were laid from the well to the fog-signals to provide a supply of water for the boilers. Various repairs were made.

1891 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10 inch steam whistle was in operation 194 hours, consuming about 15 short tons of coal.

1892 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 336 hours, consuming about 19 tons of coal.

1893 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 222 hours, consuming about 134 tons of coal.

1893 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—A new fence was built across the neck of the peninsula.

1894 – Detour, Mich.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 237 hours, consuming about 13 tons of coal.

1894 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—A brick oil house was built. It has an iron roof, and stone door sill and cap, and a capacity for storing 360 gallons of oil. A fire plug ejector and new water-supply pipes were placed, and a new pipe box was constructed from the signal house to the end of the water-supply crib. Various repairs were made.

1895 – Detour, Mich.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 375 hours, and consumed about 22 tons of coal.

1895 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—The material required for converting the old unused fog signal house into a barn was purchased and delivered. Contracts were entered into for one fog-signal boiler. Various repairs were made.

1896 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 436 hours, and consumed about 30 tons of coal.

1896 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—The boathouse was moved nearer the lake, new ways were provided, and a landing crib was built. The old fog-signal house was converted into a barn. A contract was made for furnishing duplicate fog-signal boilers and appurtenances. Various repairs were made.

1897 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—New fog signal boilers, of improved pattern, were placed. The fog-signal water-supply crib was extended 82 feet. The boat landing was extended 32 feet, filled with stone, and covered with small timbers. This is a fixed white light of the third order. It should be raised to at least the second order, and should be flashing in character to increase its visible range, as it is the most important light for entering the Sault River. The Detour Range lights on Frying Pan and Pipe Island should be increased in power, and Pipe Island made a flashing light. These lights are at present fixed red of the fifth and sixth order. These improvements are now in contemplation.

1897 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 366 hours, and consumed about 24 tons of coal.

1898 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 409 hours, and consumed about 25 tons of coal.

1899 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 164 hours and consumed about 17 tons of coal.

1900 – Detour, Mich.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 157 hours and consumed about 16 tons of coal.

1901 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—Some 550 running feet of walk was relaid. An addition was made to the boat landing by building two cribs, which were sunk in position, filled with ballast stone, and decked. The boathouse was raised. Vessels leaving Lake Huron and entering the St. Marys River are often detained in a dense fog in this locality, while in the St. Marys River the weather conditions are clear and free from fog. A new characteristic, or special signal, used to inform vessels approaching the river went into effect on June 10, 1901. Various repairs were made.

1901 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 252 hours and consumed about 18 tons of coal.

1902 – Detour, entrance to Detour Passage and St. Marys River, Lake Huron, Michigan.—It will be to the advantage of commerce to change the Detour light in such manner as to make it more conspicuous and also more definite. It seems that the best way to now accomplish this is to change the characteristic of the light so that it will be fixed, varied by a flash, and to this end, that a new lens should be purchased for this light. It is estimated that such a lens will cost, when mounted and in position for duty, $3,600, and the Board recommends that an appropriation of this amount be made therefor.

1902 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 230 hours and consumed about 22 tons of coal.

1903 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 343 hours and consumed about 23 tons of coal.

1903 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—The following recommendation was made in the Board’s last annual report:
It will be to the advantage of commerce to change the Detour light in such manner as to make it more conspicuous and also more definite. It seems that the best way to now accomplish this is to change the characteristic of the light so that it will be fixed, varied by a flash, and to this end, that a new lens should be purchased for this light. It is estimated that such a lens will cost, when mounted and in position for duty, $3,600, and the Board recommends that an appropriation of this amount be made therefor.
The Board now recommends that this amount be increased $400, and that an appropriation of $4,000 be made for effecting this change, the additional amount being the estimated cost of the labor for placing the lens in position at the present current wages.

1904 – Detour, Lake Huron. Michigan.—The following recommendation was made in the Board's last, two annual reports:
It will be to the advantage of commerce to change the Detour light in such manner as to make it more conspicuous and also more definite. It seems that the best way to now accomplish this is to change the characteristic of the light so that it will be fixed, varied by a flash, and to this end that a new lens should be purchased for this light. It is estimated that such a lens will cost, when mounted and in position for duty, $3,600, and the Board recommends that an appropriation of this amount be made therefor.
The Board now recommends that this amount be increased $400, and that an appropriation of $4,000 be made for effecting this change, the additional amount being the estimated cost of the labor for placing the lens in position at the present rate of wages.

1904 – Detour, Mich.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 137 hours and consumed about 12 tons of coal.

1905 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—The act approved on March 3, 1905, appropriated $4,000 for the purchase of a lens to change the characteristic of the present fixed white light to a fixed light varied by a flash. Various repairs were made.

1905 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 520 hours, and consumed about 18 tons of coal.

1906 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—A brick fog-signal building was built. The plant will be transferred to the new building. The work of converting the keeper’s dwelling into a double house is still in progress. The deck of the fog-signal landing and the approach to the landing were renewed. The act approved on March 3, 1905, appropriated $4,000 for the purchase of a lens to change the characteristic of the present fixt white light to a fixed light varied by a flash.

1906 – Detour, Mich.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 317 hours, and consumed about 18 tons of coal.

1907 – Detour, Lake Huron, Michigan.—The act approved on March 4,1907, made available, for purchase of a lens which will show flashes only, the appropriation of $4,000 made by the act approved on March 3, 1905, for the purchase of a lens which would show a fixed light varied by a flash at Detour light-station. The lens was purchased and soon will be in position. A submarine bell will be installed here for experimental purposes.

1907 – Detour, Michigan.—This 10-inch steam whistle was in operation some 476 hours and consumed about 25 tons of coal.

1908 – Detour, Michigan.—Amount appropriated, act March 3, 1905, $4,000; authorized, act March 4, 1907. The lens provided for was installed and exhibited for the first time May 12, 1908.

1908 – The order and characteristic of Detour light was changed on May 12 to 3 1/2 order, flashing white every 10 seconds. This light will be equipped before the opening of navigation with the new incandescent oil vapor lamp, which will increase its intensity sevenfold.

1908 – Regarding Detour station, it has been shown that the bell is located in a hollow, and it is proposed to extend the cable and place the bell about 1,700 feet farther out in the lake, which, it is thought, will greatly improve the results from this signal.

1909 - Detour, Mich. In June, the intensity of this light was increased by changing the illuminant from oil to incandescent oil vapor.

1909 – SUBMARINE SIGNAL AT DETOUR. As stated in our annual report last year, the submarine signal off Detour Point was found on examination to be located in a hollow, which affected its efficiency in a large degree. The result was that arrangements were made shortly after the opening of navigation to extend the cable and place the bell 1,700 feet farther out in the lake. It was found necessary to procure an entire new copper cable for this purpose, the old one not being sufficiently heavy. An agreement was made with the Submarine Signal Company by which our Association agreed to pay for the cost of the cable, with the understanding that if the government took over the plant from the Submarine Signal Company, as it was expected they would do, our Association would be reimbursed for the money expended for the cable.
The bell, in its new position, is 1,700 feet farther out in the lake, suspended from a tripod 21 feet in height, and being in 49 feet of water, has a clear depth of 28 feet over it. The location is marked by a buoy during the season of navigation. Negotiations are now in progress between the Submarine Signal Company and the Lighthouse Department for the purchase of same by the government, and the probabilities are that it will be taken over by the Lighthouse Department and our Association thus relieved from any further expense in connection therewith.

1911 – During the past year the submarine signal at Detour light station, Mich., was purchased by the United States and regularly established. Prior to the purchase it had been maintained experimentally by authority of the Lighthouse board. This apparatus consists of a submarine bell supported by a tripod resting on the bottom. The bell is operated by electric power from the shore, with which it is connected with a cable.

1911 – Oil house erected for $529.

1915 – Frank G. Sommer, keeper, and Archie Hetu, first assistant, brought members of crew of disabled Tug Gazelle ashore for purpose of making repairs. Happened on Dec 4, 1915.

1916 – Detour Light Station, St. Mary’s River. The submarine signal at Detour Light Station was placed in commission on June 30, 1916.

1917 – L. McDonald, first assistant, and E.C. Towns, second assistant, Port Austin Reef, and Daniel McDonald, second assistant, Detour Light Station, assisted in rescuing 3 fishermen adrift on ice. Happened on Feb 21, 1917.

1917 – F.G. Sommer, keeper, towed disabled launch to safety. Launch Adolph Spencer; M. Hill, owner.

1921 – F. G. Sommer, keeper, and D. McRae, first assistant, pulled the naval radio service launch off rocks to place of safety.

1925 – Detour Light Station – A radio fog signal was established at Detour Light Station on October 9, 1925, which sounds a group of 4 dashes for 60 seconds, followed by a silent period of 120 seconds. In addition to sounding during fog or thick weather, this signal is also sounded for test purposes each morning and afternoon for one-half hour at stated periods.
On November 16, 1925, the fog signal at this station was changed to a powerful air diaphone. When foggy in the lake and river at the same time, a single long blast is sounded every minute and when foggy in the lake and clear in the river, a group of 3 blasts is sounded every 60 seconds.

1926 – Detour Light Station – The radiobeacon characteristic and clear weather transmitting intervals at Detour Light Station were changed April 25, 1926. The beacon now transmits during four half-hour periods daily in clear weather at six-hour intervals.

1927 – Submarine bell discontinued on June 15.

1929 – The diaphone and radiobeacon at Detour Light Station were synchronized in such a way that vessel masters may readily determining their distance off in fog by noting the time interval which elapses between the reception of the radio and sound fog signals.

1930 – Since the opening of navigation this year the great volume of vessel traffic using the detour entrance of the St. Mary’s River from Lake Huron and navigating in the vicinity of the important Whitefish Point Light Station on Lake Superior has been further safeguarded by an arrangement of timing the radiobeacon and sound fog signals at those points. The radiobeacon continues to give to the master of a vessel equipped with the radio compass his angular direction from the station which is being approached. The sound fog signal continues to aid him when within its limit of range as heretofore. In addition, the vessel master is now able, through the arrangement recently introduced at these two stations, to determine his distance away from the point which is being approached. This is especially important at changes of course or where rocky shoals outlying the station must be avoided, as at Detour.
The first service installation of this character in the world, for combining radio and air fog signals, was put in commission at Cape Henry Lighthouse, Va., in 1929.
The only equipment in addition to his present radio compass which the vessel master needs to take advantage of this new information is a watch to be used in noting the period in seconds which elapses from the time of hearing a distinctive radio signal until the sound fog signal, which was sent from the station at the same time, is heard. The radio signal is received instantly for all practical purposes and the speed of the sound signal is roughly 1 mile in five seconds. This elapsed time in seconds divided by five will give, therefore, the approximate distance of the ship away from the station in miles.
Such observations are limited to the range of audibility of the sound fog signal. In a recent instance a vessel master approaching Whitefish Point was able to check up his distance from the station accurately for more than 12 miles, with an error not exceeding one-quarter mile. Masters of vessels not equipped with the radio compass may use this aid to navigation if they are provided with an inexpensive radio-receiving set capable of tuning to the wave length of the radiobeacon signals. The distinctive radiobeacon signal consists of a long dash superimposed on the radiobeacon code and controlled by the apparatus which times the sound fog signal in such a way that the end of this long dash marks the start of the blast of the fog signal.

1930 – The foundation for a new light and fog signal station off the outer end of Detour Reef, to take the place of the present Detour Light and Fog Signal Station, was commenced and practically completed during the year. It is expected that the new station may possibly be placed in service late in the season of 1931. A temporary light was established and is being maintained to mark this pier during construction.

1931 – The most important extension to the system of aids to navigation in the district made during the year was the Detour Reef Light Station which was completed and placed in operation on November 10, 1931.

Keepers:

  • Head: James Stevens (1848 – 1849), John Stanart (1849 – 1863), Amos Stiles (1863 – 1865), Benoni LaChance (1865 – 1866), John S. Riggs (1866 – 1870), George Thurston (1870 – 1874), Samuel Chambers (1874 – 1875), Oliver Robbins (1875 – 1876), Edwin Seaman (1876 – 1877), George Thurston (1877 – 1880), Castle L. Newell (1880 – 1881), George W. Howard (1881 – 1882), Frank Bourissau (1883 – 1888), Walter G. Marshall (1888 – 1898), John F.P. Jacobi (1898 – 1902), William L. Campbell (1902 – 1910), A.M. Carter (1911), Frank G. Sommer (1911 – at least 1924), Joseph Metivier (at least 1930).
  • First Assistant: Leonard Thurston (1871 – 1874), Samuel Chambers (1874), Edwin Seaman (1874 – 1876), Ludlow L. Hill (1876 – 1878), Thomas C. Anthony (1878 – 1881), Darell E. Horton (1881 – 1882), William B. Hoban (1882 – 1883), Joseph Riell (1883 – 1891), David Pugh (1891 – 1894), George R. Holden (1894 – 1895), Nelson Abear (1895 – 1900), Frank Lemorie (1901 – 1903), Joseph LeBel, Jr. (1903 – 1904), Andrew Rice (1904 – 1909), Norman P. Hawkins (1909 – 1912), Archie Hetu (at least 1915 – at least 1916), George R. Wilson (1916), Norman P. Hawkins (at least 1917 – at least 1919), David McRae (at least 1920 – at least 1924), James A. Beloungea (1927 – 1928), James Brander (at least 1930 – 1931).
  • Second Assistant: Alva Misener (1908 – 1911), William L. Silvernail (1911 – 1912), Frank A. Eno (1912 – at least 1913), George R. Wilson (1915 – 1916), Daniel McDonald (1916 – at least 1917), Peter W. Day (at least 1919 – at least 1920), Nelson Abear (at least 1921 – at least 1924), Sterling Malone (at least 1930 – 1931).

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