The historic 1876 Pointe Aux Barques Life Saving Station has been moved back to its original location next to the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse in Port Hope, Michigan.
In 1937 the Coast Guard discontinued the Pointe Aux Barques Life Saving station, and a couple of years later the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse was automated and its keeper was removed. For a brief period of time, the area served as a gathering place for locals and later, for several years, it was used as a church camp for young people.
By the 1960s, a decision was made that the life-saving station would be demolished unless it could be sold and moved to make way for a campground. Fortunately, for the benefit of future generations, Carolyn Hubbard Parcells Lucas, the 1953 founder of the Huron City Museums, had the foresight to purchase the buildings and move them. Had she not acted, the life-saving station would have been lost to history.
The Pointe Aux Barques Life Saving Station, is one of only a few of this style left in the nation. The United States Life-Saving Service, a sister organization of the United States Lighthouse Service, was merged in 1915 with the Revenue Cutter Service to create the United States Coast Guard. In 1939, the U.S. Lighthouse Service was dissolved, and its duties were taken over by the Coast Guard.
The Pointe Aux Barques Life Saving Station has a somewhat sad yet storied history. In a spring storm in April of 1880, the life-saving boat was swamped while trying to rescue the crew of the J.R. Macgruder; keeper Jerome G. Kiah was the only member of the crew to survive. Six surfmen lost their lives. Labeled as “Black Friday,” it was the first tragedy that resulted in a loss of life for a life-saving crew on the Great Lakes. Two months later, because of his injuries suffered in the disaster, Jerome Kiah was forced to resign as the keeper of the Pointe Aux Barques Life Saving Station. However, the government did award keeper Kiah the Gold Life Saving Medal, and posthumously awarded all the surfmen who perished with the same medal. Later that year, when Life Saving Service District Superintendent Joseph Sawyer drowned, Jerome G. Kiah was appointed to fill the position.
Since 2002, the Point Aux Barques Lighthouse Society, through an agreement with the local Huron County government, has been managing and caring for the lighthouse. Now they will also be taking care of the former life-saving station. Restoration of the life-saving station will start this spring.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2018 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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