Cedar River Light Seeing The Light

Between Menominee & Escanaba, Michigan Home Back

Historical Information

Although settlers had been living in the area at the mouth of the Cedar River since the mid 1840's, it was not until the construction of a steam-powered mill here in the late 1880's that the lumber boom took off in the area, and the roving fleet of lumber hookers began tying-up at the docks to load their decks with the forest's bounty. To serve this increasing maritime traffic, Congress appropriated $25,000 for the construction of a light at the entrance to Cedar River on October 2, 1888. While originally proposed as a coast light, the Lighthouse Board determined that the area would be better served by a beacon on the pierhead currently under construction by the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers.

Click to view enlarged imageWork on the pierhead beacon began in September 1889. The white painted square wooden pyramidal structure, typical of pierhead beacons constructed at that time, stood 38 feet tall, and was exhibited for the first time on the night of November 20. Over the following winter, plans were drawn-up for a two-story keeper's dwelling on shore, and an elevated walk on the pier to provide the keeper with access to the light safely above the waves which crashed across the surface of the pier during stormy weather.

A site for the keepers dwelling was donated by the Hon. Jesse Spalding of Chicago in 1890, however situated as it was in a low and damp area, considerable grading was necessary before the red brick dwelling could be built. A brick oil house, barn and privy completed the station's structures.

Click to view enlarged imageIn 1891, a tower was constructed in front of keepers dwelling to serve as a rear range to the pierhead light, with the construction completed in time for display on the opening of navigation in 1891. Work on the station, with the exception of the sinking of a well, was completed in July of that same year, with the well not drilled until 1895, when a 1,220 foot shaft was sunk and plumbed into the dwelling.

With the depletion of the forests in the area, the number of shipments began to decline during the first decade of the twentieth century, and thus when the mill burned in 1912, no attempt was made to rebuild the structure.

Today, Cedar River serves as a fishing and vacation community, and the keepers dwelling is all that remains of the light station, it's rear range tower and the bustling lumber trade that it served merely a memory.

Keepers of this Light

Click Here to see a complete listing of all Cedar River Light keepers compiled by Phyllis L. Tag of Great Lakes Lighthouse Research.

Seeing this Light

We have yet to visit this light, and thank Russ Babington for providing us with the 2001 photograph of the keeper's dwelling.

Finding this Light

The keeper's dwelling can be seen on the east side of highway 35 on a short side street near the mouth of the Cedar River.

Reference Sources

Annual reports of the Lighthouse Board, 1890 through 1909
Great Lakes Light Lists, 1924 & 1928
Keeper listings for this light appear courtesy of Great Lakes Lighthouse Research

This page last modified 03/26/2003

Home Back