New Photos of an Old Hospital

Mackinac State Historic Parks Registrar Brian Jaeschke recently acquired copies of several historic photographs of the 1860 Post Hospital at Fort Mackinac. The photographs were discovered in the digital collection of the U.S. National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland which has 150,000 historical prints and photographs.

Post Hospital From Gun Platform

Click the image to see a larger version.

The photographs, two of which are new to the MSHP collection, show the hospital as it appeared in the 1880s. The front view is taken from the upper gun platform and shows the south and west elevations of the building. In the foreground are the 6 and 12 pound cannon that were used by soldiers for daily salutes and ceremonial occasions such as the Fourth of July. Today’s cannon firing demonstrations take place in the same location. Beyond the gun platform is the walkway bridge that that provided access to the building through the front porch. Of interest is the system of gutters which collected and fed rain water into the cistern which is still in place in front of the hospital. Water was stored in the cistern as part of the fort’s fire protection system. (more…)

Behind the Scenes of New SSW Rowhouse Exhibit

While the construction on the South Southwest Rowhouse continues, our staff is hard at work developing the new exhibits that will be placed within the new building.

One half of the reconstructed rowhouse will feature an audio/visual presentation of the attack at Michilimackinac. Principal photography took place in the summer, but some additional shots were needed. What we’re shooting here is a re-creation of a meeting that took place in Charles Langlade’s house on June 3, the day after the attack. The surviving British prisoners (Etherington, Solomon, Henry, etc.) were all present, as was Fr. Du Jaunay. The meeting served two important purposes. First, Du Jaunay convinced Etherington that further resistance to the Ojibwa was futile and second, Langlade outlined his plans to protect the prisoners from their Ojibwa captors. Langlade personally secured the release of Etherington. He also sent word to the Odawa of L’Arbre Croche, who arrived shortly after and took the prisoners to the safety of their village. Henry became separated from the other survivors at this time, as he was taken into the home of his friend, Wawatam, for protection.

 

The photos were taken at Future Media in Okemos, Michigan.

Lamps and Lenses: How Old Mackinac Point Shed its Light

What puts the light in a lighthouse? Until 1913, a single lamp provided the light for the beacon at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

This lamp is similar to the one used in the first decade of the lighthouse's existence. It  was eventually replaced with a brighter, electric light.

This lamp is similar to the one used in the first 20 years of the lighthouse’s existence. It was eventually replaced with a gas lamp and then an electric light.

This diagram shows how even a small amount of light from the lamp could be magnified using a number of prisms in a Fresnel lens. (Click to enlarge)

This diagram shows how even a small amount of light from the lamp could be magnified using a number of prisms in a Fresnel lens. (Click to enlarge)

Like most other lighthouses in the United States, Old Mackinac Point used a kerosene lantern not unlike those still found in many homes today. Keeper George Marshall’s duties included regularly fueling the lamp, as it burned over 5 ounces of kerosene per hour. A red glass lamp chimney originally produced a red light, helping sailors identify Old Mackinac Point. Both the kerosene lamp and red light were replaced in 1913, when the U.S. Lighthouse Service installed an incandescent oil vapor mechanism, which produces a white light similar to a modern camping lantern.

While the kerosene lamp itself shone brightly, a fourth-order Fresnel lens amplified the Old Mackinac Point light until it was visible to a distance of 16 miles. The lens contained a series of stacked magnifying glasses around its center, with each glass focusing the light from the one beneath it. Prisms ringed the lens above and below the magnifying glasses. These prisms caught and bent more light, focusing it into the central beam created by the magnifiers. The entire lens rotated around the lamp, creating a flashing signature (one flash every 10 seconds) unique to Old Mackinac Point.

French Fireplaces of Michilimackinac

Shown on the left are the ruins of the original fireplace for the South Southwest Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac. To the right, a reconstructed version and part of a new exhibit.

Shown on the left are the ruins of the original fireplace for the South Southwest Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac. To the right, a reconstructed version and part of a new exhibit.

The ongoing reconstruction of the South Southwest Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac is an impressive undertaking. It’s the largest in the site’s history, the first in more than two decades, and when completed, will house two new exhibits.

One of the featured components of the new exhibit “France at Mackinac” are the ruins of the original fireplace from the structure constructed more than 250 years ago. This particular fireplace is one of the few remaining structures left standing after British soldiers demolished the fort in 1780-81. As part of one of the longest ongoing archaeological digs in North America, the remnants of the rowhouse and the fireplace were carefully excavated over a number of years from 1963 to 2007. Stone fireplaces such as this were found in nearly every house at Michilimackinac, but this is the only one that remains because it was covered and preserved in a hill of sand soon after the demolition.

Located in the west side of the building, the structure of this fireplace ruin  served as a model for Tom Smith and his crew from Ground Level Masonry to create a similar fireplace on the east end of the building, showing how the stone hearth would have looked when originally built around 1750.

Today in History: Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse Fog Signal Sounded

On this day in 1890, Keeper George Marshall sounded the fog signal at the Old Mackinac Point Light Station for the very first time. This first blast of the fog whistle signaled the completion of a project begun a year earlier. In March 1889, Congress passed two acts regarding the creation of a light station at Old Mackinac Point. The first formally established the Old Mackinac Point Light Station, while the second appropriated $5,500 for the construction of a fog signal.

This photograph from the early 1900s shows Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and the fog signal building. The inset image shows the two steam whistles next to the boiler vent stacks.

The fog signal sounded on November 5, 1890 was mounted on a 20’ by 40’ corrugated iron building. Inside, two identical steam boilers and associated machinery powered 10” steam whistles, which were mounted above the roof of the building. Although only one boiler and whistle were used at a time, keepers maintained the second set of machinery as a backup system. To help sailors identify the Old Mackinac Point fog signal, the fog whistles automatically sounded in a unique pattern: a 5-second blast, followed by 17 seconds of silence, followed by another 5-second blast, followed by 33 seconds of silence. Other light stations sounded their own unique whistle signatures.

The U.S. Lighthouse Service replaced the original 1890 fog signal building with a brick structure in 1907. New boilers and whistles were installed in this building. The fog whistles at Old Mackinac Point may have sounded like this: Click here to listen to a steam whistle.

The fog whistles themselves were replaced by air horns in the 1930s. Click here to listen to the fog horns at Old Mackinac Point Click here to hear it.

Click here for more information or to purchase a copy of one of Mackinac State Historic ParksOld Mackinac Point Lighthouse publications.

Halloween for Harold

Harold Dunbar Corbusier was the second son of William Henry Corbusier, post surgeon at Fort Mackinac, and Fanny Dunbar Corbusier.  He lived on Mackinac Island with his family from 1883 to 1884.  On his 10th birthday, January 14, 1883 he began his diary.

His entry for this day 129 years ago, with its original grammar and spelling, shows an excitement for the holiday festivities similar to that of a 10-year-old of the present day.

Harold (seated center) kept a diary of the daily occurrences around the Straits of Mackinac.

A Boy at Fort Mackinac, October 31, 1883: “It has been a very stormy rainy day.  It is All Hallowes eve we going to dive for apples but there wre none in town so we had to dive for potatoes we played games and mamma made candy I have a headache today.”

His brief  entries give us clues of what life was like on Mackinac Island in a period of great change.  This former fur trading outpost was beginning to receive many summer visitors, and the Mackinac National Park (established 1875) was a great attraction.  Harold recorded what he saw, and gives a detailed picture of what life was like for an army family.

For more information about Harold and purchase a book containing all of his transcribed diary entries, visit the Mackinac State Historic Parks website.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse Celebrates 120th Anniversary

Today marks the 120th anniversary of the first lighting of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City.

Workers pose outside the nearly completed Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

Keeper George Marshall first lit the light on October 25, 1892 and workers completed the construction two days later.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse remained an active lighthouse until navigation beacons on the newly completed Mackinac Bridge replaced it.

The lighthouse is still open from May through October with guided tower tours, period exhibits and historic costumed interpreters. Click here for more information on visiting Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

South Southwest Rowhouse Construction Continues

After starting in October of last year, the construction on the South Southwest Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City is making great progress.

Two new exhibits and all new restrooms are planned for the structure, the largest in the history of reconstruction at Colonial Michilimackinac and the first in 23 years.

With the completed construction of the roof, dormers have been added facing what will be the gardens.

The ruins of an original hearth will be featured in a new exhibit about the French presence at Colonial Michilimackinac and the architectural style of the period.

The walls and preliminary plumbing for the restrooms are in position.

Wawashkamo Red Oak Witnessed Island Battle

A enormous red oak at the Wawashkamo golf course on Mackinac Island fell after strong winds in July and has proven to have a history that far pre-dates that of the golf course.

A cross-section of the 200 year old oak tree. A Michigan driver’s license is inserted to give scale to the image.

In one of the first actions of the War of 1812, British troops surprised and captured Fort Mackinac on July 17, 1812. Two years later, 750 American troops attempted to recapture Mackinac Island. To counter the American attack, British, Canadian, and Native American troops took up positions on the fields of Michael Dousman’s farm. Here, on the afternoon of August 4, 1814, the two forces met and fought the Battle of Mackinac Island. An American defeat, the battle left Mackinac in British hands until the end of the war.  

In the center of the battlefield/golf course is a steep hill and stand of trees. In that grove sits the remaining stump of the red oak that Mackinac Associates Vice President Peter Pellerito, among others, believed could have been a “witness” to that American defeat. Pellerito arranged for a large cross-section of the tree to be examined by Dean Reid, a forester. Meticulously counting each ring and allowing for the height at which the section was cut, Reid determined the age of the tree to be 207 years old. Though very small at the time, there’s no doubt that this red oak was present during the battle.

Fort Fright at Colonial Michilimackinac

The autumn air is crisp and cool as you pass down the trail of lantern lights, the skeleton soldiers are waiting to welcome you to Colonial Michilimackinac. It’s time for Fort Fright.

A Werewolf watches as unsuspecting visitors enter Fort Fright.

This haven for lutins, werewolves and other bad-tempered creatures, the fort provides a fun, fall atmosphere for the entire family with it’s fair-share of scary experiences and historical background.

Visitors can explore the wooden palisade of the fort at twilight and as the sun sets, the lore and legends of Native Americans, French Canadians and the British come to life.

Visitors to Fort Fright are escorted down the path to the gate, manned by skeleton soldiers and patrolled by goblins and ghouls.

But listen to the warnings of the voyageurs who man the fires, safe from the scarier elements. They tell the tales as the werewolf howls in the distance and caution you on entering the haunted rowhouse. A number of other activities are of the non-terrifying variety and suitable for children of all ages. Music, treats and goody bags sponsored by Ryba’s Fudge are available.

On guard, these eerie soldiers aren’t to be trifled with.

Typically held the weekend of the first full week of October, the fort and fur trading village in Mackinaw City is taken over with the spooky specters from the of the past.

Be sure to dress appropriately for weather. For more information, call 231-436-4100 or www.mackinacparks.com/fort-fright/.