The Marshalls of Old Mackinac Point

Chester Marshall and DelcieMany lighthouses around the Great Lakes were home to dedicated light keepers and their families, some of whom served at the same stations for years. At Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, tending the light station became a family affair, with members of the Marshall family living and working at the lighthouse for 50 years.

When the light station at Old Mackinac Point opened in 1890, George Marshall served as the first keeper. The son of longtime Fort Mackinac ordnance sergeant William Marshall, George was born in 1844 and, like four of his brothers, entered the Lighthouse Service in the 1870s. George and his wife Margaret had no children of their own, but they adopted their first son, James, in the 1880s. Born in 1882 on Mackinac Island, James thus grew up at Old Mackinac Point. James followed his father into the Lighthouse Service in 1899, briefly working at Old Mackinac Point as a laborer before being promoted and transferred to other stations. Meanwhile, George’s brother Charles, who had been the keeper at the nearby St. Helena light, transferred to Old Mackinac Point in 1900 as an assistant keeper. Charles’ health deteriorated, likely a result of the accident which promoted his transfer to Old Mackinac Point, and after 1902 he spent the rest of his life in a state hospital. After his wife died, Charles’ 8-year-old son Chester came to live with George and Margaret at Old Mackinac Point. Charles’ daughters Ethel and Nora, meanwhile, were adopted by George and Charles’ sister Sarah and her husband William Barnum, who served as the assistant keeper at Old Mackinac Point.Maggie Marshall

George retired in 1919 after serving at Old Mackinac Point for nearly 30 years. His son James took his place as keeper after serving at other stations around the Great Lakes. James raised his own family at Old Mackinac Point over the next two decades before retiring in 1941. Even James’ adopted brother Chester eventually entered the Lighthouse Service, working as a keeper at other stations until the 1960s.

Visit Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse to learn more about the lives and work of George, Margaret, James, Charles, and Chester Marshall, as well as the rest of their family who called the station home for more than five decades.

George Marshall and inspector Mary Marshall

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