We may never know if it was the wish of Jacob H. Gibb, or if it was his family members and friends who decided to have his large tombstone engraved with Michigan’s Crisp Point Lighthouse, but it clearly indicates that he had an immense love for the lighthouse where he served as the keeper from March of 1911 to April of 1913.
Known most of his life as Harry he was born Jacob Harry Gibb on March 6, 1852 in Toronto, Canada, the son of Scottish immigrants. Sometime around 1875 he moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where he took up fishing. His love of the water and Lake Superior eventually landed him a job with the United States Life Saving Service as a surfman, and he eventually worked his way up to become the keeper of a Life Saving Station where he was referred to as “Captain.”
In 1898 he changed occupations and joined the U.S. Light House Establishment as a 1st assistant keeper at the Round Island Lighthouse, an off-shore lighthouse on a tiny island in the Straits of Mackinac near Mackinaw City, Michigan. In March of 1907, he was promoted to the head keeper and served there until February 28, 1911 when he was able to secure a transfer to become the keeper of the remote Crisp Point Lighthouse near Paradise, Michigan.
It is highly likely that Jacob Harry Gibb had personally requested the transfer to Crisp Point Lighthouse so that he could be near many of his friends who were stationed at the Life Saving Service Station that was located near the Crisp Point Lighthouse.
During the winter of 1912-1913, he became ill from an unknown cause, but when the shipping season opened in 1913, he left his winter home at the Akins Family Hotel in Vassar, Michigan and travelled back to back to Crisp Point Lighthouse. However, as the illness got worse, he left the lighthouse and went to the hospital in Bay City, Michigan where he was informed that he had bladder cancer and only had days to live. Wishing to spend his last days surrounded by his friends at his home in Vassar, a city in Michigan which is about 275 miles from Crisp Point Lighthouse, his friend W. H. Atkins came to Bay City and took him home. Lighthouse keeper Jacob Harry Gibb died on May 3, 1913 and his funeral was held on May 5, 1913 at the home of a local minister.
Jacob Harry Gibb never married; his life had been devoted to the service of others. His sister Helen and brother Fred lived in Canada and probably did not make the trip to his funeral. Another sister, Hannah Taylor, who lived in North Dakota, would not have had the time to make it to the funeral in Michigan. However, another brother, C. T. Gibb, who had lived in Vassar for many years, and was living at the time in Detroit, Michigan, may have been the only relative able to attend his funeral.
In his obituary, the local newspaper stated, “Mr. Gibb called Vassar his home and spent his winters here for many years. His jovial disposition, friendly spirit, and geniality has made him a host of friends here, and each fall his arrival was looked forward to with pleasure by many.”
On August 27, 2016, the Crisp Point Lighthouse Historical Society, in partnership with the Vassar Historical Society, honored Jacob H. Gibb with the placement of a historical U.S. Lighthouse Service lighthouse keeper plaque at his gravesite at the Whitefish Point Cemetery.
This story appeared in the
Sep/Oct 2016 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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