Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2019

Baileys Harbor Range Lights Turn 150

By Timothy Harrison


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The Baileys Harbor Upper Range Lighthouse in ...
Photo by: Elaine Y. Rowland

Door County Wisconsin’s Baileys Harbor Range Lighthouses are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year.

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The Baileys Harbor Lower Range Lighthouse in ...
Photo by: John Sroka

Built in 1869, the Baileys Harbor Range Lights were built to keep ships off the treacherous reefs and shallows at the entrance to Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin. The sailor got “on range” by vertically aligning the white light in the Upper Range Light, which shone at a height of 39 feet above water, with the Lower Range Light’s red beacon, fixed at 22 feet above water.

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Baileys Harbor Upper Range Lighthouse as it ...

Although they may not look like the typical lighthouses that many people are familiar with, there are a number of other range lighthouses that were built in an almost identical style as the Baileys Harbor Range Lighthouses. Some examples would be the 1868 Grand Island Harbor Range Lights, the 1877 Eagle Harbor Range Lights, the 1870 Presque Isle Range Lights, and the 1869 Copper Harbor Range Lights, all which are in Michigan.

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Joseph Harris Jr., shown here as a young man in ...

On December 1, 1869, 74-year-old Fabian Truedell was appointed the first keeper of the Baileys Harbor Range Lighthouses. (Some sources have his last name spelled as Trudell.) However, age caught up with him and he retired in September of 1872. He was replaced by Marcus Shaler who became the keeper on September 3, 1872. Sadly, during a typhoid outbreak during the winter of 1874-1875, Marcus Shaler’s wife Lucy died. Unable to cope with his grief at the lighthouse, he resigned his post effective April 15, 1875.

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The gravestone of lighthouse keeper Henry Gattie ...

Joseph Harris, Jr., who replaced Marcus Shaler, served as the keeper from 1875 to 1881. Harris was a Civil War veteran who was wounded in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia that took place from June of 1864 to March of 1865. Baileys Harbor Range Lights were Harris’ first lighthouse job, a position he secured as a result of his Civil War service and political help from his father, who was a newspaper editor and a member of the Wisconsin State Senate. His wife Rosalie gave birth to their daughter Mable at the lighthouse.

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Portrait of Henry and Eve Gattie. He is wearing ...

In May of 1881, the government transferred Joseph Harris, Jr. to Green Island Lighthouse, a post that he was not happy with; it was too remote. He was soon able to secure a position at the Grosse Point Lighthouse in Illinois. But, wanting to come back to Door County, Wisconsin, he was able to secure the position of keeper of the Dunlap Reef Range Lights in Sturgeon Bay where he served from August of 1885 until he resigned on April 19, 1890 to become the local postmaster.

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Henry H. Gattie looked quite suave in his ...

By the time George Larson arrived in 1882 to take over the keeper’s position at the Baileys Harbor Range Lighthouses from keeper Hans Hanson, he was a veteran lighthouse keeper, having previously served at Michigan’s remote Poverty Island Lighthouse since 1874. George Larson, who had emigrated from Denmark, was also a Civil War veteran as Joseph Harris, Jr. had been and who had served there before him. George Larson had the left military service with the prestigious rank of Sergeant Major.

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When you visit the Baileys Harbor Range Lights in ...

During his tenure at the Baileys Harbor Range Lights, George Larson is credited with greatly improving the grounds around the lighthouse. At the time of George Larson’s transfer to the Racine North Breakwater Lighthouse that was to take place effective March 1, 1888, the Sturgeon Bay Independent News wrote that keeper George Larson was universally esteemed by a much more than ordinary range of acquaintances. They went on report, “Through his untiring energy and habitual industry many improvements in the way of draining, fencing, arboring, and building have been made with extra and gratuitous labor.” They went on to say that it was doubtful that another home-like light station reservation in such good shape could be found on the Great Lakes. Due to poor health, George Larson resigned from the Lighthouse Service on July 31, 1899 and died at the age of 58 from tuberculosis several months later.

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Henry Gattie was an enterprising man. As well as ...

John Millidge arrived in Baileys Harbor in March of 1888 with his wife Margaret and their children to take over as the new keeper of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights. Although the Sturgeon Bay Independent newspaper knew virtually nothing about John Millidge, in their March 16, 1888 edition, they used some crafty and almost now laughable, reporting to write, “Very little is yet known except that he is a level-headed, good-natured, broad shouldered, honest hearted administration man, just promoted from somewhere and is expected to arrive here tomorrow.”

John Millidge was born on June 26, 1836 in Annapolis, Nova Scotia, Canada. By the age of fifteen he had left home, and for the next five years he sailed on the large clipper ships of the ocean, finally ending up in New Orleans, Louisiana. He then made his way up the Mississippi and ended up in Chicago where he was crewman on vessels plying the Great Lakes until he landed a job on May 6, 1886 as the acting 1st assistant lighthouse keeper at the Little Sable Point Lighthouse near Mears, Michigan. He must have done his job well because he was officially promoted to 1st assistant on July 11, 1887 and was soon offered a transfer and promotion as the keeper of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights, which took place on March 15, 1888.

Apparently, John Millidge was a tinkerer of sorts. He invented a pneumatic horse collar of some kind, which he and an acquaintance, Henry Gottschalk of Chicago, received a patent for. It is unclear if the two ever made any real money from their patent, but the January 2, 1904 edition of the Sturgeon Bay Door County Democrat newspaper reported, “Mr. Gottschalk recently discovered that there was a firm manufacturing these collars and as Messrs. Millidge and Gottschalk have the first patent it is believed that they can secure big damages.”

On May 4, 1896, John Millidge was officially removed as the lighthouse keeper. The paperwork giving the reason for his removal seems to have been lost or misfiled somewhere in the dusty pages of time, so the true reason for his removal may never be known, but it may have had something to do with his political views. Although he and his wife then moved to Chicago for a while, they eventually returned to Baileys Harbor where he then served as the Justice of the Peace. When John Millidge died on June 2, 1904, he left behind his wife Margaret and two grown children. Four other children had preceded him in death.

One the most intriguing keepers of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights was its last keeper, Henry Gattie, who served there from 1896 to 1923. Henry Gattie was born on September 25, 1865 in Lievin, France, and immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1870. He started his lighthouse career on October 31, 1888 as an assistant keeper at the Sturgeon Bay Pierhead Lighthouse in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and served there until May 1, 1896 when he accepted the position of keeper of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights.

When Henry Gattie arrived at the Baileys Harbor Range Light Station, he was a handsome and eligible single man who dated and travelled around with a number of different women from the area. His social activities and well-attended parties at the lighthouse were often mentioned in the newspaper. He eventually picked as his bride the attractive Eve Hendricks, a native of Germany who had immigrated to the United States with her parents. The two were married on February 18, 1901; he was 35 and she was 22.

Most lighthouse keepers became good friends with other nearby lighthouse keepers and such was the case with Henry Gattie and William Duclon, who was the lighthouse keeper of the nearby Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. Duclon and his wife Julia had seven sons, all of whom were musically inclined. Calling themselves the Duclon Orchestra, the group performed well into the morning hours at the wedding reception of Henry and Eve Gattie that was held at the Baileys Harbor Hall.

The couple’s wedding must have been quite an event, because the Door County Advocate wrote, “Both young and old made merry well into the following morning when they departed with regrets that Mr. and Mrs. Gattie could not be married at least once a week.”

It must have been a sad day when Henry and Eve Gattie had to leave and close up the Baileys Harbor Range Lights. They had lived there for 27 long and wonderful years. But the lighthouse became an unstaffed beacon run by acetylene. Henry Gattie was transferred to nearby Cana Island as a 1st assistant keeper. He only stayed there a very short time before being transferred again, this time to the nearby Two Rivers Lighthouse where he would serve as the 1st assistant keeper under head keeper Otto H. Schmiling. He served at Two Rivers Lighthouse until his retirement in 1931, thereby ending a 45-year career as a lighthouse keeper.

The restored Baileys Harbor Range Lights are located within the boundaries of the Ridges Sanctuary and can easily be reached by automobile. To learn more about the 150th lighthouse festivities in Door County, Wisconsin, you can visit the Door County Maritime Museum’s web site at www.dcmm.org so that you can now start to plan your Wisconsin lighthouse visit.

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2019 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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