Digest>Archives> Nov/Dec 2022

Mystery Grassy Island Lighthouse Keeper


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A number of months back these two photos were found in an old photo album with other photos, none which related to lighthouse life whatsoever.

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On the back of one photo is written, “light keeper & family 7/4/1915” and on the back of the other photo, “Green Bay Harbor Lighthouse, July 4, 1915.” We can only surmise that the people whose album the photos came from were folks who went out to the lighthouse to watch fireworks for the Independence Day celebration, or just had the day off and went out to view the lighthouse. More than likely, they did not personally know the keeper and his family, otherwise they would have written down their names.

But we couldn’t figure out if the keeper in the photo was assistant keeper Robert A. McKillop, who served there from 1912 to 1917, and his family, or that of Louis Hutzler, who served there from 1903 to 1932, and his family.

Although we have other photos of both men, they are either distant photos, or taken at different times of their lives, and both men had similar appearances. However, in checking public records we found out that Louis Hutzler and his wife Jessie had four children, three of them who were daughters: Gyda, born in 1900; Jessie, born in 1903; and Lara, born in 1907. So, the photo could be of lighthouse keeper Louis Hutzler along with his wife and one of his daughters. However, it is known that Robert McKillop and his wife Julia had two foster daughters. And since, from other photos, it is known that he often wore a vest; this photo could be McKillop with his wife and one of their foster girls. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to solve the mystery.

Although someone wrote on the back of the lighthouse photo that it was the Green Bay Harbor Lighthouse, we identified it as the Grassy Island Rear Range Lighthouse at the mouth of the Fox River in Lake Michigan’s Green Bay near Green Bay, Wisconsin.

There are a number of people on a boat near the lighthouse. More than likely, the people who took these photos came out to the lighthouse on that vessel for the holiday visit.

When Wisconsin’s Grassy Island Range Lighthouses were automated in 1934, keepers were no longer needed. In 1966, it was decided that the channel would be widened and the lighthouses would be demolished. However, Elmer Dost of the Green Bay Yacht Club convinced the government to give them the lighthouses where they stand to this day.

Recently both lighthouses were restored, replica Fresnel lenses were installed in their lanterns, and this past September, a 150th dedication celebration for the lighthouses was held at the Green Bay Yacht Club.

An interesting side note: Louis Hutzler’s nephew, Ernest George Hutzler, was also a lighthouse keeper who served from 1904 to 1946 at the following Great Lakes Lighthouses: Seul Choix Point; South Manitou Island; St. Martins Island; Tail Point; North Manitou; Charlevoix South Pierhead and Grand Traverse.

This story appeared in the Nov/Dec 2022 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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