Digest>Archives> Jul/Aug 2023

The Barber of Baraga at Sand Point

By Timothy Harrison


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Richard and Laura Thompson in front of the Sand ...

In its 44 years of being an active light station, the Sand Point Lighthouse in Baraga, Michigan only had four lighthouse keepers, and one of them, Anna Crebassa, was only a keeper for a few weeks in 1908, when she took over for her husband who had died.

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In 1897, the Sand Point Lighthouse in Baraga ...

When Richard Thompson, who joined the Lighthouse Service 1903, was appointed as the keeper of Sand Point Lighthouse in 1911, it must have been a relief for his family to finally be able to live with him where he worked. Thompson had previously been stationed at the isolated Spectacle Reef Lighthouse located in Lake Huron about 18 miles east of Cheboygan in the treacherous stretches of the Straits of Mackinac.

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The gravestone of lighthouse keeper Richard ...

At the time when he married his wife, Laura, on September 21, 1887, he was making a fairly good living as a barber. Just why he decided to make such a dramatic change of careers is unknown. Perhaps it was the spirit of adventure, or perhaps it was the extra money and security that the Lighthouse Service provided.

However, keeper Richard Thompson soon became respected for keeping a well-maintained station, and all those who visited commented about it. In fact, he was awarded the Lighthouse Service Efficiency Star in 1912 and 1916.

Unfortunately, the Thompson’s tranquil life at Sand Point Lighthouse came to an end on July 22, 1922, when the Lighthouse Service announced that they would placing an acetylene light atop a pole near the lighthouse. Consequently, the light in the tower was deactivated and the government sold the light station.

Richard Thompson was forced to take a demotion, accepting the only lighthouse job that was available at the time as the 1st assistant keeper of the Duluth Harbor North Breakwater Lighthouse in Duluth, Minnesota, where he served for 11 years until his retirement in 1933. He must have figured he would do better financially in the long run to accept lesser pay for 11 years so he would qualify for the Lighthouse Service’s 30-year pension, rather than go back to his life as a barber. At least all the keepers he worked with could get a good haircut without having to leave the station!

This story appeared in the Jul/Aug 2023 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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