In 1926, one year after having been transferred to Wisconsin’s Ashland Breakwater Lighthouse, lighthouse keeper Frank Mercy got marooned at the lighthouse for three days after a November storm prevented him from leaving after he had rowed out to service the beacon.
Because the keeper’s house for the Ashland Breakwater Lighthouse was on shore, the lighthouse tower was not fully equipped for long periods of staying. Mercy’s previous years of lighthouse keeping experience at LaPointe Lighthouse, Whitefish Point Lighthouse, Outer Island Lighthouse and Manitou Lighthouse helped him to survive. However, when supplies ran out he was forced to make an attempt to row the two miles to shore.
However, as he got closer to the shore, ice formations blocked his way to safety. Fortunately, some men on shore saw his plight and donned some skis. Bravely and seemingly without fear, these men slowly made their way across the thin ice until they got close enough to Mercy to throw him a rope. The men then proceeded to drag his boat back to the mainland and to safety. Mercy probably slept very soundly that night back in his own bed at the keeper’s house. Mercy served as a lighthouse keeper for nearly 35 years and was a keeper during the transition of the lighthouse from the U.S. Lighthouse Service to the U.S. Coast Guard.
On May 15, 2012, under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the Ashland Breakwater Lighthouse, which is also known as the Ashland Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse, was declared by the government as excess property. We can only wonder what keeper Frank Mercy would have to say about that.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2013 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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