A long time ago, early in the last century, Mrs. E. S. Martin wrote a small, but old-world style, booklet titled Legend of the Old Lighthouse with a sub-title, Sandy McClintock’s Brier Rose, A Tragedy of the Old Superior Lighthouse.
We don’t know how many copies of the 12-page booklet were published at the time, but it was definitely a quaint book. The inside pages were professionally typeset and printed on heavy duty card-stock. A color sketch of the abandoned Minnesota Point Lighthouse appeared on the cover as well as two color sketches inside the book of the lighthouse that were done by E.L. Martin, who was apparently related to the author. Two holes were punched on the left side of the book, which was then held together by a ribbon.
It is highly likely, in those days, that the story became somewhat of a local legend and part of the folklore of the lighthouse to the area residents. But, apparently, as time moved on and people passed on, the legend was forgotten, as was this old book. It is highly doubtful that very many copies of the book even exist today. Our copy had been in the file of the Minnesota Point Lighthouse for years.
The book is about lighthouse keeper Andrew “Sandy” McClintock, a widely respected man who was appointed as the lighthouse keeper of the Minnesota Point Lighthouse. He arrived at the lighthouse with his wife and daughter Bonnie Rose. He also took with him a rose brier bush that he had taken from back east to his home in Minnesota, and then to the lighthouse. In fact, McClintock’s daughter’s middle name was Rose, named after his beloved rose bush, and he also called his daughter by her middle name of Rose, never using her first name.
They lived happily at the lighthouse, for many years and Bonnie Rose grew into a beautiful young woman. McClintock assumed that he would have the lighthouse keeper’s job for the rest of his working days. But, alas, that was not to be. For political reasons, he was informed that a new lighthouse keeper, Darien Faber, had been appointed to replace him.
When Faber arrived at the lighthouse there was the usual transition period while McClintock showed Faber all the specific duties that he would be required to fulfill. However, Faber, a single man, became immediately attracted to Bonnie Rose. Things seemed to be fine between the two men until, while at the dinner table one evening, Faber suggested that McClintock stay on as his assistant keeper and that Bonnie Rose could become Faber’s housekeeper and cook. This did not set well with McClintock. Although he would consider staying on, his daughter Bonnie Rose was not going to be just a housekeeper and cook to Faber; she deserved much better. And he let Faber know so in a very firm way.
However, Faber was insistent, and the conversation continued later that night as the two men climbed the spiral stairs to the lantern room to check on the lamps and reflectors as a storm howled around them. At some point the heated discussion turned into a heated quarrel that turned into a brawl that worked its way to the outside walkway of the lantern room. You’ve probably already guessed what happened next. During the brawl, the old railing of the catwalk gave way and both men tumbled to the ground in a pile of broken bones.
Being far from the community, Bonnie Rose decided to take the lighthouse boat and row for help - but she never made it. Three days later when the storm subsided, locals who were searching for driftwood that would have washed up on the shore found the frozen body of Bonnie Rose McClintock. She was still clinging to one of the boat’s oars. Three graves were dug later that day.
According to the book, as time went on, keepers came and went, seldom remaining for long, all declaring that the light tower was an uncanny spot. The government then decided that the Minnesota Point Lighthouse was to be replaced by a new light at a different location. The lantern was removed and the keeper’s house was demolished. During the demolition, the workmen found a tin box beneath a floor board that contained the diary of Bonnie Rose that lent credence and fact to the story.
The old tower was officially abandoned by the government in 1913 and left to look like a old stone smoke stack that no one bothered or cared much about. Minnesota Point Lighthouse has been on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List of Endangered Lighthouses ever since the list was created in 1994. But perhaps it should not even be on the list at all, especially because it is highly improbable that the lighthouse will ever be restored.
However, perhaps the remains of the tower should be preserved, just the way it is, as a historical ruin the same way the Parthenon and many other notable ruins around the world have been preserved. Reportedly, the property is now owned by the Army Corp of Engineers. If this is true, with all their knowledge of building just about anything, and with their immense resources, they should be able either to rebuild or save and preserve what is left of the lighthouse.
But with no one seeming to take an interest or caring about the old structure, more than likely, one day what is left of the once historic and proud lighthouse will simply collapse into a pile of rubble. In fact, bricks are now falling off by themselves, a few at time, and lay on the ground for anyone to pick up. Vandals and partygoers who often make their way to the site and build campfires and leave empty beer containers have absolutely no thought or concern for the people who once lived there and made many sacrifices to save the lives of the mariner.
Mrs. Martin wrote in her early 1900s book,” But, some, too credulous perhaps, declare that when the wild northeaster rages, strange lights glimmer and mournful wailings can be heard above the roaring storm.” Although research seems to prove that there was never a lighthouse keeper named Alexander “Sandy” McClintock, nor a Darien Faber, we have to wonder if the author based her characters on real life people, especially Bonnie Rose? We will never know.
The author ended her book by writing the following, in a style we are not used to today, but nevertheless is very understandable, “Like a rosy coverlet over the old foundation, among the rocks, transforming the otherwise desolate place into a fragrant bower, twine with the careless abandon of nature, the descendants of Sandy McClintock’s Brier Rose. Over their honey-laden blossoms the bees hum lazily, and the casual summer tourist pokes his umbrella into rock crevices, the one caring no more than the other for the story of their life.”
This story appeared in the
Mar/Apr 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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