This past July 30th, a service was held at the gravesite of Peter L. and Catherine Shook at the Oakwood Cemetery in New Baltimore, Michigan for the placement of United States Lighthouse Service Memorial Markers.
On March 6, 1848, Peter L. Shook became the first lighthouse keeper at the newly completed Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse on Lake Huron in Port Hope, Michigan. However, he did not hold the position for long. On March 31, 1849 while travelling by boat for supplies, the boat capsized and Peter Shook and the two others onboard tragically lost their lives. Records of the time indicate that he and Catherine had eight small children who became fatherless.
Catherine Shook immediately took over Peter’s duties at the lighthouse, and on May 15, 1849 the government officially appointed the keeper of the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse, making her not only the first and only female lighthouse keeper ever to serve at the lighthouse, but also the first woman to be a lighthouse keeper in the State of Michigan.
The following month, on June 11, 1849, tragedy again struck the family when the keeper’s house was virtually destroyed by a fire caused by a faulty chimney. While fighting the fire, Catherine Shook was badly burned and the family lost most of their personal belongings.
The hard life at a remote lighthouse caught up with Catherine Shook – she resigned as the keeper on March 19, 1851. She died nine years later at the age of fifty.
The U.S. Lighthouse Service Memorial Marker Ceremony was attended by numerous descendants of Peter L. and Catherine Shook, the United States Coast Guard, and lighthouse friends.
(Ceremony photos courtesy of Jeff Shook.)
This story appeared in the
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