Northern Michigan in Focus: Point Betsie Lighthouse

Almost 160 years ago, the Point Betsie Lighthouse’s beacon was first lit, keeping sailors safe on Lake Michigan.

Now, all those years of history are yours to explore.

Chief photojournalist Corey Adkins takes us to the top in Northern Michigan in Focus.

“Point Betsie was built to mark the southern end of the Manitou passage,” said Jonathan Hawley, Friends of the Point Betsie Lighthouse.

It was 1857 when construction began. On October 20, 1858 the Point Betsie Lighthouse was lit. At the time, other than the light, this was all undeveloped land and someone had to take care of the lighthouse.

“One keeper and his family,” explained Hawley. “For those who were hired to be a light keeper here, this was a very isolated and lonely place and for 20 years they were the only people right at this location.”

It was the age of schooners and some steel propelled ships. Sometimes 100 a day would pass here and while the keeper was tending to his light…

“The kids had fun. In the summertime, they all swim and they finished here regularly, and when hunting season came they were hunters,” said Hawley.

The lighthouse keepers took their jobs very seriously. Maintenance had to be done daily and sometimes accidents can happen.

“He was a light keeper and this poor fella fell from the latter and broke his legs, and this is life at Point Betsie,” explained Hawley.

In 1875 the lighthouse keeper got some company when the Lifesaving Service moved in.

In 1895 the lighthouse structure was added onto because second and third keepers were needed to help with the daily grind.

“They had to maintain the property there to keep the equipment in excellent condition, they had to do everything that was necessary. In many cases they had to raise food, catch fish, go hunting, all those things that are necessary for survival,” said Hawley.

Between the lighthouse keepers, the Lifesaving Service and later the Coast Guard many lives were saved and ships guided from danger.

Now the lighthouse serves a new purpose: to serve you, the visitor.

“I just think it’s a beautiful place, and I am extraordinarily grateful for the support that we have had,” said Hawley.

It’s a place to reflect and take in life.

“It’s been magical for a long, long time. This is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the United States,” explained Hawley. “And I want him to say that is a really special place and it’s amazing to me how many people do.”

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