Baileys Harbor, WI
54202 Information Center Open Daily
Corner of Hwy 57 and County F
10:00 am to 4:00 pm
May 26 to October 16
Cana Island Lighthouse The lighthouse is on Cana Island that consists of 8.7 acres of land located between Moonlight Bay and Cana Cove. It is approximately seven miles north of Baileys Harbor and three miles south of North Bay, the last bay of refuge for ships before Death Door. The island is located at N 45 degrees, 05 minutes, and 06 seconds; W 87 degrees, 03 minutes, and 02 seconds.
The station is situated in a very exposed location. In a particularly violent storm known as the “Alpena Gale” of 1880, the waves actually broke over the top of the keeper’s house and the spray reached windows of the lantern level. It is interesting to read in the keeper’s log of seeing the light at Pilot Island on clear evening.
The island is on the Niagara escarpment that is composed of dolomite bedrock and cobble stone with scattered glacial erratic. There is only a thin layer of soil covering the bedrock. The real danger is the shoaling that runs out from the island that is a tremendous hazard to navigation.
This is really a presque isle since at times the water covers the causeway that joins the island to mainland and at other times it is completely dry depending on the level of the lake and the direction of the winds which tends to stack the water.
This condition was evident in the modern storm of October 31, 1986. At that time the waves were going across Cana Island road and riprap had to be placed so that the road would not wash away. There were waves coming across the causeway that were eight to ten feet high with rooster tails because of the high wind. They would come from both sides of the causeway and meet over the causeway with tremendous force. It washed in cobblestones and gravely thirty feet from the water in high mark. The stones piled up three to four feet high which caused a lake to be formed at the end of Cana Island road. The wind was 48 to 55 knots and produced a force 8 gale (Beaufort scale) sea. The pictures of this wave action at the causeway are spectacular!
The lowest lake level was in 1964 when it was six feet below the level of 1968, this a tremendous amount of water when you consider the size of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Construction of the lighthouse
Construction of the lighthouse began in the spring of 1869. It was completed in 1870. The lighthouse and the one and a half story keeper’s house were of brick construction; however, the brick of the tower began to deteriorate and it was encased in steel and painted white in 1902. The tower is 89 feet high and the focal plane of the Fresnel lens is 81 feet above the water. There are 102 stairs from the base to the light. This was the tallest structure in Door County when it was built. The cast iron lantern above the tower has two levels, the watch room and above this the lantern room that contained the third order Fresnel lens. The light source is now a 500 watt quartz bulb. The character of the light was an intermittent or flashing, but it was changed to a constant and has a visibility of 18 statute miles. This lens cost in the $3,500 range at the time it was installed.
Augustin J. Fresnel (1788-1827), a French physicist, invented and designed this type of lens in 1815. In the case of a lighthouse, a lens is required to form a parallel light beam containing as much as possible of the light given off by a lamp. The light source must always be placed near the lens so that a parallel beam emerges. He realized that a great reduction in both weight and thickness could be made by removing cylindrical sections from the lens in such a way that the shape of the surfaces bending the light were >unchanged. A refinement commonly used in lighthouses, is to add prism sections around the edge of the Fresnel lens to use even more light.
Fresnel classified these lenses into orders of one to six. The numbers indicated the magnitude and intensity of the light. A first order lens stands nearly twelve feet high and six feet in diameter, a lens of this size cost between $4,500 and $8,000. A sixth order lens only measured eleven and three-fourths inches in diameter and cost up to $350.
Although the initial cost of the lenses were high, the Fresnel lens more than paid for itself as it reduced fuel costs to one-fourth what had previously been required and increased the intensity of the light almost four times. In addition to increasing the efficiency of the light by employing the Fresnel lens, the Lighthouse Boards (1789-1871) sought to increase economy by experimenting with various fuels. Sperm oil, which had been the main- stay of the Service, by 1862 had risen in price to $1.64 1/2 per gallon.
The Board commissioned some noted scientists to analyze sperm, whale, shark, fish, seal, colza, olive, lard, and mineral oils in search of a cheaper fuel. Colza oil, had all the necessary properties of an inexpensive fuel source except it had to be imported. To overcome this obstacle, the board began promoting the domestic production of this plant and the manufacture of its oil, purchasing 12,000 gallons in 1862 at a cost of $ 13,000, a savings of over $ 6,700 for a comparable amount of sperm oil.
From 1864 to 1867 lard oil became the standard illuminant, replacing both the colza (rape oil obtained from the seeds of the rape plant) and sperm oils. Despite this standard use of lard oil, experiments continued with other types of fuel.
In 1864, a Lake Michigan lighthouse keeper, experimenting on his own, substituted a kerosene lamp for the regular lardoil one. A short time after lighting the lamp, he attempted to extinguish the flame by blowing down the chimney. Instead of going out, the lamp exploded, setting his clothes afire. He hurriedly descended the staircase and upon reaching the bottom, a second explosion blew the entire, lantern from the tower, completely destroying the lenticular apparatus. Years of experiment later, mineral oil lamps would illuminate almost all the Service’s lights.
Living at a Lighthouse
In the Living at a Lighthouse, Oral Histories from the Great Lakes, by LuAnn Kozma, the following story is very interesting.
Marie (Beverly) Hering grew up at two Wisconsin lighthouses, Wind Point near Racine and Pilot Island in Door County.
Her father started his career at Cana Island he year he got married and took his nineteen year old bride to this isolated station. There was wasn’t room in the keeper’s house for them since his family was so large, his young bride must have had some scary nights when he was on duty over there and she was alone. Marie alwaysaffectionately called it “Caney Island.”
Her father was transferred toWind Point and later to Pilot Island. The persons and children could not stand the winter months on Pilot Island because of the severe weather so her mother with the three children lived on Washington Island.
Marie was born inDecember of 1908 during this period. The family’s years at the more isolated stations, Pilot Island and Cana Island, she suspects were very difficult for her mother. They had to carry all their water in and then carry it out when they were finished. The water source was usually the lake and if it was stormy it was impossible to get any water. Sometime the water would have a scum on it or it was very turbid, then the water would have to be boiled before it could be used.
Another example of the hardship was thefog horn at Pilot Island. Since this was so isolated the keepers tried to be self -sufficient and they raised as much of there own food as possible including chickens. The noise from the foghorn was so intense the eggs would not hatch.
The lighthouse keepers at Cana Island
1870 – 1872 William Jackson
1872 – 1875 Julius Warren
1875 – 1891 William A. Sanderson
1891 – 1913 Jesse T. Brown
1913 – 1918 Conrad A. Stram
1918 – 1924 Oscar R. Knudsen
1924 – 1933 Clifford W. Sanderson
1933 – 1946 Michael S.Drezdzon
It is interesting to see the keeper’s signatures and example of some of their writing in the reports and logs. These men and women had no extensive education, but they certainly had a good understanding of calligraphy and used it in their every day lives.
Shipwrecks at Cana Island
Door County Advocate
Friday, October 12, 1928
M. J. Bartelme Still Fast on Rocks off Cana Island
Pounds in Heavy Seas So That Release is Doubtful
The big steel freighter M. J. Bartelme that went aground on Cana Island Thursday afternoon last week in a thick fog while bound light from Milwaukee to Escanaba has been turned over to underwriters which are represented by James Taylor, who has been at the scene of the wreck since last Friday.
The Bartelme has not as yet been abandoned by the underwriters, but releasing of the craft however, will be difficult as the boat rests upon a rocky bottom, with the hull full of water and badly damaged. It is said the rocks have penetrated the bottom in many places, and the boat has been badly wrenched by the pounding it received by heavy waves Thursday night last week, Monday, and Wednesday this week.
The Bartelme went aground on the south side of Cana Island head-on, but a few hours later swung broadside, resting about 300 feet out from the shore. Thursday night after the ship went ashore the wind blew fresh from the south and the steamer got a severe pounding, big boulders coming up through the steel plates in the bottom. Friday the weather moderated and the tug Leathem D. Smith, of the Leathem D. Smith Dock company of this city, in command of Capt. Wm. Boyd, went to the wreck. While the tug pulled on the Bartelme it could not start her from the rocks and returned to her homeport Saturday.
The big wrecking tug Favorite, in command of Capt. Cummings, was summoned from St. Ignace, Mich. arriving Saturday morning, but could not transfer its pumps to the wreck as the tug could not get along side.
Although the weather was most favorable nothing could be put aboard to keep the Bartelme afloat in case the tug released her. Word was sent to Manitowoc for a lighter and the tug Arctic arrived Sunday Night, but the wind had hauled to the south, making a big sea and Arctic took shelter in Baileys Harbor seven miles from the wreck. The wind increased during the night and the Favorite had to leave its anchorage and go to shelter of Plum Island, in Death’s Door, about 25 miles from the scene of the wreck. The Favorite did not return to the Bartelme and the Arctic returned to Manitowoc with the lighter.
Monday afternoon as the sea was running high and the Bartelme was pounding on the rocks, it was deemed advisable to take the crew of 26 men off. The Baileys Harbor coast guards transferred the men and their luggage to the shore west of Cana Island making four trips through the heavy surf. Capt. Crockett, Chief Engineer Wally Ives of this city, and part of the crew returned to the wreck Tuesday.
John Smith, a marine architect of Detroit, arrived at the wreck Sunday night for the purpose of making a survey of the boat and estimating the cost of repairing the boat if it were successfully released. If the cost of repairs and the wrecking bill exceed the cost of insurance, the Bartelme will probably be abandoned.
Capt. Reid of the Reid Wrecking Company of the Port Huron, Mich. arrived Wednesday and yesterday went to the wreck to take soundings and look the boat over in view of an estimate on saving the craft. Before visiting the Bartelme Capt. Reid was confident that the boat could be released if there were several days of favorable weather, but whether or not it would be advisable to release the craft in its dangerous condition could not be determined until his inspection was made.
The Bartelme was formerly known as the Central West, the name having been changed last spring. It is owned by the Valley Camp Coal company of Cleveland, owners of the steamers Way, Kennedy and Savage, which were fitted out with self-unloaders at this port. The Bartelme is a steel boat 352 feet over all, 44-foot beam and 22 foot depth, with a tonnage of 3,400, and a value of $300,000.00.
The steamer has been engaged during the season carrying coal from Ashtabula, Ohio to Milwaukee, Wis. returning with ore from Escanaba, Mich. Remarkably good time had been made all season, averaging a round trip every week. The steamer was on its thirteenth trip when it fetched up on the rocky shore of Cana Island.
Door County Advocate
Friday, October 12, 1928
Road Needs Improvement
Cana Island - Cana Island was the destination of nearly 200 automobiles last Sunday and Keeper Sanderson scarcely had parking space for the large number of cars that gathered there during certain hours of the day. The attraction was the big freighter Bartelme that went ashore on the south side of the island the previous Thursday. The tug Favorite, the largest wrecking tug on the Great Lakes, was standing by the wreck Sunday, making a most attractive view for those interested in boats.
As the road leading from Baileys Harbor to the Island is a narrow one most of the distance, traffic became congested as cars coming out met those going in, and passing was difficult. This road should be improved, as traffic is becoming heavier over it at all times of the year.
Door County Advocate
Friday, October 12. 1928
Marine Life on the Lakes
At 8:30 Monday morning the Great Lakes Towing and Wrecking company’s tug Favorite left Cana Island, running down the shore and came to under Plum Island, where she laid up for several hours, leaving again about 11:30. Latest reports indicate that the steamer ashore at Cana Island is still fast on the rocks and suffering terribly from the heavy swell running from the south.
Door County Advocate
Friday, October 19, 1928
The sailors off the freight steamer M. J. Bartelme that went ashore off the southeast point of Cana Island are boarding at the Panter hotel.
Door County Advocate
Friday, November 2, 1928
Insurance Co. Will Not Free Str. Bartelme
The steamer Bartelme wrecked on the south side of Cana Island 300 feet from shore the afternoon of October 4, in a thick fog has been abandoned by the underwriters. Stormy weather has pounded the hull until the plates in he bottom have broken or torn away, and to release the steamer, the wrecking bill would probably be not far from $ 150,000.00.
The captain and chief engineer were given orders this week to strip the steamer of everything moveable and this is now being done. When the work is completed nothing will be left but the bare hull and engine and boilers. It is understood that in the spring the engine and boilers will also be removed.
The Bartelme is 350 feet long, a steel steamer, and valued at over $200,000.00. When wrecked, the ship was engaged in carrying coal from Ashtabula, Ohio to Milwaukee, returning with iron ore from Escanaba. When she grounded on the rocks on Cana Island she was bound north light to load at Escanaba.
The hull lies in a most exposed place, but will probably withstand the storms for a number of years and will be an attraction for tourist from inland cities who have never seen the wreck of a large steamer. Cana Island has always been a popular place for tourist, and with the wreck of the steamer Bartelme within 300 feet of shore, it will be an added attraction.
Door County Advocate
Friday, November 9, 1928
Marine News-The steamer Bartelme Broke In Two
The steamer Bartelme, which was wrecked on Cana Island October 4th, and recently abandoned, broke in two in the severe southeast wind that prevailed Monday of this week. The steamer lies on a rocky- ledge with but four or five feet of water from her bow to the forward part of her engine house, where the ledge drops down, leaving about fourteen feet of water at the steamer’s stern. The continual pounding that the steamer has received since going aground gradually weakened the steel plates forward of the engine house and in the heavy sea Monday the hull parted and the stern dropped several feet, flooding the engine room, putting out the fires.
Part of the crew has remained aboard of the Bartelme since it was wrecked and has been engaged in stripping the craft of everything moveable. The crew left the craft Wednesday night after salvaging fifteen truck loads valued at from $20,000.00 to $25,000.00.
Door County Advocate
Friday, August 9, 1929
Looked Over the Barteleme
Representatives of the T. L. Durocher Wrecking company of Detour, Mich., were at the wreck of the steamer Bartelme at Cana Island with the tug General recently, making a survey of the wrecked steamer for the purpose of making an estimate to take out the engine and boilers. The Bartelme has broken in two just aft of amidships, the stern being in about eighteen feet of water and the bow about four feet. The plan of placing a bulkhead aft of the place where the steamer is broken in two, and trying to float the after part and bring it into this port or Manitowoc and remove the machinery, is considered feasible. However, no definite decision has been reached, and unless work of removing the machinery is started soon it is probable that it will remain in the wreck for another winter, as it will require good weather to perform the work.
Door County Advocate
Friday, June 6, 1930
Marine News - Wrecking the Bartelme
An outfit from the Durocher Wrecking company of Detour, Mich., arrived at the wreck of the steamer Bartelme at Cana Island on Thursday of last week to remove the boilers and the engine. The outfit consisted of the tug Lotus, a big derrick scow, and a lighter. The boilers and the engine will be removed and brought to the Leathem D. Smith Dock company’s yard in this city. Weather conditions have been somewhat unfavorable for the work and on several occasions, the outfit had to leave the wreck and seek shelter in North Bay. The Bartelme went ashore at Cana Island in the fall of 1928 and had been stripped of all its outfit except the boilers and engine.
Door County Advocate
Friday, June 13, 1930
Completes Wrecking Job
The tug Lotus with the two lighters in tow arrived at the Leathem D. Smith shipyard Monday with the boilers and engine, and other material taken from the wrecked steamer Bartelme at Cana Island. Due to stormy weather it ook the Durocher Wrecking Company about ten days to remove the machinery that otherwise would have taken less than a week. One of the lighters is equipped with a large, powerful derrick which handled the 65 ton engine and 50 ton boilers as though they were mere toys.
The water in the Bartelme was lowered without trouble with the wrecking pumps and the engine and boilers cut away so that they were lifted out of the craft with the big derrick.
The boilers and engine and other wreckage is the property of the Valley Camp Steamship company of Cleveland, and the material will be stored on the dock of the local company, and perhaps at a later date the engine will be installed in another steamer.
Door County Advocate
Friday, July 22, 1932
Young Husband IS Drowned in Lake
Caught by Current at Cana Island
Body Found By Coast GuardsCompanion,
two in Rowboat Stood by Helpless to Go to Rescue.
Baileys Harbor - Swept by treacherous current around the wreck of the steamer M. J. Bartelme at Cana Island, while his companion, C. R. Griesbacher, West Allis, and two others in a rowboat with only one good oar stood nearby afraid to attempt a rescue in the waves and swirling waters. Henry C. Berg, 22, formerly of West Allis, was drowned in Lake Michigan Saturday afternoon. Coast guards from the Baileys Harbor station were summoned but were unable to find the body owing to the strong wind. Sunday morning they renewed their efforts in calm weather and located Berg in about 30 feet of water outside the wreck shortly after 10 o’clock.
Coroner Elmer Christenson of Sturgeon Bay was called to the coast guard station here and authorized the removal of the body to the Casperson undertaking parlor at Sister Bay. He decided not to hold an inquest.
The coast guards in the party who recovered the body were Captain Moe and guardsmen Conrad Grovogel, Ed Goss and Heiser. Mr. Berg and his wife, formerly Miss Myrtle Root of this township, moved to Ephraim from West Allis, Wis. last year, and Saturday accompanied by Mr. Griesbacher and a woman companion who were visiting them, they went to Cana Island for an outing and to see the wreck of the Bartelme which attracts many tourists.
Mr. Berg and Mr. Griesbacher put on old life preservers and swam out to the wreck, a quarter of a mile away. On approaching the ship they were caught in a swift current which only the latter, a strong swimmer, was able to combat. The former was carried around the ship into the open lake.
Mr. Griesbacher managed to reach two men in a rowboat tied to the wreck and begged them to go after his companion, but the men were afraid to risk the attempt, saying that the current and the sea would swamp their small craft.
Mr. Berg’s life preserver went to pieces and bits were pickedup Saturday afternoon by the coast guards. While the drowning occurred, Mrs. Berg and Mr. Griesbacher’s companion looked on from shore unmindful of the tragedy. They saw Mr. Berg apparently swim around the wreck but thought nothing of it. They even misinterpreted Mr. Griesbacher’s frantic waving from the wreck. The two men in the rowboat paddled ashore with the later to break the news to the others in the party.
Mr. Berg is survived by his wife, a six-month old baby daughter and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry F. Berg of West Allis. He was well known in the northern part of Door County , having spent many summers here. As a accomplished trick, motorcycle rider, he startled many northern residents along the main highways with his daring. Last year he performed on the race track during the Door County fair and last Fourth of July put on stunts at the celebration held here. He was a carpenter by trade.
The funeral was held Wednesday at the Schmidt & Bartlett funeral home at West Allis, Mr. Berg’s native city. Among those from outside who attended were Mr. and Mrs. William Root and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Kwaterski of Baileys Harbor, and Leslie Knudson of Ephraim.
Door County Advocate
Thursday, August 10, 1933
Hull Str. Bartelme is Being Removed by a Milwaukee Firm
A Milwaukee junk company has a crew of men at Cana Island wrecking the freighter M. J. Bartelme which was grounded a few hundred feet from shore at an early hour on the morning of Oct. 4, 1928. It was stated by Lighthouse Keeper Ross Wright of Cana Island that the men are cutting the steel which forms the hull into sections 6′ x 18′ feet and before the work continues any length of time it is understood that another crew will be placed at work.
The M. J. Bartelme was owned by the Valley Camp Steamship Co. and was 352 feet long, 22 feet deep and her beam was 42 feet. The boat was running “light” at the time of the of the accident, returning to Escanaba from Milwaukee for a load of ore. She ran on the reef ust off Cana Island light during a dense fog and when it was determined that she could not be removed the ship was turned over to the insurance company.
The engine, boilers, and all the interior fittings were removed a year or so after the ship was grounded, and about two years ago she broke almost in two.
Capt. Crochet was in charge of the ship when she was grounded, and Wallace Ives of Sturgeon Bay was chief engineer. The Bartelme carried a crew of 29 men.
Door County Advocate
Thursday, September 14, 1933
Str. Bartelme Steel About Half Removed
John Mandarich and Fred Riefschnider of Milwaukee came this week to look after the contract, which they have for removal of the steel from the old freighter. J. Bartelme, wrecked at Cana Island on Oct. 4, 1928. The gentlemen stated that they have sixteen men engaged in cutting the steel at the present time, removing the plates in 6 x 18 strips, which will be loaded on barges and towed to Sturgeon Bay and load here aboard a freight for shipment to Cleveland, Ohio. About one-half of the steel has been removedat this time.
The Roen Steamship Co., Sturgeon Bay, has the contract for loading the barges and for freighting the material to Cleveland. Messr. Mandarich and Riefschnider told the News that they will spend some time in Door county for the purpose of looking after the work at Cana Island and also to purchase other scrap metal. They are headquartering at the Hotel Swododa.
A special thanks is extended to the Door County Advocate who gave us permission to reprint their articles. A special Thank You to Dr. William F. Hamm for his numerous hours of research and development of the historical facts included in this maritime section.