Sunday, February 26, 2017

Michigan's Historic Big Bay Lighthouse

Huron Island Lighthouse
Granite Island Lighthouse
In 1882, the U.S. Lighthouse Board recommended a new lighthouse be built in Big Bay on Lake Superior between Granite Island Lighthouse and Huron Island Lighthouse. This recommendation was due to the high numbers of wrecked vessels in the vicinity and the distance between the existing stations. 

The lighthouse at Big Bay Point, Michigan was finished and put into operation in 1896. The solid brick station, located on high on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior, has sent out its beacon of light to passing ships for over a hundred
Big Bay Point LIghthouse

The first Head Keeper at Big Bay Point, H. William Prior, arrived with his family approximately ten p.m. on August fifteenth, 1896. 
Head Keeper Prior kept meticulous records. Due to this, we know that his time of service was plagued by hardship and tragedy.

The first sign of trouble came when Assistant Keeper Heater went to the nearby town of Marquette for the unexpected death of his sister. After his return, Assistant Heater became lax in his duties and per the Head Keeper’s records, “he is so much under the control of his wife he has not the hart to do anything”. March seventh, 1898 Assistant Keeper Heater was transferred to Granite Island Lighthouse much to the delight of Head Keeper Prior.

After a series of irresponsible assistants, H. William Prior appointed his son, George E. Prior, to the position. He took the oath on January eighteenth, 1900, but tragically on April Sixteenth, 1901, George fell on the steps to the tower. His injuries were extensive and required a lengthy stay at a hospital in Marquette. July, 1901, George E. Prior died from septicemia due to a compound fracture of his femur.

June twenty-eighth, 1902, Head Keeper Prior’s melancholy apparently became unbearable, he was last seen walking into the woods with a gun and cyanide poison. He was not seen again until a year and half later when a hunter came across the skeletal remains of a man hanging from a tree. The remains were dressed in the clothing of the former keeper of Big Bay Point Lighthouse station.

In 1941, under the authority of the U.S. Coast Guard, the lighthouse was automated, and the last light keeper was reassigned.

Big Bay Lighthouse in winter
Then in 1951 & 1952, the US Army leased the buildings and land. National Guard and Army regulars were stationed at the lighthouse and would camp out in the fields surrounding the station for two week periods of anti-aircraft artillery training. On the cliffs, east of the lighthouse, large guns were installed. Aircraft was towed as targets over the lake. Imagine the sound of the guns as they fired over Lake Superior.

In 1952, a soldier stationed at the lighthouse committed a jealousy motivated murder at Lumberjack Tavern in Big Bay. The movie "Anatomy of a Murder," was based on this unfortunate incident.

After being abandoned for six years, the Big Bay Lighthouse sold in 1961 to a plastic surgeon from Chicago. He refurbished the station and dearly loved the home until he sold it in 1979, at which time, Big Bay Lighthouse became a bed and breakfast. Today, it is the only bed and breakfast with a working lighthouse in the United States.

Thank you for joining us at Heroes, Heroines, and History today.



Award winning author, Michele K. Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and seven grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. Michele loves to hear from readers on Facebook, Twitter, and through the group blog, Heroes, Heroines, and History at


  1. Michele, thank you for sharing this informative post about historical Big Bay Lighthouse. I would love to visit and stay at the bed and breakfast with the working lighthouse. Lighthouse are so unique and special.

  2. I love lighthouses and try to find them when I visit coastal towns. Thanks for the story about this one.