Friday, September 27, 2019

Big Bay Lighthouse

While looking for a vacation rental in the Upper Peninsula Michigan, I came across a lighthouse with an interesting history. Big Bay Lighthouse is beautiful, and the view of Lake Superior is breathtaking. Though I never got to visit, I hope someday to make the trip up to this stunning lighthouse.
In 1882, the U.S. Lighthouse Board recommended a new lighthouse be built on Lake Superior between Granite Island Lighthouse and Huron Island Lighthouse, located on the northwest side of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan about 25 miles north of Marquette. The recommendation was made due to the high number of shipwrecked vessels in the vicinity and also the distance between the existing stations.

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

Lighthouse keepers stationed at the lighthouse have had somewhat of a tragic history. Especially the first Head Keeper at Big Bay Point. H. William Prior, arrived with his family approximately ten p.m. on August fifteenth, 1896. His time of service was plagued by hardship and tragedy. Much if what happened to him and his family is recorded in Head Keeper Prior’s meticulous records.

The first sign of trouble came when newly assigned Assistant Keeper Heater left the lighthouse to travel to the nearby town of Marquette due to the sudden 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 heart to do anything”. I wonder if the man suffered from depression after his sister’s death. Regardless, March seventh, 1898 Assistant Keeper Heater was transferred to Granite Island Lighthouse much to the delight of Head Keeper Prior.

Prior journaled about a series of irresponsible assistants, and ultimately, H. William Prior appointed his son, George E. Prior, to the position of assistant keeper. George took the oath of assistant keeper on January eighteenth, 1900, but tragically only a few months later on April sixteenth, 1901, George fell down the steep narrow steps of the tower. His injuries were extensive and required a lengthy stay at a hospital in Marquette. Tragically, July 1901, George E. Prior died from septicemia due to a compound fracture of his femur.

Head keeper Prior was devastated by his son’s death and on June twenty-eighth, Head Keeper Prior’s misery apparently became unbearable. He was last seen walking into the woods with a gun and cyanide poison. I don’t understand why whoever saw him with these things didn’t stop him, but. Nonetheless, he was never seen alive again. A year and half later 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. Such a sad ending.

The lighthouse itself went on to serve the area well, and without signifying happenings, until 1941, when under the authority of the U.S. Coast Guard, the lighthouse was automated, and the last light keeper was reassigned.

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 out on the lake to serve as targets. Imagine the sound of the guns as they fired over Lake Superior.
The lighthouse had one more tragic story. In 1952, a soldier stationed at the lighthouse committed a murder. In a jealous rage, the man went to Lumberjack Tavern in Big Bay where he committed the killing. The movie "Anatomy of a Murder," was based on this unfortunate incident.

After being abandoned for six years, the 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. The lighthouse is reported to be haunted.

Have you ever stayed anywhere with a history if being haunted? I’d love to hear about tit in the comments below.

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


Multi 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 ten grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. Michele loves to hear from readers on Facebook, Twitter, and here through the group blog, Heroes, Heroines, and History at

Michele is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.


  1. That sounds like a nice place to visit! Haunted? I can't recall hearing anything about places being haunted but I tend not to listen to those things anyways. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Hi Michele, My husband, grandson and I stayed at the Sand Hills Lighthouse B & B about three years ago. It was a wonderful experience, and the couple who owned it were great hosts. However, since then the man died and the wife sold it to some people who are restoring it now. Maybe it will be open next year. I read that you can also stay at the former Coast Guard station at Whitefish Point Lighthouse as well. Someday, I'd like to stay at Big Bend. I know the man who currently owns it, but it is a long way from Florida where I live! My husband and I also served twice as volunteer lighthouse keepers at Little River Lighthouse on an island off the coast of Maine. It was an amazing experience.