Adeline Simms gravesite
The grave of Adeline Sims, wife of range light Keeper William Sims, is located to the side of the keeper’s path (at the Range Light Park) in a small, fenced-in area. Legend has it that while her husband and fellow Masons held meetings in the rear range light, she overheard and memorized secret passages. To seal her lips, she was made a member. Adeline Sims died an invalid in 1881, and was buried with a Masonic emblem on her gravestone. Sims is the only woman so honored by the Masons.
Frederick Burnham settled in Michigan in the 1840’s. Beginning in the 1850’s, the Burnhams acquired large tracts of Presque Isle County’s rich timberlands. In the mid-to-late nineteenth century Burnham developed a prosperous mercantile and lumber business here. He transported wood to the boat landing, which stood near this site. The harbor, known as Burnham’s Landing, provided shelter to ships during foul weather. When Burnham died in 1880, Julia and their son Frederick II assumed management of the family’s business. The Burnham home, store and lumber camps were destroyed by the 1908 Metz fire.
The inn was constructed in 1908. It is the only resort on Grand Lake that has been continuously operated since its inception.
John C. Kauffman migrated to America from Tuttlingen, Germany in 1851. Kauffman started as a lumberjack and built a house in 1862. Later that year he had to move his house because of the drifting snow. Kauffman was the Township Supervisor and Postmaster of Presque Isle until his death in 1913. Kauffman also served in the Civil War.
The homestead is currently open as a museum/gift shop during the summer months. It is located on E. Grand Lake Rd. in front of the Grand Lake Chapel, just up from the Birch Hill Store.
New Presque Isle Light
This lighthouse, built in 1870 by Orlando M. Poe, is one of three Great Lakes towers built from the same plans. The conical brick tower rises 113 feet from a limestone foundation. The Third Order Fresnel lens was made by Henre LePaute of Paris. Patrick Garrity, the keeper of the harbor light, lit the lamp for the first time at the opening of the 1871 navigation season. Garrity served here until 1885 when he became keeper of the Harbor Range Lights. His wife, Mary, sons Thomas, Patrick, and John, and daughter Anna all served as light keepers in this area. In 1890 a steam operated fog signal manufactured by Variety Iron Works of Cleveland, Ohio, was installed. The light was automated in 1970 by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Old Presque Isle Light
Presque Isle harbor became such an important maritime interest that a state representative named Isaac Crary asked Congress for funds to build a lighthouse there. Congress recognized the need and appropriated five thousand dollars for the lighthouse to be built.
Construction was begun in 1839; when finished, the tower stood thirty feet high and had an eighteen-foot base with four-foot thick walls. A spiral stairway wound to the top that housed the lantern and lenses. A lighthouse keeper named Henry L. Woolsey was the first person to man the lighthouse, which was first fired up on September 23, 1840. (list of all lighthouse keepers)
The light had served the sailors of Lake Huron for over twenty years when it was determined that the keeper’s house was in such disrepair that it would have to be torn down and rebuilt. The money was allocated but was never spent-at least not to improve the residence. In 1868 it was determined that the lighthouse’s placement could be better, so a much larger light was proposed by the Lighthouse Board. Construction started about a mile to the north, and the Presque Isle Lighthouse – or Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, as it came to be known – was abandoned. The lens and lantern were removed, and the beacon sat empty for almost twenty-six years.
The lighthouse was finally put up for auction, and the first in a long chain of owners took it over. Some were entrepreneurs, hoping to make a buck on the place; others just wanted use of the land; and still others had an eye for preserving the history of the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse for future generations. The Stebbins family would hold the property for some time, starting with Bliss Stebbins who bought it for seventy dollars at the turn of the twentieth century in a tax sale. He never developed the land as he’d hoped, so he sold it to his brother Francis in 1930.
Francis B. Stebbins was the first person to see the historical potential of the lighthouse, and he began to give tours to anyone interested in seeing the place. He also repaired the light so that it would shine once again, which it did until the Coast Guard made him extinguish it so as to not confuse ships coming into the harbor. Just to make sure that he didn’t get the urge to crank it up again, they removed the machinery that rotated the light and lens.
From Francis, the property passed to his son Jim Stebbins, who took his father’s vision for the lighthouse even further – he began to assemble a full-blown maritime museum in the keeper’s house, and officially opened it up for tours. He even had an idea for a “step back in time” tour, and hired college girls from the area to be the docents. They dressed in costumes from the 1800s, and were so beautiful that the main customer demographic time with them, so in 1977 Jim abandoned that idea and hired a retired couple to take over the place: George and Loraine Parris.
George and Loraine became the official keepers of the property, even though they didn’t actually own it. While Loraine worked in the museum, George gave tours of the lighthouse. He enjoyed playing pranks on the visitors and showing them a good time – his favorite trick for quite some time was the “Foghorn Test of Strength.” He would ask for volunteers who thought that they could stand in front of the mighty horn as he set it off. No matter how rigid a stance the person took, George would blow the horn and the vibration would knock them clean off their feet. George loved the people who visited the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, and the people loved him. Many came back season after season just to see what tricks and tales George had cooked up lately. On January 2, 1992, a single day after celebrating the New Year, the most beloved man in Presque Isle, Michigan, died of a heart attack. A chapter in the lighthouse’s history had been closed – but perhaps a new one had begun.
As Loraine was driving to the property on Grand Lake Road, which had a clear view of the lighthouse, she saw that it was illuminated.
She knew that the Coast Guard had rendered this impossible, but there it was before her. By the time that she arrived at the keeper’s house, though, everything was dark. The next day she climbed the steps of the lighthouse to make sure that everything was in order, and she saw that there was no way that someone could have turned the light on. Yet, this same pattern repeated itself again and again. Loraine never said anything about it because she thought that people might think her crazy.
Soon other folks began to see the light, however – a yellowish glow was reported from the lighthouse by several people. Some thought that the light had been put back into operation, but others drove out for a closer look, only to find that it was dark once again.
It was even spotted by members of the Air National Guard, who flew a few missions over the area, and by the Coast Guard, who investigated to make sure that no one could fire the light back up. It had been permanently disabled years before, so there was no way that the light could be shining. Yet it was. Many people believe that the spirit of playful old George is occasionally paying a visit to the lighthouse that he loved so much, just to let folks know that he’s doing just fine and to keep alive the stories of the lighthouse that he loved so much.
Presque Isle Lodge
Newell A. Eddy (Jr.) built Presque Isle Lodge in 1920. At the time of the Lodge’s construction, it became the fourth large resort/hotel in the area, following The Birch Hill Hotel built in the late 1890s and opened in 1901 (subsequently torn down in the 1960s), the Fireside Inn in 1908, the Grand Lake Hotel built in 1912 (subsequently split up, scaled back, and reverted to a private residence) and the Colony Bar of the same general era, which burned down. The Presque Isle Lodge was closed from 1978 to 1989 when it re-opened as a Bed & Breakfast Inn.
The New Presque Isle Light Tower alerted the mariners to impending dangers while the two smaller Range Lights guided them safely into harbor. When the lights were aligned, the mariner knew the safest and easiest path into-or out of-the harbor.