Museum Founder’s Weather Information
January 2023

The following information was included in Axel Niemi’s book Michigan’s Glacial Gemstones of Northeastern Upper Peninsula. It is unclear if Axel researched this information, or more likely, these are his thoughts after decades of observing weather in Grand Marais. Because the Niemi family operated fish tugs for many decades, they were keen observers of the weather so as to not get caught out on Lake Superior in a storm.


Changes in wind and bad weather can usually be noted when distant objects, otherwise indistinct, loom out clear and sharp; when the sunset sky has red-tinged clouds floating high up in the sky. When crows seem to flit and tumble while flying; or in the spring on March 21, 22, or Equinox you notice which direction the wind blows and the winds for the next three months will prevail from that direction.

Fair Weather Signs

  1. At sunrise a grey and clear sky. At night, pale, grey night stars are visible, and skies are evenly grey after sunset. Early bird skies are also evenly grey all around the horizon before sunrise.
  2. Evening rainbows and the sun setting in a clear, red sky.
  3. Heavy morning dews on the ground. Evening mist that disappears in the rising morning sun.

Rainy Weather

  1. Before sunrise, the sky is red in the east.
  2. When stars and Milky Way show up clear and bright.
  3. When the sunset has a tinted halo around it.
  4. When the sun shines through a watery haze in the afternoon indicates a good sign of rain.
  5. When the grass is dry in the morning without dew.
  6. When sudden spiraling gusts of wind pick up dust on what at first is a fine day.
  7. When sparrows are seen busily washing in a puddle of water.
  8. It will keep raining when chickens keep on eating even after the rain begins to fall.

Other Weather Signs

  1. A red sky at night indicates fine weather. A red sky in the morning means bad weather or much wind or rain. A grey sky in the morning indicates fine weather.
  2. A light-yellow sunset indicates wind. A pale-yellow sky at sunset means rain.
  3. Soft-looking or delicate clouds foretell fine weather, with moderate breezes. Hard-edged oily, heavy-looking clouds indicate wind. The blacker, the more oily the clouds, the harder the wind will blow.
  4. The more ridged, tufted, darker, and rolled the clouds are, the stronger the winds.
  5. A dark, gloomy, blue sky is windy, while a light, blue sky means fine weather, but windy when there is low barometric pressure.
  6. Usually in the spring or post-equinox period, if there is a northerly windstorm and the wind dies down during sunset, you may be sure the storm will increase again at sunrise if the sky has not cleared and remains overcast with heavy clouds. The winds and stormy conditions will remain until the last of the cloud formations each day eventually disappear.

All in a Stone

Through aimlessly drifts clouds apart
Serenely green, God’s work of art.
Across a sea of mahogany
Cool ripples blend in harmony.
No man-made charms could ever feel
This handy work, so cool! So real.
Life’s endless struggles seem to float
Twix rippled waters, trouble-soaked.
This rusty tear drop streaked in green
Helps keep your chin up in between!

Old rockhounds never die – they just slowly petrify.
Old lapidarist’s never die – they slowly grind away their marbles.

History Gem – Grand Marais Shipwrecks

I received two emails from Miles Hague that included shipwreck photos he took in 2004 and 2005 of shipwreck remnants located on the beach east of Grand Marais. I researched information I posted on my blog on May 4, 2011, about these shipwrecks, (, including photos I took at the time. When I posted the blog, I did some research to find out more about shipwrecks. There were three ships that went down in a storm on November 19, 1914. First, here is a photo of an 1871 schooner that most likely resembled the ships that went down in the 1914 storm.

Here are two articles about the wrecks.

Seney, Mich., Nov. 21. — Lifesavers reported today that a total of 12 bodies have been found on the south shore of Lake Superior during the 35 hours’ search which followed the fearful gale that swept the lake Thursday. The four bodies found since the searchers previously reported were all men. The two corpses of women have been unidentified. Among the wreckage cast ashore today were several life belts stenciled “Steamer Curtis.” As no trace of the steamer, C. F. Curtis has been obtained and as it is considered certain that one of her schooners, the Annie M. Peterson, sank near Grand Marais, local marine men believe the Curtis also went to the bottom. It is also claimed there were only seven persons on board the Peterson. The Curtis was known to have been towing the schooners, Peterson and S. E. Marvin when the gale struck her. No wreckage of the Marvin has been found so far as searchers in this vicinity have been able to learn.

Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Nov. 21. — Up to a late hour today, the last 24 hours had revealed little information to clear up the mystery surrounding the fate of the steamer C. F. Curtis and the lumber laden schooners S. E. Marvin and Annie M. Peterson in tow of the Curtis, which were caught Thursday in the season’s most severe storm on Lake Superior. That the Peterson went down in “the graveyard of the Great Lakes” near Grand Marais, seems absolutely certain in view of her bodies and wreckage which have been washed ashore. Two of the eight bodies recovered last night were identified today as members of the Peterson’s crew. Whether some of the other bodies were from Curtis or Marvin remained to be determined after identification had been made. The three missing vessels carried 26 persons in their combined crews. The fact that two of the bodies recovered were those of unidentified women caused many to believe the Curtis met the same fate as the Peterson inasmuch as it was thought one or both of women had been employed on that vessel. The sailing records did not reveal any women hands on the two schooners. The three ships cleared from Baraga with lumber for North Tonawanda, N.Y. Wednesday morning. They should have passed this port long ago but were not heard from until the Peterson wreckage was found yesterday. None of the several other steamers which went aground along the upper lakes during the gale was seriously damaged according to reports today.

There were 3 sections of wreck exposed on the beach. The longest section is at least 100 feet in length. The C.F. Curtis propeller schooner was built in 1882 in Marine City, MI. She was 197 feet in length. The Selden E. Marvin was built in 1881 in Toledo, Ohio. She was 175 feet in length. The Annie F Peterson was built in Green Bay WI in 1874. She was 191 feet in length. It is unclear if the sections of wreckage are from one of these ships, or from multiple.

During my research for this posting, I found another article about shipwrecks.

November 19, 1914: Three vessels wrecked on Lake Superior 

On this day on Lake Superior in 1914, the steamer C. F. Curtis and two barges under her tow wrecked seven miles east of Grand Marais on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. On the 19th the Curtis was headed to Tonawanda, New York, towing the lumber barges Annie M. Peterson (formerly a three-masted schooner) and Seldon E. Marvin, when she steered all three vessels directly into a November gale. All three vessels were lost, as were 28 men, fourteen on the Curtis and seven each on the Peterson and the Marvin. It was another huge blow to the vessels’ owners, the Edward Hines Lumber Company, which had lost three other vessels just the week before. The area in which Curtis, Marvin, and Peterson went down, reported the Duluth News Tribune, was “lined with the hulks of sunken ships…the worst spot on Lake Superior” and “the Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” In October 2003, Grand Marais residents spotted the remains of a shipwreck offshore about 6 miles east of the harbor. They are thought to be what remains of the Annie M. Peterson.

In addition, during my research, I found a website with even more information about the C.F. Curtis Steamer. I had to sign up for the website and pay a small fee, but they sent me the following information.

Below are photos taken by Miles Hague of the wreck site in 2004:

From another angle, here is a photo I coincidentally took of the wreckage in 2004.

In 2005, Miles went back to the site and took several pictures of the shipwreck sections. As you can see, more of the wreckage was exposed. Also, down-shore currents piled lots of driftwood onto the shipwreck pieces.

I went back to the same section of shoreline six years later in 2011. As you can see in the photos below, much of the wreckage was again buried in the sand. Not only was the sand carried by the west-to-east down-shore currents to build up that section of the shoreline, but the same currents also carried away most of the driftwood. There were two main sections of shipwreck pieces. The three photos below show the west sections.

The last three photos show the east sections.

I will make it a point this summer to revisit the wreckage site to see what is left.


Shipwreck photographs by Miles Hague and Karen Brzys.

History Gem – Grand Marais Harbor Range Lighthouses

During the 1860s and 1870s, entering the harbor at Grand Marais was difficult due to sandbars that built up outside of the bay. A federal project was adopted on August 5, 1881, to build a safe channel into the harbor, and thus create a harbor of refuge. Over the next decade, more than $250,000 (equal to $6.5 million today) was expended to construct parallel 700 foot (213 m) piers with a deep channel dredged between them, and then between 1895 and 1897, a 5,770 feet (1,760 m) dike was built east of the piers to enclose the harbor and protect anchorage during storms. This dike eventually eroded away and was rebuilt a few years ago.

Along the southern shoreline of Lake Superior, lighthouses were erected beginning in the mid-19th century to warn ships of treacherous points and guide them into harbors. In its 1892 annual report, the Lighthouse Board made the following request for funds to erect a light for the new harbor of refuge:

There is no harbor between White Fish Bay and Grand Island. Grand Marais has been for some time under improvement by the United States as a harbor of refuge, and the work has now advanced to a point where it is desirable to light it. It is estimated that a suitable light and bell can be established here at a cost not exceeding $15,000, and it is recommended that an appropriation of this amount be made therefor.

1892 annual report of the Lighthouse Board 

Congress provided the requested amount on March 2, 1895, and in November of that year, the Point Iroquois bell tower, which had been replaced by a steam fog signal, was taken down and transported to Grand Marais, where it was bolted to the western pier and capped with a decagonal iron lantern room. The square, the pyramidal tower stood forty-three feet tall, was open at its base, and had two enclosed rooms, one above the other, just beneath the lantern room. The upper room served as a service room for the light, while the lower room housed the striking apparatus for the fog bell and opened onto an elevated wooden walkway that led shoreward. The tower’s fixed white light and fog bell were placed in operation on December 10, 1895, by Keeper Samuel F. Rogers, who had previously been in charge of Spectacle Reef Lighthouse in Lake Huron.

After completing the pierhead light and bell, the Lighthouse Board had enough funds to construct a keeper’s dwelling and a second light to form a range, but as the appropriation was for just “a light and bell,” it had to ask for authorization to repurpose the money. On June 4, 1897, Congress passed an act that allowed the Lighthouse Board to build an additional light and complete the station as long as it didn’t spend more than $2,000. A contract for a metal tower was made on September 27, 1897, and the tower was delivered to the depot in Detroit roughly two months later. After the inner end of the west pier had been strengthened, the metal tower was erected the following June, and the rear range light was first exhibited on July 18, 1898.

The new iron tower stood nearly sixty-two feet tall, and like its companion front tower, was painted white with a black lantern room. The rear tower has an enclosed, eight-and-a-half-foot-tall watch room, accessed by an iron ladder in two flights, and features a fifth-order, Henry-Lepaute Fresnel lens that originally produced a fixed white light.

In 1905, the characteristic of Grand Marais Range Lights was changed from fixed white to fixed red so mariners could differentiate them from the lights along the shore, and the front tower was moved seaward near the end of the recently extended pier. An elevated metal walkway, 560 feet long, was built to bridge the gap between the existing walkway, and the front tower in its new location. A storm on January 6, 1906, carried away roughly 250 feet of the new walkway, but it was replaced the following May. A fireproof oil house was built near the keeper’s dwelling in 1909. In November 1922, the fog signal in the front light was changed from a bell to an electric siren, and the light was changed from fixed red to a red flash every two seconds. Then, on June 12, 1923, the fog signal was changed to an air diaphone, sounding a one-second blast every fifteen seconds. At some point, the current steel tower replaced the old wooden bell tower used for the front range light.

During the 1960s and 70s, portions of the pier the range lighthouses sat on were capped with concrete. In addition, the west pier was lengthened by 802 feet (244 m) by the addition of a cellular sheet pile extension. Keepers stayed in the keeper’s quarters until 1982; in 1984, the Grand Marais Historical Society received and restored the house.

The Grand Marais harbor entrance still has two lighthouses, located on opposite ends of the channel leading into the harbor 2,610 feet (800 m) apart. To visit the lighthouses, drive past the marina and out the short peninsula (Coast Guard Point) that runs along the west side of the bay and you will find a parking area. There is a west pier and an east pier which protect a narrow channel that allows boats to access Grand Marais Bay. The outer range lighthouse is located on the north at the end of the west pier. The inner range lighthouse is located on the south end of the pier.  Coho, steelhead, and whitefish can be caught off this structure. If you visit the lighthouses or fish off the pier, please be careful in high wave conditions.

The current outer range lighthouse was erected in 1908. It is automated, has a steel structure, with a room perched on top, and has a total height of 34 feet. The inner range light was also erected in 1908 but is made of cast iron. This light is a bit taller at 55 feet. Both range lights are still operational, and although the lantern in the outer range light has been replaced with a modern acrylic lens, the inner range light retains its Fresnel lens, one of the few Fresnel lenses still in use in lighthouses. By lining up the lights, vessels are guided into the harbor. Range lights aren’t warning lights, they’re welcoming lights! 


History Gem – Gitchee Agomowin (Grand Marais history article) November 2020

Reprinted from The Alger Echo, Vol. 1, No. 9, Fall 1969

Gitchee Agomowin

In early times, med stayed close to the shore when traveling on Lake Superior; Their light crafts were no match for the lake in its angry moods.  Indians and early French knew well the sheltered spot they both called Great Bay or Great Harbor – “Gitchee Agomowin” in the Chippewa language, and “Grand Marais” in French.

The use of the harbor on the long stretch of shelterless coast began centuries before recorded history.  Activity there was noted in the earliest French accounts, and it was mentioned frequently by most travelers from that time on.

The first white man to record his visit to Grand Marais was Pierre Esprit Radisson in the summer of 1658.  Many expeditions followed, and about 200 years later, in 1853, a permanent settlement was established.  Fur trading, then commercial fishing and lumbering were responsible for the beginnings and development of the Grand Marais area during its early decades.  It became Alger County’s largest and fastest-growing town during the pine lumber boom of the 1890s.

After a sharp decline in 1910 following the abandonment of the Manistique Railway, Grand Marais settled into a small but stable village where fishing and lumbering and later, tourism, provided a livelihood for this historic and beautiful community.

History Gem – Michigan’s Glacial Gemstones of Northeastern Upper Peninsula May 2020

In 1972 the founder of the Gitche Gumee Museum, Axel Niemi, published the first of what would be three printings of his book. Although the publication covers rocks and minerals other than agate, the main focus of the book is the Lake Superior agate. The book is around 32 pages long and is 5” wide and 7.5” tall. The first chapter is included below (slightly edited).


How to tell agates from other beach stones.

If you should find a smooth, brown beach stone, chances are that you have a common chert, light brown smooth, and waxy on the surface. An agate has similar qualities, except for a few differences.

  1. Agate is translucent, which means light passes through it. Another stone, jasper-agate is opaque, although otherwise similar in markings to agate. No light passes through jasper.
  2. Agate is colorful and can be red, red-brown, whitish, brown, sometimes green, black, or blue. Agates can also be combinations of these colors.
  3. Common chert found on Lake Superior beaches is opaque. Colors can be grey, tan, or brown. Like jasper, chert is opaque.
  4. Picture or scenic chert is tan and purple-lavender, making a pretty cabochon. A cabochon is an oval or cushion-shaped dome fashioned by the lapidary grinder to make the stone into a form used in jewelry.
  5. Agate may be found as a whole nodule, or as a part of or chip from a whole agate. In order to understand agate better, we must necessarily know how agate is formed. We must go back millions of years to the period when the Killarney Mountains were formed (now known as the Midcontinental Rift). The lava cooled leaving empty seams and bubble-pockets that hardened. Since the volcanic rock is porous, mineral-filled liquids seeped into these pockets to slowly fill them. The liquid was probably water in the form of superheated steam from below or rainwater from above. Some authorities believe the mineral-rich water simply seeped into the pockets leaving the silicon dioxide and coloring agents behind to fill in the pockets. Another theory has it that silicone gel-filled the pockets and then slowly crystallized into the agate with various beautiful patterns. After millions of years of erosion, glacial wear and transportation, weathering, frost action, and other natural forces — a fracture-free Lake Superior agate is quite rare. Most agates are of the reddish or reddish-brown color due to the high content of iron in this area (iron oxide in solution was deposited together with the silica).

All agates have a cool, waxy, rounded look when beach-worn. Chipped pieces have a smooth or rippled surface appearance. Chert has a similar appearance since like agate, it fractures in a conchoidal manner.

Old rockhounds never die—they just petrify!

History Gem – Early Michigan Logging History Article November 2019

In my art studio, there is a closet in which I store items that never made the museum’s displays. There is a box in which I put interesting historical articles, newspaper clippings, museum founder’s writings, etc. It is in this box I look for things to include in this web page’s History Gem update.

While I was looking through the box today, I found an article about the early logging days in Michigan. The first few paragraphs offer a review, after which there are interesting and amazing facts about Michigan’s logging history.

History Gem – Sand Dunes: A Fragile Ecosystem

As I looked through the Gitche Gumee Museum’s archives, I came across an article about sand dunes, titled” Dunes: As fragile as the shifting sands, we all need to protect this unique resource.”  It was published Michigan Natural Resources magazine in May/June 1979.  As much as I love the Lake Superior beach, I must admit my favorite place in Grand Marais is the Grand Sable Dunes.

Grand Sable Dunes is approximately five square miles of rugged terrain.  The dunes intersect the Lake Superior shoreline with the Grand Sable Banks.  These banks are 300 feet above the lake, but there are sections in the dunes that are more than 400 feet higher than the bluff of the banks.

These dunes formed after the glaciers retreated around 10,000 years ago.  One of the post-glacial lakes prior to the current Lake Superior was Lake Nipissing.  The water level of Lake Nipissing rose, which caused the Grand Sable Banks to become unstable and erode. A dominant northwesterly wind blew and carried the sand from the bluff to pile up in the flat upland south of the Grand Sable Banks. This sand was “perched” on top of the upland, hence the name, “perched dune system.”

Information from the Michigan Natural Resources magazine is below.

“Dunes have wide appeal.  as direct evidence of the Ice age, dunes are of considerable interest to geologists.  Botanists and biologists also are fascinated by the surprising diversity and distribution of plant and animal species found in the dunes, and by the unique adaptations these life forms make to high temperatures and low moisture conditions.”

“With all these values inherent in our dunes, it’s obviously important that we take steps to preserve them.  The climatic and geologic conditions that created them no longer exist, so if the dunes are destroyed, they are not likely to ever regain their present size and extent.”

It is because of the fragile nature of the dunes that the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore does not allow any type of motorized vehicle in the area.  Most people respect this rule and do not drive their snowmobiles or four-wheelers up into the dunes.  If you should get caught, there are steep fines and the possibility of having your machine confiscated.  The amount of damage caused by violators is beyond what they can imagine.  The photo below shows a broken tree caused by a snowmobile.  There were more broken trees than we could count

So if you are in the Grand Marais area and decide to trek up into the dunes, please be respectful of this beautiful and fragile ecosystem.


History Gem – 1995 Grand Rapids Press Article about the Fish Tug, Shark

Background Information

Four years after the Niemies retired the Shark, she was sold to a fisherman in Cheboygan who was determined to catch sturgeon in Lake Huron. After two years with no success, he sold the tug to a pleasure boater in southwestern Michigan. Its ownership was transferred a couple of more times before it was used at least once more for commercial fishing in Lake Michigan.

After purchasing the museum, I decided to head down to southeastern Michigan to interview Arvi Niemi. During our conversation, he said that he thought the Shark was on display somewhere in South Haven. I drove another hour south and while doing some shopping, I asked the cashier if she knew of somewhere in South Haven that an old fish tug might be on display. She said: “You mean a boat?” She directed me to the Michigan Maritime Museum. When I introduced myself to the museum curator, Ken Pott, and showed him some pictures of the Niemies and their fish tugs, he got very excited and invited me to the museum library wherein he relayed his story.

Mr. Pott explained that in 1994 an article was published in the Inland Seas Journal about the Niemies and the three fish tugs they had built. Inspired by the article, he convinced the museum’s board to acquire and renovate an old fish tug. A couple of weeks later, as he was driving outside of South Haven he spotted an old fish tug next to a corn field. He stopped and asked the farmer about the tug. The farmer replied: “I don’t know much about her, but I think she was built in the Upper Peninsula. I only bought her so I could take out the Fordson motor, put that motor in my tractor — and now my tractor works just fine!”  After conducting some research, Mr. Pott discovered that this was indeed the same tug described in the recently published article. The farmer gave the tug to the museum. However, the museum never renovated her as it was decided instead to renovate a larger fish tug.

When I explained to Mr. Pott about reopening the Gitche Gumee Museum, the agreed to donate her so that the Shark could come home.  During the time that the Maritime Museum owned the Shark, a student from Western Michigan University studied her.  It was determined that the Shark was the last hand-made fish tug left intact in the Great Lakes Region.  A professional boat hauler was hired, who charged by the quarter mile for an 800-mile round trip.  We turned many heads as we traveled up the highway and over the Mackinaw Bridge on the long road home to Grand Marais.

Click to Enlarge

Unfortunately, a couple of years ago the Shark’s condition deteriorated.  I contacted several historical groups hoping to get some help in paying for a complete renovation.  I had already put thousands of dollars into the tug over more than a decade.  I could not find any funding and was left with no choice but to have the tug hauled away.

The article below appeared in the Grand Rapids Press on February 12, 1995.

Click to Enlarge

Maritime Museum Accepts Historic Fishing Tug

By Kristin Hay

A 33-foot boat built by a Finnish family that fished the waters of Lake Superior80 years ago has been donated to the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven.

The fishing tug, named “Shark,” was built, owned and operated by the Niemi family I Grand Marais, said Kenneth Pott, curator of the Michigan Maritime Museum.

“We are excited to acquire such a rare and well-preserved example of an early folk tradition of commercial fishing in Michigan,” Pott said.  “We are thankful that this boat survived the years and trials of its career and was donated to us.”

Along with the boat, the museum learned of the vessel’s colorful history from Axel Niemi of Ontonagon.  Niemi is the youngest of the four sons who worked in the family fishing business.

He said the Niemi family’s patriarch, Otto Niemi emigrated to Grand Marais in 1905 from Finland at the age of 21, landing a job working in the sawmills.  The mills shipped pine timbers to England while the pine forests lasted.

But after the mills closed in 1910, Otto Niemi built a rowboat, purchased a sailboat and later built two other larger boats, one of which was the Shark.

Niemi said it took the family about a year (1939 to 1940) to construct the Shark.  They fished the waters of Lake Superior [with the Shark] from 1941 to 1953.

Click to Enlarge

Pott called the boat “extremely well documented.”  All four sons are still living and are willing to share their stories about fishing on the Shark.

Many fishing tugs similar to the Shark were lost in storms that blow up frequently on Lake Superior, said Niemi, who recalled one memorable spring storm during which he watched his father battle 12-foot waves.

“My dad and my brother-in-law got caught in the storm,” Niemi said.  “The waves tossed the boat around like a surfboard.  A big swell twice the height of the boat picked it up and pushed the tug beyond the east side of the entrance of the pier.

“Each time the boat would disappear below the swells, you’d think the boat was gone.  My dad learned a lot about sailing on a hundred-ton stoop in Finland, so he was a good sailor.  He dove into the swells and kept coming through the trough of the sea,” Niemi remembered. 

Another boat out in the same storm wasn’t as lucky.  Two out of three fishermen aboard drowned when their boat filled with water, he said.

There were other storms, some worse, Niemi said, but they always managed to escape in time.  Whenever a storm started brewing, they’d pull up their nets and head for shore, he said.

The Niemi family fished for lake trout until 1953, when they hauled up their nets for the last time because the sea lamprey had killed off the trout. “The lamprey are still there and you can’t get rid of them,” Niemi said.  “Some fishermen believe they came in on the side of ore carriers that came through the St. Lawrence Seaway.”

After 1953, the Niemi family sold the shark to a buyer in Cheboygan, and it eventually wound up in St. Joseph.  Pott said it’s believed it may have been owned for a time by Michigan Indian fishermen.

Robert Trowbridge, a South Haven resident with maritime interests, acquired the tug and recently donated it to the museum, Pott said.

The boat will become part of an exhibit on traditions of commercial fishing in Michigan, Pott said.

Two other intermediate sized boats planned for the exhibit are the Mackinaw, a 19-foot sailing craft used in the early years of commercial fishing, and the Evelyn S., a sturdy, 50-foot wooden fishing tug which formed the backbone of commercial fishing fleets on the Great Lakes from the 1940s into the 1960s.

Click to Enlarge

Unfortunately, the Maritime Museum later acquired a different fish tug and renovated it instead of the Shark.  So the Shark sat on a dock until I came along in 1993.  Once the Shark was in place in the yard west of the museum, thousands of dollars were spent to fill in the gaps between the hull’s boards, do what we could to preserve the aged wood, build a cover over the hole cut on top of the Shark by the farmer who extracted the engine, and re-paint the tug.  A local youth group received a grant that included funds for community service projects.  The kids voted to help with the Shark’s renovation.  I wish she was still sitting outside the museum, but at least we were able to preserve the historic fish tug for more than twenty extra years.

History’s Gem of the Month: 1932 Petition

April 2018

History Gem – 1932 Petition submitted by the Grand Marais Womens’ Club to the Burt Township Board

After the railroad closed in 1910, the population in Grand Marais declined from thousands of people down to just a few hundred. Since there were no roads yet, the only way to get to Grand Marais was by ship, during the non-winter months, or by an over-land stage. Finally, M77 was completed in the mid-1920s that made life in Grand Marais a bit better. Just when things were improving, the depression hit. Those living in Grand Marais had to be self-sufficient and survived by fishing, hunting, and gardening. Many families also had cows to supply their families with milk and meat. However, most families did not have yards big enough to coral their livestock, so the cows were allowed to roam around town. The free-roaming bovine created friction when they knocked down fences around gardens and consumed neighbor’s gardens.

The oldest club in town today is the Grand Marais Women’s Club. Back in 1932 women in this club took action and created a petition to try to remedy the situation. The text of the petition is below.

The Grand Marais Women’s Club
Grand Marais, Michigan
September 5, 1932

To Chairmen of the Township Board of Burt Township

We, the undersigned qualified voters submit the following petition to have all cattle, horses, mules and pigs kept off of the streets in the town of Grand Marais, and Burt Township.
We believe for the future of Grand Marais, that the above animals on the streets are detrimental to the town in general. Gardens have been destroyed, fences broken down, and complaints have been made by tourists that they were unable to sleep on account of the cow bells.
We believe by bringing more tourists to town we will not only increase employment but also increase the sale of milk products and farm produce, which will help the owners of said cows and keep the town in a sanitary condition.

Mrs. J. Spencer
Mrs. A. J. Goupille
Otto Newberg
Mrs. A. Newberg
Mrs. A. Mattson
Mrs. Joe DesJardin
Mrs. Edward Erickson
J Rainthir
Mrs. Jas H. Buckland
J.H. Buckland
Pearl Martin
Mrs. A. S. Tulloch
E. J. Spencer
Irene Endress
Herman Wood
Isabelle McCall
Mrs. Donald McCall
Mrs. J Plant
Joe Plant
Mrs. Chas Duval
Mrs. R. E. Schneider
Mr. R. E. Schneider
A Goupille
Mr. Torrzes
Mrs. Torrzes
Kathleen Richards
Bernice Bennett
Etta Barney
Pearl Masse
Agnes Petitpren
Henry J. Petripren
M Thoupsow
J Thoupsow
Denise Thompson
Grace Chilson
Marie Petitpren
Chas Goodman
Ambrose Graham
May Meldrum
Ray Meldrum
Clarence Nettleton
Violet Nettleton
Mrs. M. Propst
Manley Propst
Chas Propst
C. J. Power
Mrs. C. J. Power
Hilda Peterson
John Peterson
Mrs. Mary C Demsey
Fred Demsey
Mrs. Irene Rathburn
D. M. Rathburn
Mrs. Elizabeth McDonald
Mr. Robert McDonald
R. J. Cook
Marner Keating
G. S. Hill
F. G. Petripren
John A. Peterson
Oiva Erickson
John W. Williamson
Mrs. J. W. Williamson
Mrs. Jay Lee
Jay Lee
Mrs. E. J. Gross
E. Gross
J. E Sayen
Mrs. J. E. Sayen
Mrs. D. H. Pratt
Geo S. Denny
Fred W. Denny
Cecelia Cherrette
Mrs. Elizabeth Nettleton
Mr. G. E. Nettleton
Geo S. Butler
Mrs. Wood
Ora Endress
Margaret M. Soldenski
G. S. Tullock
Mrs. Larson
Mrs. Frank Vaudreid
Charles Dunol
Mr. Frank Vandersal
Mrs. Mary Petripren
Janice Thomas
H. T. Richards
B. J. Trudell
Jean Trudell
Vivian Trudell
Lily B. Waggoner
Allen Tweedy
Alice Tweedy
Mrs. Florence Butler
Paul Reynolds
Mrs. Eldon Reynolds
Mr. Jesse Jones
Mr. A. L. Phoenix
Mrs. Mae Phoenix

NOTE: The signatures on this petition were written in pencil. Although efforts were made to correctly interpret the handwriting, I apologize in advance for any errors.

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History’s Gem of the Month: Article about Seagull (Lost) Island, Grand Marais Bay

December 2017

This morning I went through some of the Gitche Gumee Museum’s archives and came across a newspaper article about the island that used to be on the outside edge of Grand Marais Bay. The island had different names including Seagull Island, Gull Island, and Lost Island.

In the late 1960s my sister and I were the last to walk on the island, which at that time was a narrow spit of sand around 60 feet long. We had rented a canoe from the museum founder, Axel Niemi, and canoed down the old Sucker River to East Bay, carried the canoe across the peninsula by Lonesome Point, and canoed over to the island before returning to the marina. The next day after our canoe ride there was a huge storm. When the waves subsided, the island was no longer. And yes, as the article describes, the seagulls made sure we did not stay on the island very long.

Before getting to the article, here are a series of photos and diagrams of the harbor. This first image shows the harbor configuration in 1870. Although it appears there is a gap allowing access to the bay, the gap was too shallow to allow ships to access the west bay. Then a ship sunk near this gap to further obstruct shipping traffic. Thus, the original settlement of Grand Marais was on East Bay. Eventually the channel was dug on the west side of west bay to allow access to the larger bay.

The photo below from 1897 shows Gull Island. The picture was taken from the end of the peninsula (Coast Guard Point).

The diagram below shows changes to the bay over time.

The photo below was also taken from the end of Coast Guard Point. It was taken sometime during the late 1950s or early 1960s.

NOTE: The article below was cut out of a newspaper, but Axel did not write the date or the name of the newspaper on the clipping.

This Island Really is ‘for the birds’ By Harry C. Sahs

No Matter who holds the deed, gulls “own” the 4.7 acre spit of land the villagers of Grand Marais, Mich., call Gull Island. Thousands of herring seagulls make the island their home, “repelling” visitors with dive-bombing attacks and incessant screams.

Gull Island protects the tiny harbor at Grand Marais from the full fury of Lake Superior. It is adjacent to the rock-bound harbor and breakwater entrance guarded by a U.S. Coast Guard station.

George L. Jacobites of Highland Park, and Edmund Warren, of Miami, Fla., hold the deed, but the gulls hold the land. “It would take a shooting war to force eviction,” said Jacobites. “They’re sticklers for rights,” he said.

Federal law protects the gulls. Harming them could mean a $500 fine, six months in jail or both.

Togetherness is a striking trait of the gulls, who leave the island just ahead of the severest cold and ice and return early in the spring, when Gull Island’s bird population is especially inhospitable to trespassers.

Downy nestlings change their color several times the first year before becoming predominantly white. But one thing they never change is their possessive feeling about gull Island.

It’s their home.