Descendants of Martin Nicolai Knudsen, lighthouse keeper for 43 years stationed in Michigan and Wisconsin, gathered at the Door County Maritime Museum (DCMM) July 17. They came from across the country to honor their ancestor by offering a gold medal to the DCMM on permanent loan. The medal has been passed through the family and most recently resided with the Knudson family in Pittsburgh. It commemorates the gallant acts of Captain Knudsen performed in the rescue of the crews of two schooners in October, 1892, the J. R. Gillmore and the A.P. Nichols.
In those stormy weeks, boats were tossed across the strait of Death’s Door. Within a week of each other, both schooners ran aground and were battered against the rocks of Pilot Island, where Knudsen was stationed. He single-handedly went out to the boats, first by skiff for the Gillmore where he brought the crew back to shore. In the case of the Nichols, Knudsen jumped into break waters to reach the stranded sailors and guided the exhausted crew of eight, one by one to land.
Captain Knudsen was also awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal the following spring when the lighthouse tender “Dahlia” made her first trip of the season to Pilot Island. This medal currently resides with his descendent, Kenneth Knudson.