Pilot Island Lighthouse
Located on a small island between the mainland and Washington Island, Pilot Island Lighthouse is still in the process of rehabilitation after years of neglect.
The small island is still closed off to the public and the light can only be seen from the water. The island and light can be seen during the annual Lighthouse Festival offered by the Door County Maritime Museum.
Pilot Island Lighthouse History
1858: Pilot Island Lighthouse is built. William Shurtleff transferred from the Plum Island Lighthouse and is the first keeper.
1859: Mathew Garey is appointed as the new keeper.
1861: E.T. Wells is appointed as the new keeper.
1863: John C. Kenward is appointed as the new keeper.
1864: D.A. Read is appointed as the new keeper and is later replaced by Jacob H. Stahl. A wooden fog signal building was installed south of the lighthouse. It was one of the first fog signals on the Great Lakes.
1865: John C. Kenward is appointed as the new keeper.
1866: Lt. Victor E. Rohn is appointed as the new keeper.
1875: An updated steam fog signal is installed.
1876: Emanuel Davidson is appointed as the new keeper.
1880: A duplicate fog signal is built to lessen the chances that the siren will be inoperable.
1883: Peter Knudsen is appointed as the new keeper.
1888: Nelson Knudsen, Peter’s younger brother, is appointed as the new keeper.
1889: Martin N. Knudsen, Nelson and Peter’s brother, is appointed as the new keeper.
1891: A new pier and boat house were built on the west side of the island. A new lens is also installed in the lantern room, going from flashing white to fixed red.
1894: The lens is replaced once again white a fixed white light that would flash every few seconds as well.
1897: Gottfried M.S. Hansen is appointed as the new keeper.
1903: Charles Bavry is appointed as the new keeper.
1904: A compressed air system replaced the old steam-operated fog signals.
1907: Henry R. Bevry is appointed as the new keeper.
1913: Samuel C. Jacobsen is appointed as the new keeper.
1914: Walter Ottosen is appointed as the new keeper.
1920: Robert G. Young is appointed as the new keeper.
1925: George I. Hass is appointed as the new keeper.
1935: Clarence J. Anderson is appointed as the new keeper.
1945: Anderson leaves as the keeper. The Coast Guard continues to staff the light.
1962: The fog signal is no longer considered essential to assist shipping and is removed. The Coast Guard removes its personnel and installed an automatic light.
2007: Pilot and Plum Island are handed over to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
2008: Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands, Inc. was formed, dedicated to preserving historic structures on both islands.
Pilot Island Lighthouse Interesting Facts
- July 4, 1874 Keeper Rohn was unable to leave the island to attend any Fourth of July celebrations because of a strong southeast gale
- John Boyce, the second assistant under Keeper Emmanuel Davidson, committed suicide. Many thought it was because of the loneliness and isolation of the island but his relatives said it was depression due to a failed relationship.
- When Keeper Martin Knudsen was heading to Pilot Island, a family friend provided a ride for his family cow, Nellie, when she could not ride with the rest of the family. The waters were too rough around Pilot Island when Knudsen’s friends were to drop off Nellie. Instead they pushed Nellie overboard near Plum Island, where she swam safely to shore and was later picked up when the waters calmed.
- Keeper Martin Knudsen received a lifesaving silver medal after rescuing eight crewmembers that ran aground on the reef around Pilot Island.
Pilot Island, a safe spot for migrating birds, is part of the Green Bay NWR. Photo by Tim Sweet.
Photo submitted by Tim Sweet.
Source: “Pilot Island, WI.” Lighthouse Friends.Web. <http://www.lighthousefriends.com>.