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Salt City of the Inland Seas
Published May, 1899
Anniversary Number of the Manistee Daily News


MANISTEE is justy proud of the record of her Life Saving Station. Situated as it is on the Western shore of Lake Michigan, not the most peaceful body of water in the world, and possessing large and varied interests, the necessity of establishing a life saving service at this point became clearly apparent. The charts of the United States Hydrographic office clearly show the shores of Lake Michigan in this vicinity to be among the most dangerous to shipping in the whole lake region. The scarcity of suitable and safe harbors called attention to Manistee as a safe place of refuge for distressed craft, and many of the wrecks which have strewn these shores were those of vessels seeking shelter from the severe northwest gales which periodically sweep this end of the lake. In the early days whatever efforts were made to save life at this point were made by volunteer crews raised on the spur at the moment, and with whatever means of rescue happened to be at hand. Later the government provided a life boat, which was placed in charge of the light housekeeper, and was manned by a volunteer crew.


In the year 1870 the government erected a small boat house at a point near Buckley and Douglas' new dock, opposite the Canfield and Wheeler mill, and Captain Morgan and a crew of life savers was stationed here in charge of the one boat which comprised the outfit. The men slept in the upper room of the boat house. The equipment was gradually increased, and in 1880 Captain Morgan was succeeded by Captain Henry Finch. In 1887, Captain John Hanson, the present head of the station, came to Manistee, and entered the service as a surfman, and on April 29th, 1889, was made Captain of the crew. Captain Hanson has proved himself in every way worthy of his important trust, and the record of the crew during his captaincy has been one which reflects great credit upon himself and the other brave men who have performed such signal service in the name of humanity. The names of the men who constitute the present crew are: Captain, John Hanson, and surfmen, Peter Tumberg, Andrew Lundell, Michael Whelan, John Olson, Hans Simpson, John Marcue, and Julius Blanchard - eight men in all. The first crew consisted of nine men, and the pay then was $45.00 a month. The surfmen now receive $65.00 a month, and are usually in the service about eight months of the year.


The record of the Manistee crew has been an enviable one, and if it were possible to recount here in full the brave deeds which are placed to the credit of our local life savers the sum total would challenge the admiration of all those who value human life.

It will suffice, however, to refer briefly to a few of the occasions on which the Manistee life saving crew proved themselves to be men worthy of the humane service which they represent. No man can read the record of these brave deeds without taking off his hat to the sturdy sailors who wield the oar and man the life line, and in the hour of peril snatch the shipwrecked from a watery grave.


One of the most trying experiences in the history of the crew was on the occasion of the wreck of the three masted schooner Hattie A. Estell, which occurred on the afternoon and night of November 11th, 1891. At four o'clock in the afternoon of that day the wind was blowing a gale from the northwest, and the air was filled with a blinding snow. The Estell was unable to make the harbor and went on the beach south of the piers. A high surf was running, and several unsuccessful attempts were made to reach the helpless vessel by means of the surf boat. Each time the boat was filled with water and driven back upon the beach. Undaunted, the half frozen crew continued their efforts and at last succeeded in getting a line to the vessel, but the crew of the Estell were too much exhausted to come ashore without assistance, and a man was sent to aid them. By two o'clock in the morning four of the shipwrecked crew were brought safely to shore, but the tremendous sea which was on broke the vessel in two and scattered the pieces along the shore. When the morning dawned several bodies were picked up on the beach, but the body of one of the drowned sailors was never recovered. It was a terrible night, and several of the life savers, including Captain Hanson, were badly frostbitten and still suffer from the effects of the frightful exposure.


The Manistee Life Saving Station is a part of the Eleventh district of the United States Life saving service, and is what is termed as a "full" station, having a complete outfit of life saving apparatus, with all the modern appliances. The station is a well built house of two stories, situated at the mouth of the river, and commanding from the lookout on the roof a good view of the lake in every direction. In the station the boats and apparatus are stored, and everything is kept in the same systematic manner prescribed by the government regulations. The Captain and his family and crew have their living rooms in the building.

Among the outfit of the station there is an English life boat, which is both self-righting and self-bailing, a "Baby McLellan" surf boat of the self-bailing kind, and also a Long Branch surf boat. In addition to these the station is equipped with a number of smaller boats for various purposes. The life car and breeches buoy, together with all the necessary apparatus for operating them, such as a beach cart, reel, hawser, cannon, lights, torches and flags, are here ready for instant use.

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