Archive for the ‘Marquette Maritime History’ category

My Newest Book: Haunted Marquette-Ghost Stories from the Queen City

October 2, 2017

October 2, 2017—Local author Tyler Tichelaar will be giving his readers a treat this Halloween season. On Wednesday, October 11 at 6:00 p.m. at the Marquette Regional History Center he will be releasing his newest book, Haunted Marquette: Ghost Stories from the Queen City. The book contains more than forty stories of ghosts and paranormal activity within the city of Marquette.

Tyler Tichelaar, 7th generation Marquette resident, has spent years collecting stories of Marquette’s hauntings.

“For years I’ve heard stories of various hauntings and collected them,” says Tichelaar. “I never thought I’d have enough for a book, but as I interviewed people, one story led to another. I’ve found sufficient evidence to make me believe several buildings in Marquette may be haunted or have experienced hauntings in the past.”

Haunted Marquette is divided into several sections on hauntings in Marquette’s churches and cemeteries, the downtown businesses, the lakeshore, various houses, and Northern Michigan University. Tichelaar researched each location to determine the likelihood of a haunting there and whether any historical evidence existed to make the haunting plausible. He also interviewed numerous people about their personal experiences with ghosts.

“I was afraid I would end up talking to a bunch of crazy people when I set out to write this book,” said Tichelaar, “but everyone I talked to was very sincere. Not one of them was seeking attention; most had not believed in ghosts before until they had a strange experience they could not explain logically.”

Numerous city landmarks are highlighted in the book as locations where ghosts have been sighted, including the former Holy Family Orphanage, Park Cemetery, the Marquette lighthouse, the Landmark Inn, the Peter White Public Library, and the Thomas Fine Arts building at NMU.

“Haunted Marquette” highlights more than forty places in Marquette that may be haunted.

“Only a couple of the hauntings can really be described as frightening,” says Tichelaar. “Most of these stories are about unexplainable phenomena; a few are heart-wrenching when you realize the tragedies some of the alleged ghosts experienced while still human, which has caused them to linger on this earth.”

Tichelaar will release Haunted Marquette at the Marquette Regional History Center on Wednesday, October 11. A presentation will begin at 6:00 p.m. and last about an hour, followed by a book signing. Partial proceeds from the book signing will be donated to the history center.

Tyler R. Tichelaar is a seventh generation Marquette resident. He is the author of The Marquette Trilogy, My Marquette, and numerous other books. In 2011, he received the Outstanding Writer Award in the Marquette County Arts Awards, and the Barb H. Kelly Historic Preservation Award. His novel Narrow Lives won the 2008 Reader Views Historical Fiction Award. In 2014, his play Willpower was produced by the Marquette Regional History Center at Kaufman Auditorium. You can learn more at Tichelaar’s website and at the MRHC’s website


Great Lakes Shipwreck Story is Honest, Fascinating, and Inspiring

November 9, 2011

With the gales of November upon us and our first winter storm happening today, it’s a fitting time to remember all those who have gone to their rest on the Great Lakes.

This summer I had the privilege of visiting the Marquette Maritime Museum and briefly talking to Dennis Hale, the sole survivor of the steamship Daniel J. Morrell, which went down on Lake Huron on November 29, 1966. I am not a big fan of shipwreck books, but I like to support local events and the museum, and Hale was there signing his autobiography Shipwrecked: Reflections of the Sole Survivor, An Autobiography by Dennis Hale. But what really made me interested was when I heard that Dennis Hale had lived through not only a shipwreck but also a near-death experience, and my constant interest in religion and spirituality propelled me to go pick up a copy of Hale’s book.

I was surprised when I arrived at the museum; there was actually a line to get a copy of Hale’s book–something that doesn’t happen with most book signings I’ve been to in Upper Michigan. I only got to speak to Hale for a minute–I would have asked him a dozen questions if I had thought of them at the time. I certainly had them after I read his fascinating book.

First of all, the book is self-published, but it reads so smoothly and is so full of suspense and so well-organized that I am happy to say it is a shining example of the quality of book a self-published author can produce when he does it right. I was wholly engrossed in this book right from the beginning. Hale retells his experience of the shipwreck with the skill of a master novelist. Part of the reason why the reader never becomes bored is because Hale balances the shipwreck scenes to keep the tension alive with a look back at his troubled childhood of abuse, running away from home, and juvenile troubles with the law, all of which eventually led to his being on the ore boats and ultimately on the ill-fated Daniel J. Morrell.

I will not recount the full details of the book here because I wouldn’t want to deprive the reader from a gripping read, but here are just a few things that stunned me about his experience. First, I was astounded by the fact that the Daniel Morrell was built in 1906–that a sixty-year old ship was still used boggles my mind–that the ship had serious issues that compromised its stability yet that it was still used is even more unbelievable. I was also stunned after the rescue by how Hale was treated. He was interrogated by the company he worked for until he felt like they were accusing him of having done something wrong during the ship’s sinking. He also tried to share his near-death experience with the priest who gave him last rites, only to be told not to talk about it.

While the story alone is fascinating, what I truly found appealing was how introspective Hale was. The psychological aspects of the book were definitely the strongest in a very strong narrative. While waiting to be rescued and wondering whether he would be, Hale began to think God was punishing him for his past behaviors, which then spurred his memories of the past that he shares with the reader. Even after he is rescued, Hale is introspective, questioning why he survived and whether he truly had a near-death experience. He tried to avoid all the publicity that resulted from his being the sole survivor of the shipwreck, and being haunted by the event led to a troubled marriage and substance abuse.

And then, something shifted inside him when he heard about the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He realized he had a mission and started to advocate for Great Lakes Safety which led to his sharing his story with the public. I suspect the world wasn’t ready in 1966 to hear what he had to say, but by the late 1970s and 1980s they were. At first, Hale was reluctant to speak and found it difficult to find the words when he did, but overtime, he realized people were receptive to his message. He realized he had suffered from PTSD as a result of his experiences, and he became involved with the International Association of Near Death Studies. Giving talks about his experiences eventually defused much of the anxiety he still felt over the past.

Few books have offered a more honest portrait of a man trying to find meaning and answers in his life against a more dramatic experience. I highly recommend Shipwrecked to all readers, and I sincerely hope Dennis Hale has found his peace at last.

Hale’s book is available at Snowbound Books in Marquette and the Marquette Maritime Museum as well as online bookstores. I feel honored to have crossed Hale’s path, even if only briefly.

Marquette’s Changing Waterfront

September 24, 2011

In writing My Marquette, I realized how seldom people think to take photos when historical changes are happening around town because it was very difficult to find some photos–some I never found–so now and then I like to take photos of what’s changing around Marquette.

Remains of Marquette's old docks in the Lower Harbor

The remnants of Marquette's old docks

Some of my blog readers no longer live in the area, and if you haven’t been home for a few years, you would be surprised by how the Lower Harbor is being transformed. The new Founder’s Landing development is, after a slow beginning, moving forward rapidly with new condominiums (which have become controversial because their height blocks some people’s views of the water front). A new hotel has been begun, and although it was supposed to open this fall and is way behind schedule, it is also progressing.

New Hotel Founder's Landing

Construction of the New Hotel at Founder's Landing

New walkways and an extensive boardwalk along the water allow for the best view, short of being in a kayak, that anyone has had for years of Ripley’s Rock, and the new boardwalk is quite massive.

At the same time, ruins of the old docks remain as posts in the lake; hopefully, they will remain for years to come as reminders of when Marquette’s Lower Harbor was filled with ships and docks. And the last ore dock in the Lower Harbor remains, tall and strong and not likely to leave us for decades yet to come while her older sister at Presque Isle Park remains Marquette’s last functioning pocket dock.

Ripley's Rock Marquette's Lower Harbor

Ripley's Rock, Marquette's Lower Harbor

This newly christened area of Founder’s Landing – Blaine Betts of Marquette holds the honor for coming up with the name – is a far cry today from what the early founders – Robert Graveraet, Peter White, Amos Harlow, Captain Samuel Moody – would have recognized, and Chief Kawbawgam and the Chippewa never could have imagined giant pocket days, much less the condominiums now facing the lake.

The Boardwalk in Marquette City

On the Boardwalk in Marquette City

Some are less pleased than others by the development, but overall, I believe the changes are all for the better. Marquette just seems to become more beautiful with each year, while retaining its natural charm and its connection to its past.

Surely, visitors to Marquette will continue to consider us one of the best places in the country to live, work, and play as our lake shore becomes beautiful to complement the breathtaking views of the shining big sea water – Lake Superior. Once again, I can’t help but be reminded of the words from the film Meet Me in St. Louis that equally apply to Marquette: “Wasn’t I lucky to be born in my favorite city.”

the boardwalk in Marquette's Lower Harbor

View of Marquette's Harbor looking South from the new Boardwalk.

Sinking of the D.M. Clemson

August 10, 2011

In honor of Maritime Month in August and the five year anniversary of the publication of my novel The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Two, I am posting the passage from that novel about the sinking of the Clemson in 1908.

First, a little word about the background of my writing this scene. Initially, I had planned a scene of a shipwreck in the novel, but I was going to depict the sinking of the Henry B. Smith in the great storm of 1913. The 1913 storm resulted in the sinking of many ships so it seemed more dramatic and signficant, but the events in the novel required a scene to occur earlier for the sake of the events propelled by the sinking for the other characters, particularly Will and Margaret Whitman – Will’s brother Clarence sails on the Clemson in the novel. I struggled with choosing between the 1913 sinking and an earlier one for many months as I wrote other sections of the novel. I already knew about the Clemson sinking in 1908, particularly from the wonderful song by Mark Mitchell, “Say Goodbye to the Clemson” on his album The Trees Fell (Mitchell is a fabulous Marquette musician best known for writing the theme song to the TV show Discovering. You can purchase his wonderful music at MI Upper Hand). I listened to Mark Mitchell’s music over and over again as I wrote The Marquette Trilogy. Then one day in early 2001, I was listening to the song and it hit a deep chord with the line, “A ship may sail through a great storm or two, but she never comes back from the third.” I felt like that ship, and the storms had been my moves to Kalamazoo, and Clemson, South Carolina, where I was teaching at Clemson University. I was miserably homesick at Clemson University and foreseeing having to continue moving to find a tenure track position. I felt if I kept moving around, I would end up sinking like the Clemson. That was when I decided I would symbolically include the Clemson rather than the Henry B. Smith in the novel.

That was the year I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life–to leave academia and return home to focus on my writing. Obviously, it has all worked out, but it was a horrible year for me and I honestly felt like life was ending, no matter what decision I made since I didn’t think I’d be able to support myself in the U.P. Still, I had to leave Clemson University, so I felt it appropriate to write about a ship named Clemson going down, just like I felt my life was going downhill. Somehow, by the grace of God, I had the courage to leave that job and return home and everything has worked out wonderfully. The first few years back were difficult, but once I started to publish my novels, everything in my life has been up, up, up, and there’s been no looking back. I’m afraid the same can’t be said for the good ship Clemson and its crew. But I’m always a sucker for a happy ending, as you’ll see.

Happy Maritime Month!

The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Two

The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Two

From The Queen City:

            Clarence found himself too ill to stay aboard ship. When his boat docked in Ohio, two of Clarence’s shipmates took him ashore to a boarding house where he was placed in the landlady’s capable hands. Clarence suffered from a fever for several days, and the doctor came to attend him frequently. When he recovered, he refused to rest, but insisted he would go home for Christmas. The landlady and doctor argued that he was too weak, but he soon found work on another ship, the D.M. Clemson. After loading coal in Lorain, Ohio, the Clemson began its journey on November 28th, north to Duluth. From Duluth, Clarence planned to find passage on another ship to Marquette, so he could spend the holidays and the winter with his brother’s family.

He could feel his immune system failing him throughout the trip, but he also had a strange sense of fearlessness. He felt he had been wrong to act so courageous and not tell his family how sick he was. He became resolved to see his new nephew or niece. If God would grant him one more month of life, he would spend the holidays with Will’s family.

Two days after leaving Lorain, Clarence’s ship passed through the Canadian Soo Locks at nine-thirty in the morning. Four hundred miles of Lake Superior would need to be traversed before the ship reached Duluth.

The Clemson was a modern state of the art sea vessel. The old schooners that had brought Clarence’s grandparents to Marquette nearly sixty years before had long since been replaced by wooden steamers, and even those had become obscure in the last decade. By the start of the twentieth century, it was more economical to build ships from iron and steel than wood. Vessel size had also increased until nineteenth century schooners were viewed as unseaworthy beside the solid steel giants that now coursed the Great Lakes. The Clemson could hold five thousand tons of iron, steel, or coal and deliver its cargo in record time.

But Lake Superior mocked the growing strength of these industrial mariners. Many a lesser ship the lake had swallowed, and it was not yet willing to relinquish dominance over its own waters. Shortly after the Clemson passed through the Soo Locks, a terrible gale rose up. The storm was not the first the ship had passed through. The previous October a strong current had pushed the ship into a pier while entering the harbor of Ashtabula, Ohio; although ten hull plates were smashed and the water tank on the starboard side badly damaged, repairs were made and the Clemson had sailed again. Then a month later, a sharp Lake Superior gale had covered the ship completely in ice, but it had sailed on without major damage done. Twice the Great Lakes had tried to destroy the ship, and twice it had failed.

Now Nature’s enigmatic forces surged up to create the most vicious storm yet. As the tempest began, Clarence struggled to help secure the ship. He well knew Lake Superior’s fury after five years of riding through torrential storms; he knew better than to mock Superior’s power. Today, struggle as the sailors might, the waters were determined to show themselves masters. The ship’s past repairs became its weak spot as roaring waves and high winds tossed it up and down upon rough waters. The tumult soon shifted the cargo, then slid it completely to one end; whipped up and down and around in circles, the ship could not bear the pressure of sliding cargo as it tilted upward on towering waves.

Then Clarence heard the deafening tear of metal; he knew the ship was ripping apart. Within seconds, the hull filled with water; the weight snapped the ship in two pieces which immediately separated into the waves. Water engulfed everything. For a second, Clarence watched in horror as his fellow sailors were hurled beneath the pounding waves; then he felt terror as his body was pulled down beneath the water. Somehow the current swept him out of the sinking ship, and after what seemed an eternity, he managed to surface. For a second, he bobbed above the water until a massive wave lifted him up, then catapulted him into another wave, which hurled him again below the surface. Pain surged through his body. Something hit his back, perhaps a wave, perhaps a piece of the ship, either would hurt equally in that tremendous storm. He knew his back was broken. As he gasped from the pain, his lungs filled with surging water. He blacked out. He felt himself sinking.

Then came light. It was impossible. He knew he should be dead now. He could feel the water inside his lungs. Had he resurfaced? Was it moonlight he saw? Something brushed against him, but it was not water, not debris from the ship. He felt a hand on his shoulder. He opened his eyes. A beautiful woman’s face was before him. He did not understand. No woman had been on the ship. She was not one of his drowned comrades. Could she—a mermaid? Could she be such a creature? She was beautiful, like the photograph he had seen of his mother.

Her lips did not move, but her face said, “Be not afraid.”

She need not speak. Her presence brought him unspeakable peace.

Then he knew death was not punishment, nor was it an end. His debilitating disease was nothing to fear. His spirit was eternal. He was leaving life when it would most benefit those he loved. The mermaid, or whatever grace she was, took his hand and led him toward the glowing light. He floated beside her, all his pain, fear, anxiety washed away.

Marquette’s Maritime Museum and Lighthouse

July 27, 2011

Thank you to Marquette’s Maritime Museum, especially Director Carrie Fries, for the opportunity to be part of the Tall Ships event this past weekend. My fellow authors (Gretchen Preston, Milly Balzarini, and Donna Winters) and I enjoyed talking to all the tourists, natives, and our readers.

Marquette Maritime Museum

Marquette Maritime Museum

As a thank you to the museum, and in honor of August as Maritime Month (can you believe August is only days away?), here is the section from My Marquette about the museum:

           The sudden lurch catapulted several passengers over the ship’s rail. Sophia, having momentarily released Gerald’s arm, found herself thrown overboard with several other ladies. Panic-stricken, she scrambled in the waves, fighting to keep her head above water while her skirts quickly soaked through, growing so heavy they threatened to pull her under. The lake was calm that evening, the waves nearly indistinguishable, yet Sophia was terrified. She had not swum in twenty years, and she sadly lacked for exercise. The sudden surprise and the biting cold water nearly sent her into shock. Gerald was almost as surprised as he stood clasping the rail and trying to spot his wife. After a few initial screams, the other women thrown overboard began to swim toward the ship. One man, Mr. Maynard, had also been pivoted overboard, and like Sophia, he struggled to stay afloat. Sophia’s terror increased when she saw Mr. Maynard’s head sink beneath the waves. She instantly feared he had drowned, and his failure to resurface made her splash and scream frantically until she began to swallow water. Hearing his wife’s screams, Gerald spotted her and dove to her rescue. — Iron Pioneers

The Marquette Maritime Museum was formed in 1980 and opened to the public in 1982. It is located in the old Marquette Waterworks building designed by D. Fred Charlton in 1890. In 1897, the Father Marquette statue was placed on the waterworks building’s property, although it was later moved to its present location. The construction of a new waterworks building resulted in the old one being converted into the Maritime Museum.

In 1999, when I first conceived the idea to write The Marquette Trilogy, I visited the Maritime Museum to see the exhibits as research for my books. During that visit, I learned about the sinking of the Jay Morse which I knew would make a great dramatic scene since most of Marquette’s wealthiest people were on the ship. The passage above resulted from my visit to the museum. Fittingly, my novels have since found a happy place in the Maritime Museum’s gift shop. The friendly employees have read them and frequently recommend them to their customers, something for which I am always grateful.

The museum includes numerous displays about the early schooners and ore boats on Lake Superior as well as dioramas, old rowboats, and a small theatre with ongoing films. In 2002, the museum also acquired the Marquette lighthouse as part of its property.

Marquette was built to be a port for shipping iron ore from the mines in nearby Negaunee and Ishpeming. Every harbor town requires a lighthouse, and Marquette constructed its lighthouse in 1853, just four years after the town’s founding. No building records exist for this first lighthouse, but it was reputedly thirty-four by twenty feet in size. The lantern room contained seven fourteen-inch Lewis lamps which were used until the introduction of the Fresnel lens in the later 1850s. Because the living quarters and tower were poorly constructed, they were replaced with the present lighthouse in 1866.

The 1866 lighthouse is today the oldest structure of any real historical significance in Marquette. The original structure was a one-and-a-half story brick building with an attached forty-foot square brick tower housing a fourth order Fresnel lens. An identical lens is on display today in the Marquette Maritime Museum. The original lens showed an arc of 180 degrees. In 1870, it was increased to 270 degrees.

The keeper and his family lived in the lighthouse. As long as the keeper’s job was only to maintain the light, a single man was able to do the work. However, when the light at the end of the breakwater was added and a two whistle signal system installed at the end of the point, the work was too much for one person so an assistant keeper was hired and a barn behind the lighthouse was converted into living space for him. In 1909, a second story was added instead for the assistant’s quarters. Additions were also made to the back of the lighthouse in the 1950s.

The Maritime Museum has available on CD the lightkeeper’s log books which reflect some of their interesting experiences. In 1859, Peter White complained about the lightkeeper because “He is a habitual drunkard, frequently thrashes his wife and throws her out of doors.” This lightkeeper also failed to light up until sometimes after midnight which caused great danger for ships.

Just west of the Marquette lighthouse, the U.S. Life-Saving Service established a station in 1891. Led by Captain Henry Cleary, the life-savers performed death-defying rescues on the lake. Their fame grew until they were invited in 1901 to escort President McKinley down the Niagara River during the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York (the following day the president would be assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, who for some time had worked in various lumber camps in Michigan, including in Seney. In 2009, Marquette author, John Smolens, published The Anarchist, a novel about the McKinley assassination). Eventually the U.S. Life-Saving Station was absorbed into the Coast Guard, and it became the building in operation for the longest time that was owned by the Coast Guard until 2009 when a new Coast Guard station was built directly on the south side of the Maritime Museum and in front of the Lower Harbor’s breakwater.

The Marquette lighthouse remains one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks for its bright red walls, and it is probably photographed more than any other place in Marquette. When I worked at Superior Spectrum, a former local telephone company in Marquette, the lighthouse was used in numerous marketing pieces, some of which I helped to design. Today, the lighthouse is open for tours operated by the Maritime Museum, and it is being refurbished to reflect the lighthouse keepers’ living quarters in the early twentieth century.

Be sure to check out my several other posts last August 2010 that celebrated Maritime Month. And of course, be sure to visit the Maritime Museum and the lighthouse this summer!

Marquette’s Frink Family and Fairlawn Mansion

August 30, 2010

To end my posts in celebration of August as maritime month, here is one last bit of maritime trivia from my upcoming book, My Marquette, including a connection to a Superior, Wisconsin family that I think is little known in Marquette:

Fairlawn Mansion - Superior, Wisconsin

Marquette would also have a life-saving crew, but it was separate from the lighthouse and its keeper’s duties. Before Marquette’s life-saving crew was established in 1891, Marquette had to send distress signals by telegraph to Portage Lake over a hundred miles away. This delay could easily result in lost vessels. At one point, tugboat skipper, Captain John Frink, rather than wait for the life-saving crew, decided to take matters into his own hands. On November 17, 1886, a fierce storm washed away the Marquette breakwater light, which later was washed up on shore. That afternoon, a schooner, the Eliza Gerlach, was seen about to smash into the breakwater. Captain John Frink risked the waves with the tug Gillett and managed to tow the schooner clear of the breakwater. As soon as the rescue was complete, Captain Frink’s crew went back out to rescue the schooner Florida which had managed to find Iron Bay solely by listening to fog signals, but was now too close to the beach. Eight of the Gillett’s crew jumped aboard the Florida to attach a tow rope to it, but a ninth crew member miscalculated the jump and fell between the vessels, being crushed to death. Despite the casualty, the Florida was towed to safety. The Mining Journal commemorated Captain Frink by saying he deserved the government’s life-saving medal.

Captain Frink came from a family not of sailors but lighthouse keepers. His father Reuben Frink was the keeper of the Grand Island North light from 1865-69 and later the Granite Island light from 1884-85. His son William was the assistant keeper at Grand Island North from 1865-70 and another son Richard was acting assistant at Granite Island under his father in 1884-85. But perhaps the most successful and fascinating member of the Frink family was Captain Frink’s sister, Grace, who would end up marrying quite well—or perhaps not so well.

In 1879, Grace Frink married Michigan lumberman, Martin Pattison, who would make his fortune in mining veins of iron ore he discovered in the Vermillion Range near Ely, Minnesota. The couple met and married in Marquette and then moved to Superior, Wisconsin where they built the magnificent forty-two room Fairlawn Mansion.

The house was lavished with $150,000 worth of Guatemalan mahogany, English glazed tile, Mexican onyx fireplaces, and white-birch woodwork covered with 22-karat gold. An elegant entry hall, a fine staircase, a ball room on the third floor, and a swimming pool in the basement completed the mansion’s impressive accessories. Today, the home has been beautifully restored and is open for tours.

Unfortunately, Grace would eventually learn that everything that glitters is not gold. While he was serving as mayor of Superior, Martin Pattison’s former wife came calling. In fact, he had abandoned a wife and children in Lower Michigan before marrying Grace, who had no idea about her husband’s other family or that by marrying her, her husband had become a bigamist. Things were apparently smoothed over with the first wife, and Pattison stayed with Grace, but rumor has it that after that, they slept in separate bedrooms.

My Marquette has gone to the printers and is expected to be available for sale after November 1st. For more information, visit