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Following the Footprints of Fascinating History

Great Lakes Fur Trader Pierre LeBlanc Lived in Ecorse


 Fur traders and Native Americans voyaged up and down Ecorse Creek on their way to the Detroit River and the Great Lakes.

Photo by John Duguay

For two centuries, British and French fur traders vied for territory and influence with Native Americans, clashing and combining cultures.

When the first French fur trading voyageurs exchanged greetings and goods with welcoming Native Americans they changed history, as did the first English trader who stood in the door of his rough, wooden cabin and held out trinkets to the Indians. As historian Richard White phrased it: “…When they (the Algonquian Indians) accepted European goods and gave furs in return, a still emerging market system in Europe impinged on their lives…”

British and French Fur Traders Compete for Indian Allies

Richard White argued that the Algonquian Indians in the Detroit and Great Lakes region obtained religious, political, and social benefits from European goods even though they as individuals did not accumulate wealth. He pointed out that the nature of the French fur trade also differed from that of the British. According to White, the French fur trade was a combination of entrepreneurial traders, merchant financiers, licensed monopolists, and government regulators, and the French instituted the custom of relying on the Huron or Wyandot and Ottawa Indians to act as middlemen and expeditors of the trade.

The British, playing a commercial hand, shaped the fur trade as a weapon of war in the fierce struggle for dominance of the North American Continent. They cleverly played their commercial cards in the Detroit and continental fur trade by portraying themselves not as conquerors but as friends bringing gifts and trade goods. They usually offered better terms than the French and high quality goods at low prices, and basically won the commercial war before the advent of the military war.

In the meantime, the Native Americans were the middlemen and in a good negotiating position with most of their cultures still intact. In 1755, many Frenchmen felt that the fur trade of the Great Lakes did not earn even one percent of the price it had cost the King, and they would have allowed the entire trade to go to the English if the English had agreed to acknowledge French boundaries along the Ohio River. Both sides were courting the Indians with goods and promises and the Algonquians reaped the benefits of both while their preexisting native technologies survived for a long time alongside the new technologies that trade goods introduced.

Pierre LeBlanc, Fur Trader

Individual fur traders like Pierre LeBlanc were as instrumental as Native Americans in establishing fur trading regions and without premeditation, transforming the cultures of both French and Indian worlds. Leblanc, who would later settle in Ecorse, a small settlement about eight miles from Detroit, was one of the first French men to travel to the area, arriving in 1790 for the Hudson Bay Company.

Fur trading comprised most of the business in this western country at this time and created Native American, French, and British capitalists. Hunting fur bearing animals like beaver and muskrat, preparing their furs for market and transporting them to Montreal provided much of the impetus for exploration and settlement along the Detroit and Ecorse Rivers.

Trade was carried on between Montreal and the upper country by canoes and bateaux. Canoes loaded at Montreal were brought to Detroit either over the Ottawa River coming down through Georgian Bay or through the Niagara route over Lakes Ontario and Erie. The Niagara Route was easier because it had one portage at Niagara Falls while the Ottawa route had at least 30 portages.

Pierre LeBlanc Blends Cultures

Since French and other white women were scarce in this frontier settlement, Pierre married a Fox Indian woman and established a homestead farm on what is now West Jefferson Avenue near the Detroit River. When a French trapper took an Indian wife, his marriage helped him survive Native American attacks or other trouble with the warriors still numerous in the Downriver area. The LeBlancs established themselves as sturdy farmers and trappers, trading with the Indians and maintaining a good relationship with them.

Pierre and his Indian wife had a son whom they named Pierre, who was born in 1820 in a log house on the old family farm. This log house served as a place of worship for the early Catholics and for many years Mass was said within its rustic walls. Early in his life, the second Pierre revealed his sturdy French stock and Indian blood. He was a constable when he was only twenty years old and for many years he was a highway commissioner, laying out many of the first roads in the southeastern part of Michigan.

Pierre Le Blanc Pays his Taxes

In 1850, the LeBlancs built a new house to replace the old log cabin and Pierre’s son, Frank Xavier LeBlanc, was born in that house. Through his years of growing up on the LeBlanc farm near the Detroit River, Frank X. collected many souvenirs of his family’s early days in Ecorse and Detroit.

Peter Godfroy, a merchant, survived the Indian massacre at Frenchtown in Monroe in which the entire garrison and all the settlers within the fort except him were tomahawked. He gave Frank X. LeBlanc’s grandfather Pierre a receipt for goods that he had purchased and although yellowed and faded it was still legible. Another of his valuable possessions was a tax statement that the sheriff of Wayne County had sent Pierre LeBlanc in July 1824. The statement requested that LeBlanc pay the $2.03 he owed in taxes!Individual fur traders like Pierre LeBlanc brought about a blending or exchanging of Native American and white culture and the transformation of both.


LaForest, Thomas and Saintonge, Jacques, Our French-Canadian Ancestors, Palm Harbor, Florida, 1993.

Murphy, Lucy Eldersveld, A Gathering of Rivers: Indians, Metis, and Mining in the Western Great Lakes, 1737-1832. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000

Smith-Sleeper, Susan, Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounters in the Western Great Lakes, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

White, Richard, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great lakes Region, 1650-1815, Cambridge University Press, 1997

“Catholic Masses Said in Log Cabin of LeBlanc,” Ecorse Advertiser, June 6, 1950

 For more Ecorse history read:  Ruth Spangler's Blog


Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip's Detroit River Cruise- 1959

by Kathy Warnes


 On June 18, 1959, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip arrived in Gander, Newfoundland to begin a fifteen thousand mile, 45 day tour which would prove to be the longest royal tour in Canadian history. The Queen, then 33, had left her two young children, Prince Charles and Princes Anne, behind in England, and few people besides the Queen and Prince Philip knew that she was pregnant with a third child. (Prince Andrew). The royal couple navigated the Detroit River in their Royal Yacht Britannia, leaving Downriver residents with vivid memories of the blue hulled yacht gliding through cheering crowds on both the Canadian and American sides of the river. The Britannia anchored for a time near the Ambassador Bridge.

Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker insisted that a Canadian Cabinet minister accompany the Royal party at all times, because he wanted to impress Americans with the fact that the Queen visited the United States as a Canadian monarch and the Canadian Embassy, not the British Embassy, dictated the Queen’s itinerary. The Queen’s Canadian ministers wrote her Chicago speeches and they stressed the fact that she visited as the Queen of Canada. The Queen hosted the return dinner for President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

According to the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s itinerary included 17 military parades, 21 formal dinners, 64 guards of honor, 193 bouquets, 381 platform appearances, and over 7,000 handshakes. A Weekend Magazine story stated that the Queen visited not just as a sightseer, but as the Queen of Canada introducing herself as a crowned monarch to her people.

The Britannia sailed through the newly opened St. Lawrence Seaway and up the Great Lakes to the newly completed Mackinac Bridge and visited many Canadian ports before arriving at Nova Scotia, the final stop in the tour. The ceremonial opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway served as the central focus for the Royal visit, but the Queen and King also visited many of the outlaying Canadian districts that had never before seen royalty to underscore the fact that she also had been designated as Queen of Canada. They visited all ten Canadian provinces, the Great Lakes, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and the United States.

 Queen Elizabeth and President Eisenhower Dedicate the St. Lawrence Seaway

The tour began on June 18, 1959, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, Governor General Vincent Massey and other dignitaries welcomed the Queen and her party. A small girl gave the Queen a bouquet and both the Queen and the crowd waited patiently until she curtsied and rejoined her parents.

The party crossed Newfoundland to Stephenville, detoured through Labrador to Schefferville in northern Quebec and continued to travel through Quebec. They stopped in Gasped, Arvida, and Three Rivers along the St. Lawrence River and visited Quebec City and Montreal.

On June 26, 1959, Queen Elizabeth II and United States President Dwight David Eisenhower formally opened the 2,300 mile St. Lawrence Seaway linking the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. St. Lawrence Seaway officials presented the Queen and the President Dwight Eisenhower with a commemorative book containing the names of the men who built the seaway, and then the Queen made a speech welcoming the President and his wife Mamie to Canada to mark the opening of the Seaway as “a great joint enterprise between our two countries.” She said that the St. Lawrence Seaway would “open the centre of America to world trade and enhance Canadian commerce…”

The Royal and presidential parties boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia at the lock at St. Lambert, Quebec, near Montreal. People cheered and waved flags, church bells rang, and bands played as the Britannia pulled away from the dock and entered the lift lock to officially open the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Balloons and fireworks decorated the sky as the Britannia’s bow passed a symbolic gate made from a lock timber of the old lock from the Lachine Canal which had been built to bypass the Lachine rapids. The ships anchored in Montreal harbor blew their whistles and sirens as the Britannia got underway.

While they were stopped at Kingston, Ontario, Queen Elizabeth II confided an intimate secret to Prime Minister Diefenbaker. She told him that she was pregnant and he urged her to cut the tour short. The Queen swore him to secrecy and continued the Royal tour.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip Visit Toronto and Ottawa

On June 27, 1959, the with the help of Vice President Richard M. Nixon,  Queen Elizabeth II dedicated a monument at the St. Lawrence Power Dam at Massena, New York , the Seaway’s main power plant. The Queen and Prince Philip arrived in Toronto on Monday, June 29, 1959. Ocean and lake liners resounded with 21 gun salutes and the enthusiastic cheers of sailors. The royal couple spent a busy two days in Toronto, participating in ceremonies at City Hall, dinner at the Royal York Hotel, visits to O’Keefe Centre and the 100th running of the Queen’s Plate. They left Malton Airport in Toronto on Tuesday, June 30, 1959, bound for Ottawa.

The Royal Couple and Rules for the Royal Yacht on the Detroit River

Boaters on the Detroit River were alerted to special rules that would be in force while the Royal Yacht Britannia traveled the Detroit River. The Ecorse Advertiser of July 1, 1959 spelled out the rules. The story said that when the Queen and her husband Prince Philip passed down the river on the Britannia, craft of every kind would be under strict control of the U.S. Coast Guard on the American side of the River. In Canadian waters boats would be subject to regulations of the Royal Canadian Mounted police, according to the Coast Guard.

One restriction, which affected boats of any description had to do with approaching the Britannia. No craft of any kind was permitted to approach nearer than 50 yards of the Royal yacht, and any of its escorting vessels or the Royal launch, known as the Royal barge.

Other rules pertained to obstructing the movement of the Britannia and its escorting vessels. All craft were required to give the right of way to the Britannia and its escort vessels.

The movement of all vessels on the Detroit River was restricted so as not to endanger or impede the Britannia in any way. Sound signals will be used by patrolling government craft and orders must be promptly obeyed. Three long blasts mean that the vessel signaled is moving too fast and must slow immediately. Four long blasts mean the vessel signaled must stop until permission is given to proceed. Three sort blasts require the vessel signaled to give way and clear the channel as quickly as possible.

The Queen’s visit was important news Downriver, but the regulations for sharing the Detroit River with the Britannia landed on the third page of the Ecorse Advertiser. The death of former Ecorse mayor William Voisine and stories about the July 3, Ecorse Water Festival dominated the front page.

Welcome to the Detroit River, Your Majesty

On July 1, the Royal Party celebrated Dominion Day in Ottawa and then they visited Windsor, Detroit, Stratford, London, and Sarnia. During the first four days of July, the 2451 AC&W Squadron  participated in several parades with other militia units of the cities of Windsor, Ontario and Detroit,Michigan.

People on the American and Canadian sides of the Detroit River lined its banks, cheered the Britannia and waved to the Queen and Prince Philip. Using 1950s camera and movie technology, they snapped and filmed mementos of the Royal visit for their children and grandchildren. For many people, the visit of Queen Elizabeth II is an exciting memory that is still as fresh as today. Diane McQueen St. Aubin who lived in Ecorse at the time, remembers the Britannia, “on the Canadian side of the River of course,” as a flash of elegance and color.

Both Detroit and Windsor declared that the First Annual Freedom Festival would take place from July 1 to July 4, 1959. The highlight of the Freedom Festival came on July 3 with the visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

During the Royal tour, airmen of the 2451 A& W Squadron squadron lined the route of the Royal Party in two separate sections of Windsor, while another group of airmen moved all the Royal baggage from the Royal Train to the Royal Yacht Britannia moored in the Detroit River at Dieppe Gardens. The Commanding Officer and his wife were officially presented to Her Majesty during civic ceremonies.

After visiting Detroit and Windsor, the Britannia continued through Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River into Lake Huron and north to Orillia and Muskoka where it visited on July 3 and July 4. On July 5, 1959, Queen Elizabeth and her party rested aboard the Britannia as it chugged toward Chicago according to a story in the Palm Beach Post, date lined Parry Sound. The Orillia Spirit reported that when the Britannia stopped in Orillia, the crowds were not as large as those in Windsor and Detroit, but they were just as enthusiastic.

Then the Britannia headed south to Chicago.

The Royal Couple Visits Chicago

On July 6, 1959, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrived in Chicago against a backdrop of U.S. Air Force and Navy jets thundering across the sky. Aerial torpedoes exploded parachutes that carried the Stars and Stripes and Union Jacks.  According to the Chicago Sun Times, a crowd of more than a million people waited at the foot of Congress Street and along the lake front to watch the Queen and King arrive on mildly choppy Lake Michigan waters. The Britannia steamed into the harbor, with an escort of seven warships and more than 500 small craft, including two Chinese junks.

The first reigning British monarch ever to visit Chicago, the Queen and Prince Philip toured the International Trade Fair.

 “This is magnificent. What wonderful people!” the Queen said.

The Chicago Royal visit lased fourteen hours, but the fourteen hours were filled with pageantry and a warm Chicago welcome for the royal couple.

The Royal Tour Moves West

Leaving Chicago, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited Sault Ste. Marie, Port Arthur and Fort William. Next, the royal couple flew to Calgary for the Stampede where Prince Philip wore a white cowboy hat. Then they moved on to Banff, Golden, Kamloops, Vancouver, and Victoria.  In Nanaimo, British Columbia, the Queen and Prince Philip participated in “Indian Days,” a celebration of native culture, and the Queen became a princess of the Salish Nation.

For the next leg of their tour, the Royal party flew north to Whitehorse and Dawson City and east to Yellowknife. During her visit to the Yukon Territory, Queen Elizabeth took a few days off to rest. The heat and humidity combined with the physical discomfort of the early stages of her pregnancy took a toll on her health. Since only Prime Minister Diefenbaker knew about her pregnancy, she simply made the announcement that she was suffering a mild stomach upset. After a short rest, the Queen continued the tour.

Next the Queen and her party traveled down to Uranium City in northern Saskatchewan. From there they visited the oil fields of Alberta, and then caught a train in Edmonton. The royal couple traveled on the train through southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, stopping for a short time in Sudbury and Trenton. From Trenton they flew on to Fredericton, New Brunswick, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, and finally back to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

On her last day in Canada, Queen Elizabeth summed up the purpose of her royal tour in a radio broadcast. In both French and English she thanked all Canadians for their warm welcome. She summed up the purpose of the royal tour by saying, “If I have helped you feel proud of being Canadian, if I have reminded you of the strength which comes from unity and if I have helped to draw your attention to bring vision of the years ahead, I shall feel well satisfied." (The Spring 1982 issue of Monarchy Canada.)

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip left Canada for London on August 1, 1959. She waited until her return to London to make the public announcement of her pregnancy. Prince Andrew was born on February 19, 1960.

The Queen visited the United States and Canada several times after 1959, but Downriver people especially remember her St. Lawrence Seaway Tour and her Detroit River cruise.


Jeff Alexander. Pandora’s Locks: The Opening of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway. Michigan State University Press, 2011.

Sally Bedell Smith. Elizabeth the Queen:  The Life of a Modern Monarch. Random House, 2012.

For more stories about Downriver Detroit, click Definitely Downriver




Union City, Pennsylvania- Moonshine at the Mill



On Tuesday, May 9, 1882, Collector Charles M. Lynch arrived in Union City with an important mission in mind. His deputy had been working in Union City for some time, learning the extent of the illegal whiskey business in the area. Accompanied by borough police officer John Skivington, Collector Lynch went to the Steenrod farm, about a mile east of town where they suspected an illegal still was located.

The collector and the officer reached the farm and Ezra, the older Steenrod brother, met them at the door of the saw mill. When he found out why they had come, he said that there was no truth to the rumor that a still was located on their farm. He pointed out the respectability and comfort of the family and appealed to the common sense of the officers as to the truth of the story.

Colonel Lynch agreed that Mr. Steenrod’s story seemed plausible, but he said that he wanted to look around all the same and that a search for the still would get rid of all unjust suspicion and rumors. He asked Ezra, “Will you lead the way to the still or must we search for ourselves?”

Ezra shrugged. “Proceed with your hunt.”

“We should like the pleasure of your company if agreeable,” Officer Skivington said as Ezra moved off.

Officer Skivington and Colonel Lynch searched the grist mill from cellar to garret. They found a locked room and Ezra said that the key had been lost a long time ago. Now the law officers thought for sure that they were on to something and they worked nearly two hours to pick the lock. When they finally succeeded in getting the door open, they found nothing but an iron pipe passing up through the floor and so nearly concealed by the chimney as to make them suspicious. They examined the pipe carefully and found it to be nothing more than an innocent device connected with a patent process for running the mill. Irving and Elias Steenrod came in about this time and were very angry because the officers were searching for a still. Even though the Steenrod boys objected, the officers kept searching. They looked through the tool house, grist house, blacksmith shop and carpenter shop, but still didn’t find anything.

Next, the officers tried the barn which was located on the tail race. In the barn they found the cow quietly chewing her cud. On one side of the wall a large pile of hay was stacked up. The searchers were getting very discouraged when Officer Skivington got up onto the hay mow He thought perhaps he might find a keg or barrel of the whiskey hidden away in the hay. Both men were convinced by the smell of the atmosphere that they were getting closer to the hidden whiskey.

But even Officer Skivington wasn’t prepared for what he found. He stumbled upon a blind partition extending clear to the roof and what had appeared from below to be a large stack of hay was only about three feet thick and used only to cover up the partition. Officer Skivington put his ear against the boards and he clearly heard a gurgling sound as if a barrel were being emptied.

Officer Skivington hurried to tell Collector Lynch who informed the Steenrod’s that they would “save time by showing us straight to that still.”

The Steenrods declined to cooperate so Lynch said that he and Officer Skivington would go back to the barn and “examine the cow, I fancy.”

The officer revisited the barn and sounded the walls. Finally, Collector Lynch hit a spot that sounded hollow. “We will trouble you to help pull down that hay,” the Collector said to the Steenrods. The Steenrods protested, but their protests fell on deaf ears. The officers began to tear down the hay. They found a work shop which was divided by a partition from the part of the building used as a barn. The officers began searching. Finally, the Steenrod boys said, “Hold on, we cave.”

Ezra got up on an innocent looking block of wood and applied a peculiar shaped key made of wood to a lock which was entirely hidden from view by a very clever device. Instantly, a secret door flew open and revealed the complete outfit, consisting of a mash tub, caps, worm, tanks, barrels, still, condensers, etc. Colonel Lynch estimated that the whole outfit was worth $500. The officers found half a barrel of whiskey. The rest of the stock on hand had been emptied into the tail race, but the fumes led the officers to return and make a second examination of the barn.

Collector Lynch eventually departed and left Officer Skivington in charge. It was unclear what interests the brothers had in the farm or how the property would be disposed of. If the Steenrod brothers owned the entire farm, then it would confiscated by the law.

By Wednesday, May 10, 1882, a reporter from the Union City Times went to the Steenrod Mills and interviewed the Steenrod boys. When he arrived at the mill he found them working as usual and when he told them he had come to interview them, they received him respectfully and told him that they were willing to be interviewed.

The Steenrod boys said that they had set up the apparatus for an experiment about a year ago and since then they had fixed up and repaired the equipment in their spare time. They said that they had not been successful in manufacturing whiskey and that they had torn up the machinery to that it was in a dismantled condition when the officers found it. Irving Steenrod said that he was going to leave the farm and look for work and went to Loraine, Ohio, about three weeks later. Only Ezra and Irving knew about the equipment. Elias did not know anything about it until it was discovered by the officers.

The Steenrods seemed to feel worse for their families and their aged mother than they did for themselves. They told the Union City Times reporter that they were afraid that the shock to the old lady’s health would prove to be too much and she might die.

On the evening of May 10, 1882, the United States Commissioner Frank Grant of Erie, issued warrants for the arrest of Ezra and Irving Steenrod. On May 11, 1882, a Thursday, Officer Clark Cole came over and served warrants on the two men. He took them to Erie with him on the afternoon train. He also confiscated the equipment and loaded it on a car which was taken to Erie on the local freight that afternoon. An uncle of the Steenrods accompanied them to Erie to post their bail. J.W. Sproul Esq. was retained as an attorney for the Steenrods who claimed that they didn’t register their equipment because they had no intentions of using it.


For more Union City History click HERE at Union City Pennsylvania's Past Lives

Grand Marais, Michigan  - Lake Superior Builds Sand Mountains in Grand Marais Harbor


Lake Superior waves are as timeless and powerful as the glaciers that created it and they slap, roll, and gently lap the sand as endlessly as the water stretches into the horizon. The waves are piling mountains of sand in Grand Marais Harbor.

Grand Marais Harbor is a Harbor of Refugee and Tourist Destination

Grand Marais- French for Great Pond- is located on the southern shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is the eastern entrance to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Grand Marais is the only Harbor of Refuge between Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan along Lake Superior’s aptly named shipwreck coast, but the harbor is in danger of completely filling up with sand. Citizens of Grand Marais and regional officials formed the Grand Marais Harbor and Break wall Restoration Project and since promised federal funding is not forthcoming,

Grand Marais citizens are trying to raise the $1.5 million needed to build a new break wall and dredge the increasingly silted in harbor.Grand Marais offers tourist and historical activities for all four seasons. Snowmobiling and cross country skiing are popular in the winter and swimming, boating, kayaking, and fishing attract summer visitors. Grand Marais Harbor is the site of the annual Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium, an event that attracts hundreds of sea kayakers from around the country. The Grand Marais Maritime Museum is located in the former Coast Guard Station.

Burt Township Supervisor Jack Hubbard said, "The economic impact of this harbor is huge. The entire community of Grand Marais is built around this harbor; it is the heart and soul of this community. Without this harbor, this town will not exist as it does today."

From French Voyageurs to the Army Corps of Engineers to the Edmund Fitzgerald

French voyageurs first discovered the beautiful natural harbor at Grand Marais in the 1600s and made many voyages to Grand Marais, a name that they used to mean a "harbor of refuge" as well as a big pond or marsh. Early explorers and mariners used the harbor as a refugee from Lake Superior’s fierce storms. The fishing and lumbering industries established themselves in Grand Marais in the 1860s, and it grew into a boom town.

By the mid 1800s, Grand Marais harbor became the harbor of refuge along Lake Superior’s southern shore. In 1880, the federal government designated Grand Marais Harbor an official Harbor of Refuge, the only one along a ninety mile stretch of Lake Superior coastline from Whitefish Point to Munising.

In 1896, the United States Army Corps of Engineers designed two parallel jetties out into Lake Superior and built a 5,770 foot a timber pile breakwater from the east jetty to Lonesome Point. The jetties and the breakwater closed the harbor and prevented the sand from shoaling it in. The breakwater provided a stable and effective barrier from Lake Superior’s storms.

Many shipwrecks have occurred at or near Grand Marais, including the loss of the 729 foot ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975. The Edmund Fitzgerald disappeared in hurricane force winds and 25 foot waves north of Whitefish Point, about 55 nautical miles east northeast of Grand Marais. The Grand Marais Coast Guard Station made the last land based radio communication with the Edmund Fitzgerald late in the afternoon of the day Lake Superior claimed her. The anchor of the wrecked Annie M. Peterson rests near the Veteran’s Memorial in Grand Marais.

By the 1940s, the commercial fishing and lumbering in the region declined and during World War II, the Corps of Engineers stopped maintaining the timber pile breakwater permanently. Without maintenance, it didn’t take long before Lake Superior waves totally destroyed the timber pile breakwater and once it disappeared, sand quickly piled up in Grand Marais Bay. Originally, Grand Marais Bay reached a depth of 55 feet and today it is only 25 feet and Lonesome Point is severely eroded. Lake Superior deposits sand in Grand Marais Harbor at the rate of 100,000 cubic yards per year and engineers estimate that the harbor will be completely silted up in two to seven years.

Thirteen Years with Congress and Lake Superior Keeps Building Sand Mountains

A Harbor Committee was created to investigate building a new break wall and in 1998, Congress authorized funds for an independent study of the harbor and break wall situation in Grand Marais. Dr. Guy Meadows, director of the University of Michigan College of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, completed the study using a special underwater rover. He finished his preliminary report spelling out options for rebuilding the break wall and repairing the damage to the harbor in time for Congressional Budge appropriations requests in February 2000.

In the next ten years, only Lake Superior took definitive action. Lake Superior continued to pile sand in the harbor and send waves over the submerged foundations of the break wall. Congress appropriated funds and in 2010 the Army Corps of engineers had developed plans to build a new break wall at a cost of about seven million dollars. The Corps of Engineers didn’t implement their plans because they said they ran out of funding.

"Somebody has to take care of this situation," Supervisor Hubbard said.  "If the federal government isn't going to do it, they need to have the intestinal fortitude to tell us no, we're not going to do it, you guys are on your own on this one and let us come up with the solution."

Burt Township has held fund raisers and is concentrating on private grant foundation funding. In the meantime, Lake Superior keeps building sand mountains in Grand Marais Harbor.