Big Red – Most Photographed Lighthouse in Michigan

When my husband and I moved to Michigan last fall I was fascinated by the many lighthouses that are in the state.  In a blog I wrote then I said I was looking forward to spring/summer when we could begin exploring these lighthouses.

Michigan’s Lighthouses

Well – that time has come.

This past weekend we visited the most photographed lighthouse in the state – Big Red.   Located at the entrance of a channel that connects Lake Michigan with Lake Macatawa.   I was surprised at how small it actually was.  Thinking of lighthouses as being very tall, this one looked more like a big barn with a tower for the light.

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The lighthouse has a great history.   The area was settled by the Dutch in 1847 on the shore of Lake Macatawa.  Led by Rev. Albertus C Van Raalte a band of Hollanders founded the city of Holland.

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When they settled here they realized they needed access to Lake Michigan from Black Lake (now called Macatawa) to help their community grow and flourish.  The entrance to the lake from Lake Michigan was blocked with sandbars and silt.

After petitioning the government for help but getting none, the citizens took matters into their own hands and cut a channel that was deep enough for barges to use.  Finally, in 1866, Congress made an appropriation for work on the harbor taking over improvement of the harbor in 1867.

The government gave funds of $4,000 in 1870 to build the first lighthouse.  A small, square structure on top was a lantern deck with a ten-window lantern room.  The lighthouse keeper lived on the shore near the lighthouse and would carry his lighted oil lamp along a catwalk where he would place the lamp under a lens or magnifying device.  He would use a 18 inch fish horn to warn incoming boats when the fog hide

 

When fog lay on the lake, as it so often did, a light signal was useless. It was obvious that a fog signal, stronger than a fish horn, must be incorporated. In 1907, a steam operated fog signal was installed. A building was made for the fog signal.  This building and the lighthouse stood next to each other until 1936 when the Coast Guard combined the two structures by placing a light tower on top of the building for the fog signal.

The two buildings were painted pale yellow with a deep maroon base.  In 1956, to satisfy a Coast Guard requirement that a structure or light on the right side of any harbor entrance must be red, it was sandlasted and planted the bright red that gives it the title now of Big Red.

Marking the end for the need of lighthouse keepers, the light was electrifid in 1934 and in 1936 air powered horns using electricity were installed.

Since the lighthouse no longer was needed the Coast Guard declared it to be surplus.  A petition and letter writing campaign to save the lighthouse began.  The Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission was organized and this group gave it the name of “Big Red” to create more awareness in its effort to save the lighthouse.

 

 

 

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View of Big Red from the adjoining beach

 

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View of Lake Michigan from the beach by Big Red

Sojourner Truth – Ain’t I a Woman?

When we first moved to Michigan I was intrigued to find there were many areas in the state where there had been  Underground Railroad activity before the Civil War..  Located close to Canada, Battle Creek was one of the main stops for slaves traveling by foot through Indiana, Detroit and then Canada.

One of the most famous former slaves who became a strong abolitionist and champion of human rights was Sojourner Truth.  She lived in Battle Creek for the last 26 years of her life.  Born in New York State in 1797 and named Isabella, she escaped slavery while in her mid-thirties.

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Promised by her owner, Dumont, he would grant her freedom “if she would do well and be faithful,” she worked for him fulfilling the time he had specified.  When the date came for her freedom,  he refused to let her go.  Feeling she had kept her end of the bargain, she took her infant daughter and escaped.  Later talking about that decision to leave she said, “I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right.”  It must have been a tough decision because she left her older children behind as they were still legally considered property of Dumont.

The New York Anti-Slavery Law passed in 1799 stipulated that children born to slave mothers were free.  They were required to work for the mother’s master as indentured servnts into their late twenties but then be free.  Dumont ignored that law and sold Isabella’s five-year-old son.  She filed a lawsuit to get him back and was the first black woman to sue a white man in a United States court and win.

After excaping slavery she became a Christian.  In 1843 she changed her name to Sojourner Truth.  She felt she had an obligation to travel and speak out against slavery and oppression while sharing the news of the Gospel.

Asked to speak at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convetnion in 1851 she spoke out about black women’s rights.  Reporters took down her speech and it has been widely publicized as ‘Ain’t I a Woman?”

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter.  I think  that ‘twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.  But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say

During the Civil War she helped recruit black soldiers.  Working for the National Freedman’s Relief in DC she encouraged people to donate food, clothes and other supplies to the black slaves escaping from the South.  This bought her to the attention of President Abraham Lincoln who welcomed her to the White House and showed her a Bible he had been given by African Americans in Baltimore.  She was bold enough to ride on whites-only streetcars while in DC.

She spoke to fellow Christians when she asked:  “Children, who made your skin white? Was it not God? Who made mine black? Was it not the same God? Am I to blame, therefore, because my skin is black? …. Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other?”

She visited more than 20 states speaking against the evil of slavery.  While speaking to a Quaker group in Battle Creek in 1856, she felt so welcome in this community that she moved here the following year.  At first she lived in a small settlement west of town called Harmonia, moving into Battle Creek in 1867 where she lived until her death in 1883.

Today there is a statute celebrating her in downtown Battle Creek.

 

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Because it was illegal to teach slaves, she never learned to read or write. This is the only known example of her signature which she wrote in an autograph book of a high school student in April 28, 1880.

She is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek as well as some of her children.

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You can learn more about this courageous woman in “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth which she dictated to Olive Gilbert.

Fort Custer National Cemetery

My husband and I visited the Fort Custer National Cemetery today.  We were impressed by the entrance to the cemetery.  All along the main road were rows and rows of flags.

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This Avenue of Flags was dedicated May 26, 1986. It is composed of 152 flagpoles located along the main road, and an additional 50 flagpoles arranged in a semi-circle at the head of the thoroughfare.  These flags are displayed from Easter through Veterans Day with 50 flags from the 50 different states are flown on special occasions.

Named after General George Armstrong Custer, a native of the state of Michigan, Camp Custer was built in 1917.  In response to mobilization for World War I 2,000 buildings were built to accommodate some 36,000 men.  After the end of the war, the camp was  transferred to the Veterans Bureau.  The Battle Creek Veterans Hospital was completed in 1924.

In 1943 Fort Custer Post Cemetery was established with the first burial.  Army rules at that time required officers and enlisted men to be buried in separate sections.  Today you will find Section A filled with graves of enlisted servicemen and in Section O the graves of officers.  Today there is no separation.

During World War II more than 5,000 German prisoners of war were held at the Fort.  The POW’s were used to supply farm labor because of a shortage of workers due to the war.  After the Germans departed back to their country, 26 Germans were left behind, buried in the Fort cemetery.  Sixteen were killed in a car accident and the others died from natural causes.

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Every year on Volkstrauertag, which occurs in November, the cemetery hosts a ceremony of remembrance for these 26 German soldiers.  Volkstrauertag is a day of mourning for Germans and honors their war veterans.

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The National Cemeteries Act of 1973 transferred the cemeteries from the Department of Army to the National Cemetery System, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In accordance with this Act, Congress created Fort Custer National Cemetery in September 1981.  The Fort Customer Military Reservation and the VA Medical Center all donated land for the cemetery.

We found the arrangement of the graves here different from any other national cemetery we have visited.  Instead of long row after row of white tombstones stretching out one after another, this cemetery is filled with areas of trees with sections of graves in between these groups of trees.  With the tombstones flat with the ground, it was almost like driving through a park with areas of trees and then open beautiful green grass areas.

A place of history, a place of honor, a beautiful place.

 

Growing Old Gracefully

This week I took a short trip with my youngest daughter flying from Michigan to North Carolina to see a granddaughter graduate from college.  What a great time I had not only seeing this granddaughter graduate, but also seeing my oldest daughter and all of her family.

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For my daughter and I it was a learning experience.

Many years of my life I have spent teaching, helping, caring for my children and grandchildren.  For many years I was the one in the kitchen fixing a Thanksgiving meal, playing on the floor with the grandchildren, being the “helper” for the family.

Slowly as my children have grown up and had children of their own I have taken less responsibility and they have done the cooking, the “helping.”

But still I saw myself as a strong, independent woman who tried to be a source of help and encouragement to my family.  I certainly could take care of myself and did not need help.

But this trip revealed to me that this old body of mine is not what it used to be and it is now my time to accept help from others.

We drove into the airport at Detroit.  My daughter asked for a wheelchair for me to get to our gate.  But my pride insisted I did not need that.  I could walk.  Being patient with me my daughter walked along with me and had to slow her steps down to accommodate me as I struggled to keep going.

By the time we got to our gate I was in so much pain.  My legs just refused to cooperate and let me walk long distances.  My poor daughter was faced with the task of insisting that “Mom, you need a wheelchair when we land in Greensboro.  You can’t walk that far again.”

How I so wanted to say that was not true.  I was still young enough to get through an airport on my own.  But my aching legs told me I needed to listen.

So – at Greensboro we were met by a kind man with a wheelchair who wheeled me all the way through the airport to the area where my daughter rented a car for our time in Greensboro.

Throughout the trip it became clear that I needed help – getting in and out of the bus that drove us from terminal to terminal, carrying my bag, walking up stairs.  At the graduation both my daughters and son-in-love were there to give me support as I climbed up the stairs in the coliseum where the graduation ceremony was held.

So my daughters and I began to navigate that journey

  • for my daughters – how do we help our mother without making her feel stupid or incapable of doing for herself?
  • for me – how do I accept the help I need with grace and thankfulness for their love and offer of help?

It’s a journey we will have to continue to navigate.  I need to continue to do for myself all I can, but I also must accept that the time has come to accept some help.

There were a a few moments of frustration as I tried to tell my daughter where I saw a parking spot or give advice on something where I really knew what I was talking about, but she seemed to ignore me.

Then I had to laugh as I told her:

“I got mad because you didn’t listen to me and I knew what I was saying was right, but then I had to think why would she listen when I just ordered a drink, walked over to the dispenser to get my cup and had to ask her what size drink I just ordered”

We both shared the laugh.

I’ve still got lots of life and enjoyment ahead of me, but as I continue to age, I pray that I will age gracefully and be a person of joy and laughter and be humble enough to accept the help I need.

Not sure who actually wrote this, but today it seems appropriate:

My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient.  If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way… remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to walk, to eat, to read. to dress yourself.

When my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked.

 

I hope this post does not sound like I’m ready to “kick the bucket.”  There are still roads trips to take, friends to meet, flowers to plant, much more life to enjoy.  Just recognizing it may be time to walk a little slower and be a little less prideful in my own ability.

The Good Book says “pride goes before a fall.”  Now I realize this was not about actually walking but I had to laugh as I thought – “In my case too much pride to accept help just might mean a fall for me.”

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Things Mother Never Said to Me

I posted this last year for Mother’s Day but I still get a laugh at the ten things Mother never said to me. In remembrance of my mother and her great sense of humor I share it again this year. Happy Mother’s Day!

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It’s almost Mother’s Day – and my memories of Mom keep coming back so strong.  She was such a feisty lady.  In her 60’s she drove a bright yellow car and slowed down only slightly for stop signs.  She loved to show my daughters how to do the Charleston.   (Does the younger generation today have any idea what that is?)

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She gave me a lot of good advice (some I followed, some I did not).  But in honor of her great sense of humor, I thought I would share some things my mother NEVER said to me.  (And I’m sure there are things other mothers have NEVER said to their children.)

  1. How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?
  2. Just leave all the lights on…it makes the house look more cheery.
  3. Let me smell that blouse…yeah, it’s good for another week.
  4. If Susan’s mother says it’s…

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Here Comes the Sun!

After a long winter – today the sun is out!  It’s 71 degrees.

So let’s celebrate the sun!  I’m so ready for flowers, birds and walks in the park.

Are you?  Enjoy the sun – and the music!

 

Thanks for Remembering!

This month two of my grandchildren are graduating from college.  A granddaughter in North Carolina is getting her BS and will be starting law school in the fall.  A grandson in Tennessee is getting his Master’s.

As I rejoice in these two grandchildren’s success and hard work, I wonder where did the time go?  It was only yesterday they were playing with puzzles at my kitchen table or playing on the merry-go-round at the park.

As my grandchildren grow up, go to college, start careers, get married, have lives of their own and also live so far from me (grandchildren in Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee – but only one in Michigan where I live) it is only natural that my time with them is limited.  The circle of life turns and we old folks are no longer an active part of their lives.

But I often relive times spent with them as they grew up.  My granddaughter who is graduating was such a cute baby.

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When this picture was taken I was in the Philippines along with my husband and youngest daughter teaching in a Bible college.  I missed her first year but I always treasured this picture her mother sent to me in the Philippines.  Sometimes I feel sad that I missed her first tooth, her first step.  But thankfully I was back with her by her second birthday and shared so much joy watching her grow up.

Her first step toward becoming a lawyer was getting her Associate’s Degree.

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Now she has completed the second time with her Bachelor’s Degree.  So excited for her as she takes this next step and enters fall school.

One of my prayers for my grandchildren has always been that when the time was right, God would give them a Christian husband/wife.  It was my joy two years ago to see the answer to that prayer.

 

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But sometimes I must confess I wonder if the memories I treasure are held in such esteem by my grandchildren.

So – today my heart is so happy.  I got a text from this granddaughter that said:

Brandon and I are at the mall and we saw a carousel.  It made me remember all the times you and Grandpa took me and my brothers to the mall to ride the carousel.  I love you!”

What can I say to express my joy!

If someone has given you great memories be it a grandparent, a parent, an aunt or uncle, maybe a school teacher or a youth leader, take time to let them know you remember.  We often wait until someone has died to share how important those memories were.  Sadly, it’s a little too late then.

Thank you Barbara Rose for remembering!