After spending a total of 36 years at seven different lighthouses, Wallace S. Hall retired to a home in Manistee, Michigan so he could be close to his two young grandchildren and, of course, to Lake Michigan where he had spent most of his adult life working as a lighthouse keeper.
Wallace Hall started his lighthouse career on April 27, 1905 at Michigan’s South Fox Island Lighthouse where he remained until April 1, 1906 when he was sent to Seul Choix Point Lighthouse near Manistique, Michigan as the 2nd assistant keeper. He remained there exactly one year when, in April of 1907, he was promoted to 1st assistant keeper at the 1892 Squaw Island Lighthouse on an island in Lake Michigan. He remained at Squaw Island for seven long years until, on May 10, 1914, he was able to get a land-based lighthouse assignment as the 2nd assistant keeper at Point Iroquois Lighthouse on Lake Superior near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
Looking for more pay, in 1916 he became an assistant keeper at the off-shore 1873 St. Helena Lighthouse in the Straits of Mackinac where he was appointed the head keeper in 1919.
In 1916, something very amazing happened to Wallace Hall; he heard from his father, William T. Hall, who he thought had been dead for many years. Wallace had been told that his father died when he was four years old and was buried at Fort Sheridan in Illinois. When Wallace Hall was very young, his mother remarried a man named Peter Therrian, who raised Wallace like his own son. Apparently Wallace’s real father had actually deserted the family, and now, many years later, he wanted to meet his son and explain to him why he had deserted the family. Wallace Hall then took a few days off his lighthouse duties to travel to Saginaw, Michigan to meet him. What happened at that meeting is not known, and any stories about it have slipped away with the passage of time.
Wallace Hall lost the job at St. Helena Lighthouse when modernization arrived on June 4, 1922 and the keepers were removed forever from St. Helena. But, he was not out of work for long. On June 22, 1922, he was appointed head keeper of the Little Sable Point Lighthouse near Mears, Michigan where he became good friends with his assistant, Henrik G. Olsen.
However, Little Sable Point Lighthouse was a little too remote for his liking, and on December 1, 1923 he was able to secure the position as head keeper of the 1875 Manistee North Pierhead Lighthouse in Manistee, Michigan where he would remain until his retirement in 1941.
At the time of his retirement in 1941, he told a local newspaper that the monotony of long vigils at various lighthouses was also marked by many exciting experiences. He saw many shipwrecks during turbulent storms, but the one he remembered most vividly was the wreck of the schooner Vega off South Fox Island in 1905. Fortunately, all members of the crew were rescued.
He himself had a number of narrow escapes. “In the early days motorboats were not available at all lighthouses and therefore the keepers were required to use sailboats to get to and from the stations. That meant real hardship for some of the station crews and I knew many light keepers who set sail for shore and never made it.”
By the time Wallace Hall arrived at the Manistee Light Station, most of those perils of his work were past, except for his scrambles over icebergs to make periodic checks. So he spent most of his time trying to improve the grounds around the keeper’s house and the beach area near the lighthouse. He also developed his skill as a wood carver and crafted a model of the U.S. Lighthouse Service lighthouse tender Sumac. When one of his superiors saw the model with its intense detail, he requested that it go on display at the U.S. Lighthouse Service exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. That model is still in his family’s possession to this day.
In 1939 when the Lighthouse Service was taken over by the Coast Guard, Wallace Hall was offered to remain on as a civilian lighthouse keeper or to join the military ranks of the Coast Guard, which he did, and on August 5, 1939 he was given the rank of Bos’n Mate 1C.
After he retired on July 1, 1941, he spent most of his time fishing for perch off the pier by the lighthouse or hiking in the woods where he would do some occasional hunting. He was also quite well known for being behind the chef’s aprons at one of the many feeds and cookouts of his fellow Knights of Columbus.
Wallace S. Hall died on August 5, 1954 and was buried in the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Manistee, Michigan.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2018 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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