Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse
and the Life of Lighthouse Keeper Orland B Lynd
By Timothy Harrison
This image of Orland B. Lynd was taken in 1905 when he became 1st assistant keeper at Rawley Point Lighthouse in Wisconsin. (Photograph courtesy of Gayle Witmer)
Wisconsin's Newport State Park is that state's only formally designated wilderness park. With its nearly 2,400 acres and 11 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, it offers immense outdoor activities away from today's busy lifestyle. But few people will ever know that the nucleus of Newport State Park was once owned by outdoorsman and lighthouse keeper Orland B. Lynd. In fact, Lynd Point, located within the park, is named after him.
Some reports indicate that Lynd was a Wisconsin native, born near Gill's Rock in Door County on February 5, 1884. Other reports state he came from a small town in Germany and somehow ended up in Door County, Wisconsin at the age of 16. Whatever the case, his interest in life in the great outdoors, living and working near the water started at young age. While still in his teens, he was hired to captain a pleasure boat for a wealthy family from nearby Sturgeon Bay.
As shown here, the lantern at the Kewaunee Pierhead Rear Range Lighthouse had to be hoisted up every night to the top of the tower and lowered each morning. The vessel sitting next to the pier is a U.S. Lighthouse Service tender that is displaying the flag of the Lighthouse Inspector. This tower no longer stands. (Lighthouse Digest archives.)
At the age of 18, to earn some extra money, he took a job as a laborer at Wisconsin's Plum Island Lighthouse, where lighthouses got in his blood. Several months later, he was able to secure a position with the United States Lighthouse Establishment, which was by then starting to be known as the United States Lighthouse Service. He eventually secured a position as 2nd assistant keeper at Rawley Point Lighthouse, which is also known as Twin River Point Lighthouse. Here he is quickly promoted to 1st assistant keeper and served until 1909 when he is transferred to Wisconsin's Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse where he continued with the 1st Assistant position, but with more pay.
Orland and Hilda Lynd with sons Orland Jr. (r) and Harold (l) in the July 4, 1927 parade in Kewanuee, Wisconsin. The car was all decked out for the holiday parade. Barely visible is a sign behind Mrs. Lynd that says, “Lynd’s Auto Painting,” which was a side business that Orland Lynd operated while being a lighthouse keeper. It was this photo, published in the June/July 2009 issue of Reminisce magazine and sent to us by Lighthouse Digest subscriber Albert Doane of Ohio that started us on the detective work to track down Orland Lynd’s granddaughter, Gayle Witmer who, at that time, was unaware of Lighthouse Digest.
While stationed in Kenosha, Lynd met and fell in love with Hilda Gustafson and they were soon married. However, being a married man, he had more responsibilities and, in October of 1911, he accepted a promotion and was transferred to become the head keeper at the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse in Illinois. Although the job in Chicago offered prestige and more money, his wife could not live with him at the lighthouse. Lynd soon realized that he wanted to spend more time with his wife and newborn son. He also was itching to go back to his home state of Wisconsin and he began to put the wheels of motion into action. Finally, in March of 1913, he secured the position that sent him back to his home state as the head keeper at the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse Station in Kewaunee, Wisconsin.
Above, the wedding photo of Orland B. Lynd and Hilda E. Gustafson taken on their wedding day, on March 8, 1911, when he was the keeper at the Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. At the time of their marriage, he was 27 and she was 19. (Photograph courtesy of Gayle Witmer)
While stationed at the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse, most of his off time became centered on an area known as Europe Lake where he would take his family hiking and picnicking. Before long he bought some land there and, as time went on he kept purchasing more and more land until he eventually owned more than half of the shoreline of Europe Lake. Lynd soon built a log cabin on the property. In later years, his son, Harold, would recall spending his first night in the cabin with his father before it was totally completed. Harold said, "The snow began to fall and the foghorn from Pilot Island Lighthouse could be heard in the distance," and that special night with his father was one of those special memories that would stay with him forever.
The Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse as it appeared in the early 1930s after the new tower was completed that protruded from the roof of the lighthouse (Lighthouse Digest archives photo.)
Lynd created his own park of sorts; he kept the land open to the public and hundreds went there to picnic. However, this soon became a problem, as cars tore up the sandy roads and campers started building campfires without adequately extinguishing them. A serious fire in the 1920s forced Lynd to close the property off from the public. He installed a gate and hired a caretaker to keep people out. Although this caused a great deal of resentment from the summer tourists, some who were his friends, he felt he had no other choice. However, many years later, in 1964, this land again would become open to the public when it became the nucleus of what would become Europe Bay State Park. In 1970 the name was changed to Newport State Park.
Lynd taught his children how to fish in the waters of Lake Michigan, especially off the pier at the Kewaunee Lighthouse. But he spent most of his time teaching the children how to hunt, build cabins, and about the logging industry and the importance of trees, especially how to harvest them while protecting the environment. Apparently he taught them well. His son Harold became the Chief Forester for the federal Bureau of Land Management in Washington, D.C.
The first tower at Kewaunee Pierhead Front Range Lighthouse, as shown here, was removed from the pier in the early 1930s and was replaced by a tower constructed from the roof of the fog signal building. The catwalk to the lighthouse was still in place when this photo was taken. (U.S. Coast Guard Historian photo, Lighthouse Digest archives.)
While stationed at the Kewaunee Lighthouse, Orland Lynd was also active in many community affairs and was known far and wide by the mariners at sea. But he was more widely respected for his woodsman activities, something that was unusual for a lighthouse keeper.
In 1937 Lynd contracted tuberculosis and, on May 1, 1937, the Commissioner of Lighthouses retired him with a disability pay of $1,125 per year. His illness took him a long way from his beloved woods of Wisconsin. He settled in Tucson, Arizona where he and his wife lived in a tent while his son Harold built him an adobe home from the training he had learned while in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s.
Today, the Kewaunee Lighthouse is painted all white. In 2009, under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the lighthouse was declared excess property and offered for free to any nonprofit or other government agency or community. (Photograph by William Swift.)
Orland B. Lynd died in January of 1941, at the age of 56, at the Woodsman Sanatorium near Denver, Colorado. His body was returned to his beloved home state and he was buried at the Riverview Cemetery in Kewaunee, Wisconsin.
Sadly, the accomplishments of Orland B. Lynd, and the legacy he forged for those who came after him, have largely been lost in the dusty pages of time. However, we hope that, via the pages of Lighthouse Digest magazine, we have accomplished our goal of keeping the legacy of men like Orland B. Lynd and other lighthouse keepers preserved for future generations to learn from and therefore appreciate what they did for those who followed them. After all, without the memories and stories about those who served at our lighthouses, the structures simply become cold and empty historical monuments with no real meaning.
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Orland & Hilda Lynd in front of the adobe house in Tuscon, Arizona where they lived after his disability retirement. This was quite different from the lifestyle they had previously been accustomed to. (Photograph courtesy of Gayle Witmer)