Picture of LifeSaving Station number 10“Lifesaving Station Number 10” Photograph Courtesy of Paul Petosky




A Picture of the Lifesaving Station Number 10“The Crew In Front of Lifesaving Station Number 10” Photograph Courtesy of Paul Petosky




“Life Around Lifesaving Station Number 10” Photograph Courtesy of Paul Petosky
“Life Around Lifesaving Station Number 10” Photograph Courtesy of Paul Petosky





“Crisp Point Lighthouse & Lifesaving Station No. 10” “Snowed In & Frozen Over” Photograph Courtesy of the National Archives
“Crisp Point Lighthouse & Lifesaving Station No. 10” “Snowed In & Frozen Over” Photograph Courtesy of the National Archives

Lifesaving Station No. 10
“Christopher Crisp’s Life at This Isolated Place in 1879 & 1880”

The United States Lighthouse Service appointed an “Iron Willed” boatman as their 1st official Keeper-in-Charge of Lifesaving Station No.10. His name was Captain Christopher Columbus Crisp. My research on Captain Crisp has yielded something interesting facts and insight into the man for whom the station proudly bears his name.

Captain Christopher Crisp served as a boatman with the United States Revenue Marines before his appointment as Keeper-in-Charge of Lifesaving Station No. 10. He served from the 1st day of October 1878 to the 19th day of March 1890 and his annual salary was $200. Surfmen who served under Captain Christopher Crisp were paid $40 per month over the course of the shipping season.

Authors Note:
“Back in the early 1800’s the shipping season along the Great Lakes started about mid-March and depending on the weather it lasted well beyond mid-December. Today the shipping season along the Great Lakes remains pretty much unchanged and will probably remain that way for the next 100 years.”

The six surfmen that served under Crisp during the 1878 shipping season were:
A. McLean, Surfman No. 1
H. Mills, Surfman No. 2
D. LaRue, Surfman No. 3
G. McLean, Surfman No. 4
G. Potter, Surfman No. 5 (Potter took S. Teeple’s place)
D. Ross, Surfman No. 6

The 1879 Great Lakes shipping season open on the 15th day of May, however some of the original surfmen that served during the 1878 shipping season didn’t return back to the station.

Keeper Christopher Crisp was short two men because Surfman No. 4, G. McLean and Surfman No. 5, G. Potter didn’t report for duty. Under the code of the United States Lifesaving Service these two were considered no shows and were both immediately removed from active duty.

On 18th day of May 1879, Surfman, F. Linke joined the group at Lifesaving Station No. 10 about 4:00 p.m. Over the next two months the men were engaged in walking their daily beach patrols, training sessions and day-to-day activities as prescribed by the station keeper.

On the 15th day of May 1879 there was one entry I read that really caught my attention, Crisp states for the record why Surfman S. Teeple departed from Lifesaving Station No.10.
Crisp writes:
“Surfman, S. Teeple transferred from Lifesaving Station Number 10 to Vermilion Point Lifesaving Station. This entry was made on the 15th day of May 1879. Replacement surfmen are due next day about 4:00 p.m.”

On the 21st day of July 1879, Christopher Crisp signature was missing from the keeper’s logbook. This wasn’t something I would have expected, but as I read on it became very clear who was running the station in Crisp’s absence. Alex McLean, Surfman No. 1 was put in charge and signed keeper’s logbook as Keeper Protemp.

This struck me in an odd way considering there is space in the keeper’s logbook that specifically asked if the keeper is “Onsite” or “Not Onsite”. The entry was left blank until the 26th day of July 1879, when Crisp was listed as

“Keeper absent from station on leave of absence for one week.”

Why Keeper Crisp was on a leave of absence wasn’t stated anywhere in the keeper’s logbook.

Surfman No. 1, Alex McLean continued on with his duties and duties as Keeper Protemp. Alex McLean had his own issues to deal with at station no. 10. Surfman No. 6, W. Peck was discharged from United States Lifesaving Service, without any type of written explanation stated in the keeper’s logbook. A few days later Surfman, E. Bernier was engaged to take Peck’s place as Surfman No. 6, according to hand written entry. Why Surfman, W. Peck was discharged from the service was left blank by Keeper Protemp Alex McLean. I looked into Surfman Peck’s service record and found nothing that gave me any type of inclining on why Peck was discharged or what the circumstances was that caused him to be discharged from the United States Lifesaving Service in 1879.

Keeper Protemp Alex McLean noted in the keeper’s logbook that he has relinquished his Keeper Protemp status. Keeper-in-Charge Christopher Crisp on the 28th day of July 1879 at 4:00 p.m. report back to work after his leave of absence.

On the 9th day of July 1879 at 10:00 a.m., Christopher Crisp found himself in a very unusual position. The entry in the keeper’s logbook read exactly like this:

“Three surfmen absolutely refused to go to work. Suspended them from the service immediately, D. Mills, F. Linke, E. Bernier, crew on duty D. Ross, H. Mills, A. McLean and myself”

Why these three men decided to take this type of action or what the circumstances were that lead up to this event were never stated in the keeper’s logbook. The causes of this action haven’t been brought to light and as of this writing are still unknown. Whatever their reasons were, they put the Keeper Crisp, his crew in deep peril if something happened at the station, to ships in distress or one of the other three lifesaving station crews that called upon Lifesaving Station No. 10 for assistance.

Relief finally arrived at Lifesaving Station No. 10 on the 14th day of September 1879 at 10:00 a.m. Keeper-in-Charge Crisp welcomed some new surfmen to the station. Those men were Surfman M. Headington, Surfman H. Coda and Surfman T. Thomas who all reported for duty and remained at the lifesaving station until the close of the 1879 shipping season.

The opening of the next shipping season arrived on the 15th day of May 1880, but the crew members who reported for active duty at Lifesaving Station No. 10 were very different. The surfmen who served under Crisp in 1879 didn’t come back to Lifesaving Station No. 10, why this happened is unknown. The 1880 crew were all new, with new faces, new personalities and very different skill levels.
The 1880 crew roster for Lifesaving Station No. 10:
Keeper-in-Charge, Christopher Crisp
L. Kenny, Surfman No. 1
S. Sweet, Surfman No. 2
D. Carmichael, Surfman No. 3
T. Bcay, Surfman No. 4
T. McGannon, Surfman No. 5
J. La-aranie, Surfman No. 6

Wow, here is something I will bet Christopher Crisp never expected. His entire crew left him and now he is working with individuals he really doesn’t know. I wouldn’t want or care to be in Christopher Crisp shoes that very first morning. I’m pretty sure Keeper Crisp saw this as a new challenge in his career, a new beginning for the station and his newly found crew members.

As I continued to read the keeper’s logbook, I found the crew settled into the same old routines that were established by their new leader. Keeper Crisp assigned each surfmen to their respective patrols and their day-to-day activities.

On the 16th day of August 1880 the keeper’s logbook entry states Lifesaving Station Keeper-in-Charge Crisp left the station by boat for supplies. L. Kenny, Surfman No. 1 was left in charge.
Keeper Protemp L. Kenny continue his duties and the keeper’s duties while Crisp was off getting supplies. Crisp didn’t report back to the station until the 23rd day of August 1880. The keeper’s logbook for the entire month of September was what I would deem as business as usual and without incident.

What I found strange, there wasn’t a single entry that stated if Crisp actually brought supplies back to the lifesaving station or why he was gone for seven days. The next event happened on the 5th day of October 1880:
Crisp writes:
“John McGannon discharged on account of ill health and Keeper absence under leave of absence to procure surfman and remove family.”

The keeper’s logbook page was signed C. Crisp, Keeper with entry under his signature:

“No. 1 Keeper in Charge Protemp”

I believe Surfman No. 1, L. Kenny was left in charge again, while Crisp was out looking for a replacement surfman. The very next day surfman J. Black was engaged and reported for duty. This entry was signed like all the rest until the 9th day of October 1880 when the logbook shows Crisp reported back for duty at 2:00 p.m. and found everything satisfactory during his absence.

The 10th day of October 1880 was one of those unpredictable days in the life and time of Keeper Christopher Crisp. Crisp had to discharge another one of his surfmen. It seems John La-aranie was discharged from Lifesaving Station No. 10, because of insubordination. Keeper Crisp was down another surfman for thirteen long and hard days. Relief came when D. J. Sherman reported for duty on the 23rd day of October 1880.

It’s now the 6th day of November 1880 and Keeper’s Crisp mood has changed, because of a tragic death in the Lifesaving Service ranks. The logbook entry Crisp wrote is:

“General cleaning, no mail since 19th day of October 1880, but we have received the sad intelligence of the drowning of our Superintendent on Lake Huron. We Keepers and Surfmen sincerely and deeply regret this loss for we; feel what we have indeed lost our best friend and devoted office to the service”

Author’s Note:
“Nowhere in the keeper’s logbook does it mention the Superintendents name or what the circumstances was that caused his death or why he drowned, but whatever the reason was or what caused his passing really affected Keeper Crisp.”

Twelve days later Crisp writes:
“Watch abandoned and everything stored away in good condition, Crew anxious to secure winter work. I allow two at a time to be absent in search of employment as there is nothing we can do here at present.”

Four days later Lifesaving Station No. 10 closes for the season. Crisp writes everything at the station is in good condition and I’ve left D. Sherman in charge. Surfman Sherman and his family live at the lifesaving station during those long and cold winter months.

Again Keeper-in-Charge Christopher Crisp was absence from the station for most of the winter. Permission to take his leave was approved by Superintendent J. Sawyer, however his official orders were sent through the United States Mail. According to a few documents his orders were tied up somewhere in the mail system.

Again let’s, consider the problems they were having with the United States Mail at that time. If you recall the four lifesaving stations hadn’t received a mail delivery since the 1st day of October 1880. So Keeper-in-Charge Christopher Crisp assumed his leave was granted by the United States lifesaving Service. Where Christopher Crisp went during the winter months was a mystery until later in his career. I will let you where he went in a follow-up article.