Lifesaving Station White Lake - U. S. Coast Guard Station No. 268
Barbara Bedau Brow
The White River
Lifesaving Station was established by an act of Congress in May 1882.
Unfortunately, the project sat idle until 1886 when construction was
finally begun. It was expected to be completed by May 1, 1886.
|In April, 1887,
Captain Charles Lysaght was moving his family from St. Joseph to the
station. He would oversee the station until 1904. Those who served
under him in 1900 were: Surfmen John P. Whelan, Joseph Edlund,
Lafayette Pugh, John F. Yore, Charles F. Padget and 2 unnamed
substitutes. In 1902, Charles D. Deneau and Curtis E. Strengham had
joined the crew. In 1903 Curtis Strengham and John Yore had moved on
and Wilbur Sills was added.
1905 saw a Captain
Carlson leading the same crew with the addition of John Swenson and
In 1906, Captain E.
Bedford took over the crew which consisted of John P. Whelan, Lafe
Pugh, Joseph Edlund, Charles S. Paget, Wilbert H. Sill, John A.
Swenson and Julius A. Solomonson. Capt. Bedford served the station
on postcards made from this picture seem to be from around 1906.The
picture appears to have been taken in the Spring of the year as there
are no leaves on the trees yet.
May 1907, an item in the local newspaper reported that Capt. Bedford
and his crew of sturdy life savers went to town in their surfboat to
get supplies, making the trip of six miles in 50 minutes. The sailors
looked very trim in their white duck uniforms.
|In 1908, Captain
Henry Curran took over with a new crew: Charles Padget, Ben Aley,
Frank Coleman, Elsworth LaVille, John Johnson, George Robinson and
Herbert Vanoost. Frank Coleman resigned in 1910 to accept a position
as assistant lighthouse keeper in Kenosha, WI. Orville Lee and John
TerBeek were added in 1911.
|1912 saw the return
of Padget, Aley, LaVille, Johnson & TerBeek. David Wing was
added and Patrick Powers subbed for Herbert Vanoost who was
transferred to Holland.
In 1913, the
rebuilding of the Life Saving Station took place with the addition of
such modern conveniences as bath tubs, lavatories, and a complete
waterworks and sewer system. The structure was also moved back 50
feet and enlarged to accommodate a new power surf boat being added to
the station equipment. Ray Storm transferred from Big Point Sable
and William Lehman came from Chicago. Glen Tallant was also a member
of the crew. Capt. Curran retired in 1917 after 38 years in the
In 1917 Captain John
Bernard took over the station where he remained until his death in
|Captain James F.
Smith, who served 6 years at the Bois Blank station in the Straits,
became the new commanding officer in 1930. He, his wife and five
children had to cross over the ice at the Straits by means of dog
team to reach the mainland before coming to White Lake.
In 1934, Capt.
William Long took over the operations of the Coast Guard Station. He
was in charge of the station when the channel walls were rebuilt in
In 1939 Captain
James W. Fitzgerald from the Pentwater Coast Guard Station was
transferred to White Lake where he remained for 2 years. He had
previously served as part of the crew here back in 1917. He retired
from the Coast Guard service in 1945 after serving for 27 years. He
died in 1956.
In 1944 the Coast
Guard announced the pending closure of the station, which had been in
discussion since about 1941. In 1946 the station was put up for sale
to the highest bidder. In December 1946 the station was officially
sold to Raphael O. Holcomb and in June 1947, the Coast Guard Station
was moved to its new location on Life Guard Road by the old channel.
Any and all remaining structures at the original site were town down
including the old watch tower that had stood on the beach for more
than 50 years.
|By abandoning the
station, the land on which the station was built in 1886 reverted
back to the original land grantor – the heirs of the Dowling
estate. The Coast Guard had actually voided their lease when they
leased the property to R. O. Holcomb to use as a residence and
headquarters for a fishing business a couple of years earlier.
1956 – The former Coast Guard Station at its new location
house was significantly remodeled in 1998 and is now a private
The property where
the original Coast Guard Station was located has since been purchased
by the City of Montague and is now the parking area for use by people
going to Medbery Park or the channel.
With the departure
of the U. S. Coast Guard presence in the area, Jack deFraga, White
Lake Yachtsman and harbormaster, was instrumental in forming the
White Lake Coast Guard Auxiliary in 1946. Some of those who
volunteered early on to patrol the waters were: Clarence Pitkin, Jack
Butterfield, James and John Campbell, Jack Farmer, James Spencer and
Dr. Leland Holly.
deFraga and the Lifeboat that was purchased by the WLCGA for use in
the White Lake area.
n 1948 Frank Deneke
of Whitehall was appointed Harbormaster and Charles Coors of Montague
was deputy Harbormaster. They served until about 1955.
J. Marshall Lloyd
was named temporary Harbormaster in July 1958 to serve weekends and
holidays through September.
Jack Bursey was
appointed for the 1959 season.
In 1960, John Rybik
was employed as a full-time harbormaster from 10 AM to dark daily
until Labor Day and was on-call until the take froze.
By 1963, the duties
of lake patrol came under the jurisdiction of the Muskegon County
Sheriff’s Office Marine Division, as they are today.