It was in 1848 that a Captain Justice Bailey sought shelter from a severe storm on Lake Michigan and took refuge in the harbor which today bears his name. He was in charge of one of a dozen vessels owned by a Mr. Alanson Sweet, a industrialist in Milwaukee, who had extensive businesses in shipping stone and lumber to Detroit.
We have a letter from Mrs. Byron Treat of Buchanan, Michigan. Written in 1953 to Mrs. Donald Boynton of Bjorklunden. Mrs. Treat at age 88 was writing to tell how an uncle of hers, Capt. Justice Bailey convinced Mrs. Treat’s grandparents of Racine, Wisconsin to be his guests for the round trip to Detroit. He told them how beautiful the fall colors during October would be and explained he would be dropping off cargo in Detroit and then returning to Racine for another kind of lumber, and so they accompanied him. But the ships encountered a violent, unexpected storm that forced him to seek shelter in a little cove or inlet as she called it, and remain there over night. The next morning after the storm had passed Capt. Bailey came ashore to look around the area and found natural lime stone to be mined in a area that is now behind the Lutheran church. Knowing that his employer, Alanson Sweet was in the business of selling stone to commercial building contractors, Capt. Bailey took samples of the stone with him. He also noted the abundance of timber and prepared a map of the harbor to take back to Mr. Sweet along with specimens of Pine, Maple and Beech. Upon his return he gave a glowing report to Alan Sweet who had visions of great business possibilities in the new area.
The next year 1849 Mr. Sweet sent a crew of men to build a pier and a sawmill at the harbor and to open a stone quarry. Before the end of another year had passed, there were six log cabins in the tiny settlement and a road had been cut through the woods westwards to the Green Bay shoreline. This road is known as County trunk F today. Mr. Sweet sent his scribe, Mr. Soloman Beery to take charge of the work crews in 1849. During the winter of 1849 and 1850 Mr. Beery's crew cut and milled 2500 cords of wood for shipment.
The First Lighthouse
In 1851 Mr. Sweet, a very aggressive businessman, induced the United States government to build a lighthouse under his supervision, on the east side of the harbor.
In the Milwaukee Daily Sentinel of August 19, 1852 I quote: “Lighthouses on Lake Michigan: We learn from Capt. Miller the efficient superintendent of lights on the North Western Lakes. That our fellow citizen, Alanson Sweet has nearly completed the light at Baileys Harbor and it will be ready for use in a week or two.”
This lighthouse was in use until 1870. When it was discontinued to upgrade the navigation lights to a Range light system. The lighthouse was abandoned and remained unused until the U.S. Government decided to sell it. A deed dated June 24, 1926 shows that it was sold to a W. Mahler for the highest bid of $500. The lighthouse keepers house had rotted and was rebuilt by William Tishler Sr. The property remains privately owned.
First lighthouse built in Baileys Harbor
There are only 3 lighthouses in the United States with the birdcage dome on top. There’s one in the state of Michigan, one in New York and ours in Baileys Harbor. Mrs. Mary Ann Johnson the founder and president of the Baileys Harbor Historic Society have nomination the birdcage lighthouse to the National Register of Historic Sites.
In 1851 Mr. Sweet convinced the State Legislature to grant county status to the peninsula and to make Baileys Harbor the first county seat under the name Gibraltar. However, no official business was transacted and in 1858 the name Baileys Harbor was again given to the area through the citizens’ preference and Sturgeon Bay became the county seat.
In the meantime Mr. Alanson Sweet, through financial difficulties, severed his relations with the activities of Baileys Harbor. The lumber business continued to thrive in the late 1860’s through to the 1890’s.
Also a sawmill owned by Mr. J.W. Lowel was built on the shore near Higgin’s pier. After a few years the mill moved away and Mr. J.T. Wright built the Peninsula House nearby. The steam ship Ludington of the Goodrich Steamship line called once a week to unload passengers and freight. The Peninsula, House built in 1871, was located not far from the Higgin’s pier. In the Door County Advocate of 1871 Mr. Wright's advertisement read: “Peninsula House … at the steam boat landing, pleasant place, table filled & customers treated with expectation of coming back with Faithful attention given to the comforts and wants of the traveling public. Stage couch service to Sturgeon Bay.”
The National Hotel owned by Thomas Mc Cullough opened in the 1870’s. In 1853 Mr. S.B.Ward came to Baileys Harbor and bought a house belonging to Mr. W. L. Brooks on the site where he built the Baileys Harbor House. Later owned by Mr. Adam Hendrick in 1871.
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