Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2017

Sara Lane – One Tough Lady Light Keeper

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Sara Lane, keeper of the Mission Point Lighthouse ...

The following is part of an article that appeared in the Evening Express newspaper on November 18, 1905 about Sara Lane, who was the wife of John W. Lane, the lighthouse keeper at Mission Point Lighthouse in Traverse City, Michigan from 1881 to 1906. For the last four years of John Lane’s life, his wife Sara assumed most of his duties while he was ill. When he died in 1906, Sara Lane was appointed the keeper, a position that she kept for only one more year. After you read the short story, you will realize that she was obviously one tough lady.

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Old image of Michigan’s Mission Point Lighthouse. ...

Beacon to Sailors Cared for by Woman

In the capable hands of Mrs. Lane are the actual duties of caring for the light, and although she is well advanced in years, it would be impossible to find a point on the lakes where the work is better done. This necessitates many a weary climb to the top of the tower; and the number of working hours would appall a union man, as the lamp must be in correct working order during the day and the large glass globe, as well as the exterior panes of glass, polished so they are absolutely spotless. The oil must be carefully measured, as a strict count of everything must be made to the inspector. It is changed at midnight and extinguished at sunrise. This sounds simple enough, but it is a small part of the night’s task, as the light must be carefully watched, owning changes affected in it by smoking or going down, and the colder the weather and worse the storm, the oftener must Mrs. Lane make her weary trips to the top of the tower to guard against trouble. On foggy nights, the panes must be frequently wiped with glycerin to keep them clear.

Lost Her Fingers

Last spring, while caring for the light one night during a storm the heavy door of the tower was blown shut, catching her hand. So intent was she on the discharge of her duties that she did not realize for several minutes that the end of her fingers had been cut off as clearly as though done with a knife. It never occurred to her that it would be the proper thing to faint away and she finished her work before she left the tower.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2017 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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