It was July 7, 1911 and Johanna Knuth, clutching her son, stood at the base of the Au Sable Pierhead Lighthouse, where she and others had taken refuge as they watched a fire sweep through the community of Oscoda, Michigan, destroying nearly everything in its path.
Although the fire did not reach the lighthouse, which was protected by its pier location, little could she or the others have imagined that the fire would cause the indirect demise of the lighthouse.
Johanna Knuth was lucky; her home was among the few structures in the community that was untouched by the firestorm. With nearly all the industry destroyed, most people simply moved from the area, but a few, including the Knuth family stayed on to continue their lives, especially since they still had their home.
However, with the loss of the areas industry, the lighthouse, which had been built in 1873, was no longer needed and lighthouse keeper Thomas Hendrickson lost his job at the beacon when the government decided to demolish the structure.
Today it is Johanna Knuth’s grandson who is trying to keep alive the memory the AuSable Pierhead Lighthouse. After his retirement, Raymond Knuth became an amateur radio operator and put the lost and forgotten lighthouse “on the air.”
During the third weekend every August for the International Amateur Radio Operators Lighthouse Weekend he and other amateur lighthouse radio operators from all over the world set up their stations at lighthouses and broadcast and communicate with others from them. Knuth broadcasts as KB8ZYY from the base of what remains of the old lighthouse, and sends a post card with an image of the lighthouse to other radio operators that he contacts or that contact him. It is almost with certainty that the other operators, some who broadcast from famous and well-known lighthouses, have never heard of the Au Sable Pierhead Lighthouse.
The lighthouse is sometimes spelled Ausable and is also referred to by some as the Oscoda Lighthouse. It stood at the mouth of the Au Sable River where it meets Lake Huron, about eight miles north of Detroit, Michigan.
Knuth’s post card refers to it as USA #929, with its correct name, AuSable Pierhead Lighthouse. He’s done some research on the light and his dream is to one day see a replica of the lighthouse built at the site to replace the modern aid to navigation on a steel pole that is used there today.
For you history buffs, others to serve as keepers of the lighthouse were J. M. Taggart and George Keating.
Raymond Knuth can be contacted via email at KB8ZYY@charter.net or by mail at P.O. Box 271, Oscoda, MI 48750. He’d love to hear from you.
This story appeared in the
August 2007 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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