Saturday, January 24, 2015



- Washington Island, Wisconsin

After my last post and the photos that showed how piers in Detroit Harbor looked a few years ago, I decided it's a good time to go into more detail - as much as possible, that is.  A great deal of information has been lost, and as a result we use conjecture to reconstruct the way we thought things were.

This year will be the 75th for the Washington Island Ferry Line, hence the logo with the dates at the top.   If nothing else, this provides further excuse for delving into the past, something I always enjoy doing, especially when it involves old photos.  And in the case of Island harbor docks and activities, in many cased these photos seem to do more to tell the story than available written information.  So, I'll liberally illustrate the way things were in the harbors using photos available.   A few of these may look familiar.  Either I've already used them in earlier blogs, or they've appeared in Over and Back - A History of Washington Island Transportation (a book published in 1990, in timing with the Ferry Line's 50th Anniversary, and out of print since about 1997).

The pier photo shown in my previous posting was taken by Bob Williams in 1949 (related, I believe, to Dede Rollo, who had a cottage in Jensenville), and it showed the Chris Andersen freighter WISCONSIN, at the location we now know as the Island Outpost dock.  I believe that earlier this was the dock developed by J. W. Cornell, where he moored his fishing boats.

Because of the interest expressed, below are several more photos of the WISCONSIN during her earlier days of ferrying cars (most likely the mid-to-late 1920s).  The pier location at which she is loading, in my opinion, appears to be near the present day Shipyard Marina.  Perhaps the base of this pier was the former Gislason dock, used by the store's owners at the turn of the last century for receiving shipment of goods for their store.

This photo was taken of the J. W. Cornell family when four identical
autos were loaded aboard the WISCONSIN (maybe just arriving
at the island for the first time).  This photo also speaks of a
time when money was to be made in commercial fishing, as the
autos were purchased by sons of Clara and J.W. Cornell.  Sons

Claude and George are believed to be in the white hats, standing behind 
their parents.   They, and another son, Bill, we believe were the owners 
of new Hudsons.   Daughter Mary (Richter) is in the back row, 
right hand side, with dark hair, and her sister, Audrey, is in
front, blond hair, looking at the camera.  According to the Door County 
Advocate issue of June 24, 1927,  an article clipped by Eric Greenfeldt 
(grandson of Bill and Harriet Cornell):  " It is quite surprising how many
high priced autos have been sold on the Island recently.  George
Mann sold three Hudson cars in one day, which is suggestive
of the business being done in that line here."

This early photo showing folks dressed in
fashionable wear

speaks to an early tourism trade.
The end of this pier as shown is broad and smoothly decked-over, suitable for maneuvering and loading automobiles, passengers, or for stacking freight.  That was the location William Jepson, one of the early ferry operators, used until the very early 1930s, at which point he transferred landings to the present Lobdell Point ferry landing location.  Jepson purchased and then developed the boatyard property formerly owned and managed by Ole Christiansen.

Shown is the early beginnings of the ferry dock at Lobdell
Point.  Logs piled on ice show work is in progress.
A small shack in the background is on the
Standard Oil pier, where barrels can be
seen lined up along that pier.  Bill Jepson, who was

responsible for this dock work,
was an avid photographer, and so it is likely
this photo, as well as many other early 

ferry photos, were taken by him.
Ole's name popped up a number of times when I researched the Thordarson book.  At one time Ole had a pier in Jackson Harbor for the purpose of loading timber products.   I'm just guessing, but I think his pier may have been located in the fairly deep water tucked inside the northeast corner of that harbor (the remains of old cribs can still be seen there along the shore).  Ole, who was quite enterprising, also owned - and was the last owner  of - the schooner MADONNA.   In later years (about 1915 or so) this vessel was grounded and abandoned in Detroit Harbor, in the area immediately west of the old Ida Bo (or Holiday Inn) pier.   Bits and pieces of the MADONNA still are mired in the bottom in that general location.

Summer fun with a rowboat, taken in front of
the cottage currently occupied by
Connie Essig.  MADONNA remains are
in the background.
A photograph from old Koken photos show children (perhaps Koken grandchildren?) playing in a rowboat, with the remains of the Madonna visible in the background.   For general interest, I've included here another Koken photo, one of their motor launch BERYLUNE, shown loaded to the scuppers with cedar shakes.  Where those shakes came from is anyone's guess, but very likely they were transported to the island by ferry to the shipyard location, and then reloaded by the Kokens for transport across the harbor to … the bayou estuary, where the Kokens owned what became later on the Arni and Mary Richter property.  The Kokens had a small pier and, later, a boathouse with marine railway.   Many of the buildings on this piece of property were - and still are - sided with cedar shakes.

BERYLUNE is a fine little boat with classy lines, and if you'd like to see her in a beautifully restored condition, please visit the Gills Rock Maritime Museum where she's a featured display, complete with her 1-cyl. Straubel engine.  How this craft wound up in the Gills Rock museum, and what the trail of ownership might have been after the Kokens owned it would be a good research project.  (Perhaps a reader may know the answer?)

BERYLUNE at Bayou dock in Detroit Harbor,
loaded with bundles of cedar shakes. (photo
taken perhaps late 'teens or early 1920s)
But, back to the early ferry WISCONSIN, a wooden vessel pressed into service as an auto / passenger ferry back when only freight boats were available for such trade.   We can see that loading was no picnic, but with the use of planks three or four autos could be squeezed side-by-side, thwartships (or rail-to-rail, rather than fore and aft).   This worked for a number of years, with several different in service.

Next time I'll use information from early county newspaper accounts that detailed the efforts of several operators to start an island ferry service, sent to me by Eric Greenfeldt.

-  Dick Purinton

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