The United States Lighthouse Service approved construction of the Sand Point Lighthouse in Escanaba at a cost of $11,000. Construction began in the fall of 1867, and was completed in early spring 1868. John Terry was appointed the first lighthouse keeper of the new lighthouse in December 1867, but he became very ill and died in April 1868 a month before the lighthouse was ready to be manned. With the lighthouse nearly completed, but with no lightkeeper ready to report to duty, John Terry’s wife, Mary, was appointed lightkeeper and subsequently became one of the first female lightkeepers on the Great Lakes Mary was the one who lit the fourth order Fresnel lens on the night of May 13, 1868. which could be seen for 11.5 miles.
Mary Terry was a well-respected citizen in the community and fulfilled her duties as lightkeeper with efficiency and dedication.She lived there alone, as she and her husband had no children and was lightkeeper until 1886, when a mysterious fire severely damaged the lighthouse and took her life. To date, no one knows exactly what happened or why it happened. Some speculate that it was an attempted burglary and that the suspect set the lighthouse afire to cover any evidence of wrongdoing. The south entrance door showed signs of forced entry, yet none of Mary Terry’s valuables were taken, and the fact that Mary was found in the oil room and not in her bedroom, led people to believe there was foul play. Deep snow made it impossible for fire fighters to reach the lighthouse before it was very badly damaged. Some people who knew Mary Terry found it hard to believe that this was an accident since she was so careful and efficient.
One other strange fact about the Sand Point Lighthouse is that it was constructed with its tower facing the land instead of facing the water. Whether this orientation was intentional or an engineering blunder is unknown.
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