Walter Ottosen – Manistique Light Keeper

Walter Ottosen circa 1920. Photo courtesy Carol Dixson

           Manistique’s longest serving light keeper, Walter Ottosen, was born at Washington Island, Wisconsin on July 18, 1876. He was the youngest of three surviving children born to Danish immigrants, Lars Peter Ottosen and Marie (Nielson) Ottosen. Walter’s siblings included eight year old George and four year old Morris. Walter never knew his mother who died when he was a small child in October of 1878.

            Lars Ottosen worked as a cooper, making barrels for fishermen to preserve their catch in salt brine. Unable to both care for his young family and earn a living, Ottosen sailed to Rowley’s Bay on the Door Peninsula. There he found Christine Pedersen and convinced her to return with him to Washington Island to care for his three young sons. Christine and the boys bonded almost immediately, forming a loving and nurturing relationship. Lars and Christine were married less than a month later on July 4, 1879.


The Chicago Lumbering Co. Mill Fire – December 14, 1907

The Chicago Lumbering Company Mill built in 1876 and destroyed by fire on Dec. 14, 1907.

The Chicago Lumbering Company mill built in 1876 and destroyed by fire on Dec. 14, 1907.

           During the evening hours of Saturday, December 14, 1907, a fire broke out at the Chicago Lumbering Company mill. The cause of the fire was the overheating of the friction feed and was quickly spread by the belts to all parts of the mill. The timbers which had for years been soaked with black oil provided a ready fuel for the fire. In less than ten minutes, the entire structure was engulfed in flames. The timing of the fire was ironic, as the mill was scheduled to be shut down for the winter season at midnight on the evening that it was destroyed. The plant was one of the oldest landmarks in the city, dating back to 1876 when the population numbered only a few hundred people.