Keeper’s Log, December 24

Outer Island Light Station, December 24, 1877

SW, light. Ther. 44. No signs of snow yet this weather is quite remarkable.

Nice. Enjoy it while you can.

Sixteen years later, on December 24, 1893, Mrs. McRea, wife of a workman at the stone quarry on Basswood Island, left her husband and two small children at their cabin, and set off with a neighbor across three miles of ice to Bayfield to buy Christmas presents. Things did not work out well.

Bayfield County Press, December 30, 1893

Perished in the Blizzard

Last Sunday Mrs. D. F. McRea, accompanied by Mrs. B. Conlin, came over from Bass Island and spent a few hours here securing Christmas presents for the little ones at their island home. Accompanied by T. Gonia, they started to return about three o’clock in the afternoon, the distance being only three miles they expected to reach home before dark. They had not gone far before the terrible snow storm, that raged all that night, was upon them, blinding them and weighing them down. They soon became lost and wandered about helplessly.

Mr. McRea becoming alarmed at their not arriving shortly after dark started out with a lantern and compass. He reached Bayfield all right only to find that his wife had left several hours previous. With a heart filled with anxiety as to her welfare he hastened back. The beams from his lantern caught the eyes of the weary ones and he was soon with them and only about a mile from home.

His wife was almost exhausted and after walking a short distance gave out. He then tried to carry her but was unable to do so. As a last resort the party buried themselves in the snow, where they remained several hours, but Mrs. McRea continuing to grow weaker, her husband started home after help, which he secured and returning, the helpless woman was wrapped in blankets and the weary homeward march was resumed, where they arrived between three and four in the morning, but the spirit of a loving wife and mother had flown, Mrs. McRea expiring when her earthly home was just in view.

The remains were brought to Bayfield Tuesday, enclosed in a metallic coffin and, accompanied by the bereaved husband and two little children — one only four months old — started on the long journey to her former home at Bolsover, Ontario, Canada.

Mr. and Mrs. McRea had been residents of Bass Island during the past year, he being in the employ of the Bass Island Brownstone Company. They were highly respected and made many friends. Mr. McRea will return in the spring.

The NPS campsites on the south end of Basswood Island are located among the traces of the quarry workers’ cabins. There are no signs, but if you look closely you can see the berms and depressions that mark their outlines. I’m not sure I could sleep there– if there is any place on the islands that is haunted, this has to be it.

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