Sand Island Lighthouse, ~1920s
Sand Island Light Station, November 30, 1901
SW fresh warm. Mrs. Luick inspected the Station. Everything in order for the winter.
Huh? What’s this? Twenty-two year-old Ella Luick suddenly in charge of closing up?
That’s a man’s job! Where the hell is the Keeper?
Keeper Emmanuel Luick is sick in bed, that’s where the hell he is. He’s been flat on his back for most of the last three weeks.
November 10, 1901
S gale & Cloudy warm. Therm 11 Above. Keeper is not feeling well.
November 11, 1901
NW fresh & Cloudy warm. Changed to N. gale. Keeper is very miserble.
And Ella has been caring for him, and tending the light every night, and in her free time, hiking four miles to get fixings for soup.
Thursday, November 14, 1901
NW heavy gale cold and clear. Keeper sick in bed. His wife taking care of Station. Mr. Moe was over. Mrs. Luick bought two chickens in East Bay.
And trying, unsuccessfully, to get a doctor across to look at her husband.
November 15, 1901
North heavy gale clear and cold. Keepers condition unchanged. Have asked Mr. Louis Moe to go to Bayfield for Dr. Austin. Mrs. Moe was over.
November 16, 1901
North fresh decreased clear and cold. Keeper is a little improved. Too stormy to go for a Dr. Mr. Moe was over this morning. Mrs. Luick inspected.
And getting everything ready for winter shutdown.
November 18, 1901
West fresh. / heavy swell. warm. Keeper the same. Mrs. Luick closed the upstairs part, packed the fruit and potatoes, cleaned the cellar and other work.
No need for an assistant keeper at a minor station like Sand Island– the keeper’s wife is already there if he needs help! Times are tough and we have to keep costs down.
November 22, 1901
NE gale and snow. very cold. Keeper was very sick in the night. Mr. Moe came over in the morning with milk and oatmeal.
Thank God for the handful of neighbor families down the shore at East Bay.
November 23, 1901
SSW breeze, very cloudy. Keeper feels quite well today. Mrs. Luick inspected the Station.
Ups and downs, ups and downs…
November 24, 1901
North half gale cloudy. Mrs. Luick went across to East Bay. Keeper had a bad spell during the night.
It was not until the final hours of the season that Ella’s husband improved enough to begin pitching in again.
Tuesday, November 26, 1901
SE light and cloudy. Keeper is improving a little.
Wednesday, November 27, 1901
NE light breeze cloudy. Keeper still improving.
Friday, November 29, 1901
NNE breeze cloudy and quite warm. We closed the shop and cellar and packed valises.
So that’s why, 110 years ago today, Ella Luick set pen to paper and closed out the year in her husband’s place. Proudly? Wearily? With a thrill of exhilaration or with tears of exhaustion? You and I will never know; all we can be sure of is this:
“Mrs. Luick inspected the Station. Everything in order for the winter.”
Epilogue: Sanity finally prevailed over the winter. On May 16, 1902, Henry A. Irvine arrived at the Sand Island Lighthouse to take on the newly-established position of Assistant Keeper, nearly twenty-one years after the station went into service. I think it’s reasonable to surmise that this change may have had something to do with official dismay upon hearing about three harrowing weeks when mariners had to rely on “a mere girl” to guide their way through the gales of November.
Ella and Emmanuel Luick Wedding Picture, 1895