Mary Terry was a strong woman and she had to be. She was one of the first female lighthouse keeper’s on the Great Lakes. For 18 years Mary kept the light burning in Sand Point Lighthouse on the shore of Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. Like many other stories we heard in the UP, Mary’s death was a mystery.
Mary’s husband, John, was the first keeper being appointed, December 1867, even before the lighthouse was completed. John never was truly keeper of the light, he died in April 1868 a month before the light was lit. His wife Mary was appointed and served as keeper until 1886. Her death was associated with a mysterious fire in the lighthouse, yet Mary was found dead in the oil room. The cause of the fire and Mary’s death was never established leading some to believe she was murdered. Some say Mary will make occasional visits to check on the lighthouse.
The light went dark in 1939 after a new automated light was placed off shore. The Coast Guard took over the building until 1985 when they moved to a new location. The old lighthouse was abandoned and saved by the Delta County Historical Society. The building was restored to its original glory including lantern room and lens. Today Sand Point Lighthouse stands as it did in 1868 and Mary would be proud.
We did not see Mary on our visit. The day was bright, sunny and warm; we could only imagine what Mary’s life was like as keeper especially on cold winter nights. She was a strong and determined woman who helped to made navigating Lake Michigan a little safer.