Turtle Island (Lake Erie)

Turtle Island (Lake Erie)

Turtle Island is a small island in Lake Erie that defines part of the boundary between the U.S. states of Ohio and Michigan. The island lies at coord|41|45|9|N|83|23|28|W|, just outside of the Maumee Bay about five miles (8 km) northeast of the mouth of the Maumee River, which empties into Lake Erie at Toledo, Ohio. The island is the site of the ruins of a lighthouse.

The island is named for Little Turtle, a leader of the Miami tribe in the Northwest Indian War in the late 18th century. The island had served as a fort in 1794, but in 1827 the six and two-third acre (27,000 m²) island was sold at an auction in Monroe, Michigan, to Edward Bissell. However, the U.S. federal government repurchased the island on May 21, 1831, and established a lighthouse there as a navigational aid to the rapidly growing harbor in Toledo. By this time, the island had been reduced to one and a half acres (6,000 m²) due to erosion. [Holland, Francis Ross, Jr. (1988). "America's Lighthouses: An Illustrated History", p. 179. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN 048625576X.] Unlike most other Lake Erie islands that are made up of rock outcroppings, Turtle island consists primarily of clay and gravel.

Philo Scovile was contracted to build the first lighthouse, which was a 44-foot high structure on the north end of the island with a lamp visible to about six miles distant. By July 1836, the island had eroded to less than one acre (4,000 m²) and the federal government spent $16,700 over two years to help protect the island. In 1857, a new Fresnel lens and reflecting system was installed, increasing visibility of the original lamp to fourteen miles.

After the Civil War, Congress appropriated $12,000 to build a new lighthouse, which was a 45-foot tower and used the lens from the original lighthouse. The new light first operated on September 12, 1866. However, the new lighthouse was still vulnerable to Lake Erie storms, with extensive damage caused by severe storms in 1876, 1881, and 1882. In 1884, a four-foot (1.2 m) concrete wall surrounding the lighthouse was added to provide some protection from waves.

By the beginning of the 20th century, it was determined that the increasingly larger ships used for shipping on the Great Lakes were not able to use the shallow shipping lane near Turtle Island. A new deeper channel was built, and in 1904, the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse was completed, making the continued operation of the Turtle Island Light unnecessary. The lighthouse was decommissioned on May 15, 1904, having cost the federal government over a million dollars to maintain and operate.

After decommissioning, the island was sold in auction to A. H. Merrill for $1,650 on December 6, 1904. The lens and lighting apparatus was removed, although any subsequent re-use is unknown. The lighthouse fell victim to vandalism over the next thirty years, and by the late 1920s, everything except for the bare walls had been removed or destroyed.

In 1933, a private yacht club in Toledo considered reviving the island as a base for their operations, but decided it was too far away to be convenient for most of its membership to use.

Another severe storm on Palm Sunday, 1965, resulted in a tornado that toppled the lantern from the top of the tower leaving only iron spikes protruding from the tower.

In 1973, a long-running boundary dispute between Michigan and Ohio (yet another remnant of the so-called Toledo War) was resolved, with both states agreeing to have the boundary line divide the island in half. Owners of the island have had to pay taxes to both states ever since.

The island is still privately owned. Following a visit by kayak in April 2008, it was observed that the rising water level of Lake Erie, and more erosion, have caused the island to shrink further.

In May, 2008, Erie Township trustees were taking bids from contractors to raze or dismantle cabins and storage sheds that were built without governmental approval. A trust directed by Keith Fifer began a building project in early 2002. Three cabins and a pair of storage sheds were constructed before a Monroe County Circuit judge issued a stop order. The court interceded in the project after Mr. Fifer and Chris Bodi, his partner in the development, failed to secure building permits and provide county officials with a plan to treat sewage generated from the business. [ [http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080529/NEIGHBORS04/805280362 Erie Twp. seeks bids to remove buildings] ]


External links

* [http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=271 Description of island and lighthouse] (the source for much of the information in this article)
* [http://www.aerialpics.com/I/turtleI.html Aerial photographs of the new construction on the island]
* [http://www.captain-johns.com/Ohio/Turtle.html Turtle Island Lighthouse - Turtle Island History]

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