Travelling this Great State of Michigan

Travelling this Great State of Michigan

Lately I have heard a lot of talk about people wanting to leave the State of Michigan. I can understand this is your reason is related to employment but what I can’t understand is the people who say things like “There’s nothing to do in Michigan”. I can only assume these people have never left the Metro Detroit area. The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, Rev. William H. Law (my Great-Great-Grandfather), travelled a lot for his mission to better the lives of the Life-Savers and Lightkeepers and I cannot visit a lighthouse or life-saving station anywhere in the Great Lakes today without remarking on the fact that he was already there 100 years ago. Now that Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes has been released it is allowing me some opportunities to travel this great state of ours more than any time in my life and I couldn’t be happier about it. Michigan has many great offerings and luckily for me, many of these places correspond with the tales in the book. The following are a few events I’ll be appearing at around the state: July 12, 2014 – 7:00pm, Les Cheneaux Historical Museum, Cedarville, MI – Presentation and Book Signing Rev. Law was the first homesteader in the Les Cheneaux area and a good portion of the story in the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes takes place in this area.  The Les Cheneaux Islands (Les Cheneaux is loose spelling of “The Channels” in French) are a group of 36 small islands, some inhabited, along 12 miles of Lake Huron shoreline on the southeastern tip of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My parents used to take us here in the summers to visit with other descendants of W. H. Law. If you’ve never taken a boat or kayak ride through “the channels” then you’re missing one of the many great things Michigan has to offer. The Les Cheneaux Historical Association was a big part of my research for the book and now that it is published they have graciously asked me to present the story at their museum. For more information on this and other event in the area you can visit the LCHA  and Les Cheneaux Islands Tourist Association. July  26, 2014 – 10am-5pm, Open House – Eagle Harbor Life-Saving Museum , Eagle Harbor, MI – Presentation and Book Signing I was fortunate enough to have lived in the Keweenaw Peninsula for 5 years while attending Michigan Tech University in Houghton. This portion of the state is rich with history, glorious geology and unparalleled natural beauty. Those of you who have visited the Keweenaw Peninsula know what I’m talking about and those who haven’t; well you have no idea what it is you are missing. Rev. Law was a regular visitor to many of the locations in the area and a major part of the story in Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes includes the United States Life-Saving Station at Eagle Harbor. Eagle Harbor is one of the Jewels of the peninsula. Almost as far north as you can go on the peninsula, the small town sits on a beautiful harbor dotted with large rock formations. On the east side of the harbor you will the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and on the west is what remains of the USLSS Station. The only remaining building at this location is the Boathouse which is now a museum. The Keweenaw County Historical Society has asked me to be a part of their Open House on July 26th. I’ll be holding a book signing at the event and giving a presentation on the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes and how Rev. Law’s life story ties in with the station and its first keeper, Capt. Albert Ocha. For more information on what the Keweenaw Peninsula has to offer please visit the Keweenaw County Historical Society’s website and the Keweenaw Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. August 2, 2014 – 10am-5pm, Pte. Aux Barques Heritage Festival’s 10th anniversary –Book Signing The Pte. Aux Barques lighthouse and life-saving station sits on a point in Michigan’s “Thumb” about half-way between Port Hope and Port Austin. It is a must-visit location in the area and a truly beautiful location. The grounds and museum are well worth the visit especially if you are into lighthouses and life-saving history. This year I’ll have the privilege of being a part of the Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse Society’s 10th anniversary festival.  The location also has a connection to the life-story of the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, Rev. W. H. Law. By 1902 Rev. Law decided he could better serve his “parishioners” if he owned...

William H. Law, Just Who Was He?

William H. Law, Just Who Was He?

During my research on William H. Law, The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, I happened upon an archived article of Lighthouse Digest from 2004. The article was written by Lighthouse Digest editor, Tim Harrison. The article was titled “Just who was he?” and was basically a call for information on Rev. Law. For such a small article, it actually contained a lot of clues that helped in my own research. For one it told me others were interested to find out more about the man, something which help sway my decision to try and turn the research into a book. The article also included a couple of new nicknames given to Law that I hadn’t run across yet, “Sky Pilot to Light Housemen” and “Sky Pilot to the lighthouse keepers.” Two more key phrases I could use in my library and newspaper searches to find new information. The article also contained the call to action “Let’s hear from you” and included and email address to contact them. Now I found this article from 2004 in 2011 and while it was worth a shot to send an email to that address, I fully expected it to bounce back as an invalid address due to its age. So I sent a query to the address introducing myself and requesting any information they may have received in their request. The email didn’t bounce. This was a good sign. At this period I was sending out a lot of “cold calls” like this hoping to find some bit of new information tucked away in some far off place so when I didn’t get a response right away I moved on to other leads. About a week later I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was nearing the end of a week-long research trip. My wife and I were about 20 minutes out of Manistique when I got an email. The email was from Tim Harrison answering my query. Tim stated that he hadn’t received much new information on Rev. Law but did include the information he did have in two of his books, Ghost Lights of Michigan and Lighthouses of the Sunrise County, and that he would love to know more about him. I immediately ordered copies of the books and thanks Tim for the leads. I informed him about my project and naively information him that I would release my findings “in a few months”. “A few months” turned in to a few years, but the project was finally completed and Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes was released. I emailed Tim again apologizing for how long it took and informing him the story was now available. His reply was ecstatic and after reading the book replied, “Since I was somewhat familiar with W. H. Law, having written about him briefly in the past, I was enthralled by your fascinating book. You’ve done a great job of telling and now saving a valuable slice of maritime history for future generations.” Needless to say, I was very happy with this reply. — Buy a copy of Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes at Amazon.com, Avery Color Studios, Barnes & Noble, Foghorn Publishing or pick up a copy at retail outlets and gift shops around the Great Lakes...

Rebuilding the Family of William H. Law

Rebuilding the Family of William H. Law

While researching Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, one aspect was really special for me and that was finding and connecting with distant relatives.  I had started with the family members I knew my entire life, immediate family, aunts, uncles and various degrees of cousins. When the information flow about my subject, The Reverend William H. Law, started to dwindle from those sources I started searching for (and found) many other descendants from the Law family lines. They all had a deep interest in the project and shared my desire to see the story told, and they all had bits and pieces of new information that helped put it all together. But what really amazed me was the ingrained love of the Great Lakes, something we all shared, something that only could have come from family. Especially since many of these “cousins” live far and away from the lakes themselves. Through this project I met Marguerite. Her grandfather was one of William’s brothers. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta and sent me a package of photos, letters and news articles on the Law family. I had just returned from a trip to the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario when the package arrived and found out that that William’s parents had moved to Meaford, ON and are buried in the cemetery there. I was a bit saddened by this since I was a mere 30 miles from Meaford during my trip and could have made the trip had I known. I also met Charles, grandson of William. H. Law. Charles lives in Grand Rapids, MI but summers in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan near Lake Michigan. We had a long phone conversation sharing stories and information, most of which made it into the book. Charles also put me in touch with his son David, who lives in Texas. David regularly travels back to Michigan to visit with his father. He was able to send me copies of letters written by William that I had never seen and that had shed some light and opened new avenues of research for the story.  One of the highlights of talking with David was when I told him the story of “Grandpa” Law’s visits with and letters to John D. Rockefeller and his son. It turned out that in a previous job David had worked closely with Senator John Davison “Jay” Rockefeller IV. If this story was known at the time he could have shared this connection with Sen. Rockefeller. I also connected with Richard and Chuck who both live in Arkansas. Richard, I found out is also an author and Chuck was able to send me a copy of an 8-page letter written by Mary Law about her husband, William and his works. This letter added so much to the story in so many ways. It contained missing pieces of information I was looking for and, most importantly, added more to Mary’s story; something that I felt was greatly needed in order to fully tell the overall story. I also had the pleasure of meeting Garth. Garth it turned out had very little knowledge of his ancestry and yet somehow managed to meld his love of the Great Lakes with his own career. Garth, it turned out, was a Captain on the Arnold Line, spending his day navigating the Straits of Mackinac, the very same waters often travelled by his Great-Great-Grandfather, William. After the book was release I had the pleasure of being interviewed for an article in the St. Ignace News. Not long after the article ran I got a call from the News that a descendant of William had read the article and wanted to contact me. MargaretteAnn (who goes by the nickname Peggy) is a granddaughter of William and lives on the shores of Lake Huron in St. Ignace, MI.  She was so surprised and pleased to read the article about the book that she bought copies of the paper to send to all her children and grandchildren. We plan to meet when I travel to Hessel, MI to give a presentation on the story for the Les Cheneaux Historical Society. For me, I have a new extended family scattered across the United States and Canada. I am happy that I was able to put this book together with their help and give them something they can share with their friends and family...