Rogers City, The Nautical City

Rogers City, The Nautical City

Roger’s City, Michigan holds a special place in my heart. This small town of about 3000 people is located in Presque Isle county on the shore of Lake Huron between the cities of Alpena and Cheboygan. It calls itself the “Nautical City”, in part because of its location on Lake Huron, its proximity to the 40 Mile Point, Old and New Presque Isle lighthouses and the fact that it houses the Port of Calcite, the world’s largest open pit limestone quarry and one of the largest shipping ports on the Great Lakes, within its boundaries. It also happens to be the city in which I was born.

Old Presque Isle Light

Old Presque Isle Light

Rogers City was the home port of two ships that went down on the Great Lakes, the SS Carl D. Bradley and the SS Cedarville. The Bradley, while heading home on November 18th 1958 in a November gale, succumbed to the stresses of the wind and wave and sank to the bottom of Lake Michigan, taking with her 33 souls of her 35-man crew, 23 of which were from Rogers City. One crewmember who was lost, Alfred F. Boehmer, was a distant relative of mine, his wife and my grandmother being cousins. While I wasn’t yet born when the Bradley met her fate, stories of that night handed down through my family are among some of my earliest memories. The Cedarville, met her fate in 1965 when she collided with the SS Topdalsfjord in a heavy fog, taking 10 souls with her. Whenever I’m in Rogers City I try to make it a point to visit the memorial for these ships, a plaque mounted on a large boulder located in Lakeside Park.

40 Mile Point Light

40 Mile Point Light

New Presque Isle Light

New Presque Isle Light

I also have fond memories of the many times as a youth spending a day at the New Presque Isle lighthouse helping to clear brush from the trails leading to the shore then climbing its 139 steps after the work was done to get the great view it provides.  I’ve always loved this lighthouse as it’s one of the tallest on the lakes and the setting, with its many white cedars and occasional birches lining the Huron shore, makes for some wonderful scenery.

Then there was the annual trip to the Rogers City Nautical Festival, a nearly week-long event celebrating all things nautical and the rich nautical history of the town. Of course, as a child, my favorite part was the professional fireworks display that would cap the end of the festival. This is year it is my pleasure to take part in the 2016 Rogers City Nautical Festival as vendor. I’ll be signing copies of my own piece of Great Lakes Maritime History, my book, Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes.

If you’re in the area August 5-7, 2016, or need a reason to get away, come the Nautical Festival. While you’re there stop by the Arts & Crafts area near the courthouse where I’ll have copies of Sky Pilot available and my wife, Kim, will be showing her photography which includes some great shots of the local lighthouses. It should be a good time. See you there!

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John Kotzian was born in Rogers City, Michigan located on the shore of Lake Huron and raised some 30 miles away in Hillman, Michigan. He is the great-great-grandson of the “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes”, Rev. William H. Law.

His passion for the Great Lakes and its history grew from the stories handed down through both sides of his family about Rev. Law’s travels and relatives lost in the sinking of the S.S. Carl D. Bradley.

He currently resides with his wife, Kimberly, in Brooklyn, MI.
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