Searching for “The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes”

In my research for the book “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes” I scoured the online newspaper archives for information pertaining to Rev. Law. The advent of online, searchable newspaper databases that returned scanned PDF or images of the originals, made the task of finding news articles much easier than it would have just a decade or more ago.

I found many articles from newspapers from around the United States, and the majority of them were similar (if not exact) to the following article from The Washington Herald, Feb 13, 1910:


The_Washington_herald_-_February_13_1910_-_Fourth_Part_-_Page_3_-_Sky_Pilot_of_the_Great_Lakes“SKY PILOT OF THE LAKES

The Rev. W.H. Law’s Parish Extends from Buffalo to Duluth.

A parish 1,800 miles in length and 300 miles in width is in charge of the Rec. W. H. Law, known from Buffalo to Duluth as the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, say the New York Sun.

The membership of this parish runs into the thousands and the great majority of the parishioners never worship twice in the same locality, for services are held mostly in moving ships. Some are held at lonely lighthouses far from other human habitation.

No wedding has ever taken place in this parish, no christening of a baby, no service for the burial of the dead.

The sky pilot seeks his parishioners in a small gasoline boat twenty-two feet in length.  Besides carrying the message of the Gospel to these me he takes to them books, magazines, papers, and news of the outside world. His visits are looked forward to by lighthouse keepers and the lightship crews, for his territory is so large that he is unable to visit them more than once during the season. He maintains a small circulating library of not more than seventy books. He also carries with him a phonograph with records of the most popular hymns.

Some of the lighthouses visited are far from the mainland, and the trips to them are hazardous. Stannard Rock light, for instance, is nearly fifty miles out from Marquette on Lake Superior. It is erected on a small but dangerous reef which resembles a whale’s back.

The Light is 165 feet in height and rests on crib work, which is encircled by a railway, and for weeks at a time the weather is so bad that it is dangerous for the keepers to venture out of doors. Between the light and Keweenaw Point there is a depth of 1,008 feet of water.

On his travels the sky pilot visits 300 lighthouses, fifteen lightships, and sixty life-saving stations. Mr. Law does not outwardly resemble a minister of the Gospel. He is big and healthy and has a rolling gait like a sailor. He preaches simply to the sailor, with whom he is very popular. “


In all I found 158 newspaper and magazine articles from across the United States that featured something on Rev. Law and I’m sure, as they keep adding more papers to the archives, more will be available. The most useful information came from feature articles from large Great Lakes Ports like Detroit, Chicago and Duluth. Other useful articles came from Newspapers in Pittsburgh and New York.

If you are planning to do some historical research and don’t have the time or money to travel to these locations and sift through their extensive archives, these online services are a godsend and I highly recommend them.

Here is a list of great databases: – Great for magazines and periodicals

Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes
Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes: A Biography of the Rev. William H. Law” is NOW AVAILABLE through, Avery Color Studios and Barnes & Noble.

Coming soon retail outlets throughout the Great Lakes region.


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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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