This vessel was designated the YY by the
Coast Guard long after she no longer existed for record keeping reasons. Sometimes she is referred to
as the Louis McClain because variations in spelling were more common at that time. This
is the most mysterious of the Great Lakes lightships, simply from the passage of time
and incomplete records.
Not a Single Vessel
At one time the U.S. Revenue Service had the responsibilities now taken over by the Coast Guard.
Between 1831 and 1851 a lightship was stationed in the Straits of Mackinac at Waugoshance Shoal.
No plans, drawings from the actual vessel, or photos of the Louis McLane could be found in ten
years of research. The model was
build from the bid sheet published in the Detroit Courier in 1831 before her construction and
photos of a Canadian museum vessel named the Bee of the same type and similar dimensions.
The current official Coast Guard record list
as being launched in 1932 in Detroit and having been built by Oliver Newberry, named the Louis McLane,
when spelled correctly, the Louis MoLane when not spelled correctly. Newspapers
from the time refer to a new revenue Cutter Louis McLane being launched in Erie, Pennsylvania, 1933 and
the existing registry of ships list the builder as J. Justus. The second vessel's name was changed to the Erie
but not until 1839. Apparently there where 2 schooners with the same name, at the same time on the Great Lakes, both
government vessels. The lightship
Louis McLane was restricted to either the Straits of Mackinac or being taken to a shipyard, sometimes as
far south as Detroit, for repairs.
Further muddying the research waters is the existence of another Revenue Cutter on the Eastern seaboard,
her construction began in 1833. She was named simply McLane and was a much larger schooner.
Louis McLane was the tenth Secretary of the Treasury under President Andrew Jackson, and must
have been very popular with some one to have 3 vessels named in his honor.
Waugoshance Shoal was a very trying location for the little boat and she spent
a considerable amount of time being repaired. An inspectors letter to the Secretary of the
Treasury in 1838 considered her unfit for the rigors of that specific location.
The Buffalo Commercial Advertiser in September 1844 mentions
the purchase of a schooner, the Ocean, to replace the Mackinac Straits lightship. There actually appears
to be more than one schooner named Ocean in that decade. In the summer of 1847 the Ocean required repairs and
the Madeline was rented as a replacement vessel and served for 2 years. If the Ocean was the last vessel
to serve at that station before the opening of a lighthouse in 1851 is not known, she
was sold by the collector of customs Mackinac, the same office that had purchased it for use as a lightship.
Model on permanent exhibit aboard Huron Lightship Museum, Port Huron.
Detailed source information is presented because of historical importance of this vessel
and the lightship station. Please notify me if any links are broken. If any additional early
documents come to light, please notify the webmaster so this page can be kept up to date.
- Detroit Courier, May 12, 1831 - bid sheet for new ligthship
- Cleveland Weekly Herald, May 1, 1831, bid proposal,
Maritime History of the
Great Lakes, accessed December 1, 2015
- LAUNCH (announcing the launch of the new revenue cutter in Erie, Pa, Louis McLane ), Buffalo Patriot,
March 19, 1833,
Marititme History of the Great Lakes, accessed December 1, 2015
- (no title, a further record of the launch), Cleveland Weekly Herald, March 19, 1833,
Marititme History of the Great Lakes, accessed December1, 2015
- Early U.S. Lightship -
U. S. Coast Guard History, accessed December 1, 2015
- Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury Transmitting A Report of the Fifth Auditor,
in relation to the execution of the act of 7th July last, for Building Light-houses,
Light-boats, 13 Dec 1838,
, accessed December 1, 2015
- NEW LIGHTSHIP (the Ocean purchased), Buffalo Commercial Advisor, September 27, 1844,
Maritime History of the Great Lakes, accessed December 1, 2015
- Great Lakes Maritime Database, search for records of registered vessels,
Louis McLane(Revenue Cutter) U7297,
University of Michigan,
accessed December 1, 2015
- Great Lakes Maritime Database, search for records of registered vessels, Ocean, 2 masted schooner,
University of Michigan, accessed December 1, 2015
- Madeline Returns to Fair Harbor,
lakehistorycenter.org, accessed December 1, 2015
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