Digest Oct 2001
The original Fairport Harbor, (Ohio), Lighthouse was known as the Grand River Lighthouse. Built in 1825, it remained in use until 1869. Lighthouse Digest Archives photo. by Timothy Harrison
A great destination for the true light- house buffs is Fairport Harbor, Ohio. : Located midway between Cleveland and Ashtabula, on the inland sea of Lake Erie, Fairport Harbor is a large manmade harbor that protects the mouth of the Grand River. The village of Grand River, with a population of around 450 people lies on the west bank and the village of Fairport Harbor, with a population of around 2800 people, lie' on the east bank of the river. It is here in Fairport Harbor where one can visit one of the firs and oldest museums in the United States to be housed in lighthouse. The first keeper at the lighthouse established in 1825, was Samuel Butler, an active abolitionist. lr fact the light served as a guardian of one of the northern terminals o: the "Underground Railway" before the War Between the States and guided many runaway slaves tc safety in Canada. In 1868 it was reported that the lighthouse was in such bad shape that it had to be discontinued and light was established on a temporary tower. A new lighthouse was finally completed and first lit on August II, 1871. Captain Joseph Babcock was the first keeper at the new station. He himself led such an interesting life prior to becoming keeper that a movie could have been made of it. The Captain escaped death in an Indian attack at age eight because his mother was Indian and before becoming keeper, he served an illustrious career in the Civil War. Two of his children were born at the light- house and one of them, a son, died of smallpox at the light- house. Another son, Daniel, served as assistant keeper from 1901 to 1919 and then as head keeper until the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1925. It was reported that Captain Joseph Babcock's wife spent a long period of time ill and bedridden on the second floor at the lighthouse. She kept a number of cats to comfort her and help her pass the time. For a number of years, Paula Brent, a curator who lived at the museum for a number of years, had reported seeing the ghost of a gray cat. She told local news- paper reporter Magi Martin in an inter- view, "It would skitter across the floor near the kitchen, like it was playing. I would catch glimpses of it from time to time. Then one evening I felt its presence when it jumped on the bed. I felt its weight pressing on me. At first it kind of freaked me out. But ghosts don't bother me. They are part of the world." Obviously many people thought she was imagining things or perhaps dreaming. However, in a story worthy of "Ripley's Believe It or Not," those people must have quickly changed their minds when they heard that a work crew, installing air conditioning vents, found the mummified remains of a cat in a crawl space beneath the lighthouse. In 1925, the lighthouse was discontinued and darkened in favor of a new lighthouse and fog signal station, which was installed on the west breakwater pierhead and established on June 9th 1925. The new breakwater lighthouse was fabricated in Buffalo New York and trans- ported by barge to Fairport Harbor. However, the actual tower and lantern room were actually built on the station when it arrived in Fairport Harbor.
Daniel Babcock (left) served as an assistant keeper at Fairport Harbor Lighthouse (Ohio) from 1901 to 1919 and keeper from 1919 until 1925. His father Joseph Babcock served as keeper of the lighthouse before him. Photograph courtesy of the Fairport Harbor Historical Society.