I was on a mission as a I left the Ludington Beach House - to see the historical markers of Ludington. Never before in all of the history of mankind has a more noble goal been attempted! And I, for the most part, accomplished this goal. Mostly, sort of.
If you find yourself at the corner of South Lavinia Street and East Danaher Street, they you are either a local Ludington resident (a Ludingtoner?) or you're looking for this church. It's tucked away in an ordinary neighborhood a few blocks north of the water. There, a brief look at the history of Christian Scandinavians is revealed. That's the great thing about these historical markers, the hints of what made Michigan of what it is today.
During the 1870s and 1880s, Ludington Swedes, Danes and Norwegians worshiped together as the Scandinavian Lutheran Society. In 1873 the society built a church where all three languages were spoken. The Swedes, who had formed their own congregation on August 3, 1874, assumed sole ownership of the building in 1887. in 1901 they built the present church, designed by local architect Charles Boerner.
When we last saw our hero in Ludington, he was at the south end of Stearns Park, visiting the marker for the S.S. Pere Marquette car ferry, which sank in 1910. Well, our hero made the arduous a few hundred feet north to the middle of Stearns Park to the second historical marker in the park.
But the marker news isn't good - more death and destruction on Lake Michigan. But it does have the same great view that the Pere Marquette marker does, though without the skate park - not all historical markers can be so lucky. But this marker does have a bit of good news, as the City of Flint 32 returned to service, as told by this smaller marker near the official marker:
Armistice Day Storm
On November 11, 1940, a severe storm swept the Great Lakes area. as it crossed Lake Michigan ships and seamen fought to reach safety away from its blinding winds and towering seas. Between Big and Little Points Sable the freighters Willam B. Davock and Anna C. Minch foundered with the loss of all hands. The crew of the Novadoc, driven aground south of Pentwater, battled icy winds and water for two days before being rescued by local fishermen. At Ludington the car-ferry City of Flint 32 was driven ashore, her holds flooded to prevent further damaged. Elsewhere lives were lost and ships damaged in one of Lake Michigan's greatest storms.
On the south end of Stearns Park, nestled between the shuffleboard courts and the skate park, is a historical marker dedicated to the sinking of the S.S. Pere Marquette 18 car ferry. There are a few sites to visit to read about car ferries (and the sinking of the Pere Marquette 18 in particular), and Wisconsin shipwrecks. They can do the subject more justice than I can.
It's an easy marker to find, and as you can see from the image at the end of this post, it could use a makeover. Stearns Park is a thin stretch of land between the beach parking lot and North Lakeshore Drive. It seems like it's a buffer zone between the street and the sand, but there are some monuments and picnic tables to enjoy as well.
And after you've finished reading the interesting informational plaque about the sinking, you can enjoy beautiful Lake Michigan, and a fantastic beach. Ludington is one of the top five visited town in northern Michigan, and if you're a fan of the Great Lakes, it's a wonderful stop. I can personally recommend House of Flavors ice cream, breakfasts at Café 106 and Brenda Harbor Café, and dinner at Bortell's (my favorite place to eat in all of Michigan).
Where was I? Oh yes, the marker:
At least twenty-nine persons died when this vessel sank in Lake Michigan twenty miles off the Wisconsin coast on September 9, 1910. One of the Ludington carferry fleet, the 350 foot S.S. Pere Marquette 18 was traveling from this port to Wisconsin. About midlake a crewman discovered the ship was taking on vast amounts of water. The captain set a direct course for Wisconsin and sent a discreet signal by wireless. He and the crew battled for four hours to save the boat but she sank suddenly. All of the officers and many of the crew and passengers perished, among them the first wireless operator to die in active service on the Great Lakes. The S.S. Pere Marquette 17, aided by other ships who also heeded the wireless message for help, rescued more than thirty survivors but lost two of her own crew. the exact cause of this disaster remains a mystery.