Harbor Stories

Early Surveys of Aux Bec Scies Harbor

(excerpt taken from the research of Stacy Leroy Daniels, Author of The Comedy of Crystal Lake, 2015)

In 1841 the Corps of Topographical Engineers of the U.S. Army were charged with the Survey of Northern and Northwester Lakes, including all the Great Lakes and their connecting waterways to make maps and charts for navigation.  By 1860, the Lake Survey had progressed to the northern end of Lake Michigan and completed their field work just prior to the U.S. Civil War which call away most of the engineers.  The survey parties would camp along the shoreline of Lake Michigan to conduct topographical surveys for future rive and harbor improvement purposes.  Observations in diaries included lake levels, weather, soil and lake bottom types, and vegetation, with associated sketches and maps.

There was a growing interest in the improvement of harbors of refuge along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.  George Tift and Co requested the government to survey the area.  on March 4, 1859, George G. Meade assigned Orlando M. Poe to survey the “Harbor of the River Aux Bec Scies.  Poe’s survey was made during May and June of 1859.  A second survey was made by A.B. Wood, deputy land surveyor, sometime prior to 1866.  A map incorporating both surveys was included in a report by Thomas J. Cram.

Louis A Doby, agent of the Frankfort Land Company began dredging the channel and constructing piers in the summer of 1859. An evaluation of the piers, the accretion of sand, and the filing up of the old river mouth was made by Cram. Sand acredion was considerable in the years after 1859, but the shore-line movement could not be ascertained.  The 14 feet of water sounded by Poe was reduced to only 9 feet when sounded by Wood, and the shallow waterway was useless for shipping.

John Sage & Sons,lithographers, drew the “Map of Harbor & Town of Frankfort, Leelanau County with adjoining Lands” , labeling, Crystal Lake in 1860.  Henry G. Rothwell, a map distributor, in Detroit had worked for Cram in the Lake Survey and later advertised himself in Saginaw as “Henry G. Rothwell, Civil Engineer and Surveyor.