Welcome to Michigan Lakes!

We are all about Michigan lakes. Life on, in and near Michigan's lakefront brings a richness that rewards for a lifetime. Have a story or comments on your experience? You can be one of the first to share it with the world on our Michigan lake directory.
  • Error loading feed data.

whitehallweathervaneWhitehall may be home to the world’s largest weather vane. While no one knows for sure, Whitehall claims the title. The weather vane is 48 feet tall, 14 feet wide and weighs more than 2 tons. Topping the weather vane is a schooner, memorializing the Ella Ellenwood, a schooner destroyed in a storm on Lake Michigan in 1901. It stands in Ellenwood Park, also named after the schooner, at the corner of Dowling and Water Street.

A plaque is located in the park with the details of the Ella Ellenwood:

The Saga of the Schooner “Ellenwood”

The 157 ton lumber schooner Ella Ellenwood was built in East Saginaw, Michigan in 1869. She was purchased by a Captain Thomas Flagstad of Montague, a native of Norway, who operated the schooner out of White Lake.

One the night of October 1, 1901, while bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a load of maple edgings and shingles, the Ellenwood ran aground off Fox Point, about 8 miles north of the Milwaukee harbor. Within hours, strong northerly winds began to break up the schooner causing the captain and crew to abandon ship.

They made shore safely in the schooner’s yawl with the aid of a compass and an anchor light.

By the next day, the Ellenwood’s stern and transom were broken away and the hull so badly worked loose that the masts wobbled in opposite directions with each swell.

Only the bark cargo was salvaged. The maple edgings in the hold and the schooner were left to the elements.

The following spring, 1902, a portion of the wooden nameplate “ELLENWOOD” was found inside the White Lake Channel. Incredibly, the nameplate drifted around Lake Michigan and by mere chance, or fate, entered the narrow channel to White Lake and washed ashore in White Lake. The Ella Ellenwood had found her way home!

This 115 year old nameplate had a scale model of the Ellenwood is exhibited in the lobby of the Montague City Hall. The nameplate is a gift from Mrs. Lee King, a relative of Captain Flagstad. Other descendants of Captain Flagstad, now spelled Flagstead, still live in the White Lake area.

Another plaque is located in the park that explains the history of weathervanes:

History of Weather Vanes

The weather vane was developed out of early man’s need to understand and predict the wind and to assist in weather forecasting. It was one of the first meteorological instrument devices.

The earliest vane of which we have a record was one on the “Tower of Winds” built in Athens, Greece by a Greek astronomer around 48 B .C. This vane was in the form of a Triton (sea god of Greek mythology) and was possibly 4-8 feet long. It is believed that simpler vanes were probably in existence centuries before this one.

Around the 9th Century, the use of the weathercock increased greatly due to a papal decree declaring that every Christian church be capped with the symbol of a cock – the emblem of St. Peter. This was in reference to Christ’s statement on the eve of the Crucifixion, “ I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day before thou shalt three times deny that thou knowest Me” and served as a call to worship and a warning not to deny Christ as Peter had done. The cock is still the most popular ornament today.

Viking ships started using metal vanes on their masts also around the 9th Century as they began sailing and trading. During the Middle Ages, weather vanes and with heraldic motifs, banners, pennants, flags, etc. began to appear and remained one of the most popular motifs for centuries.

The early American Colonials, because of their seafaring and agricultural lives, also needed vanes for weather forecasting and at first imported them from Europe. The next step, of course, was to handcraft them in America. The vane maker was soon elevated from craftsman to artist and the weather vane became one of America’s first forms of sculpture.

Around the 17th Century, stationary compass pointers (directionals) were added, making it easier to determine the direction of the wind.

Weather vanes were soon seen fashioned in a variety of shapes and patterns from the familiar weathercock and other birds to Indians, horses, angels, ships, fish and practically anything else one could imagine.

After the Revolutionary War, patriotic themes became popular and America’s symbol of the eagle became a weather vane subject. The latter half of the 19th Century, new ornamentation developed around the factors leading to the rapid growth of this country such as railroads, fire-fighting equipment, industry, farm specialization, etc.

Although weather vanes were originally crafted in the European countries, it was in America where they reached their fullest development and became “works of art”.

Following the Industrial Revolution, it was no longer economical to individually hand make the vanes from hammered sheet metal. Mass production of weather vanes by sand casting in aluminum became the predominate method.

Sometimes we can be in such a hurry as to over look the many plaques, informational signs and Michigan historical markers scattered throughout the state.

The weathervane was constructed by  Whitehall Products , a Michigan business that manufactures weathervanes and many other outdoor products. Worth checking out.

More information about Whitehall can be found at the  Whitehall Chamber of Commerce site.

Written by Dave.