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The Islands In January 1914
From Rutland Daily Herald – Rutland, Vermont
Jan. 10th, 1914 – The combination of freight and passenger steam Olcott, the only boat in commission since the navigation season closed on Dec. 1st, has gone into winter quarters here and the 5000 (sic) residents of the Lake Erie Islands have settled into their 4- month period of isolation. The only human beings they will see who are not their own are the mail carriers Edward and Albert Erney of Marblehead.
Under a contract with the government, the Erney brothers make daily trips between the mainland and islands, leaving Marblehead in the morning and returning in the evening. As long as the Olcott is in commission their task is comparatively easy, but when the inevitable period of isolation arrives, they are compelled to overcome great obstacles in order to carry out their contract which is $1,000 annually (about $30,000 today).
Some of the island residents think that $250 a month for the two men ($125 each) is plenty, but the department’s efforts to find people to do it for less have been in vain.
They keep within the South Passage, the most treacherous in the Great Lakes region. Beyond them is another field of ice extending to the Kelleys Island shore, from which travel to Middle Bass, Put in Bay, North Bass and a number of other smaller islands is not so hazardous.
One day the brothers employ their mail carrying iceboat Cold Wave and a lifeboat provided by the government life saving station at Marblehead. The next, perhaps, they must depend on liferafts which like the lifeboat they tow on runners behind their iceboat
Not a winter goes by that the Erneys face death half a dozen times. Last February a lifeboat in which they were returning to Marblehead in was caught in the swift South Passage current and carried 10 miles to Cedar Point light where it was dashed to pieces. The two men managed to pull themselves upon the lighthouse crib to be rescued by the Marblehead lifesavers.
Occasionally they take a passenger or two with them, but never unless the weather is favorable. Now and then an islander is forced to travel to the mainland. They then place their lives in the hands of the Erney brothers.
There has been talk of transmitting the mail to and from the islands in an airship, but no aviator has been found who is willing to undertake the trip. Harry Atwood, the Boston aviator who located in Sandusky months ago, thought favorably of the plan at first, but the first days of December weather decided him again it.
Not a few New Yorkers in the employment of JH Robinson, who is erecting the $1,000,000 Perry memorial at Put-in-Bay are depending on the island mail carriers for letters and newspapers.
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