Thursday, October 29, 2015

USCG 1915-2015 and Station Fairport

As the nation's oldest maritime agency the United States Coast Guard history is one of multiple origins.  While 2015 is the centennial year of the USCG the history of the service is an amalgam of many Federal agencies dating back to 1787.  These agencies, the Revenue Cutter Service, the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, the Lifesaving Service, and in recent years Homeland Security were independent and overlapping organizations that today fall under the united USCG umbrella.

August 4, 1790 marks the first day of service for 'first' U.S. maritime organization.  President George Washington realizing that income was necessary for our new nation signed a Tariff Act.  This act authorized construction of ten vessels whose primary duty would be to patrol the eastern seaboard and levy trade taxes.  Preventing smuggling and assisting vessels in distress became two additional missions.  Growth continued over the ensuing decades as our nation grew.  In 1876 a bustling Lake Erie shipping industry created a regional need.  Fairport was granted a station.  George Francis Babcock, a local resident assumed charge of Station Fairport on September 26, 1876 and remained at his post till his death in 1898.  Niels Rasmussen another local Fairporter assumed charge of the station on February 17, 1899 and was still there at its end in 1915.  The original station was situated on the east bank of the Grand River just below the hill of the local lighthouse-1825-1925.  It was moved by Babcock to combat shoreline congestion in late 1800s to the west bank of the river.  The station remained intact with some modifications for nearly one hundred years until a completed remodel /  renovation on August 15, 2014 ushered in a new era of local USCG history.

1915 saw an Act of Congress merge the Revenue Cutter Service with the U.S. Life-Saving Service.  Remember prior to the establishment of the Navy Department in 1798, this organization was our nation's only armed force afloat.  1939 saw another major change occur as President Franklin Roosevelt transferred the organization to the charge of the USCG.  This change became permanent in 1946 when Congress transferred several offices into this final umbrella.  Homeland Security became the most recent task added to the history of the USLSS-USCG after 9/11.

From the earliest volunteer groups that spearheaded the first maritime organizations to the early professional pioneers such as Fairport's Francis Babcock and Niels Rasmussen these agencies of service have a history and tradition unsurpassed in the annals of our nation.  These stories, artifacts and more may be viewed at the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse & Marine Museum - maintained by The Fairport Harbor Historical Society since 1945.

source:  USCG website, USLSS article by Dr. Dennis L. Noble, archives Fairport Harbor Historical Society

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