Camp Martin Johnson Heritage Museum Needs Your Help

I received this letter from Ed Hawks today and am posting it on BBL and Beyond so please give it your full attention.

June 1, 2011


To:                   All Camp Martin Johnson Alumni

From:              Tom Curtin, Jr.
                        Martin Johnson Heritage Museum

             My involvement with Camp Martin Johnson (CMJ) began in 1951 when my father (Tom Curtin Sr.) became camp director.  That fortunate turn of events allowed me to spend the first six years of my life at Bi gBas sLake, giving me a somewhat unique perspective on CMJ.  Dad was eventually transferred and in the 1960’s I returned and spent the next few years as a camper, Counselor In Training (CIT), and Assistant Trip Director, completing my CMJ experience.   

            The developers who purchased Camp from the Hyde Park YMCA felt that Martin Johnson’s house was a liability to their plans and needed to be torn down.  A group of seven women who lived on or around Big Bass Lake stepped up and raised the money necessary to have the house moved to Skinner Park in Irons,Michigan in 1989.  It was placed on a forest plot planted in the 1930’s by the Civil Conservation Corp (CCC). The house was donated to the Irons Area Tourist Association (IATA) and opened to the public as a museum.  The Museum was operated by a separate Board of Directors known then as the Heritage Park Council who completed the initial renovation. 

            I joined the Board of Directors when I retired and moved back full time toLake County,Michigan, and was elected President a year later.  Since then we have worked to improve the Museum exhibits and most importantly to incorporate as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization.  The name of the now separate organization is the Martin Johnson Heritage Museum (MJHM).  Over the last 2 years I have worked to negotiate the transfer of the deed for the house to our organization.  During the summer of 2010, MJHM took ownership of the Martin Johnson house along with the 2 ½ acres of property where it stands.

            Although CMJ as a place no longer exists, the home of the man who made CMJ possible still stands as a touchstone to our own personal version of Camelot.  It is open for all to wander through and remember what Camp meant to us then and still means to us today.  A number of artifacts from Camp and Martin Johnson’s life have been acquired and are on display. 

            We have accomplished much since the house was saved from the wrecking ball, but there is still much more to be done.  We are actively tracking down more paintings and photographs by Martin Johnson to add to the collection that is currently housed in the Museum.  We are also working to obtain the original stockades that formed the entrance to Camp and are trying to locate one of the CMJ cabins that we could move to the site.  A number of photographs, including some from the “old CMJ website” are on display in the Museum, but additional pictures depicting camp life and other CMJ memorabilia would be appreciated.  The attached mini photographic summary of the Museum will give you an idea of what has been accomplished and is on display to date.  

Currently there are no utilities run to either of the structures.  Electrical service and heat in the buildings would allow us to better serve the public.  Several of Johnson’s paintings need conservation.  And, there is always continuing maintenance to be done, insurance to pay, etc.  We have many items identified on our short and long term plans.

            The Museum needs your help to continue to grow and expand.  One of our long term goals is to raise funds for an endowment to ensure that the Museum continues in perpetuity.  I feel it is important that our grandchildren and great grandchildren are given the opportunity to visit the Museum, not only to get a sense of how we became who we are, but to also gain a historical perspective of a man who was a true pioneer in Northern Michigan. 

            TheMartin Johnson Heritage Museum is funded solely by membership dues, donations and grants.  I would hope that you would consider becoming a member and possibly send along an additional donation.  It is only with your help that can we continue to preserve this last tangible piece of Camp Martin Johnson.


“CAMPER” One Year Membership Single – $30.00
“COUNSELOR” One Year Membership Family – $50.00
“PROGRAM DIRECTOR” One Year Membership Sponsor – $100.00
“CAMP DIRECTOR” Life Membership – $500.00

And, most important – come and visit us!   Museum hours currently are Saturday afternoons from Noon to 3:00 p.m. in July and August, or by appointment by calling me at (231) 745-8505.

|            Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have, either by phone at (231) 745-8505, E-mail at, or US Mail atP.O. Box 363,Baldwin,MI 49304.  


        Tom Curtin

Tom Curtin, Jr.
Martin Johnson Heritage Museum

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s