Under this boulder are the remains of a man of faith known as Martin Johnson who gave his life to build a camp for youngsters to enjoy into perpetuity. Yet in the late 1970’s the YMCA of Chicago betrayed that man’s trust by selling his dream to the Heritage Bay Development which turned his vision into a housing complex. Even the boulder which marks Johnson’s gravesite has lost its plague that marks this location as his final resting place.
His house has moved to Irons, Michigan, and is now a museum honoring his life. Very little remains of the former camp with the lone exception of Four Winds Island whose present owner has retained all the former camp buildings as they once were up to and including the graffiti.
One of our readers, after reading our Martin Johnson History page (found at the top of our website) noted that she was surprised to learn of the faith of this man as a believer in Jesus Christ. His faith carried him through the hard years that built up his property that would later be transformed into a summer camp for boys and girls.
One has to wonder why the YMCA of Chicago did not first do everything possible to seek out new owners of another YMCA in Michigan or a Michigan Boys Clubs of America organization that could benefit by owning Camp Martin Johnson. The Chicago TMCA had complained that Michigan property taxes were too high and that it became too expensive to renovate camp buildings.
Then why not use tent platforms instead of cabins to save money? The only real camp facilities necessary were restrooms and a dining hall. I know by personal experience that across the lake from Camp Mishawaka in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, was a girls survival camp that needed no fancy accommodations. What could have been saved through building renovations could have been used for property taxes to retain Johnson’s vision. Another idea was to have sold off some of the camp property around Bluegill Lake while retaining the main camp land on Big and Little Bass Lakes. There were many possible ways to save the vision of Martin Johnson that were largely ignored and because of that the memory of the camp fades with each passing generation.
Yet here at Big Bass Lake and Beyond that vision will be maintained through articles about the camp where countless generations will know what went on there and also about the man whose shaped that property.
Maybe one of those homeowners will again take the courage to place a plague on that boulder which marks Martin Johnson’s final resting place to honor the man and his dream. Maybe?