Brookwood,Sauble Township, MI. A name that is often on the lips and dwells in the minds of my family. I often dream I grew up in Michigan. In my dreams I wander back roads and drink in the scent of white pine forests. The dream is partially based on reality. I did not grow up in Michigan- at least not full time. But weekends and summer vacations saw us spending magical days and nights at Brookwood, my grandparent’s property. My grandparents owned 350 acres of wooded land in the midst of the Manistee National Forest, on the banks of McCarty Creek and near such small towns as Peacock, Cadillac & Baldwin.
Brookwood is in Sauble Township, MI. nestled in the midst of the Manistee National Forest. We entered at the main entrance, near Peacock, MI. The last time I was there you entered next to a mobile home retirement community that had sprung up. The two track sand and tree root track has been there as long as I can recall. There were some hair-raising twists and turns, sudden bumps and drops from tree roots or rain wash outs and a few branch-off’s. But once on the trail any of us Bartlett kids could get you through to the cabin.
It was a charmed, quiet, green and lush property carefully tended by the family. The land was treated as a nature preserve in many ways. We did not allow hunting. We did our best to keep a low carbon footprint (of course in those days it was known as living close to the land) and we replaced what we took.
Grandfather and Grandmother had a homestead on the property. This area became known as Home Hill in my time, but I don’t know that it had the same name in their time. It was a small farm where they raised a few goats and sheep, chickens and rabbit as they needed for their own use. I recall from what my father said that they were fairly self-suffucient on these things. Grandfather was often on the road, plying his trade, shearing sheep. Grandmother was an educated school teacher but to be honest I am not sure that she continued with her profession after their marriage. I got the impression that once children came forth she stayed at home. Dad was born on the property. Many babes were born at home in those times. It was 1912. At some point, before the Depression their home burned down. All that remained was the foot print of the chimney.
The Bartlett family went through life as an adventure. They followed Grandfather as his star rose. They moved from place to place including Butte Montana, Capetown South Africa, outside of Chicago IL and Ludington MI. The property in MI was retained but they never lived there full time again.
During the Depression my father wanted to rebuild the family home on the property. He built a roomy cabin on a sandy hill overlooking McCarty Creek. It had a refrigerator powered by propane, a huge old wood stove, a sink with a big red pump to provide water, and an outhouse. He also built a generator house and erected a water wheel on a bridge at the bottom of the hill. His plan was to pipe running water from the pure and chilly McCarty Creek, to install a septic system, to electrify the cabin using the generator and the wheel. There was a stand-by generator that burned gasoline.
The cabin had a large combination living/dining room with a very large heatilator fireplace which Dad had built. There was a wooden crank telephone next to the fireplace that had been connnected by cable to the operator. A single private bedroom that was large enough to hold an enormous brass double bed but little else had a small walk in closet. The porch had two twin beds, and there was a daybed in the living room. The cabin was decorated with items from their lives. Antique furnishing including a four stack oak barrister book case, an oak treadle sewing machine, a large satiny finished round oak dining table with pressed back chairs, a painted pressed back rocker. Near the rocker stood a dark oak Victrola, on which Dad often played 78rpm records. A lovely chintz covered couch before the fire with an Egyptian inspired saddle back stool in the arts and crafts style. A couple of other small pieces of furniture that aren’t retained today in my memory. The softly glowing wooden floors were covered here and there with brightly covered Indian rugs that were given to and purchased by my Grandfather on his Southwest sheep shearing circuit. The walls were covered with African shields, Blue Racer snake skins and a woodsy oil painting by my father who was an artist. The kitchen contained the aforementioned appliances, a Hoosier cabinet and a hand crafted breakfast booth. The porch contained the wood box and the kindling box. It was warm, inviting, cozy and filled with love.
It wasn’t modern, the modern conveniences were not installed and it wasn’t in or near a city. Grandmother chose never to live at the cabin and rarely visited in my day. She was very unhappy with the lack of toilet facilities. I guess she had been spoiled by the life of convenience and comfort in which she now lived. I assume she just moved on, felt as though leaving Brookwood behind was progress. Many a person would feel that way and I understand that. For me though the lack of conveniences was well compensated by the charms of the woods, by the freedom and security that was afforded by living on a large, gorgeous piece of property. Of course, I was not a grown up. I was an child enchanted by the lush green woods, by the crisp refreshing water of McCarty Creek, by running free after chores and simply returning home when the car horn was honked. I was a youngster who drank in the scent of the white pine, watched in awe as the deer came to the salt lick, squealed with joy at catching a trout and delighted in the simple things of life surrounded by a place of such beauty and warmth.
Welcome to Brookwood! Welcome to the place of my dreams