Homestead Resort on Big Bass Lake

At one time, on the north shores of Big Bass Lake, was the Homestead Resort that was owned and operated by Maude VanHartesveldt and her husband Frank Jones. She was an active member of the Lake and Stream Resort Association. You can barely see Big Bass Lake through the trees.

In 1894 William Jones purchased 63 acres bounded on the east by Little Bass Lake and the channel between the two lakes and on the south by Big Bass Lake. He and his family lived in an abandoned lumber camp. In 1896 he started to build his home to be known as The Old Homestead. In 1897 they moved into that home. He and his wife had started a very popular resort on the North end of Big Bass Lake where they would pick up their guests at the Pere Marquette Train Depot in Peacock and bring them to The Old Homestead in a wagon.

I would hazard to say that this resort was not a posh one as evidenced by our photograph. It no doubt involved swimming and I would also assume lots of great fishing. Boating was also probably offered.

If anyone knows more about the activities of this resort, please let us know by way of a comment. When did it go out of business? How many buildings were part of this resort?

Some Things Remain Nearly The Same at Camp Martin Johnson

This is the road that leads to the old CMJ infirmary. It is now called Homestead Circle Road but I’d wager the road looks just about the same when CMJ was operational. But aside from the tennis and basketball courts, little else is recognizable about the former camp that ceased operations in the late 1970’s.

That is unless permission is granted to tour the now privately owned Four Winds Island which largely remains the same as in the days of the camp.  Graffiti is still found on the walls of the cottages of that island from campers and staff alike. 

The dirt road also has appeal especially since the full course around Big Bass Lake has been paved for years now.  For a time the section around Lakeview Cemetery and the camp was unpaved.  Sadly even the nameplate on the burial site of camp founder, Martin Johnson, as been removed and only a boulder marks his grave. 

For the man who wanted his land to remain a camp forever, he was betrayed by the Hyde Park YMCA for many youth organizations in Michigan could have made use of that land for a summer camp.  Johnson’s house is now a Heritage Museum in nearby Irons, Michigan, at the entrance to Skinner Park. 

If you want to locate traces of Camp Martin Johnson they are strewn all about with the exception of this dirt road leading into camp.  Yes, some things DO remain the same!

How Far Is It To Big Bass Lake?

I remember hearing that question on many boys club trips to our property about every twenty miles or so. But how many of you have seen a sign going west out of Peacock, Michigan, telling you exactly how far that distance is?  It also details a business just before Big Bass Lake, that being the Na-Tah-Ka where you can get a good meal anytime during the day or evening.  I wonder if Larry Bender will ever put in a drive-up window there?

All along M-37 one can see signs to White Cloud, Baldwin, and Traverse City, but since Big Bass Lake is not actually on M-37 it would be a stretch to find it there.  However, on the Peacock road?  Well, that’s another story.  There is a sign at the south end of Loon Lake that used to point to the Big Bass Lake Store and I have to wonder if it now directs one to Bender’s Corner Store? 

At any rate when you see a sign like this you’re almost at Big Bass Lake.  But don’t mistake either Sauble or Loon Lake for the real thing as they will be coming your way first.  After all, how many islands do those two lakes have?

Snowstorm on Big Bass Lake Road


In the midst of a sweltering summer with a long stretch of 90 degree plus temperatures in a row, it is nice to reflect on a scene like this on Big Bass Lake Road not that far north of Noreika Road.   A lone car seems to be out this day and it doesn’t need to be using his air-conditioner.  I wonder how long it would take that snow to melt on just one 100 degree day like we’re having this summer?

And how would that snow melt affect the drought that the midwest is suffering?  It does look.wonderful right about now, doesn’t it?  Oh well, it will be coming again in about six months or so.  Then I’ll be deep in thought about all those 90 degree days and how nice that was.  Again,maybe NOT!

So, what’s better? A winter wonderland or hell’s fury?  And could you imagine waking up to this today?

No Swimming Today

 I think we’ll pass on swimming today. Someone was in the swimming hole before us and I think will let him stay there. After all if we trying to go in we might have to grin and bear it. Besides he looks so happy in there by himself. First come first served I’ve always said. Besides if we went in that old expression might be true. Misery loves company. Besides Bear Swamp should be for Bears. Why should we intrude on their privacy?

Which Way Do We Go?

d7ee1514-78de-4f25-b8cc-4c32d13c8390 well this gives us a few choices. Do we desire to go to the staging area at Wolf Lake? After all they have a couple of motels there and they are heated. Or do we have in the direction of irons? Irons has a few good restaurants to choose from. Or do we finally opt to go to Big Bass Lake? We can eat lunch at the Na-Tah-Ka and then board overnight at Grant’s Resort. Choices, choices? What would you do?

“Play Ball” At Big Bass Lake

This will be another post with more questions than anything else. This is an aerial photograph of the Big Bass Lake softball complex. I would gather this is a league for men but how many teams are comprised in this league? Do the women of that area also have teams and what about kids?

Does the field have bleachers and a concession stand? And what is that facility just north of the diamond? Well, it happens to be a new church in the area that may call for the “In the big inning“. The field is located just east of where the Big Bass Lake store used to be. Also does this field have lights for evening games? How long is the season where the field is used?

I have a strong hunch that the Na-Tah-Ka Restaurant and Bar gets a good measure of business after the games.

If you have the answers to these questions, please leave a comment and let us know.

Looking South on Big Bass Lake Road

This picture was taken just past the intersection where Luke’s Corner Store used to be found.  In the far distance would be Matson’s Road to the left just as Big Bass Lake makes a turn to the west.  Until then, all along this road are venue points to the North side of Big Bass Lake to your left. 

When Big Bass Lake Road makes that turn to the west, our former property began on the left side of the road all the way to the Public Landing.  It was largely forest land until just past Noreika Road (named after my grandparents) where the scenery then turns to farm land. 

One can make out Big Bass Lake barely at Matson’s Road and then again after Big Bass Lake Road makes a turn to the east just before the Public Landing.  In the 1950’s this was a dirt road but now its fully paved all the way around the lake. 

A Day at the Big Bass Lake School

At one time this was the Big Bass Lake School that my father and his sisters attended and today it serves as the Sauble Township Hall. My dad and his brothers and sisters had just over a mile walk to the school each day as there were no school buses in that era. Their teacher usually arrived about an hour before the kids and had to draw water from the well for drinking purposes that day and also to stoke the fire to keep the room warm.

Bible readings from the teacher usually began the day. In this area the teacher had their work cut out for them as it was a mix of English and Lithuanian children. I know at my dads house the children were not permitted to speak English even though they were learning it at school. Only their native language was allowed as that is all my grandparents knew.

Class would then begin. As the day progressed each class was called to the “recitation” bench. There the teacher worked exclusively with those children for a period, while the other students busied themselves studying or doing an assigned lesson. Normally there was a brief morning recess of about fifteen minutes, followed by more classes, and then an hour for lunch. The afternoon was spent much like the morning with classes and a short recess.

Every subject was studied in that one room. This school is located right down the block from the Big Bass Lake store and very close to the area softball field today. It is still standing.   On their eay home from school, some kids might have stopped off at the Big Bass Lake store for some things for their parents. 

How about a dozen eggs for 18 cents?  Or bread for eight cents a loaf?  Or pork and beans at five cents a can?  Hot dogs could be bought for eight cents a pound.  And you could get four cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup for a quarter!  Of course most area farms were nearly self sufficient but how’d you like to find those prices today?

Luke’s Corner

I remember Luke’s Store moreso when I was a young boy. My dad and I would hike around Big Bass Lake and as we arrived at this store I would enjoy a Hires Root Beer. Funny? At the Bass Lake Store I liked Squirt but here Hires Root Beer? As I recall this was at the junction of the road to Freesoil through Bear Swamp and as you progressed back toward Bass Lake on the North side our property began at the first curve and almost ran all the way to the now public landing. That landing was once the property of Richard Bennish.

His wife Agnes was a good friend of my grandmother Barbara Noreika.

Back to Luke’s store. I don’t remember much else about that place except I believe they had a Sunoco gas pump there as well. The store couldn’t hold a candle to the Bass Lake Store and when I returned on camping trips with kids in the 1970’s this place was already closed and they had another store close to Harper’s Lake.