Category: Camp Martin Johnson

Camp Martin Johnson postcard

IMG_20170921_161258 there won’t be much to this post because I will be leaving it up to Camp Martin Johnson campers
This postcard was taken at the little Manistee River. Alright campers the ball is in your court!

bloodtears the question is does red eye still haunt the Big Bass Lake Cemetery? If you’re a former camper a camp Martin Johnson please advise! Provide us your personal stories that is if you dare?

I’ve always wondered what it might be like to live on Four Winds Island in the winter? Of course you’d have to lay in a lot of supplies. Then again are wires strung out to the island for electricity or do they have their own generator? I think it would be great to own your own island.

And whereas the mainland Camp Martin Johnson is almost all but lost the same can’t be held true on Four Winds Island where history is still present. Several of the cabins, with graffiti, are still there for the looking. I can almost imagine former campers going out there with memories rolling in high gear. At least some of CMJ is still preserved on Four Winds Island.

The Legend of Redeye is true for who could re-“herse” it? Throughout the decades at Camp Martin Johnson there have been many monsters but none like Redeye. Yes, Baby Bender might have had his appeal with he ability to rattle some kids or Stumpy might scare a few as well but none had the legend of Redeye behind them.

Redeye could only be found at Lakeview Cemetery and, yes, some locals did not like the undue attention that the staff and campers paid to that area.  Also his particular Redeye did not come out of a bottle but after observing it some counselors might have abided in a few rounds. 

Redeye was not from some institution like either the Baldwin or Sauble Mental Hospital’s but after seeing Redeye for the first time, some might have opted to find those two places and check themselves in!  And, Redeye was no mere tail light either.  So, what was it?

Redeye was an Indian brave who had lost his life on the original land before Martin Johnson purchased it.  He was killed in ambush and with his dying breath warned that his eye would not perish from that land.  And, from time to time, out of nowhere, this red-eye appears in the darkness.  Some believe it searches for its grave at Lakeview albeit an unmarked one. 

But here it is before your eyes at Lakeview as one former camper emailed it to me.  It is said to appear throughout that area yet today including the land once owned by the camp.  It is said to guard the boulder that lies over the grave of Martin Johnson yet today.  Beware of Redeye!

The Roads of Camp Martin Johnson

These two roads lead both past Camp Martin Johnson and into the camp. The dirt road leads directly into the camp whereas the other road goes past that dirt road. Both these venues were used by one of my boys clubs when we hiked over from our property to visit the camp and were granted permission to do so. This was my Marion Boys Club.

The hike was a lengthy one just to get there and even longer as we toured the camp. Another of our leaders met us at the camp via rowboat while towing a second one for our watery return back to our campsite.

While at the camp we noticed activities in progress including a well staffed and operated waterfront. My other leader had to ask permission to come aboard and dock with our two rowboats as he awaited us to get there by land.

Camp Martin Johnson wa a YMCA based camp with its main operation in the Chicagoland area.

Ode to Camp Martin Johnson


Camp Martin Johnson, at present, lies in the hearts of its former campers because the camp itself is no more. I can relate to that as our property on the southwest portion of Big Bass Lake has also been sold and only the memories remain. One of my favorite movies was John Wayne’s the “Alamo” and some words from the song, “The 13 Days of Glory” are to be found next but with a CMJ flavor.

“In the Northern part of Michigan, on the shores of Big Bass Lake, There’s a camp all in ruin that the weeds have overgrown. You may look in vain for campers and you’ll never see a one, But sometime between the setting and the rising of the sun you can hear a ghostly bugle as the campers go marching by and recap all your memories as you glance into the sky. For those many collective of campers are no more on those shores of Big Bass Lake, taken over by modern cottages, Still those memories I’ll not forsake!”

I can imagine former CMJ campers going through Heritage Bay Development which was once their beloved camp and seeing ghostly images of those yesteryear days of glory with a tear in their eyes. For that is how I would remember our former property if I were ever to return there. Oh how those memories would flow on our shores and woods of our former property on Big Bass Lake and the countless numbers of camping trips taken there.

Both our property and Camp Martin Johnson yielded their way to supposed progress. Yet the memories and pictures live on at both. And they always will!

Currently, Four Winds Island is privately owned but could you imagine a resident camp on that island now? Of course it would have to be a primitive camp, and a small one to boot, but wouldn’t that be great? Can you imagine the old camp buildings being used again for kids? As I understand it none of the facilities on Four Winds Island are winterized but it could be used for summer.

Yes, a camp with limited facilities wouldn’t attract the number of kids that Camp Martin Johnson once did. Still an island summer camp does have possibilities. A swimming area could easily be put into place and the old ceremony campsite could be reopened.

Even a limited usage of the island would make for a great camp. Or even a two week wilderness camp with tents erected on the island. As I’ve said before, Big Bass Lake deserves a resident camp of some sort. I had always envisioned one on our old property before it, like Camp Martin Johnson, was sold. Maybe some day Four Winds Island will again be available for kids?

Ladies Island

During the era of Camp Martin Johnson on Big Bass Lake, the ladies in effect had their own island known as Four Winds Island. There were several structures on that island for living such as cottages and even a fancy outhouse. They still had to take meals at the Dining Hall on the mainland.

But what a paradise away from the mainland camp on their very own island. Aside from sleeping quarters I would be interested in knowing what those cottages were like? Was there a general room for meetings or a small kitchenette? I would think sleeping on the island would be better than at the regular camp as they caught all the breezes off of Big Bass Lake.

If you were one of the ladies that stayed on the island let us know what each cottage there was like. How many girls per cottage? And did boys ever use the island for their quarters? There was a tribal council ring quite close to the lake as that is pictured elsewhere under the category Camp Martin Johnson or at the tag “Four Winds Island”.

Perhaps even Dan Schultz could enlighten us as to what each cottage was like as to how many rooms they had and what they were used for. Comments are more than welcome.

Is it possible that Big Bass Lake once had a regatta? Well, with the expert sailers that once sailed the sky blue waters of Big Bass Lake under the superb instruction of Camp Martin Johnson staff, it well could have been possible. And wouldn’t that have been something to see!

With their brightly colored masts dotting the landscape of the lake it must have been fantastic to observe. And this is but one aspect of the camp’s waterfront program. Check out our other posts on the camp.

One also has to wonder how many other propertiies on Big Bass Lake have sailboats? I know just about every other kind of watercraft exists on the lake, but what about sailboats? Are they still found on the lake today?

The CMJ Dining Hall

I found it interesting to learn that the Camp Martin Johnson Dining Hall rarely served fish as an entree. When you consider that the camp rests on the shores of Big Bass Lake which is noted for its bass and perch fishing, I wonder what the campers did with the fish they caught?

One counselor told me that at times they had fish sticks for meals but one would think that fish would have been a staple at that camp. At any rate, I heard the food at the camp was exceptional especially the breakfasts. That seems to be the meal of choice for most resident camps.

I would be interested to learn from the CMJ campers and staff what their favorite meals were at the dining hall? And did any other activities take place within that building during the day? Also what kinds of desserts did they serve?

Basically the mainline area known as Camp Martin Johnson is no more however that is not exactly the case on 4-Winds Island where many remnants of Camp Martin Johnson still exist. Pictured here are two cottages that remain even to this day that just shout out about times past.

This is one island that I have never visited on Big Bass Lake. I am saddened by this as it would have been extremely interesting to visit. Perhaps some members of Camp Martin Johnson would care to comment about their experiences on 4-Winds Island and even that islands twin. For one, how large was 4-Winds Island and how many structures were on that island. How often did campers visit that island?

Those of us interested in Big Bass Lake and its history would like to know.

Canoeing Big Bass Lake

I would not recommend canoeing Big Bass Lake in the summer months as the wake of speedboats would be too much for a conoe to handle. Better yet would be the wee morning hours or late evening for canoeing during the summer months. But anytime in the off season would be ideal! Former campers from Camp Martin Johnson often used canoes on the lake and had many skilled counselors to teach the kids canoeing skills.

Since canoes are quite easy to tip over one should be a pretty fair swimmer before attempting an effort in the deeper waters of Big Bass Lake. That was a must with Camp Martin Johnson. Our boys club trips once used a canoe on the lake but only close to shore. I was surprised that our kids favored rowboats over that canoe. I think the canoe was used only twice on that particular trip and so it was not brought back again.

Of late, I haven’t seen many canoes out on the lake in summer time but that could be because I might be looking for them in the heat of the day. I see them on shorelines all the time along with several other boats at various cottages. Any canoeists out there that are using Big Bass Lake? Leave us a comment.

People talk about science as God and faith in God will have to give place to faith in science. They do not need God any more. I am sorry for this generation. It is sailing without a compass. But whathas science or evolution have to do with faith in God? How long God’s days of creation were or how he went about creating life, I do not think we will ever know. Personally I don’t worry about evolution. I think life has begun in a slow way but that it should disturb our faith in God I can’t understand. St. John tells us that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, or as a spiritually developed scientist of our day would put it, In the Beginning was the Gulding Intelligence and the Guiding Intelligence was with God and without that Guiding Intelligence nothing was made. THen the trees that are now standing leafless and frozen and apparently dead, and the flowers and grass apparently dead, when I see them come to life in the spring, leaf out and blossom, and when I see a tiny seed grow into a plant, flower, or bush or a tree after a definite plan, or when I see a baby grow into a self acting individual can I conceive of all this taking place as the result of haphazard happenings? I cannot. I prefer to take the easier way to believe — that there is a directing intelligence behind everything because it is simpler and it corresponds with my whole life experience. I don’t think any spiritual man who sincerely thinks about science will belittle science, but respect it. Science has done much for the world. All true science brings us nearer to God. Science has found nothing that should disturb our faith in God and Jesus Christ.

There is much talk about the earth being so small, only as a grain of sand compared to some planets, like the star Betilus. True, Betilus is an enormous thing, but for all its bigness it is only a gas bag. It has no soul, it cannot hear the message of the stars that I could hear as an ignorant child and am still hearing as an old man of experience. These big stars are only the beginnng of science. The human soul has not been penetrated by science. Compared to the sould everything in the universe sincks into insignificance. The man of faith does not look with dismay upon the researches into nature and the discoveries of science. On the contrary, he hails them with joy. Each new discovery is affording additional evidence of the wisdom, power, and goodness of God. Full well does he know that facts written on the rock lives beneath the star depth above, and the pages of inspiration when properly understood and interpreted will be found to be in perfect accordance; showing forth the glory of the infinite in them all. There is no controversy between the man of faith and the man of wisdom, providing each one sets in his proper sphere. There has never been any real conflict between religiion and science. Thre may be conflicts between the interpretations of scriptures and the interpretations of the facts of nature, but what God has written in his word never conflicts with what God has written in his creation.

The skepticism of our day ought to remember how much science owes to Christian man. To man who believed in a personal God; who believed in his written Word and in his son Jesus Christ. What would be said of the pious Christian Copernicus; what of the Christian Galileo, Bacon, Kepler, Newton, Herchel, Hugh, Miller, Chalmers, McCann, Morse, Dawson South, Southall, LeConte, Henry, and many others who led the vanguard of investigation and discovery? How dense a darkness would envelop the race were all the lights kindled by Christian men blotted out, but let it be remembered that the wisdome of the world is for this world only not for the world to come. Its proper sphere is the seen and the tangible; the here and now, not the unseen and the hereafter.

The wisdom of man has passed out of its proper sphere when it invades the domain of the invisible and the infinite; when it denies that the omnipresent can reveal to man that which the eye never sees, the ear never heard, and the heart never can conceive. It has passed the boundary of the known its only proper sphere. The man of faith does not affirm the uselessness of earthly wisdom but does affirm that it has utterly failed to find out and know the truthful and living God. However useful the wisdom of this world may be in iti proper sphere it has never yet given to man that knowlege of God upon which his soul can rest in satisfaction and peace. The world by wisdom has never known God at any time, in any country, among any people, nor by wisdom has he ever been able to make God known to his fellow being. Without the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the true and living God has ever been the unknown God. The wise men of this generation are not backwards in boasting of the Word’s progress and yet the hister and ruins of the old world before the coming of our Lord revealed evidence of a civilization that will bear all the light and tests of our day.

Egypt speaks out of this self satisfied generation in her mummied kings, her silent sphinx, her matchless pyramids. Egypt could lift monstrous stones four hundred feet in the air and adjust them to a mathematical line, and not vary a hair’s breadth. They could paint on glass, grind gold to dust, embalm the body to preserve it. They built gigantic houses that have outlived all nations and civilizations, and still this good old civilization lived in died in gross and utter ignorance of the one true and living God. The religion of the wisest men of Arr and Nemphis was negritain fetishism, the lowest kind fo nature worship. The people bowed down and worshipped the Nile, the Ox, tree, hills, the birds, and the creeping things. Egypt has wise priests, her magnificent temples, her gorgeous worship, but alas: all was of the earth. She knew not God and her wise men withstood Moses when he came to them with a message from the living one in whom they lived and moved and had their being. No woner the people were liars and thieves, sensual and treacherous with all their wisdom. There were four other great world powers of ancient time — Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, but not one of these nations ever attained unto the knowledge of God which is life eternal. The men of those civilizations worshipped and served the creature more than the creator and for this cause God gave them up to vile and unnatural lists and passions. They were afflicted with unrighteousness, fornications, wickedness, covetousness, murder, and deceit. And to this Godless condition many people of our day want the word to go back to the wise men of this world filled with their philosophy. They ask first that we give up the miracles of the Old Testament, the imprecatory songs, the immortal parts of the Scriptures and all the prophets, then the miracles of the New Testament and Jesus himself. This is the modest demand of the unbelieving wisdom of our day, this substituting knowledge of nature for knowledge and faith in God. They would have us believe that this is progress, this is advancement of thought; and so there is left a grave without a resurrection, a universe wtihout God, sin without a savior. Thoughtful men understand well that the objective point of all these infidel attacks is the Cross and the Crucified One. Shall we cease to preach Christ and Him crucified at the request of boasting unbelievers? The answer comes down to us through the ages of patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs, from saints for all ages, all lands who have endured all the evils that man and devils could inflict. Go ask them if the gospel is true, and there shall come this answer, “We know in whom we have believed Christ crucified is the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation.”

Why, then, should we want to accept a theory so void and so hopeless as the infidels whose highest inspiration is a world without a God and a grave without a resurrection. Is the soul going to perish with the body when it dies? It does not seem reasonable to me that a creation that has gone on for billions of years as science believes, for the very purpose of producing that wonderful thing, the soul, should cause that soul, your soul and my soul to exist only as long as our physical bodies exist. Although science doe not offer mathematical proof of the immortality of the soul it gives us plenty of food for thought, plenty of ground for intelligent hope and it adds to our conviction that our physical life is only a stage in the existence of the soul. In my opinion all scientific evidnece tends to show and point to the belief that it is unlikely that the soul of man will cease to exist when the body perishes.

The law of continuity and the general scientific view of the universe tend to straighten our belief that the human soul goes on existing and developing after death. True science is constantly revealing Divinity and man’s religion and relationship to God, and science therefore is the hgihest form of human theology, the highest form of reasoning about God. Science leads us straight to a belief in God and this is the foundation of religion. Science should not prevent a man form being a Christian but should make him a better Christian. My personal belief is that everything that happens in this world is for the purpose of betterment of the soul. This is where science and religion touch. Science adds immeasurably to the foundation of religious faith. Science should strengthen our faith in God and if it does not bring us nearer to God then science is a failure.

I am not an educated man as far as book learning goes. All that I have is what I have picked up and mostly here rooting and grubbing, but I have seen evidence of an intelligent spirit every day and have learned every day and am glad that I haven’t seen anything which in the least contradicts the faith of my fathers, the faith I had as a child, but it has given me a better faith.

God is not a being far away. He is not far away and is not hard to find. He is near all them who seek him in spirit and truth. God will reveal himself to all who seek him in earnest. Believe in God and Jesus Christ, His Son, believe his word and trust in His grace, accept Jesus as your personal Saviour and you will never be sorry, reach out and take His hand; He is ever ready and waiting for you to take His hand, and He will safely lead you through; He will safely lead you home.

M. G. Johnson. 1930

When I built my house I built a sky light in the roof against the time when I could do some painting again. I knew I would not have any time to paint for a number of years but I had a good opportunity to study the beautiful things of nature and at the same time find that although I have not handled a brush for more than a quarter of a century I have not lost anything but gained much if my eyes and mind were always on the beautiful things in nature. Of course, the hands became stiff and hard, and it required a little time to get them broke in again, but they would soon limber up and respond to ones will when I quit using them for hard labor. The seventh summer I was here I worked too hard and got worn out and overheated and had a nervous breakdown with strange experiences. For nearly two weeks I did not try to sleep and it was like a dream night and day; although I did not try to do anything I was on my feet nearly all the time during those terrible days. One day I heard a most wonderful song of peace, it was like a choir of thousands of angels singing praises to God. The sound seemed to come from the skies in a southeasterly direction and every note had a beautiful color like the color of the rainbow that increased and diminished in volume as the sound increased or diminished. It was wonderful, at times soft and gentle and at times like the sound of many waters and indescribable. Most of this time I was travelling through space with beautiful lakes and rivers, and all things were perfect. All the waters were so very pure and clear. I saw many people, old and young, all very happy and their faces were lighted with a happy smile.

From the day I heard this beautiful and wonderful song I commenced to get better and could soon sleep. After that I recovered fast, and in a few days felt better than ever, although I was weak. Although I believe God has someting to do with this I don’t claim anything supernatural about it. After I got well I set to work to clear it up so that I could explain it to my own satisfaction. I always loved music and had in my soul the subjective starting point, also perhaps the birds singing and my imagination doing the rest. As for the colors, I know there were tears in my eyes as I looked in a southeasterly direction, having the sun on a slant I saw the colors of the rainbow and my imaginatio did the rest. The curve of the eye lid gave it the circle shape of the rainbow across the sky for a background. What wonderful gifts the Lord has given us, especially our imagination; but how often do people misuse and abuse this great gift by letting it run wild and on unworthy things.

When resorters began to come here and a few more settlers, we started a Sunday School in our school house, which I kept up about ten years, as long as there were enough children. When Catholic people began to come I worked with them until they got a priest and I lost them. After that I had Sunday School in my home during the summer when the resorters were here. By this time I had about 25 acres of land under cultivation and was in better circumstances, and I had a little orchard in bearing order and a few cattle. Still the thought would often come to me, “What am I doing this for?” I could never get away from the idea that I was doing it for some higher purpose, some purpose that would serve God and humanity.

In the northernmost end of my land is a beautiful high point that I would put in a few days each March, when the snow was off the hill and I could not work elsewhere. I left the nicest trees including the evergreens, and I had several offers to sell the point for a good price but never felt like letting it go because of my feeling about the future.

In 1923, Mr. Ralph Cooke and a committee representing the Young Men’s Christian Association in Chicago came and looked the place over and wanted it for a summer camp for boys, and they wanted the whole place. Then I knew what I had been working for. I was willing to sell the place for very much less than I had been offered, but I finally made up my mind to take a life lease on the point where my house stands and give the Young Men’s Christian Association the whole thing. I took an annuity sufficient to keep me as long I live and when I pass away they will have it all. And now may the good Lord bless “Y” work here and may all the boys and all who come here be blessed. God grant that these boys may grow up and attain strong, clean, healthy manhood.

The world has need of strong Christian men, more now than ever before. What a blessed thing itis for boys to get away from the city where there is so much noise and so much that is misleading. So much deceit, shame, and temptation, and to be able to get out to God’s country where they can be nearer HIm and see more of truth and less of untruth and evil. May the beautiful things that they have a chance to see here in this wonderful place inspire them. May it inspire them to a love for God and humanity and all that is beatiful and noble and true. What a happy world it would be if from sin and unbelief people would turn to God and praise him for his wonderful works with the children of men. Most people are like the bees and grubworms, they live for today and tomorrow without desire for the deeper, broader, higher, and fuller life. The life they are living is not worth being called life; it is only existence.

When I began to talk about coming up here alone in the wilderness the people all insisted that such a thing would be impossible. It could not be done. People that have to be alone lose their reason in a short time they said. But I felt that I could because it was my calling, and if God sent me he would go with me. I can do all things with God in whom I live and move and have my being. The trouble with some people is that they have lost track of a personal God. Their compass has been taken away, and those who have taken their compass have not given them anything in return to go by. In these days there is great unrest, people are running here and there and as the prophets of old have said that worldly knowledge shall be increased and people would be running hither and thither, and the cry is “more, more, give us more knowldge, more light.” Some of the trouble was stirred up by the war, but most of it was here before, and has a deeper source. Too many people are sailing without a compass. Generations ago most people, even those who did not openly profess religion had a faith in a personal God who ruled the affairs of men. They believed in a Divine purpose — in a fixed plan for the orderly conduct of men and they had a simple and literal faith in the Bible. We know that these people were happier than they are now. In this era of intellectual challenge the average man is less ready than his ancestors to accept a hand me down God. He wants to reach his own verdict after all the evidence is in. If science is sending out search lights and seems to uncover facts that do not match the literal interpretation of certain passages in the Bible he adds that to his evidence, and doubt enters his mind. Unquestioning faith is no longer his. His compass has been taken away and there is nothing given to him by those who have taken it from him to replace it.

Through ages man’s mind has been triumphing over matter, but now matter seems to have taken its revenge by triumphing over man’s mind. It seems to me that one trouble is that so many people are ready to believe that everything in the universe can be solved by the mind alone. What an absurd idea. The deeper things of God are revealed to man by the spirit of God.

Many people have given up the idea of a personal God because they can not work him out by an intellectual process. Can they by any such process help us to understand two of the oldest and most elemental mysteries, the mysteries of time and space? Can they make clear to us how time can be without beginning and end? They cannot. Nothing seems to have been put inside the skull of man that makes it possible for him to understand these mysteries. God has to be taken on faith, a faith that is grounded in instinct and reinforced by experience and common sense. God cannot be proved like a mathematical formula. One of the needs of our time is to have the simple faith of our fathers poured into a twentieth century mold. We feel the old fashioned religion dressed in a free and flowing robe and not in a straight jacket in which bigots would be encased. We need more sincerity, more simplicity, more tolerance, more reverence, and less smugness. We need more people who can say, “Our Father Who Art in Heaven” and really believe it.

When my oldest brother was with me while completing my house he did not like it here at that time and wanted me to sell the place and come down to Sparta again. After that he came every summer for a few days and every time he liked it better. Brother John also came for a few days each summer but now they have both passed away. My youngest sister, Mary, used to come and stay with me every summer as long as she lived, but she too has passed away and I am the only one left out of a family of nine. My nephew, Will Lindberg, and family, have spent their summers with me for more than 20 years, and other nephews and nieces and many friends come occasionally. So it is not as lonely as it was the first years when I did not see a human being for weeks and months. Even then it was not lonesome. I was too busy to be lonesome, and now I cannot find time to be lonesome.

I think I have proved that one can be happy alone. Wherever God sends a man he can be happy. Now all the old trees that wre dead and blackened by fire are gone and the second growth is up 40 to 60 feet high and the place has come into its own again and is really very beautiful. I can’t understand how anyone can be lonesome in this beautiful place. It is God’s country. I see his wonders every day. But I pity those who have Nature for their God because although Nature is great and wonderful in its greatness and its beauty and majesty, Nature is cold and cruel Nature can teach us many things about God. It can teach us that he is a great and all powerful and noble father, but Nature can’t teach us all we need to know and what we know it is necessary to know about him, namely, that God is love.

In my first years here I made many friends with birds and small animals. I had a flock of tame quail for pets one winter that would come at my call and eat out of my hand, and they would stay close to the house all the time. I had a little screech owl that I could go right up to and feed, and a crow that would follow me wherever I went. Of course, I found the crow when it was young. I also had a tame partridge. I could go to her where she was sitting on her eggs close by the house and feed her, and the same was true with squirrels and chipmunks. I even had a pet flying squirrel and occasionally muskrats would come to the house and were not afraid. I would throw out carrots and apples to feed them. One winter a skunk came to the house and picked up scraps and became about as tame as a cat. One day I carried a pail of stuff to the chickens and emptied it in a trough, and the skunk came along with tame cats, and the chickens, cats, and skunk all ate together as peaceful as could be.

At this time the lakes were full of fish and I could have all the fish I wanted without spending much time. I did not see a boat on the lake for years as the roads were not in condition so that people could get here easily and there were no cars. The fishermen to lakes that were handy and the fish in these lakes were conserved. And so I lived on fish and potatoes, and would have fish and potatoes for dinner and potatoes and fish for supper. I lived cheaply and simply but well at the same time. I had to live cheaply because the money I had at the start soon went and it took me years before the land would bring anything and even several years before I could raise enough to feed horses. There are so many things one has to have in the beginning, especially when he takes up new land. The first year the land produces little or nothing because the ground is too full of roots and wild stuff and does not hold the moisture well. One great drawback is the brake or fern which grows so fast that when the corn is ready to cultivate you cannot see anything but ferns and have to go over it first with a hoe and cut down the ferns before cultivating. While all the stumps were in the ground I could not raise more than 25 crates of corn per acre, but after I got rid of the stumps I have been raising 100 crates per acre.
Although it was all hard work I took much comfort in my work. I used to take a bath in the lake twice a day and after bathing would rinse my clothes in the lake and hang them on a bush to dry, and put on ather suit, so I kept my body and my clothes clean. At the same time during the first years I had my drawbacks. One winter I got diptheria, but managed to do my chores. It was hard and I was pretty weak with everything whirling around and around, but I managed to stagger around somehow and wear out the fever.

Another year I had an awful time with rheumatism in my left hip which was so bad I could not rest night or day. It was no use to lie down; I could not lie down for five minutes and had to sit up for two weeks. Some times when I was completely worn out I would fall asleep for a while and wake up and feel as if I were on fire but I finally got well. Suffering does not spoil our lives it only raises us to a higher altitude, bringing us nearer to one another and nearer to God.

Many times I have wondered what I was dong this for. I would think, am I here for some high purpose or am I here for a selfish purpose. Deep down in my soul I have always come to the conclusion that it is for some higher purpose that the Lord had sent me here. In spite of all the draw backs and all the troubles I have never wanted to quit my work. The saddest dreams I had were that I could not make a success but would have to give up and do mechanical work for a living.

The next spring I got shingles and shingled the house outside the legs and then commenced clearing the land, chopping down dead trees and the wind-falls. I rolled the logs together with the bushes to burn, but anyone who has not had the experience cannot understand, or have any idea what a tremendous lot of work it is to go into the wilderness and dig out a farm. It was a long fight, but a good fight, and has had tis reward. There is joy and comfort in it too; it is work that invigorates and gives one a good appetite. I think working in the open and learning the smell of smoke has added very much to my health and strength, as I was not nearly as strong when I first came as afterwards. The work was so slow that it did not look as if I would ever make any headway. If timber was as scarce as it is now the lumbermen would have taken all of it and my work would have been less, but then I would not have had anything handy to build with.
At that time there was no second growth timber of any kind. All that the lumberman left the fire and the camps and logging trains killed; hence all one could see was dead trees and stumps. Where ever the lumberman had been there was desolation supreme. Many times when I look back now I don’t know how I ever had courage to tackle the work of clearing. The first two years I was here I did not have a team, but hired one now and then. The third year I bought a team of horses and commenced to plow among the stumps. It was discouraging work; the plow caught in the roots and snags and I would have to pull and tug and the next minute would be caught again. So it was all the while I kept on clearing. I generally put in from 12 to 18 hours a day, and was many times discouraged but kept at it. If it had not been for this beautiful lake I could not have endured it, as many times I felt like giving up and would sit down and watch the water and shadows and reflections, and think and dream; then I would get at it again. I really never felt I wanted to give up and quite, so little by little the place was cleared. The big pine stumps I left until I got a cable stump machine and dynamite, and I began to blast enough to split them up and pull them out with the machine. It was slow work for one alone, but it went little by little the same as the other work.

It was remarkable how much stuff came out of the ground; when I had a field stump the ground would be so completely covered that I had to swueeze through and begin in some corner to pile them. It was hard work, but to burn them after they were piled was great fun. There would be a pillar of fire sky high from the turpentine and alcohol in the wood. The fire would seem to rain down from the clouds, and I was happy to see the stumps go. Every kind of work well done has its reward, and there is no joy like the joy of a day well spent. Some of the pine stumps were good sized ones. I had one or two that were big enough to have set a good sized table with chairs around it. Under the biggest one I put five pounds of dynamite, and even then only blew out half of it. After I got well started to stump I cleared about five acres each year until the work grew much easier. Then I began to do what I could to beautify the place; clean up the shores and get logs, trees, and brush out of the water and so kept myself busy.

My days have been pretty full and many of them have been hard, but I do not regret it as I have been much more contented here than ever before, and time has gone flying, where it has flown to I do not know. It is like a dream to me when I look back on these thirty years. My only regreat is that I did not get started ten years earlier so I could have done more for the place while my strength lasted. However, I am glad and thankful for what has been done.

I could see the north part of the lake and some of the land I had seen when I first struck the lake, which proved to be islands. I sat down on a fallen tree to meditate and realized that this was the place I had been dreaming about all the time. So I made up my mind I would buy this land and make a home of it. It was also desperately desolate with all the dead timber, and stumps, and brush standing and laying around. It would not be long until the old dead stuff would be gone and the second growth would come and make the place beautiful again.

We camped at Loon Lake the rest of the summer and fall. There were lots of small game and wood ducks that came to the lake when the acorns began to fall, so we had lots of game and could get all the fish we wanted. When the weather began to get cold we went home for the winter, but the next year in May returned and camped at upper Saubel Lake among the green pine. I there met George Murkel and made a bargain with him for the land I had picked out. I put a down payment on it and got a deed years later.

Bromen begain to grow stronger and we hunted and fished together. The woods were filled with huckelberries and blackberries and we picked lots of them. I made a cart with wood wheels with flanges so I could pull it along Peters’ narrow guage track, and on that cart I piled the berries to ship at the P.M. RR Junction. In the fall when the cranberries were ripe we picked and shipped them the same way. At that time there were not many people here except the lumbermen and two fellows on Saubel Lake, and two other men, one a darkey , the other an old soldier who lived in a shack which had once been in a lumber camp. The old soldier was a friendly sociable man. When anyone came to his shack he would say “Come in nieghbor; help yourself to the nearest seat; fill your pipe and let’s have a good sociable smoke and a good sociable chat”. Then he would begin to talk about his adventures in hunting deer and bear and trapping otter and beaver, and about wishing people would come and settle here so that they would visit him.

In the autumn I made several oil sketches around Bass Lake, but when it began to be cold Bromen and I went home to Sparta and I took up my work of portrait and landscape painting for several years. The call to go back north again began to be stronger all the time. I managed to get up for a week or two each year and in the fall of 1893 I put up a little log cabin and stayed all winter and did some chopping and clearing way of brush around the cabin where I intended to build my house. For several more years I did portraits, but the call to go north to my place grew stronger all the while. In January, 1901, I said goodbye to civilization and came up to my little cabin and began to cut timber for my house. The snow was deep and the weather was bad, and it took me until March before I had enough material for the house. Before the ice went out I hired a man with a team to haul logs and poles to the place where I wanted to build. Afterwards I hired the same man to help me hew the logs. It took me all summer to build, as I worked mostly alone and as everything had to be made with the ax.

For the joists, rafters, and studdings I used small logs and hewed them on two sides, and for the rafters I used pine and cedar poles. The rafters were hewed on the top only. I had to have some sawed lumber but it was cheap in those days. Dressed lumber for window frames and casings, and maple flooring cost $12 a thousand delivered at Peacock; now it is nearly ten times that amount. By the time I had the house up and the roof on my brother John came and made most of the window frames for me, and would have stayed longer but for a message from home saying that his boy was sick. After that I did the rest myself. The worst was the plastering especially on the ceiling. When I started to plaster it came down again and covered me all over. I was very discouraged and would quit but in a few minutes was at it again until I got the hang of it. After that the work went fairly well.

I was dreaming, dreaming of a place up north in the woods where there was a beautiful lake. I never had any desire to go South, East, or West — only North.

After two or three days I went back to Marquette. One of the hunters went with me or I would not have been able to find my way through the woods and over the mountains. I did a few oil sketches, mostly on “Dead River” and then went back to my old home in Sparta township and made portraits for three years. A boy friend got consumption and his doctor said that the only hope for him was to go camping among the pines. He induced me to take him up north. So in 1889 I brought him into Lake County and we camped near where my home came to be. We should have left the train at Peters Crossing but through some mistake of the man who directed us, we were carried on to Manistee, crossing 25 miles north. Next morning we took the train back to the water tank on the little Manistee River, but had bad luck at the river where we camped but it rained all the time. As soon as the weather cleared I struck out across the country to find Bass Lake or the Saubel Lakes. I found the Saubel Lakes in the afternoon and next day brought the young man, Herbert Bromen, and we camped a few days until I got our supplies packed in. At that time lumbering operations were at their height, and Peter’s headquarters were at Saubel Lakes, with a crew of 100 men. In a few days, we moved to Loon Lake, where we camped the rest of the summer. At that time Loon Lake was surrounded with virgin pine which was in its beauty, wonderfuly majestic, the tall dark forest for miles around darkly solemn. At that time Lake County was one of the richest counties in Michigan but it is poverty stricken now, all through selfishness. If it had not been for selfishness, this county could have been as rich today as it was 45 years or 50 years ago. If the lumber men had cut only what was ripe and protected the rest from fire so it could have kept on growing, that would have kept them lumbering as the timber grew up. People want to get rich quick, make their pile and have what they call a good time. It is selfishness that spoils our lives and blinds us to the beautiful things of life. The things which alone can make up a happy and contented life for us. If it had not been for the fires or the cut-over land there would have been lots of timber yet. The state should have started reforesting years ago. The first night we camped at Loon Lake we had one of the worst thunder storms and cloud bursts I have ever seen, with continous lightning from all directions. It was impossible to sleep and towards morning Bromen asked me what I thought of this. I said I thought it was rather damp. The water was rushing all around us but it was lucky that we had our tent on a little knoll or we would have floated away. Many trees went down during the night and in the morning every other telephone pole and sometimes two or three in succession were shattered along Peter’s telephone line. It was the wildest night I have ever seen. The water had risen four inches in the lake during the night.

After we were well settled at Loon Lake I started to find Big Bass Lake. In this oak and pine forest it was pretty thick and dark; one could not see far ahead but I finally found it. I came to where the school house now stands and started to walk around the lake, but I could not see more than a small part of it at any time. I did not know that the lake was as big as it proved to be. I started walking north but when I had gone a little way I came to where the timber had been out and there the walking became extremely difficult. Fire had gone over and fire wood had grown up as high as my head. It was then shedding its down and filled my eyes, nose, and mouth with its soft, flaky, white wool. It also concealed the logs and brush underneath and made walking more difficult. At that time they did not cut the hemlock, or oak, or anything but pine and the other timber lost its support and was hurled in all directions. Here and there a big jumble of trees interlocked branches with weed and blackberrie briar all interwoven so it took from one and a half to two hours to go from where the school house now stands to where my house is now located.


This is an interesting look at the portal into Little Bass Lake under the bridge. Here the channel between Big and Little Bass Lake has a long straight-away just prior to a turn at the bridge. I’ve often wondered how many boats a year take this voyage down this channel and if there are more seekers from Little Bass Lake over that of Big Bass Lake?

This bridge is not a roadway but moreso a pathway across the channel. To the left should about be the home of Ann Louise Chase, the author of several books about the Big Bass Lake area. As to the right, it would lead toward where Camp Martin Johnson was once located. I also wonder how safe that bridge is to walk over?

Dan Schultz, a former counselor from CMJ recently told me that the camp property on Little Bass Lake was used for campfires and or cookouts. The camp also used the channel for canoeing as their canoe docks were almost directly across the channel on the Big Bass Lake side.

Tomorrow, our journey reaches into Little Bass Lake and then back again toward Big Bass Lake. Stay with us!

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