Status: What Has Happened to the Camp Martin Johnson Heritage Museum in Irons?



Last November, the Camp Martin Johnson Heritage Museum in Irons, Michigan, earned their tax-exempt status but when I recently tried to locate its previous Internet location it seemingly has disappeared.  The museum now resides in Heritage Park in Irons and I would like to know its present status?

Ever since the camp ceased operations in the late 1970’s it has been besieged with various problems.  Just after it was sold looters descended on the camp property on Big Bass Lake stealing what they could.  That the camp was sold in the first place was the true beginning of its downward plunge.  The visions of Martin Johnson for his beloved land was now in ruins.  He wanted children to enjoy his land and now only rich home owners do from the Heritage Bay Development Company.

Once Martin Johnson’s house was moved to Irons it established some hours for touring the facility.  Another downside is that the gravesite remains at Big Bass Lake unmarked.  It should be moved to the site of the house in Irons where it can be properly maintained. 

Yet, now, with the Internet site gone, what has become of the Museum idea?  Last year I spoke with Tom Curtin Sr., who had developed that website, but this morning I learned that he passed away last June.  Now with the driving force behind that museum no longer with us, what will become of its fate?  I also found a website asking for donations to maintain the museum but none was forthcoming.

However, where the vision of Martin Johnson really lives is in the hearts and minds of the campers and staff that went there as children.  Yet even that will one day run its course.  But, here, at Big Bass Lake and Beyond, the vision of Martin Johnson will remain both in the category (on sidebar) of Camp Martin Johnson but also on the man himself found in a page at the top of our website. 

As for the status of the museum itself, if you know anything about what is happening there, leave us a comment.

School Room


this is a picture of an old-school room from the Martin Johnson Heritage Museum located in Skinner Park, Irons. These rooms used to serve grades one through eight in a single classroom. I wonder if the older kids assisted the teacher in helping the younger children? The Martin Johnson Heritage Museum also consists of paintings from Martin Johnson himself and memorabilia from the camp that once served kids on Big Bass Lake. Take some time to visit the museum when you’re in the area.

What is the status of the camp Martin Johnson Museum?


What is the current status of the camp Martin Johnson Heritage Museum located in Skinner Park Irons Michigan ? The last I heard  Tom Curtin  was the museum director . Then they were in need of funds to keep the museum operational . Perhaps Mr. Curtin could provide us with an update ? The floor is open for comments . image2

The camp Martin Johnson Heritage Museum


MI+Lake+County+Eden+Twp+Irons+Sc does anyone in our audience know anything about the current status of the camp Martin Johnson Heritage Museum in irons Michigan? I’ve been out of the loop for about 4 years. I’m sure some former campers know what’s going on? Leave us a comment to update us

1 Room School House


my father attended a one-room schoolhouse at Big Bass Lake which is now the Sauble Township Hall. Can you imagine all grades having school together in one room? The Martin Johnson heritage Museum in Skinner Park, irons, Michigan has just that thing. This is what a one-room schoolhouse looks like. My father and the other boys had to chop wood before school to keep the classroom warm. I would think this type of educational system would be very difficult on the teacher. That would take an exceptional person to get the job done correctly. If you’re ever in irons check out this Museum as it also has information I’m Camp Martin Johnson as well as Martin Johnson paintings.

CMJ Fitting Room


One of the rooms in the Martin Johnson Heritage Museum in Irons, Michigan, is devoted to some of the wearing material that both campers and staff wore such as sweatshirts and jackets that bore the camp’s name. I would suppose that some of these articles of clothing are from various decades of camp?

Perhaps some silk screening could be added to the museum so that sweatshirts and jackets could bear the museum’s name as another source of revenue for the museum.  It would also keep the camp and museum’s name alive as a great source of advertising. 

I know that when I marketed my Joplin Boys Club in this manner my staff and kids became walking billboards in the community and the same could be accomplished at the museum to keep its name alive in the area and perhaps increase tourism there.  On our Museum Page I suggested a chili contest held annually on the grounds of the museum as another revenue generator. 

Perhaps our readers have other ways and means of keeping the camp and museum name alive.  Leave us a comment in that regard.

Relocating the Martin Johnson Home to Irons, Michigan


The home of Martin Johnson himself was moved to the site in Irons from Martin Johnson Point back in the early 1980s to preserve something from the camp. Inside the structure, in the main living space, is a glass case with various objects, and different artifacts, including the original sign from the Camp Store. There is also a table on which certain documents are for sale: a history of the area (no doubt by Anne Louise Chase), postcards dating back to the early part of the century, a local area cookbook; and the green covered Martin Johnson autobiography.

Off to the right was Johnson’s room, containing a bed covered by an army blanket and also two plaques: one seems to be the plaque from the CMJ Dining Hall, the other is the plaque removed from the grave stone, kept in the house. The grave stone is still where it was, now behind a private home. Without a plaque, though, it just looks like a big boulder.

In the kitchen, there are all sorts of artifacts that have been donated. In the kitchen cupboard, under the stairs, they have retained the original grouting of the walls to show the construction as it had been done by Johnson himself. Upstairs, in the studio, there are several of his paintings. The wonderful roof window had to be replaced with a modern window structure. Yet, the floor in the studio is the original flooring, and the light from the new skylight, although not the same as on the point, makes this a very luminous room.

There is a green camp jacket hanging on a hook upstairs, and there is a camp Canoe Paddle. When the camp was closed, the property itself was wide open to the public, i.e. to anyone who wanted to go traipsing through the villages and cabins, buildings.

As I have detailed in another post, the four cabins on Four Winds Island have been preserved by the current owner who wants everything left as it once had been. Along the side of one cabin was a sign that indicated that the Ward Hills Ski Area was twenty miles in some direction. The camp had earlier purchased that property to be used fo winter activities.

Next time you are in Irons, Michigan, you might want to stop by and view the original house of Martin Johnson. It is a unique piece of history from the Big Bass Lake area.

It is disturbing learning that Martin Johnson’s house has been dislodged from the property on Big Bass Lake that he loved so much but also comforting to know that Irons, Michigan, thought enough of his legacy to allow his house to come to their town. Now it has become a tourist attraction and rightly so. I cannot imagine how former campers can even stand to look at their former camp site as it has been altered beyond belief.

Yet now all his paintings are on display for the public to see. And CMJ campers still have a place to call home that may have a new location but the same old feel that it always had. Johnson’s gravesite still exists at the old camp which can be found elsewhere on BBL and Beyond. Check the Camp Martin Johnson category for more.