Martin Johnson Heritage Museum


Welcome to the Martin Johnson Heritage Museum page which is located near the entrance of Skinner Park in Irons, Michigan. Martin Johnson’s house was moved from its original location from Camp Martin Johnson on Big Bass Lake in the late 1970’s and this page will highlight this facility.

The Museum is open to the public every Saturday from Noon to 4 pm.  The founder of Camp Martin Johnson’s gravesite remains on private property under a boulder at Big Bass Lake.  Also many of the original buildings still exist on Four Winds Island which is now privately owned. 

In regard to Martin Johnson’s house, everything had to be made with the ax.  Can you even imagine how tedious that must have been for him?   For the joists, rafters, and studding’s he used small logs and hewed them on two sides, and for the rafters. He then used pine and cedar poles. The rafters were hewed on the top only. Johnson 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.

The worst was the plastering especially on the ceiling. When he started to plaster it came down again and covered Johnson all over. He was very discouraged and would quit, but in a few minutes, was at it again until he got the hang of it. The next spring Johnson got shingles and shingled the house outside the legs and then commenced clearing the land, chopping down dead trees and the wind-falls.

When he built his house Johnson built a sky light in the roof against the time when he could do some painting again. That area became his studio.

In the weeks to come I will be featuring the rooms within this museum.  Stay tuned! 


Again, this is Martin Johnson’s home and on the roof you can observe the skylight that he had put in so that he could use his oil paints until dark.  If anyone has any of Johnson’s oil paintings they would care to share wih us to put on his Page send them to


I can imagine walking along the rugged shoreline of Martin Johnson’s time at Big Bass Lake and hear him singing with his guitar.  He would spot me and wave me forward for a dinner of potatoes and fish with perhaps a fruity dessert of blackberries or gooseberries. 

Then we’d pass the time of day as he gave me a tour of his land.  Before long we’d both be talking about the Lord and how He benefits us both daily.  What a way to spend an afternoon.

Perhaps he’d invite me to wash along with him in Big Bass Lake to refresh myself.  Then he’d show me his studio and his oil paintings of the area.  He’d talk about how his imagination brings life to dead canvas.  And then we’d go outside and I’d sing a few songs with him under God’s blue sky.

Yes, I would have loved to get to know the man, Martin Johnson.  He’d be all, and more, of what I’ve described for you today.  And this is the man who inspired this museum that bears his name.  I just wanted to allow you to get to know the man behind the museum.


These are the hours of operation for the Martin Johnson Heritage Museum located in Irons, Michigan.  The house was first offered to a group in the fall of 1988. The house was moved in June 1989. The group was made up of seven ladies who lived on Big Bass Lake and had no ties with Camp Martin Johnson. The last few years the visitors to the museum have averaged 30.

Perhaps an annual Chili cookoff could be held at the museum to help defer expenses and also to inform the community at large about the museum.  It would be a great community day and a benefit to the museum. 


When Martin Johnson built his house. he built a sky light in the roof against the time when he could do some painting again. He knew he would not have any time to paint for a number of years but had a good opportunity to study the beautiful things of nature and at the same time find that, although he had not handled a brush for more than a quarter of a century, that he had not lost anything but gained much since his 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 Johnson’s will when he quit using them for hard labor.

The seventh summer Martin Johnson was at Big Bass Lake,  he worked too hard and got worn out and overheated and had a nervous breakdown with strange experiences. For nearly two weeks Johnson did not sleep and it was like a dream night and day; although he did not try to do anything.   He was on his feet nearly all the time during those terrible days. One day Johnson 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 Johnson was travelling through space with beautiful lakes and rivers, and all things were perfect. All the waters were so very pure and clear. He saw many people, old and young, all very happy and their faces were lighted with a happy smile.

From the day Johnson heard this beautiful and wonderful song, he commenced to get better and could soon sleep. After that he recovered fast, and in a few days felt better than ever, although still weak. Although Johnson believed God has something to do with this, he didn’t claim anything supernatural about it. After he got well, Johnson set to work to clear it up so that he could explain it to his own satisfaction.

 Johnson always loved music and had in his soul the subjective starting point.  The birds singing and his imagination doing the rest provided his inspiration. As for the colors, he know there were tears in his eyes as he looked in a southeasterly direction, having the sun on a slant.   Johnson saw the colors of the rainbow and his imagination 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, especially our imagination; but how often do people misuse and abuse this great gift by letting it run wild and on unworthy things.  As for Johnson, the music of his canvas told the whole story in regard to his oil paintings in this experience. 


How many former campers and staff still have one of these sweatshirts or even a jacket?  Do they still fit? 

Well, the museum in Irons has many examples of sweatshirts and jackets of both campers and staff alike for you to view.  Each has a story behind them that only you can decifer.  For it well could be “your” story.  Explore this room to your hearts content and then let the memories roll.

You might even enhance your memory by wearing one of these that you saved from your youth.


I wonder what Martin Johnson is cooking tonight? Probably potatoes and fish. Tomorrow it will be fish and potatoes. That seemed to be his favorite meal fare. Perhaps some nights he had a bowl of berries for dessert. Later vegetables from his garden gave him a better meal.

I can almost see him in this kitchen preparing his meal.  Maybe fried potatoes tonight?  Or pouring a tall glass of water from a pitcher.  His appetite must have been enormous following a hard day of work on his land.  Other thoughts about his kitchen?


That Martin Johnson enjoyed music is certain as earlier on this page I show him strumming his guitar. But in his living room you can observe a pump organ. After a hard day working his land, and after finishing a supper of fish and potatoes, he retired to his living room to play some music. With his faith in God (as described in Martin Johnson History Page), he must have played some Christian hymns to relax him enough to paint.

I can also see him read his Bible by candlelight while relaxing in a chair prior to turning in for the day. Yes, Martin Johnson lived a very full life on the shores of his beloved Big Bass Lake.