Sunday, January 30, 2011
We have been in touch recently with a grand-daughter of Dr. Edgar Ford, Jacque Ford Tauriainen, who has kindly shared a number of old family photos of the Ford family at Birch Lodge. (Place the cursor on the photo for the caption.)
Dr. Ford was the man who envisioned Birch Lodge. He purchased the property in 1910, and oversaw the construction of the lodge in 1911. He and his wife Cornelia came with their sons (Edgar A., Samuel M., and Herbert L.) and lived in tents while the lodge was under construction. We knew he died before the lodge was open, but did not know that he died of rabies, contracted when he was bitten by the dog of one of his patients in Cambria, Wisconsin. He died a difficult death under the care of his son Herbert, to whom he entrusted the running of the lodge. (Herbert - or Bert - was Jacque's father.)
Early days at the lodge were difficult, and as a young man, Herbert was charged with taking money to the bank on the train, in close company with a number of rough looking characters. In retrospect, many of these were probably loggers on their way to and from the area looking for work as the logging slowed down. He was probably right to worry.
On the right above, Jacque's brother Paul feeds a deer, with I believe, Mr. Moore, a later owner of the Lodge. On the left is a photo of the Birch Lodge Orchestra: left to right "Ed, Nestor, Sam, Bert" and a piano player from St. Ignace.
After the Ford family left Birch Lodge, Herbert worked in Furlong's store in the village for a while, but eventually left the area. However, they did return to visit periodically and maintain an interest in the lodge. I hope you will enjoy these early photos as much as we did. Thanks Jacque!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
This photo was from Michigan Passenger Stations check them out!
For railroad enthusiasts, Trout Lake and Birch Lodge offer opportunities to experience the “sights and sound of the rails.” Trout Lake was founded at the junction of two historic Upper Peninsula railroads. The Detroit, Mackinac & Marquette Railroad began laying rails out of Marquette and St. Ignace in 1880 and operated trains between the two points by 1881. In 1886 the line declared bankruptcy, operated temporarily as the Mackinaw and Marquette Railroad, and by 1887 became the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic Railroad (with a Mackinac Division that ran south from Soo Junction to St. Ignace). The Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railroad was established in 1883 on a route generally paralleling the Lake Michigan shore before veering northeast to Sault Ste. Marie ("the Soo"). These two railroads merged with the Wisconsin Central Railroad in 1961 to form the Soo Line Railroad (the common name for the former MS&S).
This photo is courtesy of Chuck Schwesinger on Rail Pictures.Net
Railroads were the catalyst to settlement and early development of village of Trout Lake, which was platted in 1888 by the Peninsular Land Company (the land agent for the DM&MRR). The general location was called Trout Lake Junction. Railroad-related structures at the village included the DSS&A depot, roundhouse, pump houses and storage tanks, a section house, a bunkhouse and repair shops that together were used by at least 30 full-time employees. At its height 8 passenger trains a day ran through the town as well as a late night freight that included a passenger car. Birch lodge sent a wagon, and later an automobile, to pick up tourists at the depot. The original depot that still stands in the center of the village continues to be used by railroad maintenance crews, although the DSS&A ended its last Upper Peninsula passenger service after the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1958.
This photo of Trout Lake Station courtesy of
In 1984 the line south out of Trout Lake was abandoned; in 1987 a large amount of Soo Line Railroad including all Michigan mileage, was spun off to Wisconsin Central Ltd, now part of Canadian National Railway. The former MS&S line survives today and runs by Birch Lodge and through Trout Lake. Train buffs standing at the entrance to the grounds of birch lodge can experience the power of locomotives as the slowly moving trains pass by, offering numerous opportunities for photographs and videos - or just waving hello to the CNRR engineers.
Another shot courtesy of Chuck Schwesinger on '>Rail Pictures.net
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Carp (Big Trout) Lake covers 560 acres, and combined with Little Trout Lake (joined by a short channel next to Birch Lodge), offers about a square mile of potential fishing. The majority of the lake is over 20 feet deep, with extensive shelves of 10 feet and less, and depths ranging to 35 feet. All in all, there is a variety of habitat to make fish - and fishermen - happy.
The first documented stocking of fry and fingerling walleye in the lake dates back to the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934, and continued through 1946. Blue gill and large mouth bass were stocked between 1948 and 1950. In 1974 the MDNR placed 16,000 square feet of rock reefs in shallow water near the north and northeast shorelines to enhance walleye spawning and nursery habitat. Cliff and Ann Badgley allowed them to improve the woods trail to the Birch Lodge swimming beach to access the lake. Releases continued during the 1970s; through the 1980s the MDNR planted walleye eight times; more recently, between 1996 and 2001 nearly 40,000 1½-to-2 inch fish were released. The habitat and planting was successful, and the MDNR ceased stocking the lake after they determined the walleye population was self-sustaining.
Word from anglers is that walleyes, northern pike, small mouth bass and pan fish (perch, bluegill, rock bass) are all taken in good numbers, and the MDNR states seasonal migrants into the lake include brown trout from the Carp River, and steelhead and salmon from Lake Huron. Fishing has always been a “lure” at the lodge, as evidenced by vintage photos of happy anglers and mounted “lunkers” that grace the lobby. From the lodge we’ve seen eagles fish the lake, and even saw one take his catch up into a nearby pine, only to drop it – another one that “got away.”
Saturday, January 8, 2011
The lodge’s association with local law enforcement continued after Charles and Estelle Moore acquired the property in during the 1920s. Charles was elected Justice of the Peace and his son was appointed deputy sheriff. One can imagine there may have been Prohibition violators brought before Moore in his courtroom in the east wing of the lodge, which ironically, was transformed after World War II and remains today, the somewhat less “sobering” Birch Bar.
Moore had the vision of a “first-class hotel-resort.” The grounds and shoreline were cleared, and the lodge was refurbished with central heat. The lodge and its large dining room became a focal point for community events such as the Annual Game Suppers that were held there between 1926 and 1940. During the 1940s and 1950s, state-wide meetings such as the Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners met at the lodge, featuring keynote speakers such as Victor A. Knox, who was Speaker of Michigan House of Representatives from 1947-1952 and a US Congressman from 1953-1965.
Perhaps the high point of Birch Lodge’s “social life” occurred during the 1950s after owner Cliff Badgley became a prime mover with the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association, a politically active group. On July 19, 1953, Michigan Governor G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams and his family visited the lodge for a “Governor’s Picnic”, a combined political and social event featuring a buffet luncheon, entertainment, boat races, and a ball game.
We discovered photos of the governor at the lodge, towering above the locals, and other images including racing boats, one of which is named “Soapy” , another at the dock is "Soapy Too".
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Returning from a trip downstate, we crossed the Mackinac Bridge on New Years Day. It was a very gray and windy day, but even so, I thought the view was spectacular. The lakes are still open, but ice rims the beaches. Beautiful!
The "Mighty Mac" as it is known, is an engineering marvel. It is the third longest suspension bridge in the world. Only the Akashi Kaikyo bridge in Japan and the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark surpass it. Interestingly, they were both opened in 1998, and the Macinac Bridge was opened in 1957. For over forty years it was the longest suspension bridge in the world! In 2010, it was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
The Mackinac Bridge is five miles long overall, crossing the Straits of Mackinac (the point where Lake Michigan mingles with Lake Huron at the tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula). It begins at Mackinac City on the south, and ends in St. Ignace on the north. The commanding towers which hold the cables are 552' high. At the center point the roadway is 200 feet above the water, which at this point is about 295' deep. Oh, and being a suspension bridge it can sway as much as 35 feet to accommodate severe winds!
Don't worry though, you will not feel it sway as you cross, and it has fantastic views of Mackinac, Round and Bois Blanc Islands to the east; and Historic Ft. Mackinac, St. Helena Island, and the "tip of the mitt" to the west. It is managed by the Mackinac Bridge Authority, and they have lots of information about the Mackinac Bridge. Also, if you are afraid to drive across, you can contact them for a driver.
The Mackinac Bridge is open to pedestrian traffic only on Labor Day, when the annual "Bridge Walk" takes place. I am setting that date aside to try to make it this year. I have been crossing the bridge since 1957 as my family were avid vacationers of the North. I even found a photo of us crossing on a ferry as the bridge was being built in 1956. (I am the smallest one.) Look closely, and you will see the cables are strung!