Unidentified history of Hillsdale County


Bridge Over Water

Do you recognize where this picture was taken? There was a steamboat called the Edna D. that took people on excursions around Baw Beese Lake. Were there ever bridges on the lake? Did Baw Beese Lake ever have outlets to other lakes that were big enough and deep enough for a boat that carried several people?

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Dan Bisher knows that the Edna D. was delivered to Baw Beese Lake via Adrian in the summer of 1888. It was an excursion steam boat that later blew up and sank in shallow water. This type of boat was common during the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. 

Mikell Kiersey thought a boat sank a long time ago off the point by Sandy Beach. His family had a dock there in the 1960s, and Mikell saw divers looking for it. Dan Bisher replied to Mikell, indicating that immediately off Wolf's Point (which was beyond Sandy Beach) in about four or five feet of water were old wooden railroad pilings that look much like an unfinished log cabin. Dan and a friend spent the summers of 1962 and 1963 scuba diving all over Baw Beese Lake in search of the Edna. The two discussed the steamboat many times with the late historian Bob Keefer, and he gave them a few clues. They never found a sunken boat off Wolf's Point, but they did find numerous expensive fishing lures that they later sold to a fisherman.

Dan and his friend discovered the mushy, woody remains of an old boat near the old Laird's Marina, where the public boat launch is today. They were never sure that it was the Edna. Steve Palmer also remembered a story about the ruins of a train track or bridge at the bottom of the lake, but he couldn't remember details.

Alice Kisandi suggested that the bridge might be the one that was by Oak Haven, where M-99 crosses over the channel between the lakes. As a child, Alice lived in Oak Haven beginning in 1972 and remembers going under the bridge as a child when her dad took her fishing. 

Laurie Lothamer wondered if the Edna ever traveled the St. Joe River. She used to fish with her cousin on the St. Joe in Jonesville. This picture reminded her of the railroad trestle that they fished from. That sparked a memory byTeresa Jackson, who thought the picture looked like Jonesville, along the river near the old Klein Tool building.

Hillsdale Historical Society: While the real location of the bridge and water, as well as the identification of the boat weren't determined, one guess is definitely wrong. Two readers suggested that the bridge might be the railroad trestle at the north end of the Fairgrounds. That trestle belonged to the Detroit, Hillsdale, and Indiana Railroad. When their tracks reached the Southern Michigan track (which followed the current Baw Beese Trail on St. Joe Street) they mounted a trestle to pass over the Southern Michigan track.  The trestle ran along the north end of the Fairgrounds and over Broad Street, reaching ground level again at the corner of Sharp and Budlong Streets, where the depot was located.  The trestle almost proved fatal for an employee of the Forepaugh Circus who was riding on top of a circus wagon on a Saturday night as it passed under the trestle on Broad Street.  He narrowly escaped decapitation and was seriously injured.  The rails continued west - safely on the ground - through the area where the Hillsdale County Health Center now stands, then finally reached Bankers, where a three stall roundhouse turntable and depot stood, with a resort nearby.