Railroads & Resorts
Baw Beese Lake
In March 1892, a “quiet and unassuming gentleman” arrived in Hillsdale and checked into the Smith Hotel. By the time of his departure two days later, Samuel B. Griffith had arranged for the purchase of Archer’s Landing at Baw Beese Lake for a consideration of $7,000. The property, being purchased by the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, was to have significant additions and improvements in order to become “a great summer resort.”
Bath houses, a water toboggan slide, a large dance pavilion and a hotel, as well as a lunch room and ice cream parlor overlooking the lake, were built. A large dock extending out into the lake, where a steam boat, named after Edna Cornell and dubbed “the Edna,” boarded folks for lake tours. The dance pavilion was built so that it could be fully enclosed, heated, and used for banquets and other functions during the colder months.
On Sunday afternoons bands played, with special excursion trains running from Detroit, Jackson, Toledo, Elkhart and Fort Wayne. At one point, reduced-price tickets were being made available in New York City.
Companies, such as General Electric in Fort Wayne, brought their employees via special trains for a day of recreation. The resort was also the destination for organizations such as the Tri-State IOOF (Oddfellows) picnic, which was said to have brought in as many as 4,000 visitors to the park.
Dinner dances proved popular with some prominent people, such as Charles T. and Harriet Mitchell and the Walter H. Sawyers. One of the last significant dinner parties to be held was by the E.O. Galloways, who hosted 200 guests.
The resort prospered for almost 20 years, but with war on the horizon the popularity of recreational train travel waned. In 1915, all the buildings of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad resort were dismantled and the property eventually sold.
Bird Lake is the largest body of water in Jefferson Township. On the south shore of the lake is the unincorporated village of Shadyside, established in 1895. That year Root E. Kimball of St. Paul, Minnesota and Philo Huniston of Ransom purchased forty acres plus a sixty foot right-of-way to the lake and began importing lumber to build a hotel.
Across the drive was built a dance hall. On Labor Day 1896, a huge celebration was held with over a thousand people arriving by horse-drawn carriages. A special train arrived in Osseo from Toledo and Chicago, with a fine hack provided by the hotel proprietors to bring patron to the hotel. In 1897, a dock was built and a steamboat acquired. A boathouse was also constructed, with its roof used as a fireworks launch area during the 4th of Judy celebrations. A bandstand was also erected for concerts from local favorites such as the South Jefferson Band.
Shadyside had a reputation of being a “rip-roaring resort,” with no law enforcement, and dances were “rough and wild.” It was said that several local farms “changed hands over the card tables at the hotel.” A church in the area referred to the resort as “that den of sin and iniquity.”
The Happy Five Band played for two years at the Hemlock Lake Dance Hall. The bank members consisted of Carol Schultz, Keith Planket, Don Fireovid, Charley Gates and Victor Haughey, Sr. Later many name bands played the local circuit.
Devil's Lake Pavilion
The Rhythm Masters played at the Devil's Lake Pavilion in 1943. Mainly from the Hillsdale County area, the orchestra featured 10-year-old Joey Savarino on piano. Other members included Jack Keehn on drums, Carol Clark, Bob Comar, Dick Ankney, Doug Stock, Dick Scoville, Carl Rossetti, Clyde David and Bob Scholl. Dance tickets were a quarter.
Carol A. Lackey 2015