The lands contained within Wilderness State Park and the waters bordering it are enveloped with history well known in the development of Michigan. It is without a doubt that the park area was used extensively by the Indians as a haven in times of trouble. Waugoshance Point was specifically mentioned by Alexander Henry in a journal of his travels. On June 6, 1763, Henry and three other English prisoners were taken by canoe from Fort Michilimackinac toward Beaver Island. Because of a heavy fog that morning the Chippewas followed the shoreline westward, periodically sounding four war whoops - one for each English prisoner aboard. As they reached Waugoshance the Chippewas again gave their four whoops and surprisingly, received an answer from the foggy point of land. An Ottawa appeared and spoke with the Chippewas, luring them close to land. Then many Ottawas sprang from cover and charged the canoe, forcibly removing the four English prisoners. The Chippewas were allowed to go on their way, and eventually the prisoners were escorted to Montreal by the Ottawas and set free.
|Big Rock Trail Head|
About 6 feet in front of me, I was staring dead-on at this:
I was about to hit the end of this tree face first. I skidded my bike sideways, fell over, then panicked at the thought there might be a snake nearby, hopped up and rode like a bat out of hell out of there. In hindsight, I suppose that tree fell during some recent storm and lodged itself there, but at that moment, staring it down as I catapulted towards its wicked point, I sincerely felt as if I was staring at an ancient Native American war weapon. Act of Nature, or Artifact? Hmmmmmmm.
Even if this is a more recent development in woods weaponry, the very same situation may very well have provided inspiration for our native ancestors as they defended their land in the early 1800's against other tribes and English settlers. You will never convince me otherwise.
In 1855, Father John Bernard Weikamp established his benevolent, charitable, and religious society of St. Francis at Cross Village. Eventually 2000 acres of land fell under its domain. Though the land was used extensively for farming, cattle, and logging, it fell into disrepair upon Father Weikamp's death in 1889 and was finally abandoned in 1896. For the next 40 years, the land was owned by English settlers operating three large-scale saw mills.
As fires and lumbering operations denuded the land, it became useless to landowners. In 1902, "One Forty and Surrounding Land" was sold for as little as $1.00. Much of this land reverted to the state for nonpayment of taxes. As the years went by, more private holdings came into state ownership through purchase and land exchange.
In 1921 and 1922, a house and outbuildings were constructed to house a resident manager, Frank Lloyd. In 1928, the lands were turned over to the Parks Division, and the area officially became "Wilderness State Park". Its first manager was Thayer Denny, followed shortly by Daddy Bronson.
1937 brought three changes to the park; the burning down of a trail cabin at what is now appropriately called "Burnt Cabin Site", a new park manager by the name of Bill Parker, and with the ending of the CCC program, the beginning of the Works Project Administration (WPA). In addition to the employment of common laborers, the WPA employed craftsmen such as artists, writers, musicians, teachers, and architects. WPA workers completed several park projects between 1937 and 1942, including three log dormitory buildings presently in use at the outdoor center and the development of the campground with restroom facilities. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, little was done within the park other than maintaining the status quo; however, the old CCC Camp and Waugoshance Point were taken over by the Navy and placed off-limits to civilians. Between 1942 and 1946 the area was used as a testing ground for the Navy.
|Waugoshance Point North|
|Sturgeon Bay Sand Dunes|
With that, Wilderness State Park became the park we know today, with continual updates to the campgrounds and bath facilities. In my next post, I will continue this fascinating journey into the modern day park and my experiences there. I know you are holding your breath in anticipation, but go ahead and breathe, it will take a while to write it.
Thanks for reading, I hope I have piqued your interest in Wilderness State Park!
|Waugoshance Point South|