Encyclopedia Britannica says that the 210-mile-long Saint Joseph River rises near Hillsdale in south-central Michigan, flowing generally west with a swing south into northern Indiana through Elkhart and South Bend before reentering Michigan to empty into Lake Michigan at Saint Joseph and Benton Harbor. Check out places to access the St. Joseph on Michigan Water Trails.
Bill took this photo of the St Joseph River near the Langley Covered Bridge with his drone a couple of weeks ago. See more of the river & the bridge in his Michigan: St. Joseph County gallery on Flickr!
French explorer Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix is said to have stayed on nearby Fisherman Island and the area was named after him in 1836.
…Exclusive hotels, the Inn and the Beach, were the summer destination for people from around the Midwest. Two depots served summer guests, one at Belvedere and the Pere Marquette Railway depot. Guests also arrived in the late 1800s on steamships including the Manitou, Alabama, North American, South American, Milwaukee Clipper, and Illinois.
During the Prohibition, Chicago area gang members moved their operations to Charlevoix. The Colonial Club became a gambling joint for some of the Midwest’s most powerful. A barge-turned-speakeasy traveled from Charlevoix to Boyne City carrying passengers in style during the summer months.
The river is best known for the Tahquamenon Falls, a succession of two waterfalls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park totalling approximately 73 feet (22 m) in height. Because the headwaters of the river are located in a boreal wetland that is rich in cedar, spruce and hemlock trees, the river’s waters carry a significant amount of tannin in solution (i.e., it is a blackwater river), and are often brown or golden-brown in color. The Tahquamenon Falls are thus acclaimed as being the largest naturally dyed or colored waterfall in the United States.
The meaning of “Tahquamenon” is not known. Some called it the “River of the Head Winds” because they bucked the wind on the lower river no matter what direction they were paddling. Others called it the “River of a Hundred Bends”. Twentieth century descendants of local Chippewa translated the name to mean “river up against a hill” or “lost river island” or “river with an island part way”. In 1930 Jesuit scholar, Father William Gagnieut, concluded that the meaning of the name had been lost.
On July 8th, 1850, James Jesse Strang was crowned king of Beaver Island. Michigan History Magazine shared this article with me years ago:
Despite claiming to be “the perfect atheist,” Strang became a follower of Mormon leader Joseph Smith. When Smith was murdered in March 1844, Strang claimed to be the new Mormon leader, although most Mormons followed Brigham Young to Utah.
Strang’s followers settled on an uninhabited island in northern Lake Michigan they called Big Beaver. The island had everything Strang and his followers needed: virgin timber, tillable land, a deep and sheltered bay and exceptional offshore fishing. It also was twenty-five miles off the mainland-a perfect place to protect Strang’s followers from outside influences and beliefs.
By the mid-1850s, the Mormon colony on Beaver Island boasted more than 2,500 followers. Beaver Island replaced Mackinac Island as the principal refueling stop for steamers, and the annual value of the kingdom’s exports (fish, wood and potatoes) was considerable.
The growth of Strang’s kingdom was not without controversy. Non-Mormons, called Gentiles, took exception with the Mormon settlement. Driven from the area’s fishing spots, angry over the establishment of a kingdom and Strang’s adoption of the practice of polygamy, the Gentiles vowed revenge. At the bequest of President Millard Fillmore, the U.S. district attorney prosecuted Strang for an assortment of unfounded offenses that included murder and treason. However, Strang was acquitted on all charges, and a year later he was overwhelmingly elected to the state legislature.
Strang ruled Beaver Island as an autocrat; he even had himself crowned king. But regulating every aspect of his followers’ lives led to his downfall. Describing women’s clothes as impractical and unhealthy, Strang decreed female subjects needed to dress in loose, knee-length smocks worn over modest pantaloons. Most Beaver Island women accepted the change, but a few refused to comply. When two women refused to wear pantaloons, Strang had their husbands whipped. The two men sought revenge and on June 16, 1856, they ambushed and shot their king.
On July 9, 1856, James Jesse Strang died from his wounds. He was buried in Wisconsin.
With Strang gone, enraged Gentiles charged onto Beaver Island and evicted the Mormons. After taking control of the Mormon printing office, the attackers printed a manifesto that boasted, “The dominion of King Strang is at an end.”
In January 1872, a plan (called “Tuebor,” meaning, “I will defend”) submitted by architect Elijah E. Myers of Springfield, Illinois, was selected. Myers moved to Michigan to supervise construction and lived for the rest of his life in his adopted state.
Construction began in 1872. When the cornerstone of the eagerly-awaited building was laid on October 2, 1873, a ceremony was held which rivaled anything Lansing had seen since becoming the capital a quarter of a century earlier. People thronged to the city in numbers far exceeding its capacity. Private citizens opened their homes and made preparations to feed and shelter the visitors.
Materials for the building came from all over the country and even from abroad. Although the millions of bricks that make up its walls and ceilings were locally made in Lansing, the stone facade came from Ohio, the cast iron for the dome and floor beams from Pennsylvania, and the marble and limestone floors from Vermont. The Board of Commissioners made sure the best materials were selected for the best price—wherever they could be found. The final cost totaled $1,427,738.78, considered modest for the construction of a state capitol during this period.
How about those blues??!! The Michigan DNR says that Clear Lake State Park in Montmorency County is located within the Mackinaw State Forest and:
…is a quiet, secluded retreat offering a sandy beach and a shallow swimming area that is ideal for children. A metal detecting area is available. The park encompasses two-thirds of the Clear Lake’s shoreline. A trail spur offers Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) riders a direct connection to the Atlanta ORV route and the Michigan Cross Country Cycle Trail.
This State Forest is composed of the northern eight counties of the Lower Peninsula. The Atlanta area of this forest contains over 258,000 acres of state-owned public land. Most of the virgin timber was removed from the forest by the 1920s and has been replaced by second-growth forests managed by the DNR. Deer, elk, turkey and small game are plentiful in the Mackinaw State Forest …elk can be seen and heard throughout the area in the early morning and evening, especially during the spring and fall. Native elk disappeared from Michigan nearly 100 years ago, they were reintroduced in 1918 and have multiplied into a large herd.
On Wednesday, NASA astronaut & Grand Rapids native Christina Koch tweeted the photo above that perfectly captures Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula with the caption “Waving to the mitten! Greetings to my friends and family in Michigan. The Great Lakes are as stunning from space as they are in person.”
Indeed!! While Ms. Koch calls North Carolina home now, we appreciate her appreciation for the state she was born in. Even more appreciated is the work she’s doing in space & the contributions to science she’ll make as the new champion in the “longest single spaceflight by a woman” category. The Verge explains:
Koch launched to the ISS on March 14th, along with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. But rather than stay for six months, as most of NASA’s astronauts do, Koch is now slated to remain on the station through February 2020. That means she’ll spend 328 days, or nearly a full year, in orbit, which is one of the longest consecutive stays in space by any NASA astronaut. She’ll just miss beating Scott Kelly’s record of 340 straight days in orbit, the all-time record for a NASA astronaut. But she’ll beat Whitson’s time of 288 consecutive days in space … She’ll just miss beating Scott Kelly’s record of 340 straight days in orbit, the all-time record for a NASA astronaut. But she’ll beat Whitson’s time of 288 consecutive days in space.
The lengthy stay could be helpful for NASA to better understand how long-duration spaceflight affects the human body. While Kelly was in space for his year-long mission, he gave samples of his own blood and did other health analyses so that NASA could see how his body changed while in orbit. The space agency then compared Kelly’s health data to that of his twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth throughout the full year. The experiment revealed a few surprising ways that space messes with the body, like damaging DNA and affecting cognition. NASA noted that Koch’s flight will also add to this growing area of research.
A reader shared a link to this photo with me, and this weekend I met a woman whose husband is a mechanic for the helicopter that took this photo. I thought that was pretty cool, but I also was putting groceries in my car at the local Meijer and a van pulled in a couple of slots down with a “White Shoal Light Historical Preservation Society” logo on it! I talked for a bit with Brent who’s heading up the group, and I expect to have updates and photos as they get going with their renovation!
I also noticed that the photo from back in 2009 I had of this light has been removed by the photographer, so here’s the skinny on one of Michigan’s most recognizablelight houses. White Shoals are located 20 miles east of Mackinac Point and just northwest of Waugoshance Island. So shallow that they break the surface in places, they long presented a hazard to navigation for ships entering the Straits of Mackinac. On his White Shoal Lighthouse page, Terry Pepper relates that beginning in October of 1891, the Lightship LV56 anchored at White Shoal during the shipping season for 19 years. Finally in 1907 funds were appropriated for a permanent lighthouse:
Spring of 1908 saw work begin on the White Shoal light on two separate fronts. While a crew at the site leveled a one hundred and two-foot square area on the shoal through the addition and careful placement of loads of stone, a second crew worked on building a timber crib on shore at St. Ignace. Seventy-two feet square and eighteen and a half feet high, the huge crib contained 400,000 square feet of lumber, and on completion was slowly towed out to the shoal and centered over the leveled lake bottom. Once in location, the crib was filled with 4,000 tons of stone until it sank to a point at which its uppermost surface was level and two feet below the water’s surface.
On top of this crib, a seventy-foot square stone block base was constructed to a total height of four feet, with the remainder of the pier being of poured concrete atop the block base. With the base complete, an acetylene-powered lens lantern was installed atop a temporary steel skeletal tower on December 5th, and with the onset of winter storms, work at the shoal ended for the season.
Seeing the Light has much more about the construction and history of White Shoal Light including shots of the tower and crib under construction and information about lighthouse tours offered by Shepler’s Ferry, on which you can see White Shoal, Waugoshance and Gray’s Reef Lights.
Here’s a look at North & South Lake Leelanau with “The Narrows” in between. I live just off the right edge of this picture and thought it was pretty cool how the spring fog completely covered Lake Michigan in this picture, creating a lake of fog!