How Deer Park (Michigan) Got Its Name: A Failed and Meandering Inquiry into the Past
Deer Park, June – October 1, 2012
The late French historian Marc Bloch (1886-1943), vet of WWI and a scholar/teacher in the interim between world wars, was executed by the Nazis for Resistance activities, but continued to study and write about the study of history during the war, when he wasn’t planning or carrying out actions against the loutish kraut occupiers.
The historian’s words in The Historian’s Craft an help anyone attempting to recreate any sort of historical account of a place and its people, what some would refer to as a place’s origins, which in Bloch’s mind is an ambiguous word, and therefore disturbing. He asks, “Does it mean simply beginnings? That would be relatively clear – except for most historical realities the very notion of a starting point remains singularly elusive.” He adds, “On the other hand, is ‘origins’ taken to mean the causes? In that case, there will be no difficulties other than those which are always inherent in the nature of causal inquiry….But there is a frequent cross-contamination of the two meanings, the more formidable in that it is seldom recognized. In popular usage, an origin is a beginning which explains. Worse still, a beginning which is a complete explanation. There lies the ambiguity, and there the danger!”
Ambiguity? Have I got s story for you. Rather, a non-story.
My daughter back in college at MSU some years ago got an assignment from a history professor. To teach his students the difficulty of unearthing historical information and to illustrate his point, he had the students pick a current topic and gather as much information and detail as possible, the lesson intended: If it is difficult to collect information from the “present,” (which the professor clearly thought it would be) think how much more difficult it is would be to unearth stuff from and about the past. My clever child, however, chop-blocked this lesson when, through determination, serendipity, blind-ass luck and a pure fluke got in touch with Jon Bon Jovi’s mother, who apparently took a liking to my daughter, and supplied her with all sorts of things, including a copy of the singer’s marriage license, kids’ birth certs, etc. The prof pulled her aside after class and told her she had just kicked the shit out of the point of the whole exercise. I can understand his frustration, and would suggest he give his students the assignment of finding out how and when Deer Park, Michigan, got its name. Sounds easy? Not so fast, Bub.
My daughter’s academic impudence aside, we intend only in this short tome to set forth the facts (which are discernible) about Deer Park. Not going to delve into its geological origins geologically, or in terms of original aboriginal settlement, but we shall pick it up as best we can sometime in the Nineteenth Century and slog forward from there. Author Bill Bryson once wrote, “Americans tend to name their towns for the first white man to arrive, or the last Indian to leave.” Clearly Deer Park removes us from that naming convention. And most histories seem to solemnly state the place started as a Native American encampment, like it was a formal destination, like a summer or winter Boy Scout camp. That it, there appears to be virtually no information about said predecessor encampment, or when non Native Americans began to encroach. Presumably the inhabitants were Ojibwe (Ojibwa/Chippewa), but if we push far enough back in history, they might have been Sioux. No way to know for sure, unless the Jesuit Relations have something to say about aboriginal peoples at Muskallonge Lake, and when was the lake named that, and why?
Pursuing history keeps raising questions and provides few answers easily.
As for method in our search, I propose the following: Where published sources tend to agree, we will call such agreement a fact. But if there are differing treatments of the same facts, we shall note that. And we will try to separate verifiable facts from local lore. It seems to me that over my years of writing that people anywhere have several levels of history sloshing around inside them:
1) Each individual’s own personal history, known only by them;
2) individuals’ histories as perceived by others (which can never be as complete as the first kind);
3) individuals’ first-hand experiences in their own lives, which they consider to be fact (but in retrospect may be as much imagination as reality – the well known conundrum of the oft-unreliability of eye-witnesses in the law enforcement and judicial processes; and,
4) Individuals’ hearsay knowledge of various things around them, which may come to them billed by others as fact or first-hand knowledge, but over time degrades to poorly remembered lore which gives rise to tales, some of which point to realities for which facts have been lost, a few for which facts can be determined, and others, probably most, which are pure fantasy. The reality of life is that when we are looking at sign by the side of the road, we are already in past tense, because of the time required for our brains to microprocess what it is seeing (have seen). We call this the present and think of it as so, but really, our physiological shortcomings lead us to live almost exclusively in the past. The fact is our present is past.
Ooh boy: Given inherent imperfections in our hunt, our “goal” will be to use the sorts of things we can find from the first through third exemplars, and clearly demarcate when we are forced to operate in the Fourth Realm of Lore, which we fear may be the dominant one at work in this story, the dearth of factual recorded information at the starting line leaving a great deal to be desired even for the amateur historian.
This will be a distinctly off-piste, stutter-step cursus.
To illustrate the difficulty confronting us, one asks, “How and when did Deer Park get its name, and one immediately finds one’s nose pressed to a blank wall, a place of zed, zero, nada, zilch, nothing.
Lest we laugh derisively, this problem confronts almost everyone and every inquiry. How did you get your given name? “From my mama’s younger brother.” Well, pal, what if your mama-dear had her a hot and secret scromp-mate by that same name, someone for whom the flame burned silently on when you came along, huh?
Or how did your family name originate? Mine is said to come from Middle to Old English of “from the high wood,” suggesting an outdoor, perhaps poacher’s pedigree, but nobody can say for sure even when you begin to attack the question through laborious and sometimes expensive genealogical research avenues. That venerable TV show Father Knows Best was fiction, and the venerable song lyric “My mama done tole me…” also fiction, neither guaranteeing truth, much less fact.
All other things being equal (AOTBE), let us embark on this journey together, arm in informational arm. Where will said journey take us? To an arbitrary end, no doubt, but we are too lost at our starting line just now to concern ourselves with journey endings. A friend of mine’s romantic grandfather once backed his old Ford into the Pacific Ocean, and drove his new bride all the way across the U.S. to put his front tires in the Atlantic, a symbolic end to a symbolic start. Was the story true? No idea, but it warms the heart and encourages those who would undertake what may seem to be difficult tasks in life.
The Chinese proverb about the journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step is certainly glib and downright snappy, but badly outdated. In the case cited above the journey of three thousand miles actually began with a slight push on the gas pedal. Not all journeys require strenuous physical activity, or even movement.
Let us imagine then that our metaphoric tires are wetted in Lake Superior’s gentle shore swell, and from that beached launch point that we shall drive out – and up the hill — to tour west as far as Grand Marais, east to Crisp Point, and south to Pine Stump Junction, with an occasional can’t-help-it reference to Newberry, McMillan or other locales. That’s the plan, but as we all know from soldiers, the plan invariably falls apart when the first shot is fired.
As we travel the bumpy road of discovery we shall lean on Monsieur Professor Bloch to help us sort out various tools, crossroads, and false directions..
Perhaps we should begin by noting that the Upper Peninsula has across its known history been the scene of continuous plundering of state resources, almost exclusively to the benefit of investors far from Michigan. This has been the way since the beginning: furs, minerals, lumber, fish, natural gas. Outsiders take, sometimes employing locals, often not, and those living here see little return for their qualitative loss. It’s not our goal to be pejorative, but only to state the obvious.
To this end, go look at the Kingston Plains in Alger County to see what logging of certain sensitive environments wreaks. The graveyard of stumps should serve as a gut-wrenching memorial to all that has been taken from the U.P. and state, and cause us to be cautious in allowing future efforts down such lines. The problem was not the actual logging, but the failure afterward to clean up the clutter, which served as kindling for lightning-generated fires that burned so hot they destroyed nutrients in the soil and prevented regrowth ever after. The Kingston Plains will at some point regenerate enough soil nutrients to sprout forests again, but not in our lifetims or those of our grandchildren. The time frame is probably approaches centuries, since we are already at one and counting, with the graveyard painfully extant.
Further we shall note that a deer park is the designation for parkland originally used (in Great Britain) for the nobility to hunt deer.
Here, in the interest of geographic specificity we should note that our Deer Park is in the Upper Reaches of Michigan’s Siberia (specifically 46-40’-28”N, 85-36’-59”W.)Our focal point is not the Deer Parks in Canada, India, Ireland, the UK or the US (where there are 19 such entities in some 16 states).
It should be noted that when one plugs in their miniature gongle gizzy, gets onto WIFI, and types” Deer Park USA” into the Googlefinagle gizmo, one must scroll page by page all the way to No. 22 before finding the first mention of a Deer Park, Michigan. Okay, we are not well known. We get that. Good to know.
Searching for the Beginning (qu derendo principio)
Wikipedia (with its smoke-like permanence and sometime fantastical entries) gives us the following account. “Originally founded as a North American encampment. Cook & Wilson Company purchased the first sawmill in the community in 1876. Bradley & Hurst bought the mill in 1886. At the town’s peak there were 400 people, making it one of the largest white pine communities. The mill produced 16,000 board feet every 24 hours. The Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic RR built a branch from Newberry to Deer Park to serve the mill, though the railroad was eventually removed. A Post Office opened July 12, 1888, W.L.M. Powel, Postmaster. PO closed Jan 15, 1900, due to town’s decline in population. By the early 1900s the lumber supply was gone from Deer Park, the sawmill closed and Deer Park’s population began to decline. The only remaining signs of the lumber industry are piles of sawdust and some pine logs in Muskallonge Lake, which was used to soften logs before they were milled. The entry further states that shipping was also significant in Deer Park. The community was located on Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast. The Deer Park (formerly Muskallonge Lake) station was one of six Lake Superior Stations of the Lifesaving service between Munising, Michigan, and Vermilion Point. Further, in 1892 the steamer Western Reserve sank about 35 miles north of Deer Park with the loss of all but the wheelman. In 1907 the Cypress sank north of Deer Park, all but one of its crew members died.”
This is it, the whole gamila? “Originally founded as a Native American encampment?” Really? Like a Boy Scout summer camp? Founded? Indians up here were hunter-gatherers, meaning nomadic — with no permanent settlements. They had spring maple sugar camps (they called such a site their sugar bush), winter hunting camps, and summer-fall fishing camps. So what was this? And on Lake Superior, or on Muskallonge Lake?
Continuing our resource review, Cook and Wilson purchase the first sawmill in the community in 1876. In Deer Park? In the county, and why in Deer park. Were there timber cruisers and small gangs working in area before 1876? On such questions we hear nothing.
Date unspecified, presumably from Newberry News, in Luce County History, Etc. Reporter visits Deer Park and looks at Mr. Bradley’s device for cutting six and eight-inch cants into inch boards. “Mr. Bradley is assisted by his capable machinist H.B. Mix. Messrs. Mutart and O’Malley, the firm that bought out Bradley’s & Hurst’s lumbering outfit last spring and contracted to cut and deliver at the mill all the pine owned by Bradleys & Hurst in this county, are hard at work and making a success of the business. Four train loads of logs are daily delivered at the mill, aggregating 90,000 feet. Just now the timber they are cutting is of small size, in larger timber they expect to do far better. They employ about 85 men. Robert Langstaff manipulates the engine on the railroad and does as good work as he used to do on the Narrow Gauge at Newberry.
We are then told the mill produced 16,000 board feet ever 24 hours. What does this mean, how does it compare to other operations.
It also states, “One of the largest white pine communities?” The number of trees before being cut down, people engaged in chopping and sawing such trees, in northern Luce County, Luce County as a whole, the entire shipwreck coast, in the U.P., all of Michigan, of the USA, North America, Planet Earth. People: Give us a reference, not chamber of commerce-like blather.
Then the railroad comes, and then it goes because of population decline, or lumber decline? Not clear. Post Office here for roughly 18 months. For how many people, etc?
We are told the “shipping industry was significant in Deer Park,” and that the community was located on Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast. Then we hear about the six lifesaving stations between Vermilion and Munising. Let’s count, moving west: Vermilion, Crisp Point, Two Hearted, Deer Park (formerly called Sucker River), Grand Marais. Whoops: That’s only five. If the author had begun with Whitefish Point in substitution for Vermilion the statement would have been accurate.
Next we hear about two shipwrecks in which two souls survived and one has to ask, exactly what “shipping industry” was significant in Deer Park, the flotsam and jetsam and gorkdom of foundering ships and floating corpses dribbling onto local beaches?
This is history? Yuck.
What we can roughly conclude is that the community (such as it was) ran from around 1876 until the early 1900s when the lumber was gone, and with it most of the people. Not a single word on why the unincorporated place was named, or when. Here we find ourselves standing with our noses still pressed to the starting Wall of Nada.
The History of Luce County From Its Earliest Recorded Beginning, reports an item from the Aug. 1, 1899: “Deer Park to be deserted except fort light house station and ruins of a few houses. E.E. Bradley and Sons have stripped 11 million feet of pine. All machinery shipped to Bay City ill and houses torn down.”
Ten years before in 1888, the Newberry News reported a visit with D.N. McLeod and Go Starrs to Deer Park, the trip being made in about 10 hours, arriving at dark. Visitors greeted by Chas. H. Cook. “The mill which is at present running night and day, and cutting on an average of 160,000 feet every 24 hours….being lighted at night by eight Houston electric lights. Here we found a regular hive of industry; men everywhere, and it was surprising and interesting to note with what rapidity a log was turned into lumber. Probably no place in the world a has a more natural location for a mill than is to be found here. The logs are first dumped into Muskellunge Lake and run across where a logging slide on which runs an endless chain takes them out of the water and brings them into the mill. The log is then sawed and the lumber from it keeps right on moving until it is deposited on the dock built out into Lake Superior, which is 33 feet lower than Muskellunge Lake, lying only about 17 rods away.”
The unidentified reporter continues: “Deer Park is as interesting a place as its name would seem to indicate, and the work that was done here during the past two years is surprising and would hardly be credited to people who have never visited it. It is a park in every sense of the word, shaded by beautiful trees and with good driveways running in all directions through it. Numerous squirrels can be seen at all times, and under no circumstances will Mr. Cook allow any of them to be killed. Deer, also, are frequently seen in close proximity.
“The houses of which there are quite a number, are all good substantial frame buildings, and a large store is being erected. Taken all together, it is a place where anybody could spend a very pleasant vacation. Trout fishing is good in the near vicinity, besides the large lake fish which can be caught with hook and line from the dock on Lake Superior….From what he saw (the reporter)he would advise anyone in search of pleasure to spend a day or two at Deer Park.
That’s what it looked like in 1888. So let us try to turn in other directions.
One Clyde L. Newnom (en francais = New Name) authored for the Michigan Book Company in 1927 a heavily illustrated promotional book with the fatuous title, Michigan’s Thirty Seven Million Acres of Diamonds. (Detroit: The Michigan Book Company, 1927) One strongly suspects this author’s name is un nom de plume and that the publisher is perhaps one who produced state- and business-promotion materials. In this particular book a great deal of attention is paid to automobiles, roads, hotels, tourist parks, and the like, making one wonder if Henry Ford et al were the fiscal force behind the work, which doesn’t matter. Just saying. (Newnom can be forgiven for not knowing there are genuine diamond deposits in the state.)
Author Newnom wrote, “The Tahquamenon and the Two-Hearted Rivers, with their tributaries, offer fine trout fishing, and are within easy driving distance of Newberry. Do not miss the famed Tahquamenon River Falls. A drive out to Deer Park, thirty miles north of Newberry, situated on the shores of Lake Superior and in the heart of the Lake Superior National Forest, will take you through one of the wildest sections of country that Michigan has to offer.”
This was 1927 and Deer Park clings to the same name today. Which sends us backwards again.
From another source, the US Life Saving Service Heritage Association, we learn that Station Muskallonge Lake Superior, was later renamed Station Deer Park. This refers to the US Life Saving Service, the forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard. The station is numbered #295, and labeled CTG, which may not be the original LSS designation. The description is as follows: “Abreast of Muskallonge Lake, 16-1/2 miles east of Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge Outer Light, and 18- ¼ miles west-southwest of Crisp Point.” The Date of Conveyance is stated as 1875. This writer has no notion what this means. The station was built in 1876. The source cites: Turned Over to GSA in 1955; and, we learn Keeper Quinten Morgan was in place 17 Mar 1877, the year after the station was built.
Well, we’ve narrowed the Deer Park name to between 1876 and 1927. The issue now, is how do we drill down from here? This is a typical quandary for an historian, even a rank amateur of the crudest stripe.
Actually, as we dig through the alleged history of various lifesaving station sites, we learn the station was located at the mouth of the Sucker River (now shown on maps as the Blind Sucker River), said mouth some three miles east of where the state park [and station ruins] now sits. We also learn that the station was called Sucker River Station in 1874, which by other sources is two years prior to its construction. So what and who were there? Finally these same heritage sources proclaim the name was shifted to Deer Park Lifesaving Station, and designated as No. 12. Crisp’s Point was No. 10, and Two Hearted, No. 11. This source goes on to report that a switching station for all Coast Guard lines on the south shore of Lake Superior was installed at Deer Park, and a continuous watch was maintained the same as that of more active stations. This statement is made without clarification or amplification and the report goes on to remark, “the coast line along this part of Lake Superior is quite isolated (Ya think?) and the Deer Park crew made a number of spectacular rescues over the years. Fine, dandy, okey-doke. But was this the station still physically located at the Blind Sucker River mouth, or another installation over closer to where the state park is now? And, why was it called Deer Park, and exactly when did this change in designation take place? The lifesaving station sequence seems to be Station Sucker River, thence Station Muskallonge Lake, and finally Station Deer Park. We shall search for dates for all these changes, but at the outset they do not seem to appear in any single source yet encountered.
Good god, people, are we all ignoring the obvious, that is to say, the same damn behavior we now see in computer company technical manual writings (by east Asians named Fred or Harry), where the writers know too damn much to understand what we technical retards don’t understand?
Hey, in 1915 the US Coast Guard was authorized and thereafter subsumed the lifesaving service. Did said lifesaving switching station take place after this, and if so, when?
Why is all of this so bloody difficult?
When we shift focus west to the now-state park, its outdoor bulletin board histories tell us it was built on the site of a former lumber mill town, presumably the one named Deer Park, but this is never stated. We know big pine was pretty much gone by the early 1900s and that the area of the state park had served as a millpond, but again we hear nothing about the Deer Park name, why or when. We also don’t know why Muskallonge Lake is named so, but of course we can guess. But the logic won’t hold: Our state is called the Wolverine State despite our scientists and historians telling us the state never had a breeding population of the ill-tempered striped creatures.
I would also add that the US LSSHA tells us that the life-saving stations at Portage (Houghton), Vermillion (Chippewa Co), and Whitefish Point (Chippewa County) boathouse in this day and age, have all been abandoned with no restoration plans. I think Michigan leads all the stated in this category. In fact we are especially skilled in not utilizing our unique and long history to attract tourists or scholars.
Perhaps a digression to the world of lore will serve us: Some speculate (insist) that someone out here (in Deer Park) once kept a herd of tame deer, or maintained a herd in the tradition of one of the King’s Parks in Merry Old England. There is no evidence of this, direct or hinted at and this is where lore sometimes steps (drops a bunny) into gaps history leaves.
It is certainly possible that deer were abundant and plentiful here, and in a location some may have taken to look “park-like,” and that this was the genesis of the name. Maybe, maybe not: There’s also no evidence for this, so far.
An unidentified voice from his or her armchair asks, “What about caribou (reindeer) herd maintained in the area in fences and later released to wander the lichen-rich ground. Don’t them Europeans call such animals deer? Well, yes they do, and the caribou of North America are pretty much the same as the reindeer of Northern Europe and Asia, though ours tend to be a little longer in the leg. But it is reported that both reindeer and caribous taste the same on a cook fire. In any event, the reindeer were imported from Norway, with a keeper, but unfortunately for the deer (Norwegians and others nations call caribou deer), the lichen lacked necessary nutrients and all but one of the imports died, the last survivor being shipped to the Detroit Zoo in December 1928. There is fact here to base this speculation on, but the caribou experiment, promising as it is for a naming source, the animals arrived in 1921 (according to the Newberry News) and we’ve already determined that the name took hold between 1876 and 1927. Right ship, wrong crew, and more accuracy bumps: One piece cites the herd number as 60, and another at 70. No word on the fate of the Norwegian bou-keeper.
There are other tempting red herrings, as was the scam, reported by the Newberry News, Oct. 16, 1903, telling readers how two men, E.R. Marden and Oscar Lewis, of the Deer Park Improvement Association of Chicago, were alleged to have swindled thousands of dollars from small investors, and a grand jury found cause to bring the enterprising entrepreneurs to trial. Luce County Sheriff Edward Cyr and a surveyor carried the weight of the case for the prosecution. One Samuel L. Reardon, an investor, Sheriff Cyr, and the surveyor all testified before the grand jury and Mr. Reardon brought forth a fancy, neatly printed folder containing illustrations of churches, school houses, manufacturers, fine dwellings and business blocks and along paved streets, a government pier, sailing and freight vessels. In the most prominent page of the folder was a two-page map purporting to give a bird’s eye view of thriving “Deer Park.”
We know the place was virtually cleaned out of trees and people by 1899. Did this situation tempt our scammers into their scheme? Don’t know.
Reardon was living in New York at the time he invested his savings of $250 in a lot in the town. He came to Chicago to confer with the “Deer Park Association” officials and was interested enough after talking to them to advise his friends to invest. All went well until Reardon began to hear rumors that Marden, who seems to have been president, secretary, treasurer and the board of directors, was under indictment for perpetrating a fraud. Reardon, accompanied by a Chicago surveyor, went to Luce County, Michigan, and the first thing he encountered was the name of river flowing through the country near the site of “Deer Park.” Its name was Sucker River, and Reardon at once said it was applicable to himself. Next the surveyor located the lot Reardon had purchased. It was in the worst part of the sandy waste, which he said, was on the shore of Lake Superior. In the lore department, locals insist the scam site was on the south shore of the lake, the opposite of Lake Superior.) The surveyor informed the grand jurors that the only bit of life he saw – vegetable or animal – was a cloud of sand flies. “Sand flies and sand dunes,” he declared, “were the only things nature had provided the waste with.” The only building located on or near the site of the town was a fisherman’s empty hut. A life-saving station was found located in a village not far distant. The next visit was made to Sheriff Cyr of Newberry and he accompanied Reardon and the surveyor to the courthouse building, where they looked at the tax records and found the entire acreage owned by the Deer Park Improvement Association had been taxed for exactly 73 cents. Armed with the tax records, photographs of the site of the” paper town” and exhibiting a few bites from the sand flies, Reardon and the surveyor and Sheriff Cyr came to Chicago and reported. Then came the grand jury action.
Certainly we know that the local population had thinned out around the time of the scam, which may have encouraged the perps to think they could get away with it.
So what we know is that there was a place called Deer Park in 1902 and 1903, but was it the lifesaving station, or the “village not far distant?” Or was it only the scam “paper town?” We still don’t know.
Here let me interject that we are at this time in the swansong period of major lumbering along the Lake Superior south shore. According to NMU, edu/ Documents, in not too many years, around 1911, Menominee Herald Leader editor Roger M. Andrews will call for “formation of a regional promotion and development organization for the Upper Peninsula.” At some point the promo geniuses will begin to call the UP “Cloverland” and the development of the Upper Peninsula Development Bureau (UPDB) will seek economic and land-use diversification and begin promoting “Cloverland” to attract farmers, settlers, and vacationing city dwellers. Cloverland magazine was to help the UPDB in its mission to highlight the UP tourist and recreational advantages, and give the UP a new regional identity. But by 1920, Cloverland’s Volume 20 was basically an agricultural magazine addressed to farmers and their families.
Farming in the Upper Peninsula had and has short frost-free summers (growing seasons) and paying farms are generally are as scarce as the wolverines the state was erroneously named for, Oh boy. It seems fantasy schemes didn’t originate at or terminate with Deer Park.
In professional history-research terms we are SOL (Shit Out of Luck) and must keep burrowing for things we can verify. Isn’t this fun? All this just because we want to know when and why something was named. Shock of shocks: The glorious and fabled Internet doesn’t much help the search or solution.
But we shall soldier on, or back, to be more precise.
Note from the Newberry News, 10-27-1893 reports, “A church paper for Protestant families of Newberry, Dollarville, Deer Park, and Seney entitled “Tidings, costing 25 cents monthly.” There might be a useful tidbit in one of these, but where are they? Don’t know. And 1893 is a tad after the first burst of civic energy in 1876,
Great: We have the Deer Park name in use in 1893, seventeen years after the lifesaving station was built. We are honing in, but there are several technical problems to ponder. I am reading excerpts from the Newberry News, as published in Luce County: A History. It would appear that dedicated members of the Luce County Historical Society painstakingly went through every microfiche edition of the town paper from inception to recent times, but given all the typos scattered throughout, and some obvious dating errors (on of 100 years in magnitude) and one naturally wonders how much weight to put on these. The only option is to go to the microfiche and compare what is in these compilations with what the old newspapers actually show, and we may yet do that, but at this point it is simply a reminder that something being recorded in print does not guarantee accuracy or reality. We should all think of the Internet with the same caveat. It should be noted that in searches of this kind one tends to “weight” sources and in this case I would put less trust in the compilation than in the newspaper’s original accounts that are excerpted for the county’s history. This isn’t a criticism, only a statement of working rules. It may very well be that the newspaper reporter did not report 100 percent accurately, or that the editor changed the reporter’s copy, which altered the report, or typographers made errors in taking the typed stories to cold type for the printing press. The point is there are opportunities for error all along the way and the historian needs to make some informed judgments as he or she proceeds, and adjust accordingly with some sort of plan B. At least we are dealing in only one language here. Think about some poor academic schmuck who has to deal with a dozen dead languages and half as many live but foreign tongues. (Don’t know if historians imbibe more than other academics, but they certainly seem to have ample reason.)
Let us look at some other early news rag mentions: Jan 10, 1896: “Mr. Green has rig on stage line to Deer Park (A small house on wheels). Ergo, there seems to be regular transport from Newberry to Deer Park. July 10, 1896, the paper tells us, “McLeod House sole to Mrs. Green of Deer Park.”
Said Mrs. Green related to Mr. Green? We don’t know. McLeod House, don’t know, another direction to look. But our Mrs. Green seems to have been a Deer Park resident, or does reporter intend to say she is previously from Deer Park? Language seems obvious until you begin to take it apart and parse it, like sign down street from here that declares “SLOW DOWN OLD COOTS PLAYING HERE.” Absent punctuation, one must wonder if we are to somehow impede the playing of old coots perhaps so they don’t injure themselves, or are we to slow down as we drive or walk by, lest we render an old coot a dead or injured coot? I assume the latter pertains, but the case can be made both ways and here we see in a very small way how slippery language can be for a researcher. Hell, maybe there were old coots playing up here back before the century and this sign has simply and dutifully been repainted all these many decades. But then, to be sure we’d have to look at the etymology of “coots” to see when the word came into being. See how this thing works? It’s like chugging from a spittoon, one long connected strand, something thin and something thick and often quite distasteful.
In the process of research one runs across some real oddities, such as July 31 report: “Ku Klux Klan meeting held at ball ground west of courthouse (one thousand attended) 2 crosses and 3 KKKs were burned: Jones gave a tirade of abuse. This doesn’t say who Jones is, or who the abuse was directed at. Perhaps he was haranguing those who failed to show for the rally. I’m guessing this report was digested and would require reading the original to ascertain more detail. Certainly possible folks from Deer Park were in that crowd, but that’s strictly speculation on my part.
Continuing backward we allegedly learn from Newberry News of November 8, 1895: “L.C.Pratt cutting lumber for Bradley and Hurst at Deer Park. No help here. We already learned there were Protestants in Deer Park in 1893. But now we know the lumbering is underway up here.
Backing up slightly, the Nov 8, 1894 News told readers: “John Ryland lumbering near Deer Park has crew of 80 men will 125 when all set up.” Obviously an excerpt from the researcher and some language problems as someone seems to have been in a hurry. Also possible it was the typist who introduced the bugaboo, but we can’t know until we go look at microfiche.
More logging notes hail from Deer Park through the summer of 1895, but we need to go the other direction in time. Thus we come to learn that Messrs. Mutart and O’Malley, a firm that bought out Bradleys & Hursts’ lumbering outfit last spring and contracted to cut and deliver at the mill all the pine owned by Bradleys & Hurast in this county, are hard at work making a success of the business. Four trainloads of logs are daily delivered at the mill, aggregating nearly 90,000 feet. They employ about 85 men. Robert Langstaff manipulates the engine on the railroad and does as good work as he used to do on the narrow gauge in Newberry. This piece in the county history is undated, but it gives us a few facts to indicate Deer Park is alive and semi-teeming with the log hog crowd.
Here’s another tidbit. According to the News, “Deer Park to be deserted except for light house station and ruins of a few houses. E.E.Bradley and Sons have stripped 11 million feet of pine. All machinery shipped to Bay City Mill and houses torn down.” This appears to suggest that Deer Park became somewhat of a ghost town in 1899, which may have paved the way for the “paper town” swindlers around the turn of the century, sort of a dull example of so called, “Law of Unintended Consequences.”
By 1903 almost all logging ops were disappearing. Reported the March 20, 1903 Newberry News, “Lumbering operations in this county are practically suspended, the camps breaking up and the town filling up with woodsmen. Lumbering in this county is now conducted on a small scale as compared with by gone years. The big tracts of pine have long since been cut and only a few scattering bunches remain. With the disappearance of the pine, however, the cedar and pulpwood industry has come to the front and has become an important factor in the lumbering world.
D.N.McLeod has been working a crew of men this winter eight miles north of town, cutting scattering pine, and has banked nearly two million feet on the Tahquamenon. His camps broke up this week owing to the prevailing soft weather.
The Michigan Pulp Wood Company also broke camps this week. They have been operating a set of camps four miles from here getting out cedar and pulpwood and have a big bunch of fine timber banked in the Tahquamenon.
J.H.Hunter is the largest individual cedar operator in the county. He has holdings in the Two Heart country and operates his camps both summer and winter. His timber is rafted from the north of the Two Heart to the Soo, where it is manufactured.
If the present weather continues the rivers will soon open up and the log driving season will be on. Owing to the scarcity of snow on the ground, the indications are that there will not be an over-abundance of water this spring. The past season has been a good one for logging, but snow fall has been light; and there is comparatively little remaining even in the woods. Unless there is heavy rainfall this spring it is probably that the drives will be short of water, especially on shallow streams.”
On April 10 Michigan Plywood Company started a drive on the Tahquamenon River.
Year and source not noted, but probably after 1902: “Friday night, the steamer Cypress foundered 20 miles from the shore of Deer Park, the sole survivor the second mate, washed ashore more dead than alive. The bodies of 21 victims were washed ashore near Deer Park and taken to the Soo by tug on Saturday. All the bodies have now been recovered except that of the captain. (Other sources disagree on the number of bodies found.)
“The Cypress went down not far from where the steel steamer Western Reserve, foundered in 1902.” Wikipedia says Western Reserve went kerflooey in 1892, so we have a 10-year difference in date to contend with s in this minor aside.
And while we’re about asides, what the hell is the deal about all the interest in this country and around the world for shipwrecks? We don’t show such interest in plane crashes or car crashes, even train wrecks. The interest in ships seems morbid to me, but this is off the subject. On the other hand, over the past 20 years we’ve seen the helicopter generation start to put up roadside memorials to where Tommy the Psycho went off the curve at 120 mph, killing himself and seven others. Alcohol may have been involved. So perhaps we are moving to car wreck interests similar to those in ships? I don’t know, but surely Tommy was eulogized by mourners, assuming there were any, as having “been taken too soon.” Au contraire: I would argue if god (or fate) had taken the fool earlier, seven other people would still be alive. Right?
Perspective, a form of location, is everything.
The Answer, Such As She Ain’t
This has all been very interesting, if not particularly instructive, and it surely has not been honing our hunt. What we seek appears superficially to have happened between 1876 when the station was built, and 1903 when Deer Park Protestants had access to a religious newspaper.
I am tempted to theorize that somewhere in our seven-year gap there will reside an answer.
Perhaps, though at this point my money is on the name pre-dating 1876, and perhaps predating it by a long time, perhaps as early as the 17th Century. In creative desperation it occurred to me that with all the French explorers coming through the area in the early 17th century, one of them might have named the area, but deer park translates into Francais as “chasse gardee pour le cerf,” and thus looks unpromising for further exploration — until I grow more desperate, and have more resources at hand.
As an aside in this deerparkmiasma I share this: In 1956 four men, ER Beardsley, Dr. E.S. Gillam, Hardin Day, and Martin Kasichke opened a petting zoo with more than 100 animals, mainly deer. And they named it Deer Park. Roger Jourdin next bought the property in 1968, and immediately began to sell off the animals, changing the establishment’s name to Deer Park Funland, eventually converting it into an amusement park, the largest in Michigan, now known as Michigan’s Adventure. What has this to do with our Deer Park? Not a damn think except the name.
As to our Deer Park, way up there on the north side of the Upper Peninsula, and on the south shore of Lake Superior? Who knows? The search and dig continues. How can such a simple question be so damn difficult to answer? I shake my head in shame and frustration. If my doctoral dissertation would be riding on this, I would be teetering on the Deep Doo Doo Abyss.
Part of the problem in this endeavor is a great lack of specificity among various sources. For example, many old photos are labeled “the life-saving station at Muskallonge Lake/Deer Park,” but these photos are after 1915, when the Revenue Cutter Service and US Life-Saving Service were merged to form the US Coast Guard. Further, in 1939, the Coasties subsumed the US Lighthouse Service, and thus the date of various facilities and photos thereof are not always in agreement, which adds to the general confusion. Sometimes the photos are labeled as coast guard facilities before the coast guard existed. Mostly this is sloppy usage by civilians, but it sure doesn’t make it easy getting a simple answer to a simple question and begins to make us think we are searching for respondere non (an answer which does not exist.)
Plugging Along in The Nogomobile
I asked my long-time writing colleague Larry Massie (the noted Michigan historian) to check his copy of Michigan Place Names (certain he’d have a copy; mine didn’t make the trip north this year. Drat!) Larry checked the entry for Deer Park and sent me the following via email:
“Deer Park, Luce County: A station in McMillan Township on the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railroad; the settlement formed around the Cook & Wilson sawmill; W.L.M. Powell became its first postmaster on July 12, 1888, the office operating until Jan 15, 1900; named from the numerous deer in the area.”
Thanks to Larry for his able assistance, but the entry in MPN still doesn’t take us to, much less approach, the destination we seek. We previously speculated that a high density of deer was the motivation for the name. But who bestowed it, and when? And what source did the author of the MPN blub above lean on for his concluding statement? The search stumbles on.
Speculations of the Crudest Stripe
We have not exhausted sources, though it seems we are beginning to thin the herd of possibles.
This being so, we shall forge backwards (which in the case is also ahead) and see what turns up.
Earlier we mentioned the French Parc Au Cerfs, which it turns out was not a park for four-legged cervids, but the moniker for Louis XV’s personal house of pleasure, his personal brothel.
Here’s the story. Parc au Cerfs translates not to “deer park” but to “stag park,” which potentially casts new light on the facility’s intended purpose. Saying here if I got the translation right in the first place, I might’ve earlier taken a different direction. Might have, not would have. Louis XV we should point out was the grandson of Louis XIV of much ill repute, and outdid the old man’s extreme ways, having a huge appetite for a whole lot other than running government and taking care of his peeps, which as it turned out certainly was a major contributor to the French Revolution.
Wikipedia suggests us that Deer Park was built in 1750 at the hermitage of Versailles, and overseen by Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, yes Madame Pompadour herself. (Poisson translates to Fish, which suggests Madame, absent title, was one Jeanne Fish.) Madame Pompadour created this diversion for His Royal Majesty in order to maintain for herself behind-the-throne influence over the king. It was whispered in the streets and royal corridors that she truly ruled the nation and he was no more than a figurehead. In any event the Stag Park originally hosted only two or three girls, but the King’s tastes, we are told, tended to be expansive and thus Madame Pompadour was forced to begin large-scale acquisitions of new, virgin talent for the King’s “amusement.” By acquisition I mean the lady of power sent her representatives into the streets to grab up young, uneducated, but pretty candidates. Madame had no official power in court, but exercised considerable influence in the background, serving without title or portfolio as Superintendent of the King’s Pleasure. The Little House on the Pleasure Prairie was located at the Versailles complex, but the king told the Park’s “tenants” he was a Polish Prince related to the queen and therefore allowed to stay in the house. Eventually the girls figured out who he really was. The Park was scene to orgies and some very strange parties and odd ceremonies, and as it turns out I am guessing that Norman Mailer’s novel The Deer Park, which concerned Hollywood, was based on this French antecedent.
Perhaps the original name-hanger for our Deer Park had in mind a similar house of pleasure and we somehow bollixed the translation and misunderstood his intent? I mean, dere vare plenty logger poys oot dere in dose woods, eh, and once upon a time there were les maisons de libertinage (sporting joints) north of Newberry and in neighboring Dollarville, not to mention plenty more way over in Seney to the west and the Soo to the east.
But we shall not morph idle speculation into fantasy. I get to do that through my fiction.
The Isle of Skye in Britain was converted to a sheep ranch and deer park in the 18th century.
King John’s palace in Clepstone was in the heart of Sherwood Forest where forest law, brought to England by the Normans, protected all beasts of the chase, primarily deer, in the king’s name. In 1178-80 a deer park enclosure was built near the king’s palace. I didn’t note which King John.
King John was real, Sherwood was real, Robyn Hode (aka, Robin Hood) was not real, but the myth tells us he robbed the rich to give to the poor, which I suppose, in modern Republican/Tea Party terms would make him a Democrat. Go figure. Even then the rich were greedily clutching their inherited spoils and complaining about efforts to diminish their holdings and values.
There was also a famous deer park in Nancy, France, where in later times kids could feed dry bread to deer and peanuts to bears.
As a final aside, the Danes had the Jagersborg Dyrehave, an 18th century deer park about which I know nothing, the point being that deer parks were if not ubiquitous, certainly not uncommon in Europe, or in the colonies where they popped up at places like Fort Pitt, the cradle of Steelers Football.
Another day of hunting ends with an empty game bag. So it goes. Sooner or later I am going to have to carefully examine the Jesuit Relations, WPA book written on Michigan’s byways.
The hunter stumbles on, but we have left our baited blind and now advance stealthily on foot, still-hunting our way toward our quarry.
And now with October yawning at midnight, I terminate this hunt from summer. Shall endeavor to do bit more looking from home over winter. As a note, and sadly, not one of the older local contacts ever got back to me. Over.