Long before the Potowatomi, before the Huron, before the Ottawa, and before the Chippewa Indians came to live in Michigan, there was an ancient tribe of Woodland people that inhabited the thumb area and other parts of our great nation. They were a civilized culture, traveling and trading throughout the Great Lakes area and even down to the Mississippi River. A large contingent of these people were centered in what is now known as St. Louis, MO. They peacefully moved throughout the region, from the years 300 B.C. to about 600 A.D. For some unknown reason, these people disappeared around 600 A.D.
The area known as Pointe aux Barques was special to them – a place that they revered and loved. Because this was their spiritual home, the tribes that followed did not occupy the tip of the thumb, revering the land as that belonging to “the old ones”. This land sat unoccupied for over 1000 years.
When the French priest Claude Allouez arrived in 1665, he called this point of land Pointe aux Barques for the rocky shoreline that resembled the prows of ships. During the 1880’s the land was lumbered of thousands of beautiful white pine trees, some as high as 200 feet.
A sawmill was built on the property where the Fravel Cottage now stands. The lumber was milled and shipped by rail and barge to build the rapidly growing cities: Detroit, Saginaw and Bay City. The Pere Marquette Railroad actively participated in this effort.
Once the land had been lumbered, the railroad considered starting a resort at Pointe aux Barques. Although they decided against the plan, the railroad’s president, Stanford Crapo, invested his own funds into the project and with the railroad’s promotion, opened the resort in 1896, less than six months after deciding to do so. The rest was obvious.
Pointe aux Barques is nearly the same today as it was early on. We have about the same number of cottages, the land is still wild and beautiful, and the golf course and beach provide endless hours of fun for all. As you enter the gate at Pointe Aux Barques, time slows down and the simple pleasures of living become priorities: walking in the woods, gathering with friends, children at play, a picnic at Lady Rock.
How blessed we are to have this beautiful place to enjoy every summer. Can it be that the land has moved a full circle in time? Can it be that we are emulating the peaceful; pleasurable live of the Woodland Tribe that once walked this point of land? Perhaps the woodland tribe would approve of our use of this beautiful point- that our efforts to preserve and care for this land would be in line with their own use.
As we move into our second century, let us remember the proud heritage set before us and continue to honor the land known as Pointe aux Barques.