The Steamer Topinabee
The Inland Water Route
of Northern Michigan
by: Mark Hill©

Please Report any Broken Links (Click my Name Above) 

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Steamer Topinabee

Inland Water Route Communities

Launch Conway
Facts Oden
Ticket Ponshewaing
Marketing Alanson
Changes Name to:  Pe-to-se-ga Indian River
Owner and General Manager Topinabee
PE-TO-SE-GA  Sold Cheboygan

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The Inland Water Route comprises the waters of:
Round Lake, Iduna Creek, Crooked Lake, Crooked River,
Burt Lake, Indian River, Mullet Lake, Cheboygan River

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The Related Communities of the Inland Water Route Comprises:
Conway, Oden, Ponshewaing, Alanson, Indian River, Topinabee, Cheboygan

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Pictures of  the STEAMER TOPINABEE on the Inland Route 1899-1910.

  In Alanson, at the Swing Bridge.

   On the Crooked River, not far from the Devils Elbow. 
        Here's the Topinabee in the Indian River. 

           In Topinabee, on Mullet Lake.  

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The Inland Route Today
    The Inland Route today comprises the waters of: Crooked Lake, Crooked River, Burt Lake, Indian River, Mullet Lake, and the Cheboygan River.  The summer months provide warm waters for modern recreation.  Many pleasure boaters each year make plans to explore the 87 mile round trip route, usually over a weekend.

Indians and the Inland Route
    The Inland Route known to the Indians and fur traders, also included Round Lake (near Lake Michigan), and a small stream from Round Lake to Crooked Lake called Iduna Creek.  The Inland Route was a highly desirable passage, due to the naturally protected inland waters and eliminating the need to take the treacherous journey around Waugoshance Point on lake Michigan.  Therefore,  navigation of the Great Lakes waters between,  Petoskey and  the mouth of the Cheboygan River,  could be eliminated by taking the Inland Route.

    Indian encampments have been documented along the entire Inland Route. An archaeological study by Michigan State University has found traces of  approximately 50 encampments along its shores.  One of the most productive digs  was located in Ponshewaing, with artifacts dating back 3000 years.

Two portage points were used by the trading Indians.  The portage from Lake Michigan occurred near Menonaqua located between Kegomic and the south border of  the current Petoskey State Park.  Another portage was usually needed at various points on the Iduna Creek.

The Inland Route Area Grows
    The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad (G.R.&I.) reached Petoskey in October 1873.  The regular train service to the area brought  settlers, lumbermen, and the first tourists to the areas around the Inland Route.

The Inland Route Opens Up
    In 1874, Mr. Frank Sammons of Cheboygan conceived the idea of transporting the mail via the Inland Waterway from Cheboygan to a point on the Crooked River (Alanson) where it could be taken via the State Road to Petoskey, then, to the railroad.  In order to make his plan work, Mr. Sammons needed to remove sediment from the mouth of the Indian River at Burt Lake.  He set out with a team of horses, two white men, and two Indians, then proceeded to plough and scrape the sand bar wide enough for the tug Maud Sammons (short name Maude S) to enter Burt lake with a full load of supplies and mail for the lumber camps established along the shores.

    In 1876, the Bureau of Swamp Lands made an appropriation of $20,000 for the dredging of the Crooked River.  Dredging began in June, later that same year, a tug piloted by Captain Andrews of Petoskey made the full trip from Conway to Cheboygan in 10.5 hours.  Prior to the establishment of the railroads around the Inland Route, the only means to transport logs and finished products in the area was by using tugs between Conway and Cheboygan.  With the advent of the railroads, the Inland Waterway went into a decline.  As tourists began to discover the attractions of the Inland Route, it became one of the busiest inland waterways in the country.  At one point, up to thirty two boats a day were traveling the route with tours lasting 2-3 hours up to an overnight stay at various hotels.  The types of boats providing tours were; Side Wheelers, Paddle Wheelers, Naphtha Launches, and Steam Boats. 

    The first steamer on the Inland Water Route that did not require a paddle-wheel for propulsion was the Irene.  Mr. Hamill who later  operated the Steamer Topinabee, owned the Irene.  The Irene's boiler  operated on coal and wood.  The Irene operated on the Inland Water Route from 1884 until 1915 hauling freight and passengers and was piloted by Capt. Fields  for most of its existence.  When taking passengers, a souvenir booklet  was given as a reminder, there were at least two different types.

    In 1880, the Inland Navigation Company was organized by Mr. Charles R. Smith of Cheboygan and three boats were running until 1883. Two prominent boats for the Inland Navigation Company were the side wheelers "City of Cheboygan" and the Northern Belle".  These two boats would make trips from Conway to the Mullet Lake House. People wanting to make the trip to "The Island of Mackinac", would board the "Propeller Mary" to continue their journey.  Many boats traveled the river at the time, as the river proved to be the best means of transportation.  Mr. Frank Joslin better known as Captain Joslin first ran the Ida May a steamer tug that hauled logs.   On Feb 7 1887 he had purchased this steamer from Jane Dagwell for $259.  In 1893 Capt. Joslin piloted a new boat, the Oden, on her first trip down the river.  This vessel was built expressly for the Inland Route.

In 1903 a steamboat traveled daily from Oden to Cheboygan during the navigation season.

    By far, the most popular vessel  of them all was the shallow draft, double decked,  "Steamer Topinabee".  Piloted  by Mr. Hamill, who, falsely marketed himself as a grandson of Chief Petoskey.   A typical trip itinerary would include: Board the Steamer Topinabee in Oden, make stops in Pon-she-wa-ing, Alanson, Sagers Resort, Columbus Landing, Indian River, Topinabee (for Dinner), Cheboygan, terminus Mackinac Island. A similar trip was the inverse of this schedule. At other times The Topinabee also included stops at The Inn at Conway (Conway House, Inland House).

    While touring Conway, Oden, Ponshewaing, were attractions themselves, the most interesting part of the journey was the cruise down the Crooked River.  Alanson from 1882 until 1901 had a 14 foot high wooden bridge known as the "High Bridge".  At this point on the river, many steamers  had to hinge back their smokestack to pass under the bridge.  The Steamer Topinabee being a double decked steamer had to hinge back its Pilot House, and the smoke-stack was a telescoping design.  In 1901 a Swing Bridge: replaced the High Bridge.  From 1901 until the mid 1960's the swing bridge that had to be opened via a manual key placed into a gearing system.  In the mid 1960's a hydraulic system was installed to actuate the gearing. The Topinabee was seventy two feet long and had a twelve feet beam providing for a very minimal clearance at the bridge opening, thus very slow accurate navigation was needed.  The second bridge location across the Crooked River in Alanson is at the present day site of the M68 bridge.  In 1903 a drawbridge was installed by the Grand Rapids Bridge Co. Careful navigation was also need at this bridge too.  In 1937 the drawbridge was replaced by a cement bridge similar to the bridge of today.  Further down river were many tight narrow bends in the river. Of particular interest were two corners called "Devils Elbow" and "Horse Shoe Bend".  In order to navigate the tight corners of these two corners, the steamer had to go forward and backward several times in addition to the use of poles that were used by deck hands to help push the steamer around the banks of the corner.  On some of the corners, logs were tied together at the bank, to facilitate the boat "sliding" around the corner.  Early two engine Side Wheelers would actually have one wheel going forward, and the other wheel going backward, to facilitate navigation the tight corners.

    From 1876 until 1920, nearly 100 commercial water craft were in business on the Inland Waterway.  The water craft included: Steam Tug Boats, Side-wheel Steamers,  Stern Paddlewheel Steamers,  Propeller driven Steamers, Naphtha Steamers, and Gas powered water craft.. Tug boats were primarily used to facilitate the transporting of supplies and logs.  The steamers were primarily used for the transport of people to various places along the Inland Route.  Some steamers were owned by a particular resort. Examples include: the Columbus Maid (1893) was operated by the Columbus Beach association (Indian River), the Argonaut Belle (1898) and The Pittsburg (1896-1905) were operated by the Argonaut Club (Burt Lake). The Buckeye Belle a resort steamship ran from 1905-1915 and was owned by the Dodge Resort.

    While the Inland Route was an entity by itself, there were operations to take passengers from Oden to St. Ignace.  The New Inland Route (a company) had such an operation.  The Irene, Wau-Kon, and the Charles D. had coordinated timetables to enable passengers to make the trip.  Another combination of the steamers; Sailor Boy, Irene, and the Wilson had the same route.  A typical itinerary would be:  Take the Irene from Oden to Topinabee, transfer to the Wilson, travel to Cheboygan, transfer to the Sailor Boy for St. Ignace.


Tourism and the Resorts Flourish

Getting to the Inland Route Area - Via Steamship
Many early tourists arrived to the Inland Waterway route area, via a Lake Michigan steamship.   Chicago to Harbor Springs was a popular trip for many passengers.  An elegant ship named the Manitou would make the trip in twenty four hours.  In 1898 the fare was $5.00, with  meals and berth extra.  Another popular but less elegant ship was the North Land (Northland). Two other popular ships were the Petoskey and the Charlevoix, their time to Harbor Springs was forty hours.  The cost to take these boats in 1898 was $7.00 with meals and berth included.  Early steamships stopped at Harbor Springs due to its naturally protected and very deep harbor,  later, they  added a stop in Petoskey

Getting to the Inland Route  Area -  Via Train

    Other tourists arrived to Petoskey and the Inland Waterway area via  train.  The two main railroads were the G.R.&I. Railroad, which billed itself as "The Fishing Line" and the Chicago and West Michigan Railway.  A typical round trip fare from Detroit was $11.98, and $18.00 for a round trip from Cincinnati.  Passengers could bring up to 150 pounds of luggage.  In 1905 over sixty six trains were coming into Petoskey daily.   

    Strolling from the Petoskey docks to a hotel, many tourists would want to walk the Midway.  The Midway was a point that tourists could find a room and purchase souvenirs including postcards, and Indian baskets.  Ice cream was also available along the Midway.  The welcome to Petoskey included arched colorful banners to greet arriving tourists.
There were many fine hotels to stay a few days, or  for many, a week or two in the Petoskey area.  A few major  hotels were  the New  Arlington, the Cushman, the Perry and the Imperial.   Rates per day in 1898 were: New Arlington $3-5, and $2-3 for the Cushman and Imperial.

From Petoskey to the Inland Route Commumities via Dummy Trains
    The roads in  the county were virtually non-existent, usually consisting of dirt tracks, thus, the most comfortable means of transportation was using the dummy train system.  In 1878 the first dummy train (or suburban train) reached Crooked Lake from Petoskey. 
The railroad was built by Petoskey pioneer H.O.Rose.  The rails for the track were made of wood overlaid with strips of metal.  For the first two summers these trains were pulled by horses.  The dummy trains were operated by the Bay View and Crooked Lake Railroad Co.  They consisted of a bright red engine, and open sided coach with elegant curtains and a flat car for baggage. 
The dummy trains connected all the resort towns, including Harbor Springs, Conway, Oden, Ponshewaing, and Alanson to the main rail center located in Petoskey. If arriving by train tourists would cross the white fence to the Dummy Train area to continue their journey to the Inland Route.

    In 1882 the G.R.&I. Railroad took over the dummy operation, installed steel rails, and extended the line to Mackinaw City.

    Due to the fact that the railroad ran along the westerly shores of Crooked Lake, tourism flourished at a very early date in the Conway, Oden, Ponshewaing and Alanson areas.  The south shore of Crooked Lake and Pickerel Lake developed much later, seeing their greatest expansion after World War One. 

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The Inland Route Communities
Map      Map from early 1900's

Conway    Back to Top   Conway Plat Map of 1902
    Conway was originally named Crooked Lake.  In 1878, W.E. Dodge founder of the Phelps Dodge Copper Co. took an interest to the Conway area and bought a large tract of land.  He donated acreage for a school and church.  In 1881 the name was changed to Dodges  Landing. In 1882 his son Conway aged 11 died and Mr Dodge asked that the town be renamed Conway in his honor.

    In 1882 the first postmaster was appointed and the town became a station of the railroad.  The population of Conway in 1895 was 25.
    The oldest cottage in Conway was the Bauer cottage built between 1850-60.  It was located on Crooked Lake, just north of the Iduna creek.  This cottage was once called the Sail Inn, and was dragged across the ice from a location approximately half mile west. 

    The McFarlane Mill owned by Jim, John, and Arthur built in 1870, was located just east of the Sail Inn cottage.  The mill operated until 1907 when the family took the operation to Oregon.  The Will (John's twin) McFarlane  family operated a grocery store (present day car repair and towing business), which also housed a dance floor located upstairs. Mollie Matthews (sister to McFarlane boys) and her husband operated the Hiawatha Hotel that was built in 1900.  The hotel was created exclusively for summer guests, many were from Cincinnati.  The Hiawatha Hotel was originally the Hiawatha Tavern, that name had to be changed during the prohibition, as the word Tavern was not allowed. The first homes along Graham Rd were built as company homes by the McFarlane's.

    Several grocery stores operated in Conway at the turn of the century, along with an ice cream parlor, and a bowling alley.

    In the late 1880's John Hastings built the Lake Home Hotel along Graham Rd.  It was located on a terrace above the lake.  Later it was enlarged and renamed the Hastings Heights Hotel and included a nine hole golf course behind the main building. This hotel burnt to the ground.  In 1923 a new building was constructed on it's foundation and functioned as the Sawkala Boys Camp until 1931.

Inland House
    The original Inland House was built in 1879,  by Merritt Blackmer, it consisted of five guest rooms.  It was purchased by David Hastings in 1908 and renamed the Conway Inn.  He enlarged it to 3 stories and added an eight stall boathouse.  Here was the first post office.  In 1914 Homer Trask purchased the hotel and named it the Inland House.  There was a fire in 1985 at the Inland House that destroyed the restaurant, it was not replaced. In 2002, The Inland House sold rooms as efficiency condominiums, and an addition to The Inland House of 15 one and two bedroom condominiums in a three story structure added in 2003.

Oden      Back to Top    Oden  Plat Map of 1902
    Oden MAY have been named after, William Oden Hughart who was president of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad 1874-1894.  Oden  was considered a resort center.  Year round residents were clustered along main street.  In 1882 Oden became a station  on the G.R.&I. Railroad, the depot was located on the north side of Main St.  There were also flag stops to the north and south of town.  The flag stop on the south side was known as Oden Oden, here tourists would leave the morning train and embark on steamer excursions to begin their tour of the Inland Route.

    By the early 1900's, many cottages had been built along the waterfront.  In 1910 Joseph Magnus built the Oden Boat House.  Mr. Magnus promoted the Oden Boat and Golf Club.  The golf course was laid out along the lake in front of the present day fish hatchery (built in 1920)  which is located  to the south of Oden.  The original boathouse was very attractive with a rustic arched bridge for pedestrians to use to access several docks located lakeside.  Mr. Magnus built the pagoda like structure  in the park located in back of the post office.  Mr. Magnus donated land, which today is Magnus State Park to the State of Michigan.

    Oden had a hotel and an inn at the turn of the century, they were named the Oden Hotel (later named the Rawdon Hotel) and the inn was named the Atherton Inn. 

The Atherton Inn was located on the site of the Post Office, and burnt in 1903. 

    The Oden Hotel was built in 1895 to resemble the shape of a steamer, and was located on the lakefront south of Main Street,  it was sold shortly afterwards to J. D. Rawdon, and was renamed the Rawdon Hotel
Rawdon Hotel Exterior.
    The Rawdon Hotel projected into the water, so that boats could land at covered walks on the south and east fronts.  On the south front were terraced gardens and a fountain.  In the gardens was a Pagoda for "lounging and flirtation".  On the north side were double tennis courts and beyond them a four lane bowling alley.  East of the tennis courts was the hotel power plant which provided steam heat to the thermal baths in the basement.  In front was a circular track for riding horses and within this a cinder track for bicyclists and "sprinters".  To the east was a swimming pool which had been formerly operated by the G.R.&I. Railroad.  The hotel was 60 by 147 feet and being built on the hillside, created a four story lakeside, and three story street side exposure.
Rawdon Interior
    The interior featured an Atrium design, thus the ceiling was the roof height in the center of the first floor. A portion of the roof/ceiling of the atrium was made from stained glass.  Daylight poured down from the stained glass transoms, creating unique visual effects thought the interior.  At one end a grand staircase led to the upper stories. Balconies surrounded the areas of the dinning room with each guest room opening onto the balcony and looking down to the atrium area.  The rooms were named after various fish, each guest room having a ceramic plaque denoting the species.  At the south end of the first floor was a stage, concerts and readings were held three times a week.  The dinning room seated 250 guests, and provided a means for banquets. The lobby desk area featured piano and several items for purchase, and general information was posted.  In 1898 the rates were $1.50-$2.00 per night.

    One of the attractions in Oden, was its 200 foot deep, 6" flowing artesian well. The well was located across the street from the depot.  Here the trains filled up with water.  Over  the years the pond filled with rubble and the well removed. 
    There were three grocery stores located on Main Street.  A&P operated a summer store for two summer. Adjacent to the A&P was a automobile service garage, and gas station selling Red Crown gasoline. There were two bowling alleys on Main Street one across from the Post Office known as the Oden Casino.  It had slot machines, an ice cream parlor and a dance hall upstairs which was also used as a roller skating rink. The population of Oden in 1895 was 20.
Before the modern era of boat racing on the Inland Water Route, there were boat races on Crooked Lake.

Tannery Gee
    No longer in existence, Tannery Gee was located just north of the north edge of Oden. There were two mills, one was a shingle mill and the other was a handle mill.  A small logging railroad ran inland from Tannery Gee, to bring lumber to the mills.  Tannery Gee also had boarding house for the local lumbermen.

Ponshewaing     Back to Top       Ponshewaing 1902 Plat Map
    Ponshewaing, some say means "Peaceful Waters", others say "Winter Home".  The two earliest settlers were the Rufus Myers and Novacious Kellam families of Alanson.  By 1900, so many fishermen were stopping here and asking for meals and rooms, that the Kellams decided to enlarge their home and turn it into a hotel. Mr. Kellam wanted to name the hotel "The New Klondike" after the Alaskan Gold Rush that was on at the time.  An old Indian told him that there was once an Indian Village on the exact spot of  the hotel, the Village was named "Pon-She-Waing", meaning "Winter Home".  Although this was a turning around of the meaning, because the hotel  was to be a "Summer Home", the name seemed to fit, thus the hotel was named the Ponshewaing Hotel
In front of the hotel was a trout pond.  There was a  two story boathouse at the lake shore.  It also had on the property, a wood working shop and farm building for the small farm that the Kellams operated. 
Hotel proprietors, would greet train passengers and take them to their boat liveries.  Several boats would be towed via launch to various fishing holes in the morning, later, in the afternoon, the launch would tow the fishermen back to the hotel.  Other fishermen would not hesitate to row 5-6 miles to find their secluded fishing hole.  Rates for room, meals, and boat were two dollars per day.  The hotel burnt down during the 1950's, only the stone pillars marking the driveway, (which can still be seen from U.S.31), and the hidden well head of the flowing well, remain.

    A high hill near Ponshewaing known as "Lookout Point" was the area that Indians used during the summer months.  There was a slope leading from Lookout Point down to the banks of Crooked Lake, to what is now Ponshewaing.  In the spring and summer months Ottawa Indians traveled north and west to the shores of Lake Michigan, they made maple sugar in the spring time, and gathered wild berries during the summer months.  The maple sugar was packed into birch bark containers and sealed with pine pitch.  The containers were made the previous winter by the women who were confined to their tee pees.  The men would take the containers  of maple sugar to trade on various  canoeing trips during the summer.  A typical trip would include a portage at Menonaqua, to the Little Traverse Bay. The trip would follow the shore of Lake Michigan to the southern portion of  the state.  In this region, the Indians would trade their maple sugar for buffalo meat.  Once back home, the Indians would dry and pack the meat.  The buffalo was simply a change in diet, as there was ample game available around the inland water route.

    The portage point at Menonaqua was not used solely by the Ottawa's, it was also used by raiding Menomonee Indians from Wisconsin.  Several times, usually at night,  the Menomonee Indians would kill Ottawa men and women, steal most of the provisions and proceed to take the children too.  The Lookout Point was used to send smoke signals to other tribes near Burt Lake asking for help or to warn of an impending attack. 

    About 1884, the G. R. & I.  Railroad was expanded from Oden to Alanson. Gravel was needed for the rail bed, therefore gravel was excavated from the Lookout Point for the construction. Many Indian skeletons and relics were found at the site.

    During the summer months, trains called “Dummies” consisting of an engine and two passenger cars fitted with wooden seats, ran from Petoskey to Alanson every hour and a half. With no depot, Ponshewaing was a flag stop on the G. R. & I. Railroad. The summer waiting station contained two wooden benches with their backs together, a cement floor and a roof.  A board walk ran from the Ponshewaing Hotel to the station.

Oden Island   Oden Island 1902 Plat Map
    A 1902 plat book  shows Oden Island laid out with cottages, parks, gardens, and a fountain in the center of the island.  This ambitious project never materialized, but, by 1905 a few cottages had been built on the north side.  In the mid 1960's a bridge was constructed to connect the islands south east sand bar area to the adjacent shore. Cy Jordan then developed the south end of the island.

Alanson       Back to Top      Alanson 1902 Plat Map
    Alanson got its name on June 22, 1882, being named after Alanson Howard, a grandson of W.O. Hugart, president of the G. R. & I. Railroad Company, which first came to Alanson during this time.  From Jan. 17, 1877 to June 22, 1882,  Alanson was known as Hinman.  Alanson got its first Post Office on Jan. 17, 1877,  with Hollis Frayer as its first postmaster.  Homesteaders  began settling  here in 1875.  Alanson resides in Littlefield Township which had a population of approximately 267 from about 1875-1880.  Alanson's population was 300 in 1903, and 575 in 1910.  Alanson incorporated as a village in 1905.

    In 1882  Abner S. Lee  platted the land he had bought  which is the present site of the heart of Alanson.  The first clearing was made in the area between the present depot and the river.

    In 1886 the earliest pioneers built the "High Bridge"  wooden bridge across the river on River Street.  This was 14 feet above the water so that the larger boats could go underneath it.  It was not planked over until the following year.  Some larger steamers had to fold down their smoke stacks, typical was the 80 foot long Juliet.  There was no bridge over the river at the north end of town (at this time), except for a temporary bridge that was built for use in drawing logs across the river   this was removed during the summer so boats could pass through.

    Many tourists arrived in Alanson via the G.R.&I. Railroad.  Tourists would stay at various hotels and Inns. The first hotel was built by G. Ormsby, others included the McPhee House owned by Henry McPhee, the Alanson House operated by C.A. Carr, the Merchant Hotel also called The New Inn. Some tourists would take fishing trips to Crooked, Pickerel and Burt Lake and back.  Others would continue their trip to the fishing Inns on Burt Lake that boasted " equal for its fine fishing... , ...entire relief guaranteed...".  R.H. Sager's Buckeye House,  Johnson's, and Voightlander's were popular fishing Inns located north of the mouth of Crooked River at Burt Lake. Information for special rates at the Buckeye House were available at the Petoskey GR&I train station .  In 1905  resort development by three well known men were responsible for the creation of several of the cottages/resorts in the area.  They were General Lew Wallace, author of “Ben Hur”, Judge K. Landis, former high commissioner of “Big League Baseball”, and  Judge A. Anderson. They built cottages primarily along Burt Lake.  Fare to Burt Lake fishing guide posts, from Alanson (about 5 miles), was 25 cents.  Typical weekly rates per week were $7-10 in 1898.  Touring the Inland Route was popular with many boats like the Tourist.

    Power for electric lights in town was first furnished by the Bowl Factory. 
In 1905 the Pellston Electric Co. was allowed to attach their main lines to the light plant of the Alanson Wooden Ware Co. The Pellston Electric Co. could then sell power to the factory at a fixed rate per house, and allow them to distribute power to consumers at a fixed rate.

    Alanson's  first newspaper called the Alanson News was published by E.S. Carrole on July 20 1893. Rates were: $1.00 for one year, 55 cents for 6 months, and 30 cents for 3 months.
Other  papers included the Alanson Inter-Lake published first on February 12 1909, and the Alanson Echo circa 1925.

    The first bank in Alanson was called the Alanson Bank of J.F. Holden and Son.  It was later moved to the Merchant Hotel.

    Alanson had several significant manufacturing operations in the late 1800's and early 1900's.   Among them were the lumber mills operated by Bonz and another by Merchant. The Crooked River played an important part in the development of early industry as the river was used to transport logs and finished product.
    Lumber,   Shingles,  Wooden  Bowls
    In 1910 Alanson boasted one saw mill.  It was owned by Fox and Williams, sold to a Mr. Pool, then sold to J.L. Newberry who added machinery for making shingles, it was destroyed by fire two years later.
In the fall of 1890, Mr. DeForest of Chicago purchased the land of which the shingle mill had occupied.  Here he constructed a bowl factory, which was later purchased by Mr. Teachout.  Hard maple bowls were manufactured from the vastly available hard maple logs from the surrounding forests.  The rate for hard wood maple, was $4.50 per thousand feet.  In 1902 the mill was sold to the Alanson Woodenware Co., owned by F. Hinkley, M. Bonz and G. Ormsby.  In 1910 the mill was sold to the Munising Woodenware Co. who moved the operation to Munising.

    Cheese Boxes,   Elm Veneering,    Broom Handles
    At Hitsmen Corner was a mill owned  by F. Hinkley circa 1907. This mill acted as a supply mill for the Benton Harbor Fruit and Manufacturing Co. In addition to milling lumber, the mill also produced Cheese Boxes, and Elm Veneer, which was shipped around Michigan and Wisconsin.  The mill closed in 1909.
Harry  and Dana Hinkley moved machinery from the Brutus Mill to Alanson, and started to manufacture broom handles. J. Hunt was the first superintendent of the Broom Handle Mill.

Like many towns and cities at the time, fires had an impact on Alanson.
    In 1908 disaster struck Alanson.  A fire, started by smoldering cigarettes left by men playing cards in the back of Withey’s Jewlery Shop. The fire destroyed the entire north side of River Street.  A bucket brigade was established in the middle of the night, to prevent the elimination of the entire village.
    In May of 1909, Mr Woodbridge Ferris spoke at a commencement  ceremony, in the evening, while awaiting his train back to Big Rapids, he noticed flames shooting above the roof of the Cobby Hinckley Building.  The building was a complete loss, losing the Inter-Lake News office and the Alanson Grocery.  The Grocery Company rebuilt, only to have it burn down again in March of 1910.
    On August 19, 1910, the Merchant Mill caught fire.  This large mill had very sizable  piles of lumber and logs piled along the river banks.  Aided by a brisk wind, the entire area was on fire within minutes.  The bucket brigade was called into action. Pellston and Petoskey fire departments were contacted for men and hose, to aid in the battling of the extreme fire.  Eventually the fire was under control, but continued to burn and smolder for many days and nights, forcing a constant vigil to ensure that the fire did not restart.  Over 1,500,000 feet of lumber, and the entire mill was destroyed.

Indian River        Back to Top
    The village of Indian River got its name from the river that passes through it.  J. Clark, filed a claim for 152 acres of what is now Indian River.  Clark sold the land to M. Mc Henry and F.E. Martin, who promptly plotted the land for a village.  The new survey was recorded in 1879. 
Mr. Martin owned the first store in Indian River "F.E. Martin Dealer in General Merchandise", at one time it employed 10 clerks.  The store carried groceries, dry goods, hardware, drugs and lumber. The store was open from early morning until late at night.

    Michigan Central Railway made Indian River a stop in the late 1880's. Bringing tourists and supplies to, and from, the area. During berry season a baggage car of berries would be shipped out each night. Native Indians picked the huckleberries in the area, squaws carried the berries in an Elm Bark baskets.   A quart of berries cost 4 cents. Pigeon Travelers came by boat to trap passenger pigeons in the area. After trapping the pigeons, the Travelers would ship the Pigeons east via the railroad.

    Many tourists that arrived in Indian River via the Michigan Central Railway, wanted to, stay at resorts, go to a cottage, or camp.  Many wanted to tour the peaceful river and the surrounding lakes, by simply boating and or fishing.  Towing services were provided by several business establishments to take boats to fishing locations or just to enjoy the sights. 

    A parade of boats on the Indian River was a common sight, as well as a Regatta.  The Pinehurst served as a common meeting place for a lot of visitors. 

    Several steamers stopped approximately 40 minutes for dinner in Indian River.  One location for the steamers to dock was at Martins Dock.

    A particularly popular area on the Indian River was, the Columbus Beach area, where many activities were held.  The Indainola Summer Resort Association and the Columbus Beach Club merged into the Columbus Beach Club.  The club consisted of many summer homes. The club members built  streets and sidewalks in the area. Later the club erected a clubhouse and a nice casino which was built in 1900.  The club operated its own boats for club members.  First was the Columbus Maid  in the 1890’s then came the Buckeye Belle in the early 1900’s. Members of the club were taken daily to Indian River for shopping via their club boats. 

    Another club named the Argonaut Hunting and Fishing Club, was located one mile south of Indian River on Burt Lake. The area was referred to as Pittsburg Landing, founded by G.Lashell of Pittsburg in the late 1890’s.   The club was later incorporated as the Argonaut Club.  The club maintained two launches, named the: Argonaut Belle and the Pittsburgh. 

    At the mouth of the Indian River at Mullett Lake was the Mullett Lake House which was an elaborate resort hotel.  The resort was built in 1879-80 at a cost of $42,000 by Wm and C.R. Smith.  A bridge at the mouth of the Indian River provided a means for passengers to cross the river after arriving at the Grandview Railroad Station. The Mullett Lake House was moved on lighters (log rafts) by steam tugs to Sault Ste Marie.  It was renamed the Iroquis Hotel, and was destroyed by fire in 1896.

    T. Dagwell had a boat works operation on the river, including the making of boats.  He was trained in England.  A good row-boat, made of oak, with two coats of paint, and two sets of oars cost $30 in the late 1880’s

    While the area was heavily wooded up to the shores, homesteaders, erected log cabins along the river, because of the scenic vistas that the route provided.

Timber cutting and prosperous saw mills surrounded the area. 

Indian River received its first post office in 1879.   

The first church building in Indian River was a Methodist church, built in 1883.

    Indian River resides in Cheboygan County.  In 1885, a movement was started to create a new county called “Sumner County”.  This was to be done by taking a slice from Cheboygan and Presque Isle counties.  The movement did not produce the intended county.

    The mouth  of the Sturgeon River was moved from flowing into the Indian River to a location on Burt Lake. The reason for the move was to prevent the creation of sand bars on the Indian river.  The sand bars created navigation problems for the tugs and rafts.  The Michigan Historical Commission has the original plans for the diversion of the Sturgeon River mouth from Indian River to Burt Lake.
    The diversion data: 
        Length of diversion:                    4,796 feet
        Cubic Yards to be excavated:        30,465
        Cost per cubic yard:                          30 ˘
Total – Including grubbing:           $9,139
        Cost of Dam on Sturgeon River:     $800

    July 3rd 1911 there was a large fire, it started in the back of the Alcove Hotel.  The fire eliminated a lot of Indian River at the time, and it took a long time to recover.

The population of Indian River in 1895 was 212.

Topinabee        Back to Top
    Topinabee was a planned resort community.  H H Pike platted the area, and became the proprietor of Pikes Hotel, later named Hotel Topinabee.  There was also a Pikes Tavern and Dancing  Pavilion, in 1917 it was called Pikes Summer Tavern. Mr. Pike was involved with the distributing of Sanitas Springs water, in fact, Pikes Summer Resort and Sanitas Springs had the same letterhead. The water was marketed as both water and medicine, and was used exclusively on the Niagara portion of the MCRR
The docks at the hotel provided access for the Steamer Topinabee.  Many other  touring boats used the docks, including the Liebner Davis.  Some steamers returned to Oden on the daily round trip, while others continued to Cheboygan.
    Activities at the lakeside were popular with visitors to the hotels.      Early tourists had a store and Post Office to serve their needs.  

The Michigan Central Railroad erected a depot in 1882.   The population of Topinabee in 1895 was 34.

Cheboygan         Back to Top
Cheboygan is an Indian name meaning "Through Passage", this refers to the Indians "passing through" during their fur trading days using the Inland Route to Mackinaw Island,  instead of the straits passage.  Cheboygan was first settled in 1845 by Mr. McLeod who built the first dam on the Cheboygan River.  In 1898 Cheboygan had a population exceeding 8,000.  The lumbering operations were immense, with some being in operation since 1875.  Fishing and shipping as well as lumbering were big industries during the boom years.  The Phister & Vogel Leather Co. and Tannery  had a large operation on the Cheboygan river.

    Many steamers serviced the Cheboygan area.  Two popular steamers were the Topinabee and the Liebner Davis.

    At the southern end of the Cheboygan River was the Cheboygan Club House, The "Windmere".  The steamers had to go slow in the Cheboygan River due to the logs and booms.   There is a lock in the Cheboygan River that has a 17 foot elevation difference.  Many tourists would exit the steamer at the locks, and make a short walk to the center of Cheboygan, and greet the steamer as it landed at the dock.   Many tourists stayed in the area, others  went to the upper peninsula and some returned to their point of origin.  Several steamers operated out of Cheboygan.

horizontal rule

The Waters of the Inland Route
Map      Map from early 1900's


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