Meadowbrook History

The 200 acres that we know today as Meadowbrook-on-the-Pine was first deeded in two separate land grants. The south 40 acres by President James Buchanan in 1858 and the other 160 acres by President Andrew Johnson in 1866. Both properties changed hands numerous times between then and 1944 when Herm and Norm Schwarze purchased the south 40 and the west 80. The east 80 was purchased by Earl & Betty Horan in 1946 before being sold to Herm and Norm in 1951.

 

Cool, Curtis, & Nye, a firm of Bristol Michigan, owned the North 160 acres from 1898 to 1902.  This was the time when the property was logged.  There are still remnants of the small gauge railroad, which traversed the property.  The easiest to find evidence of this may be the railroad grade that we now call Carey Road on the north end of the property.  Many of the fence posts on the north side of the property are former railroad ties; a few actually still have the railroad spikes in them. 

In addition to removing the logs by rail the Pine River itself was used to get logs to the mills in Manistee.  In winter the river was dammed up and logs were thrown into the river to collect behind the dams until spring when the dams would be broken and the logs carried by the high water to the mills.  The ends of river logs were branded so that when they reached Manistee, the mills could identify the owner of each log.  Upriver of Manistee log “rustlers” were known to cut off a few inches of a branded log and rebrand it.  The resulting disks once littered the river and in fact remnants of two of them currently hang in the living room of the summer house. 

 

One logging dam, known as Cook’s Dam, spanned from the trail down to the lower lawn to the ridge across the river at the beginning of Old Maid’s Hole.  This dam is mentioned in the book "The Ne-Bo-Shone" by Hal Cutler written in 1917.  Cutler was a Luther resident and one time owner of the west 80.  In the mid 1980’s a bulldozer operator, doing some work on the lower lawn, was surprised to find mounds of gravel that could only have been remnants of Cook’s Dam.

The oldest building still standing on the Meadowbrook property is the farmhouse.  It is unknown exactly when the farmhouse was built but the assumption is the original part of the farmhouse was built prior to 1900 and has been added to a few times
over the years.  Owner Louis Kempf built the current barn in the 1930’s in an effort to convince the Logan family of Luther to stay on as caretakers.  There was a log barn, long since gone, near the old silo pit 100 yards or so west of the current barn.  The summer house, guest cabin, and garage (tackle room) were built in 1912 by then owner David Marks.  The guest cabin remains essentially unchanged other than having windows installed on the porch in the 1970’s to replace screens.  The tackle room started as a garage with the tackle “room” itself serving as the butler’s quarters.  The bell above the 
tackle room was originally installed for the purpose of alerting neighbors of a fire.

The summer house has seen the most changes.  Adding windows in the 1960’s winterized both porches. Prior to this the front porch was a screened porch and the back porch was the summer kitchen.  The front porch is so called because it faces the river making that end of the house the front.  The current bathroom was installed in the early 1970’s when
plumbing was added to the summer house kitchen and bathroom.  This room was originally the maid’s quarters before it became a washroom with water coming from the hand pump on the back porch.  There was no shower or running water and everyone used the biffy.  In the early 1980's it was discovered that the summer house was separating and the upstairs floor joists were about to slip completely off the center supporting wall.  Rods with turnbuckles were installed and the house was squeezed back together.  The most dramatic change came in 1993 when the wall between the back porch and the old kitchen was removed and the current kitchen completed.   The skylight was added in 2003 when the big maple tree fell on the house knocking off the chimney, which broke a large hole in the roof.  Other than the addition of electricity in the late 1940’s the rest of the house remains largely unchanged from 1912.  The main house was built in 1971 when Herm and Norm retired from General Motors and moved to Meadowbrook.

From all accounts getting to Meadowbrook was a real adventure in the war years when Herm and Norm first purchased the property.  Having to pool gas rationing stamps, not to mention alcohol stamps, as well as the need to take the best tires from everyone’s cars
and putting them on the cars headed north, were all a part of what was necessary to make a trip to Meadowbrook from downstate.  Even though beef was also being rationed it seemed there was always some sort of “locally grown beef” available at the Luther grocery.  In those days everyone came to Meadowbrook from the west over the old iron bridge, as the road east of the farmhouse was not much more than a two track.

In the early days Herm and Norm formed the “Mystic Order of Meadowbrook Trout Fisherman” for reasons long ago lost to time.  It seems the main function of the order was to create a reason to have a party. This order consisted of Charter
Members, Members, and Black Sucker List members.  Charter members were a small group of original members who formed the group in 1945.  New members were those Meadowbrook guests who had caught a trout in the Pine River and had been “initiated” into the order.  Black sucker members were those who had donned the appropriate fishing attire and attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to catch an elusive Pine River trout.  Although the initiation ceremony varied slightly from year to year there seemed to have been some common themes.  There were costumes that the members being initiated were required to wear. (The hat on the left now adorns Chris' deer above the window seat.)  There was a parade to the bridge or the lower lawn.   Blowing the horn, throwing rocks, and taking vows were all a part of the process. Reports of new members being tossed into Stump Hole and even off the 
bridge are enduring but unconfirmed.  One thing is absolutely certain from all the pictures, written records, and first hand accounts, alcohol consumption was an integral part of the ceremony.

Although Opening Weekend has evolved into the biggest family event every year at Meadowbrook back in the 1950’s and 1960’s the Fourth of July was the big event.  Herm and Norm organized games for the children although it is clear that many adults also took part.  There were games like eating a hotdog dangling on a string with your hands behind your back. There were also traditional games such as musical chairs, the three legged-race, and the penny scramble where a bunch of change was hidden in a pile of sawdust and the only rule seemed to be finders keepers.  Of course the big prize was a silver dollar that Herm added to the scramble every year.  Norm and MomMae would also create a scavenger hunt most years which involved fairy tales, nursery rhymes, or other clues that sent everyone scurrying in all directions.

Deer season has been a part of Meadowbrook since the very beginning.  Originally deer camp was held at the summer house as the much warmer farmhouse was occupied by the Logan family and later the Horan family.  From 1950 to around 1980 deer camp moved to the farmhouse before returning to the summer house in the early 1980’s.  The first buck was shot in 1948 and the mount hung in the summer house until it was stolen in the break in of 1998.  Deer were few and far between in the early years because the deer herd was still recovering from the extensive logging and resultant removal of habitat along with the over hunting of the early 1900’s.

Over the years names have evolved for different features here at Meadowbrook.  The origins of some are obvious like First Hole, Guest Cabin Run, and the lower lawn while others are not so obvious.   Stump Hole is so named because at one time two large stumps dominated the left side of the run coming into the hole.  Fred Schwarze Sr. named Rainbow Bend the weekend he caught a bunch of rainbows there.  Rye patch got its name when for a few years in the 1950’s or 60’s rye was planted there for the deer.  One weekend, in an effort to make it an easier walk, the Carey family cleaned debris from the old railroad grade and Carey Road received its name.  Herm’s rock was named after many years of Herm sitting by the window of the main house and using the rock as an indicator of water level.   Norm’s blackberry patch received it’s name the year Norm discovered a patch of beautifully large blackberries there.  Ironically few have been found there since.

The named spot with the most interesting history is Old Maid’s Hole.  On July 29, 1929 a 19-year-old girl from Luther 
named Ocie Miller was working as a maid for the owners, the Kempfs from Chicago.  After completing some ironing she went down to the lower lawn to cool off.  She was later found drowned in the river in 4 inches of water with a half written letter to her fiancé on the bank next to where she had been sitting.   The death was ruled accidental but members of her family have never given up the belief that foul play had to be involved for she was a good swimmer and had every reason to live.  When Herm and Norm bought the property the hole was called simply Maid’s Hole.  This name was very disconcerting to Norm so she added the Old believing that somehow Old Maid’s Hole was a little less ominous.  As of  2010 the maid’s younger sister still lived in Luther and remembered hearing the story of her sister drowning throughout her childhood.

Many habitat improvements and plantings have been completed at Meadowbrook over the years.  One very interesting one is the contribution of the C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930’s when they did many bank stabilization projects on the Pine River.  Most noticeable at Meadowbrook may be the rocks lining the outside of Rainbow Bend, placed there and many other places along the river to prevent bank erosion.  Norm transplanted the three black walnut trees on the lower lawn.   The lilacs, paper white narcissus, and iris on the property are the results of Mae Traill’s efforts.  The first large tree planting
after Herm and Norm purchased Meadowbrook was the stand of red pines planted in the late 40’s east of where the main house now sits.  These trees were harvested in 2005.  Since that planting there have been 3 major red pine plantings, the first in the mid 1970’s and the last in the early 1990’s.  A large number of autumn olives were also planted to benefit the deer and partridge.  In 1987 there was an extensive clear cut of poplar and a thinning of maple and beech on the property.   A Forest Stewardship Plan was written in 2006 to help guide all future habitat decisions at Meadowbrook.  Timber management, wildlife enhancement, and Pine River protection are the overriding goals of this plan.

No story of Meadowbrook would be complete without the mention of ghosts or at least a relating of the numerous unexplained events.  We will not identify the observers of these events but rest assured they are numerous and the events have occurred over a number of decades.  While sitting in the living room one night three people observed an empty rocking chair begin to
rock of its own accord.  Another group at another time were sitting in the living room one evening when the antlers that hang under the stairway leapt off the wall and came to rest in front of the fireplace.  Years later a cup on the hooks in the dining room inexplicably flew past the head of a person sitting at the dining room table before shattering on the floor near the doorway to the kitchen.  One cleanup weekend a person walking into the washroom witnessed a washbasin, which had hung successfully all winter, fly off the wall and hit the wall on the opposite side of the room.   In all of these cases each witness swears these items did not simply fall but did indeed fly across the room as if propelled.  Then there is the story of the family member who was very skeptical when it came to ghost stories until the day he was staying alone at Meadowbrook.  Returning from fishing he found the door to the front porch ajar.  He decided to go into the house that way and discovered what he swore were a set of wet foot prints leading into the house down the hall and into the washroom, which of course was the maid’s room at one time.   There are also the unexplained sounds of footsteps or the sounds of furniture being moved upstairs heard by many.

For those of you who are still skeptical let me relate a story.  One evening in the mid 1960’s about an hour before dark a guest at Meadowbrook was watching a stranger fish down through guest cabin run.  Upon noticing his audience the stranger called up asking if the lodge was still there.  When he found that it was he began asking questions that made it apparent that he had more than a casual knowledge of Meadowbrook.  He informed his spectator that many years before he had worked as a chauffeur for the previous owners.  When invited to come up and take a look at the place, some 30 years since his last visit, he became quiet for a moment and politely declined saying he may be back sometime during the day but he would not enter the lodge after dark.   With that he continued on his way downstream.  A quality in his voice made it obvious there were strong feelings behind his refusal to visit the lodge after dark. 

Meadowbrook has a remarkably rich history.  It has provided great memories and touched the lives of most everyone who has ever visited here.  In many ways it has become the glue that binds Herm and Norm’s family together.  Meadowbrook has hosted family reunions, graduations, weddings, honeymoons, funerals, the spreading of ashes, and many celebrations of family and friends.  It will continue to do so. 

Meadowbrook Timeline
1912 - Summer House, Guest Cabin, Garage (Tackle Room) built by David Marks
1929 - Maid Drowns - Old Maid's Hole named
1944 - Herm and Norm Schwarze purchase Meadowbrook
1945 - First Opening Weekend
1946 - First Opening Weekend thru Labor Day fishing contest
1946 - Rainbow Bend named
1950 - First Opening Weekend only fishing contest
1957 - First year of Opening Weekend trophy
1958 - Opening Weekend Trophy enlarged and decision made to just add names every year
1963 - Back porch (summer kitchen) enclosed, pump removed from summer house
1963 - Windows replace screens on front porch of summer house
1971 - Main House built, Herm and Norm retire to Meadowbrook
1973 - Windows replace screens on guest cabin porch
1974 - Bathroom fixtures installed in summer house
1988 - The passing of Norma Schwarze
1990 - The passing of Herm Schwarze
1990 - Dave Bowyer, Steve Bowyer, and Kathy Jellison inherit Meadowbrook
1993 - Summer house kitchen remodeled
1997 - New base added to Opening Weekend trophy
2001 - Dave Bowyer and Steve Bowyer acquire Meadowbrook
2003 - Skylight installed after tree falls on summer house
2005 - Fire pit installed at summer house near Herm and Norm's tree
2007 - The passing of Dave Bowyer
2009 - BBQ built next to tackle room
2009 - Meadowbrook website launched
2013 - Maple Tree planted in yard between summer house and tackle room
2015 - Summer house rewired and lighting updated


Below is a timeline of the ownership of the 200 acres that now make up Meadowbrook on the Pine.  The information was found in Abstracts done by the Lake County Abstract Company in 1990.  We have organized this into three separate parcels as that is how the property was originally divided.  The parcels are the: 
East 80 - The east half of the property north of  6 Mile Road
West 80 - The west half of the property north of  6 Mile Road 
South 40 - Everything south of 6 Mile Road

The East 80
1787 - Region became part of the Northwest Territory
1837 - Michigan became the 26th State
1866 - A Government Grant by President Andrew Johnson to Enoch J. White of Lapeer, Michigan
1898 - Sold by Sarah White to Cool, Curtis, and Nye (a firm) of Bristol, Michigan ($300)
1902 - Sold by Cool, Curtis, & Nye to Clyde Williams of Bristol, Michigan ($100) - After being logged.
1904 - Sold by Clyde Williams to John Perry of Tustin, Michigan  ($400)
1920 - Sold by John Perry to John Williamson of Tustin, Michigan ($600)
1945 - Sold by John Williamson to Lillian E. Robertson of Tustin, Michigan
1946 - Sold by Lillian E. Robertson to Earl & Betty Horan ($1400)
1951 - Sold by Betty & Earl Horan to Herm & Norma Schwarze
 
The West 80
1787 - Region became part of the Northwest Territory
1837 - Michigan became the 26th State
1866 - A Government Grant by President Andrew Johnson to Enoch J. White of Lapeer, Michigan
1898 - Sold by Sarah White to Cool, Curtis, and Nye (a firm) of Bristol, Michigan ($300)
1899 - Sold by Cool, Curtis, & Nye to Henry Welch of Bristol, Michigan ($100) - After being logged.
1906 - Sold by Henry & Sarah Welch to Henry Cutler of Luther, Michigan ($400)
1906 - Sold by Henry Cutler to Hal Cutler of Luther, Michigan ($400)  
1917 - Hal Cutler writes the book "The Ne-bo Shone" 
1925 - Sold by Hal Cutler to Louis & Edna Kempf of Hinsdale, Illinois ($1,600)
1944 - Sold (with the South 40) by Edna & Louis Kempf to Herm & Norma Schwarze ($5250)

The South 40
1787 - Region became part of the Northwest Territory
1837 - Michigan became the 26th State
1858 - A Government Grant by President James Buchanan to Hugh Gelston and Levi Stuart of Connecticut
1867 - Sold by Hugh Gelston to John Northrop of Fairfield, Connecticut ($1,000)
1877 - Sold by John Northrop to Frederick Hall of Ionia, Michigan ($915)
1877 - Sold by Frederick Hall to Richard Peters 
1887 - Sold by Richard Peters to Robert Wilson of Belding, Michigan
1889 - Sold by Robert Wilson to Maurice Reed of Belding, Michigan ($1.00)
1907 - Acquired by Earl Fairbanks M.D., of Luther Michigan for back taxes ($21.78)
1911 - Sold by Earl Fairbanks to David Marks of St. Louis, Missouri ($600)
1912 - Summer house, Guest Cabin, and Garage (Tackle Room) Built by David Marks
1941 - Inherited by Edna & Louis Kempf of Chicago, Illinois (Daughter & Son in Law of David Marks)
1944 - Sold (with the West 80) by Edna & Louis Kempf to Herm & Norma Schwarze ($5250)
1971 - Main House built by Herm & Norma Schwarze