A Look back in Time
Bounty By The Lake
The History of Casco Township
Allegan County, Michigan
By Jeanne Hallgren
THE OLD RESORTS AND SUMMER PLACES
Sometimes there is a need to b filled that no one has given any thought to, it just presents itself, and then before you know it, a business has sprung from that need. That is the way the resort business came about in Casco.
It all started in the very late 1880’s with a few folks from Chicago, who weren’t particularly fussy about accommodations, seeking passage on an empty fruit boat that was returning to South Haven. The boat provided a much more direct route to South haven than the train and was a convenient way to get to the country and away from the crowded city for a while. At first the people were only coming for the day but as they became more acquainted with the area, they began looking for a place to stay. This was the beginning of the tourist business in southwestern Michigan.
Ship builders realized there were more passengers who wanted to come to South Haven, and other ports along this side of the lake, than could be accommodated on the smaller fruit boats. Bigger ships were built and the people on this side of the lake began turning their homes into “tourist homes”.
Soon everyone with an extra room was “taking in boarders.” The country homes were especially desirable because of their fresh milk, eggs, vegetables, fruits and wide open spaces for children to play. And it was a time when many farmers were finding it difficult to make a living solely from their farms. A part of the profits from one summer went into adding on more rooms for the coming summer. Many families came the day that school recessed in the spring and stayed until the day before classes resumed in the fall. It was an ideal arrangement for everyone.
Casco had many tourist homes where a mother and her children would come to spend the entire summer. Dad would come on the weekend and return on a boat on Sunday evening, getting back into the city in time to go to work on Monday morning. There were no cars in those early days to get the passengers from the boat dock in South Haven to the tourist homes so horse drawn buggies would be sent to meet the boat and pick up the passengers bound for the various tourist homes. The buggies carried the name of the farm or resort that they were from so there would be no mistake as to which buggy the passengers were looking for upon their arrival. The horses were decked out in their finest harness and the dock in South Haven took on a festive air as everyone waited for the boats to dock. Many of the larger resorts would have someone there to “hawk” for their resort as there were always a few passengers arriving with no destination firmly in mind. In Casco most of the boarders returned year after year and became like members of the family returning home for the summer months.
Cherry Glen Farm
Probably Mrs. Histed, who lived on the Lake Shore Road near South Haven, was the first Casco resident to open her home to summer visitors. She was the one who was responsible for Ida and Charlie Osborn getting into the business. The Osborns owned a fruit farm on the Hawkhead Road (107th Avenue) just east of the McDowell Church. Their large comfortable farm house was much bigger than the two of them needed and Mrs. Histed had more people wanting to come to her place than she had room for so she gave Aunt Ida a call to see if she would be interested in putting up a few people for the summer. Thus, Cherry Glen Farm became a tourist home.
The first summer Aunt Ida (she was my mother’s aunt, but everyone called her Aunt Ida, or Iddy) had two families, one Jewish and one Irish, and her clientele remained Jewish and Irish over the many years that took in summer boarders. On Friday afternoons Uncle Charley Osborn would hitch up the wagon and go into South haven to meet the boat and bring back any family members coming to join their family for the weekend, or any new boarders who might be coming for a stay. The ride through the county to Cherry Glen Resort was a welcome change from the dirty city streets that were left behind.
Everyone Treated Equally
There was no breaking down into groups for meals; family, hired help and guests all ate together family style. The food was plain, plentiful and delicious. Meals were served on a schedule of: breakfast at seven; lunch at twelve noon and supper was always at six o’clock. If you weren’t there at mealtime, you didn’t eat. There was no room service here. After each meal the table was cleared, the dishes washed and put right back on the table for the next meal. Room and board for a week was $10, less for children.
Electricity hadn’t come to Casco yet and any light that was used in the evening came from the Delco plant, a source of energy provided by a large battery. All of the laundry was done in the back yard using the wash board and a suction cup apparatus that punched the clothes up and down in the water until someone decided they were clean, then they were rinsed in much the same way and hung on the line to dry.
There were the usual things to entertain the guests; a croquet game could always be played, a glider swing in the front yard offered a leisurely place to relax and visit with friends, a hammock between trees provided a quiet place to nap and an oilcloth covered table in the yard was used for playing cards. A tennis court and horse shoes rounded out the activities. Two rules were always in effect: No gambling and lights out at nine o’clock!!
My mother, Ruth Galbreath Mileham Hammond, worked for Aunt Ida, as did many other young people over the years. She recalls the Sunday morning that she was left to put the finishing touches on the dinner, while Ida and Charley attended church. Everything was pretty much done except for making the lemon pie. She had gotten started when Bill Shappee and Clifford Hallgren showed up ready to play a game of croquet. She told them she had to finish the pie first and got it into the oven to brown. The pie was promptly forgotten and when remembered the meringue was very black. The last egg in the house had been used for that meringue. This situation was declared an emergency and Bill hurried off to the chicken coop in search of another egg. Sure enough, a hen was just announcing her latest accomplishment as he walked in the door and he hurried back to the kitchen with his find. Despite the most accomplished cooks who will tell you that a freshly laid egg will not whip up, this one did. The burned meringue was peeled off, the new was put on and the pie placed in the over to be closely watched by all three. The meringue was beautifully browned and everything was in order when the family returned from church and Bill and Clifford were invited to stay for dinner. When the Osborn’s had more guests than they could accommodate the Bensley’s who lived across the way would take in the overflow. Eventually they got into the resort business themselves, naming their place Bensley’s Happy Valley.
To the east of the Osborns was Seabury’s. John and Lavina Seabury lived here and took in guests each summer. This is where Allen Linden came every summer with his parents and brother, actually his parents and brother were coming there before Allen was born. They would spend the whole summer, coming the day after school dismissed and staying until the day before they were to be back in classes in Chicago. And, oh what a time they had at Seabury’s. The children all slept in the barn, as did Mr. and Mrs. Seabury. The adult summer guests slept in the house. There were no hired hands to help around this resort, the guests all pitched in and did their share. In addition to taking care of their own bedroom the ladies helped with the washing, cleaning and dishes. Mrs. Seabury did the cooking. The kids helped Mr. Seabury by weeding in the garden, feeding the animals and keeping the place looking nice. The children ate their meals in the kitchen and the adults ate in the dining room.
The Lindens generally came over on the City of South Haven, a passenger boat. Coming by boat was the fastest way to get to South Haven, coming by train took much longer. Me. Seabury would meet them in South Haven and bring them out to the farm in his wagon. There were no telephones, Mrs. Linden would send a postcard or letter to let the Seabury’s know when to expect them. Allen’s mother would stay a couple of weeks and then go back into the city, leaving the boys in the care of the Seabury’s.
Life in the Country
There was plenty of time for fun when the chores were done. Allen remembers that for 10 or 15 cents he could buy enough fishing line and hooks at the Hawkhead store to last all summer.
All he needed was a stick to tie the line to and he was in the business for the afternoon. When he was ready to go home, all he had to do was take his line off the stick. He does remember when a couple of guys go bamboo poles, and that they were pretty nice, but, Said Allen, “They always had to carry them home.” Often someone would get a turtle on his fishing line and Mr. Seabury would take off his shoes and socks, roll up his pant legs and go into the river to guide the line for the boys, helping to bring the turtle in. They would take their catch home and Mrs. Seabury would make a pot of delicious turtle soup; that was something that they couldn’t get in Chicago.
Mr. Seabury had a two horse surrey, and a pair of pretty snappy horses that he would use to take guests to Saugatuck for an afternoon, or he might hitch up the wagon and take the kids to Glenn to go swimming or to fish. Of course they could swim in the river, but swimming in the big lake was different.
Swimming in the Old Days
Swimming in “the old days” was an experience that today’s beach goers could not begin to imagine. Going swimming was the only reason for wearing a bathing suit, and oh what suits they were. The ladies suits, made of heavy wool, were made like a dress, with long sleeves and a full skirt. The skirt hem was weighted to ensure that the waves would not push the skirt up revealing the knees of the playful young lady. Girls were not expected to swim. And the men, although provided with suits that allowed more freedom, because they were expected to swim, were clad in the same heavy wool that covered their chest with straps over the shoulders. If you were in the habit of going to the beach everyday your swimming suit was never dry, the wool was just too heavy to dry overnight, so when pulling it on, it was always damp and clammy and the crouch was usually full of sand from the day before. The first five minutes could be very uncomfortable, but after that, your body adjusted.
Getting the suit out in the early summer required careful examination, as the moths usually had a good feast over the winter with bites from the swim suit. Occasionally the holes were convenient, but more often than not they were unsightly and needed to be darned up. Traditionally, the yarn used to darn up the holes never matched the suit. It did come close but never close enough to hide the fact that your suit was once full of holes, and by checking the number of different colors of darning thread used to mend the holes, it was easy enough to guess the age of the suit.
And who could ever forget hanging the suits from the door handles of the family car, or perhaps from the radiator cap in an effort to get them dried out whole driving down the road. All of this is quite different from anything we see on the beaches today. If we tried to tell today’s beach goes about all of this I don’t think they would believe us for a minute, do you?
Ice Cream Socials
Summer guests in the area of the McDowell Church were invited to attend ice cream socials that were often held on the spacious lawn at the Myron Trigg home. The old crank type ice cream makers produced gallons of luscious home made vanilla ice cream that was covered with a variety of home made toppings; many of the toppings were made from the various fruits that grew near by.
On the Lake Shore Road to the north near the township line was the Glenn Shores Inn. Norman D Fitch. A civil war veteran from Ohio, purchased the property in 1868. The house on the property is occupied by Larry and Martha Kusek today and they say that the date 1874 is itched into a filed stone used in the construction of their basement. Fitch remained there until when he sold the property to Newton Partridge. Like other properties along the lake shore the property was used for growing fruit and general farming, but during the summer months it was also a resort that did a lively business because of its location to the gold course. The land between the Inn and golf course was planted to fruit trees and strawberries. This inn continued to operate until around 1950. Just down the road a ways from the Glenn Shores Inn was Foster’s resort. Originally it was called “The Maples” and later on called “The Shady Side Resort”. Will Foster and his wife, Nellie, lived here. They farmed, having acres planted to fruit and in the summer ran their resort business. Will had many sidelines, he was the Justice of the Peace for a number of years and he also sold lightning rods. Will had one of the first cars in the neighborhood. He won the car in a drawing from Hale’s store in South Haven and one of his neighbors said, “from that time on Will was worthless, he just drove around all the time showing off his car."
The original house burned in 1918. The Fosters rebuilt and continued in the resort business until the early 1930’s. They raised their own food and harvested ice in the winter. Eventually the farm was sold to Hyman Kahn who continued with the fruit business and the resort business as well. An additional building was built to accommodate more guests. The accommodations were far from deluxe but no one seemed to mind and the resort business continued there into the 1950’s. The house is still standing today and is used as a private residence.
The Glenn Shores Gold Course was within walking distance of both of these resorts. In 1929 the Chamberlain Chain of Michigan Lake Shore Development constructed a nine hole golf course, with horse drawn equipment, that, when finished, was considered one of the finest courses of its day. Christopher Smith had owned the property prior to its development into a golf course. Smith had been a wheat farmer and the barn used to store the wheat was turned into the club house. The club house is still in use and can be considered among the oldest buildings in Casco today.
The golf course was not only an attraction for the tourists who came to the area. The Fennville Herald reported in June of 1931 that 40 Rexall druggists who were attending a State Board of Pharmacy Convention were playing gold at Glenn Shores. Golf was gaining in popularity.
To be continued...
Glenn – The Pancake Town:
The community’s designation as “The Pancake Town” stems from a blizzard that took place on December 7, 1937, when the entire northeastern section of the United States was held in the grip of one of the nation’s worst snow storms.
Motorists were forced to find shelter and take refuge anywhere they could find it. In the wake of the storm, more than 200 motorists found themselves marooned in the small community of Glenn, located off,I-196, Exit 30, between Saugatuck and South Haven.
Feeding that many people quickly led to dwindling grocery supplies. However, almost everyone in the area had ingredients necessary to prepare pancakes. The golden griddlecakes soon became breakfast, lunch, and dinner for everyone in town.