Sometimes, fascinating historical records are utterly forgotten about until someone stumbles upon them by chance. One such record here at the Archives is the White Deer Lake Lodge Journal. In 1970, Ned Tanner and his family visited Ned’s mother Florence Scanlan Tanner at her camp near Lake Michigamme. They happened to find a ledger book written by Florence’s father, James F. Scanlan, who was the caretaker of the White Deer Lake Lodge in 1908 and 1909. It contained letters from Scanlan to businesses ordering building materials and groceries, to the bank about balances and overdrawn accounts, and to the owners of the camp describing work which he had done. The Tanners were subsequently able to visit the White Deer Lake Lodge and see the buildings which their grandfather had taken care of. Much of the furniture and infrastructure had been constructed during his time there. They even found some of the spare clothes and toiletries for guests which he had bought!
The White Deer Lake Camp was built by Cyrus McCormick II, the founder of International Harvester Corp., and Cyrus Bentley, his attorney, in Marquette County. The “McCormick Tract” of more than 17,000 acres contained three log cabins—one, a gathering space known as the Chimney Cabin, the others, sleeping quarters called the Ladies’ and Men’s Cabins. The land was given to the US Forest Service in 1968 and is now a site for hiking and camping.
Of course, the journal is invaluable to the Tanner family as a record made by their grandfather which describes his daily work activities. However, it also holds great value to others as well. The letters touch many local and distant businesses and the people who were connected to them. They contain data about the cost of goods in the UP during the early 20th century. They show the responsibilities and daily activities of a camp caretaker during the time period and his relationship to his employers and vendors. Much information can be gleaned from the journal on any variety of topics.
It was once common for families to have camps such as this in this region of the UP. Besides caretaker business logs, many kept personal logs which each family member wrote in before leaving. They often recorded a wealth of data about weather, food, and local happenings. Their observations can be extremely helpful for researchers on any number of topics. If anyone has any camp logs, be they family logs or financial records, the Archives would like to know!