As you know, this past weekend was Labor Day weekend. Students, locals, and other tourists will have been enjoying the great outdoors last weekend and this upcoming weekend. Among all the places to enjoy spending time outside, Sugarloaf Mountain is arguably the most popular in the vicinity. With how close it is to town, the ease of access to people of multiple skill levels, the quick hike time to the top, and its breathtaking views, it’s no wonder the climb is so well-frequented. Do you know the story of the monument at the top? That it had fallen into disregard, was trashy, and mothers even chose not to take their children up Sugarloaf? I’ll fill you in on a bit of the history of the mountain from various documents at the archives.
Sugarloaf Mountain has been a beloved spot to hike since at least 1900, and most likely earlier. One thing that most people probably don’t know much about is the story behind the stone monument at the top of the peak. It was constructed by Boy Scout Troop #1, the first Boy Scout Troop in the nation, in dedication to former member and esteemed friend Bart King. Bart (Alanson Bartlett King) was born in 1894, grew up in Marquette, and was an original member of the Boy Scout Troop #1, which grew up hiking, camping, scouting, and reading maps. Bart was a friend, debater, hard worker, and natural artist, drawing and painting “colorful futuristic designs as well as capturing the familiar faces of those he most admired in warmly penciled illustrations” (Bothwell 2). Bart graduated Northern State Normal School (now NMU) with a Life Certificate in Education by age 20 and taught in Thompson, MI, a “tough U.P. logging town routinely avoided by most college graduates” (Bothwell 2). After teaching and running his one-roomed school for three years, Bart enlisted into the Army along with all the rest of the original Boy Scout Troop #1. He earned the rank of master sergeant and refused further promotion in order to stay with his friends. He fought bravely in France amidst terrible battles and awful conditions in an engineering unit. Sadly, Bart died of pneumonia, the only one from the original troop to not return home. He was nominated for France’s croix de guerre (the War Cross), but did not live to receive it. Upon being brought home by his companions in 1921, he was reburied in Park Cemetery.
Later that summer, Troop #1 met and began the long process of finding rocks and moving them up the mountain, a process that would take through November. In addition to all of the stone, the troop “hauled over 100 bags of sand, 3,000 pounds of cement and lumber, and tons of rock,” where “each day the boys made ten or twelve trips to the summit.” Talk about dedication! Aided by a Marquette stonemason, the boys finished the 12 foot high monument in November of 1921. Although the monument has been buffeted by winter’s winds, had stones chiseled out of it, and has even been struck by lightning, it still stands today as a remembrance and honor to Bart.
This information was all found from an article written by Henry Bothwell, which is in the Rudi Prusok papers (MSS-011). Bart and his memorial are pictured below:
Later, Sugarloaf became an undesirable place to visit. Multiple accounts report large amounts of trash present, vandalism on the rocks at the top, including paint, and young people performing “activities better unseen.” Over these years though, the Exchange Club and the local Boy Scout Troop #1 continued to volunteer and put in innumerable hours to clean and maintain the area. It got to be such a problem that groups like the “Citizens to Save the Superior Shoreline” researched the real owners of the land on which Sugarloaf lies. It was found that the land encompassing Sugarloaf belonged to the Marquette County Road Commission, who didn’t know that they owned it. The job of policing the area was the responsibility of the Marquette Sheriff’s Office, but their office was “unable to cope with the problem.” So, an idea was proposed to form a committee of “ecology-minded citizens, Northern Michigan University students, and Marquette High school groups” to focus on the cleanup of the area. Two NMU students were chosen to help lead a clean-up day event at Sugarloaf Mountain, focusing on picking up every piece of trash present. The results can be seen pictured below:
After this success, groups and individuals have continued to preserve the popular hiking destination. It has returned to its original beauty as shown below. The brass plate has been restored to the monument, and the area is as wonderful as could be. To learn more about this story and others, feel free to stop down and visit us here at the archives! Our open hours are Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10 AM-5 PM and Tuesday/Thursday 10 AM-7 PM.
Have a good weekend!
View off of Sugarloaf as of now with Presque Isle in the background. Photo by Stefan Nelson.
Written by Stefan Nelson