Writings about Michigan
Ernest Hemingway didn't always know he would be a writer. As a young boy he had done the type of writing all children do and there are several pieces of his writing remaining. When it came to a career, the family presumed he would follow his father into medicine. His parents had great concerns when he showed no interest in this and about his apparent lack of any direction after graduation from high school.
He did know he enjoyed writing and began to write both journalism and fiction at Oak Park High School. He wrote stories in his personal notebooks and he was a reporter for the school's paper, the Trapeze. He also contributed three stories to the Tabula, Oak Park High School's literary magazine. Two of these (Judgment of Manitou and Sepi Jingan) were set in Michigan.
While in high school he also wrote an unpublished play titled "No Worse Than a Bad Cold" that was based on a reenactment of Longfellow's Hiawatha tale that the Hemingway family saw performed by Native American actors at Round Lake near Petoskey, Michigan. Sponsored by the Grand Rapids and Indiana railroad company, these actors traveled from Canada annually putting on this play for summer resorters. Ernest's play was a blend of the actual production he witnessed with the Native Americans he personally knew from his summers in Michigan.
When he decided to try to write and publish fiction he turned to
Michigan for inspiration. At Potter's Rooming House in Petoskey he wrote
sketches of local people that hinted at the unique style that was to
make him famous. When he and his wife moved
to Paris in 1921 he focused on writing about what he knew well - the
places and people of northern Michigan. The stories were based on
reality but he was always quick to point out that his goal was to take
the real and make it "even more real" by
changing details to better describe settings or people.
His short stories began to appear in literary magazines published in Paris. Indian Camp and The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife first appeared in the Transatlantic Review, and The Big Two Hearted River in This Quarter. He published two small books that were collections of short pieces before publishing his first novel, Torrents of Spring in 1926. This satirical work was set in Petoskey and was written to poke fun at a recent romantic book published by his mentor, Sherwood Anderson. While it is not among Hemingway's best works, readers will find interesting descriptions of this northern Michigan town.
Eventually, Michigan would be the setting for many of Ernest's best short stories. Up in Michigan, The End of Something and Three Day Blow took place at Horton Bay. Walloon Lake is likely where the action in Indian Camp, The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife, and The Last Good Country took place. Other stories took place around Kalkaska (The Battler and The Light of the World) and in Ten Indians he describes a wagon ride from Petoskey to Walloon Lake.
Hemingway would for the rest of his life make references to Michigan and his youth. In A Moveable Feast he describes writing about Michigan while sitting in Paris cafes in the twenties. In True at First Light he remembers from Africa the sweet taste of cider pressed at Horton Bay and in Islands in the Stream the lead character is asked when he had been most happy. He recounted days at the lake as a boy. Clearly Hemingway might have physically left Michigan but its memories never left him.
The Nick Adams Stories
Nick Adams is a fictional character who appears in 16 stories Hemingway wrote who has much in common with the real life Ernest Hemingway. Readers meet Nick as a small child, see him as a young man on his own, learn about his war experiences in Italy and the effect they had on him, hear but him as a young married man in Europe and even experience Nick as a father talking about his own father. His family includes a father who is a doctor and who loves to hunt and fish, a mother who can be overbearing, and a sisters with whom her sometimes interacts.
These stories were published in a number of collections between 1923 and1933 and were first compiled as a chronologically arranged separate volume in 1972 titled The Nick Adams Stories. (Nick Adams stories) The compilation also included 8 previously unpublished fragments that give further information about Nick and fill in some missing information.
In 1961 the feature film Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man was released with much fanfare. It was a Hollywood attempt to knit together the separate stories into a plotted narrative and many movie goers assumed the film was telling the real life story of Ernest Hemingway - which it was not. Despite starring Paul Newman, Eli Wallach, Jessica Tandy and Richard Beyer, the film was a commercial flop. The Michigan scenes were filmed in Wisconsin and Hemingway family members were critical of the film's insinuation that these stories told the actual story of Ernest's youth.
Many readers and critics read these Nick Adams stories for clues to Hemingway's own life and feelings. Because the characters seem so real it is very tempting to assume Nick and Ernie are one in the same and that what happened to Nick must have happened to Ernie? How else could he write so vividly about it?
In truth, Ernie only used his own life for inspiration and Nick is indeed a fictional character. As Hemingway himself said, "Nick in the stories was never himself. He made him up... That was what made it good. Nobody knew that." (from The Nick Adams Stories, On Writing)
Hemingway in Seney
By Jack Jobst
Published in Michigan Historical Magazine
The hot August sun hovered directly overhead as twenty-year-old Ernest Miller Hemingway stepped carefully down from the train at Seney, Michigan. It was 1919. He walked slowly, favoring his right leg, towards the small wooden depot on the south side of the tracks. While his leg hurt each time he put weight on it, he was proud of his wounds and he could handle it. After all, he was one of the first Americans wounded in Italy during the Great War and he enjoyed talking about the Austrian mortar shell that had put him in a Milan, Italy, hospital for several months. Still, the pride would come more easily if he was wearing his fancy Italian officer's uniform. He cringed as he recalled the brakeman's cruel remark: "Hold her up," the man yelled to the engineer. "There's a cripple and he needs time to get his stuff down."
The trip from the Hemingway summer home on Walloon Lake had been long but enjoyable. From the moment they stepped aboard the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad (GR & I) train in Petoskey early that day, Hemingway and his two friends-Jack Pentecost, his high school classmate from Illinois, and Al Walker-had looked forward to visiting Seney.
This excursion was to be the last great fishing trip of the summer. The short trip to Mackinaw City had been enjoyable enough, but the boys watched with greater interest when they reached the straits. Their train car was loaded onto the Chief Wawatam for the hour-long ferry ride across the straits. The engine remained behind as the ferry took the train cars across the five miles to St. Ignace, where they hooked up to a Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic (DSS & A) engine for the remainder of the trip to Seney.
The train stopped often that late August morning as it steamed through the swamp and cutover country of the eastern Upper Peninsula. They passed a number of locations, some with accompanying towns, some merely loading docks. But the names were interesting. Allenville, Moran, Ozark, Trout Lake and Hendrik. At Soo Junction, the tracks split for those travelers going northeast to the Soo and Canada. The boys' train turned west, and they soon passed through Newberry, Dollarville and McMillan before reaching Seney.
This trip was nothing more than a fishing excursion for three young men, but the visit would also make Seney famous once again-from this experience Ernest Hemingway wrote one of his most well-known short stories, "Big Two-Hearted River." While the exploits of this tiny village disappeared into dusty history books, Hemingway's story continued in countless editions of the author's short stories, attracting visitors to the little town to ask about the famous author.
Seney first gained fame in the 1880s, when it was called as "tough, [and] two-fisted a town as any on earth." A major part of the population were poor lumberjacks, paid only $1.75 a day. When they had money in their pockets, they were anxious to spend it on anything to blot out their exhausting, dangerous and frustratingly celibate life in bleak camps and lonely pine woods. They found what they wanted in Seney. One chronicler was probably correct when he wrote that no one could truthfully "see how any place in the pineries could have come closer to hell than Seney."
In 1882, the Alger Smith company began logging the virgin pines that flourished in the sandy soil of the eastern Upper Peninsula. The lumber industry-like any other industry-depended on transportation for moving products and personnel, and Seney secured its place in history through the railroad. No major highways existed into the area, not even when Hemingway visited. The town's name thus seems appropriate: it came from one of the major investors in the railroad, George Ingraham Seney, a New York banker who invested his own money and that of his bank in this venture. Seney's investment went sour. Although the railroad survived-after being bought out by the DSS & A-the bank was forced to close because of the losses. Nevertheless, the banker kept faith in his stock and was able to realize a profit years later. When Seney died in 1893 he was important enough for the New York Times to print his obituary on the front page.
Next to George Seney, Phil Grondin is the best-known name in early Seney. He was a Canadian from the Lower Peninsula who arrived to work as a lumberjack cook in 1882. He remembered the town as "a cluster of buildings along the railroad tracks, with mud and water in the wretched streets . . . and only one boardinghouse." The town overcame its meager beginnings, however, reaching its peak eight years later when it boasted fifteen logging companies and a population of three thousand. As many as three thousand more lumberjacks arrived each spring from the fifteen or more area lumber camps, with full wallets and a strong thirst.
To service these people, Seney offered ten hotels, a dozen saloons, several blind pigs (unlicensed bars), two large "hoodlums" (a local euphemism for bawdy houses) and numerous smaller ones, a Catholic church, a school, two large general merchandise stores, several drug stores, meat markets and jewelry stores.
Seney could have been a wild west town, with its collection of rare inhabitants with such colorful names as Tea Pot Kelly, Protestant Bob McGuire and a man named Old Light Heart, who allegedly slept in two sugar barrels and subsisted on raw beef livers. As a legendary drinker and colorful personality, no one compares to P.K. Small, a lumberjack who, for a drink, bit the heads off small animals, such as snakes, toads, frogs, and even geese. He also ate live mice, chomping through the middle of the unfortunate animal, with the tail dangling from the side of the man's cheek.
Leon Czolgasz was a less colorful Seney-area resident, but provided a greater influence on history. A loner, this one-time laborer on the Manistique Railroad became infamous when he traveled to Buffalo, New York, in 1901 and fatally shot President William McKinley.
Seney changed from a small group of outbuildings to a flourishing town, and Grondin's fortunes grew along with them. He built his first hotel in 1884, then a retail store and bar, but it burned down in 1891. He rebuilt, and this also burned. At the turn of the century, the keyword in effective firefighting was not extinguish, but contain. Everyone helped to insure that the fire would not burn everything. Insurance rates, not surprisingly, were exorbitant.
Forest fires were also common, especially after the pine ran out in the 1890s. Occasionally one reached Seney itself. Chroniclers differ on how often this occurred, but most agree that it was unusual, perhaps happening only once, around the turn of the century. In his story, "Big Two-Hearted River," Hemingway's narrator, Nick Adams, tells of a fire that destroyed the town, but this never happened. By 1919 the countless acres of pine were gone and the town had shrunk to only a few buildings. Only one building was burned, although not because of a forest fire.
Although not destroyed, historic Seney indeed disappeared, but the railroad still brought travelers like Hemingway to town because it had found a new product to ship. When the lumber crews clearcut the pine they left behind slightly blemished trees and miles of cull wood or the tops and branches of trees too misshapen or small for lumber. These burned readily, and when forest fires swept across the swampy land and sandy high ground, the resulting deep piles of ash became a perfect growing medium for bracken ferns and blueberries. After harvesting, the ferns were packed into one-hundred pound bales and shipped to flower shops and funeral parlors across the country.
The Hemingway family had never visited Seney, but they had traveled to the Upper Peninsula. Although from Chicago, Ernest's father, a physician, and Uncle George occasionally journeyed north from their summer homes near Petoskey and fished Brevoort Lake, northwest of St. Ignace. Ernest, like his father and uncle, loved fishing. And he loved traveling to exotic places. Seney, with its rich, colorful history and promise of great fishing provided the perfect vacation for Hemingway.
Hemingway may have known of Seney's reputation before he visited. He could have heard about the town while growing up in Chicago, for during Seney's heyday, a woman reporter (or temperance leader, according to one version) from Detroit was gulled into believing a number of tall tales, all generated by local pranksters. Detroit readers subsequently read that Seney was a center for white slavery and of shanghaied men brought in on box cars and forced to sleep in shifts because of overcrowded work compounds similar to prison camps. Such a sensational story, not surprisingly, made all the major newspapers across the country. Almost assuredly it would have appeared in Chicago papers.
In late August 1919, with the summer coming to a close, Hemingway invited some friends on the last great fishing trip of the summer. Not all his thoughts, however, were on fishing. If his youth was not over, it was certainly dwindling down to the final days, just like the summer itself. He was twenty and unemployed. Worse, he lived at home, and this was becoming intolerable. His parents, initially concerned with his leg wound, were now transferring that concern to his life as an adult. What did he want out of life? What could he do besides fish?
As Hemingway watched the train pull away from the Seney station, moving west towards Marquette, the young man could look north across the tracks at the little village. He had been hoping that some of Seney's wildness remained, but he was greatly disappointed. There were no bawdy houses, no wild west-style saloons, only some abandoned frame buildings and grass growing on the back streets. While not quite a ghost town, Seney was nothing like its reputation.
Hemingway stepped across the railroad tracks onto Main Street East (present-day Railroad Street) and inspected the burned foundation of an old hotel. In "Big Two-Hearted River," Nick refers to the Mansion House Hotel, which some scholars believe was the Hotel White House, built and owned by the railroad company, the only hotel that did not serve alcohol. Hemingway may have heard of this hotel from friends or relatives, but he was looking at the foundation of the Grondin Hotel, which had burned down just the summer before. According to local lore, the fire began when a drunk was carried from the first floor bar to the third floor to sleep off his inebriation either in a bed or in the "ram pasture," a euphemism for the floor. One man apparently selected a bed and-if the stories are true-dozed off and set his mattress afire. Soon the wood-frame building was entirely ablaze, and Seney entrepreneur Phil Grondin watched his last hotel burn to the ground.
Hemingway returned to the depot and scanned the boxes, crates and other items unloaded from the freight car and placed on the platform for sorting and claiming. Jack Riordan, the twenty-five-year-old telegraph operator and assistant train agent, stood there with a clipboard and pencil. Hemingway pointed towards his pack and fishing gear. "That's mine," he said, and hefted it over his shoulder.
The narrator of "Big Two-Hearted River" walks west down the tracks towards the Fox River. The steel railroad bridge described in the story remains just as it was then. The walk is about one hundred yards from where the depot once stood, on the south side of the racks, just west of a pulp mill. The Fox River is narrow here and flows quickly southeast. During the days when pine was king, logs moved down this narrow channel to the mills in Manistique.
After admiring the river and thinking what lay ahead on their fishing trip, Hemingway and his friends turned north from the bridge, probably figuring that fishing (and certainly camping) would be better outside of town. According to local lore, the boys followed the abandoned railroad tracks, a spur line running north alongside present-day M-77, towards Grand Marais. The tracks had been taken up the year before, but the embankment and ties remained. The Fox runs alongside until the edge of town, then veers to the west about a mile.
This description is consistent with the narrator's discussion in "Big Two-Hearted River." Nick Adams describes walking north "along the road that paralleled the railway track" towards Grand Marais and Lake Superior, while "far off to the left was the line of the river . . . He knew he could strike the river by turning off to his left. It could not be more than a mile away. But he kept on toward the north to hit the river as far upstream as he could go in one day's walking."
At least the first day, Hemingway probably camped two miles above Seney, where the East Branch of the Fox cuts across the railroad embankment. While the bridge is long gone, remnants of railroad ties remain in the high weeds. This river is probably what Hemingway referred to in his letter to a friend as the "little Fox." Local storytellers say that a large group of workers camped on the highground there, just above the river. They were berry pickers from Grand Marais, and they welcomed the young man and his friends, who set up their tent in the larger camp. While Nick Adams spent his Seney trip alone, Hemingway was not a solitary person, preferring the company of others on his travels.
The rest of the week was spent fishing north of Seney, occasionally in the swampy area between the two Fox rivers, and perhaps shooting at some deer that happened by. Hemingway mentions in a letter that he hit one twice with a .22, but the caliber was too small, and the animal did not drop They had more luck with their primary sport, claiming "over 200 fish caught" although the boys had no photographs to prove their success.
An author of fiction frequently changes the landscape to suit a story's mood or theme, and to some degree that is what Hemingway did. After he completed his story in 1924 he excitedly wrote to Gertrude Stein about the Seney countryside: "The country is swell, I made it all up, so I see it all and part of it comes out the way it ought to." Yet not all is fabricated, for the general layout remains accurate.
The boys stayed a week before returning to the Lower Peninsula. They never fished the Two-Hearted River (forty-five miles northeast of Seney), as others have pointed out. Hemingway said he used the name for his story, "not from ignorance nor carelessness but because [the name] Big Two-Hearted River is poetry."
The author never returned to the Upper Peninsula, but his memories of the journey in 1919 made a lasting impression on him, spawning more than the single short story. The trip formed the basis for two fishing essays he published in the Toronto Star Weekly, and a reference in a poem he wrote in 1922 while he and his wife occupied a shabby room in Paris. Hemingway called the poem "Along With Youth," and it may reflect a view that his childhood had ended when he was eighteen or nineteen, using his Seney visit as a metaphor: "The Year of the big storm/When the hotel burned down/At Seney, Michigan."
The trip to Seney occurred during a critical time in his life, when he had to decide where his life would lead him next. Back in Petoskey, his family packed up their summer belongings and returned to the Chicago area, but Hemingway remained behind. Living that winter in a boardinghouse, Ernest Miller Hemingway began developing his writing talent. Several years passed before he began publishing the works that would make him famous, but he kept the memories of his trip to Seney, reflecting more than once on his visit to that little U.P. town.
Up North with the Hemingways
by Michael Federspiel
Prospective Michigan History Magazine Article
September/October 2007 Issue
Spending time "Up North" in Michigan is one of summer's special delights. The rituals repeat summer after summer - packing, enduring the unbearably long ride, making friends (and saying goodbye), enjoying beautiful water, and longing all winter for the next summer. While much has changed in Michigan over the last 100 years, the essential elements of the "Up North" experience remain consistent. The lure of summer vacations is a powerful force for generations of families. A century ago, the Clarence and Grace Hall-Hemingway family was one of those who loved summering in northern Michigan. They were in most ways a very ordinary family for their time but in one way they were quite unique. Their son, Ernest, would eventually become world famous, write stories set in northern Michigan and win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. But when he spent summers in Michigan, Ernest Miller Hemingway was simply "Ernie," a boy who loved getting away from home and spending time "Up North". This is the story of his and his family's Michigan experiences between 1898 and 1921.
Clarence Edmonds Hemingway was a successful doctor in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, when in 1896 he married Grace Hall, a talented musician and artist. Dr. Hemingway was a naturalist and sportsman who enjoyed fishing, hunting and spending time outdoors while Grace's interests were the arts and Oak Park society. Beginning with their first born in 1898, the family would eventually include six children (Marcelline, Ernest, Ursula, Madelaine, Carol, and Leicester). They all would keep busy with school and community activities from Labor Day to Memorial Day but the summers were set aside for leisure. Grace and the children could enjoy long summer get-aways bracketed only by one school year's end and the beginning of the next but Dr. Hemingway's busy medical practice would somewhat limit his ability to be gone for long periods of time. Rather than vacationing at traditional resorts around Chicago, the Hemingways decided early in their marriage to instead enjoy the developing opportunities in Michigan.
The railroads' arrival in the 1870s changed much in northern Michigan. With easier access, people from all over the midwest "discovered" the area and their numbers led to new boarding houses and resort hotels on many lakes - including Bear Lake, south of Petoskey. The first residential cottage was built there in 1878 and by the 1890s new structures dotted the shore. In 1900 the lake's name was changed to Walloon Lake to keep it from being confused with other Bear Lakes around Michigan.
In August 1898, Dr. Clarence (often referred to as "Ed") and Grace Hemingway visited Bear Lake with their infant daughter, Marcelline. They stayed at a cabin owned by Grace's cousin, Madelaine Randall Board, on Bear Lake's Wildwood Harbor and were so captivated that they spent two weeks looking at property to purchase. Finally they found the perfect spot and bought an acre of land from Henry Bacon, a local farmer, on a small bay. Returning home to Oak Park in September, they commissioned the building of a cottage and in August 1899 they briefly returned to the lake to check on its progress. Staying about a mile from their property at the Echo Beach Hotel, this was to be six week old Ernest's first Michigan trip. The following year the family of four spent their first summer at "Windemere," their new cottage, beginning a relationship that would last decades.
Are We there Yet?
With the new century, the Hemingways started their annual tradition of traveling "Up North." Compared to today's trips, it was a slow and awkward affair beginning with the excited packing of most of what they would need for a three-month stay. The trunks and boxes were heavy and awkward -- filled with clothes, personal items, and precious library books borrowed from the Oak Park Public Library. Their luggage was first conveyed eight miles to the Chicago River docks and was then loaded on a steamship such as the Manitou, Missouri or Illinois to travel north with the family along Michigan's coastline. On their first trip in 1898, the Hemingways took the luxurious SS Manitou. Forty-two feet wide and almost as long as a football field (274 feet), its top speed was 19.5 miles an hour, making it among the fastest ships on the lake. But even at this speed, the trip to Harbor Springs took over a day to complete. Once there, porters transferred the Hemingway's possessions to the nearby rail depot where a local suburban train took the family the eleven miles to Petoskey. Hugging Little Traverse Bay, the train stopped at as many as eleven resorts along the line. At Petoskey, the Hemingways and their trunks transferred to a different station and yet another suburban train to Walloon Lake Village. The village, originally known as "Talcott," gained train service in 1892 making it possible to reach it and Walloon Lake via luxury rail coaches from far away cities such as Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, and Detroit.
Once at Walloon Village, the Hemingways completed their journey by taking a wood-burning lake steamer such as the two-decked Tourist or the smaller Outing, directly to their cottage. These steamers made regular trips around the lake providing a valuable link to the outside world. A white banner or flag at the dock end (or occasionally a blast from Clarence's Swiss ram's horn bugle) signaled them to stop at the Hemingways.
One notable exception to the usual travel routine was the 1917 trip. With knowledge of improving roads and a sense of determination, Dr. Hemingway decided to make the journey in his Model T touring car. Ernie, Grace and young Leicester accompanied him while the girls went ahead on the familiar steamship SS Manitou and met the family at Walloon. Dr. Hemingway's journal and family photos tell the story of the five-day journey with nights in tents, freshly caught fish fried for breakfast, terrible roads, and adventure. The 487-mile trip had 100 miles added on for detours and the family carried a shovel to use when the car became stuck on rutted roads. A thirty-one mile stretch between Traverse City and Walloon Lake was especially difficult. The road was only a sand track on which they averaged a whopping 8 miles an hour! During the remaining summer, daughter Marcelline remembered Clarence driving to Petoskey over sand hills on unimproved roads. He carried a shovel and an axe to cut branches along the way. One can image his embarrassment when he became so stuck he needed to be pulled out by a laughing farmer and his team of horses. The return to Oak Park was much easier with the Hemingways and their car returning via steamship.
Cottage Life at Windemere
The journey's frustrations were forgotten when the family finally arrived and threw open the cottage door and windows. As designed by Grace, Windemere cost $400 to build and was a simple, functional structure measuring 20 X 40 feet. Facing southwest, it included a living room dominated by a large brick fireplace and two window seats that doubled as children's beds. Additionally it had two small bedrooms and a kitchen complete with a wood burning range and an iron-handled pump that supplied fresh well water. Oil lamps provided evening reading light and a piano, music for sing-alongs. White pine was used on both the interior and exterior where the clapboards were painted white. The porch was a perfect place to look out at the lake and to watch the children play. While water for drinking came from the well, bathing and clothes washing used the cool lake water. An outhouse was discreetly tucked in a pine grove at the back of the property. The beach was sandy and the water, a beautiful blue. Birch, cedar, maple, and beech trees surrounded the lot and tree covered Murphy's Point provided shelter from the north wind. As the years passed, this point would be the site of many adventures, picnics and campsites.
As the family grew to include all six children, additions and improvements were made to the original structure. With the birth of their third child, Ursula, in 1902, a kitchen wing was added complete with a screened dining area linking it to the main cottage. A sleeping annex was built behind the cottage containing three additional bedrooms and providing more peace and quiet for the parents. Having four sisters undoubtedly contributed to Ernest's eventual desire to get away from the annex. After his fifteenth birthday in 1914, he slept on a cot in a canvas tent pitched close to the back fence. There he kept a kerosene lamp and a pile of magazines and books that sister Marcelline remembered him often reading late into the night. Behind the back property line was the Bacon's Farm. The Bacons were just one of the local families who became good and valued Hemingway friends. In 1879, Henry and Elizabeth Bacon homesteaded an eighty-acre farm that gave the Hemingway children many new experiences. It also supplied the family with much needed milk, meat, cream and vegetables during the summer. Indeed, the farm's proximity had been an important factor in the original land purchase. In return, Dr. Hemingway provided medical services to the Bacons (and any other locals who were in need) at little or no cost. So strong were the bonds with the Bacons that the Hemingway children referred to Henry as "Grandpa Bacon."
Clarence delighted in the physical activities and work associated with cottage and farm life. On July 13, 1900 - the day Ernest took his first solo steps - Dr. Hemingway attended a barn raising at the Bacons where he helped with construction, photographed the proceedings and was given the honor of driving in the last stake - something he fondly remembered for years. Marcelline Hemingway Sanford recalled the improvised trestle tables made of long boards and sawhorses filled with food for over a hundred people and the cheer that went up when the final timber was put in place.
Items the Bacon's didn't supply were purchased locally or were shipped directly from Chicago. Stores such as Crago's Delicatessen at Walloon Lake Village were a source of provisions and, in extraordinary circumstances, the family might even travel to Petoskey. But these trips to town were rare indeed. According to daughter Madelaine, before each trip north Dr. Hemingway made careful and elaborate lists of what would be needed for their stay. Staples such as flour, sugar, slab bacon, chocolate, and spices were ordered from the Montgomery Ward catalog and delivered to Walloon Lake. Dr. Hemingway sometimes even ordered special treats for the family. Madelaine remembered the children delighting in peppermint candy, gingersnap cookies, and marshmallows.
Wish You Were Here!
Like most families, the Hemingways' cottage life revolved around the water. It
was a source of food and entertainment and at this time of few roads, it connected the Hemingways to others on the lake and to the outside world.
Dr. Hemingway taught his children to swim and spent much time in the lake with them. Beginning with postcards made in 1901 showing Ernest and Marcelline paddling along side the family rowboat, dozens of photographs capture the family splashing and
posing. One can picture the growing family with deeply tanned Dr. Hemingway conducting swimming lessons while the fair skinned Mrs. Hemingway watched anxiously from the porch as the family moved to deep water. (She sun burned easily and disliked
the "slimy" lake bottom.) Dr. Hemingway was very safety conscious and he often conducted lifesaving drills involving what to do if a boat capsized. Turning them into races, the children enjoyed the competition while at the same time learning valuable
swimming skills. Over the years, the Hemingways owned several boats including launches, rowboats, and a canoe that they kept in the off-season in Windemere's living room protected by a favorite bed quilt. The rowboats, Marcelline of Windemere and Ursula of Windemere,
were well used and loved. In about 1910 Dr. Hemingway purchased the family's first motorboat, an 18-foot launch christened Sunny (in honor of daughter Madelaine's nickname). It was powered by a Gray Marine inboard engine that
proved to be an ongoing challenge to the non-mechanical father.
It was also with Dr. Hemingway's guidance that Ernest and his siblings learned about and developed talents with fishing rods and reels. Countless photos attest to the family's success at catching trout, pike, perch, and bass. The Hemingway Collection at Central Michigan University's Clarke Historical Library is home to a wonderful letter from Ernie to a friend in 1919 describing the perfect way to catch trout on a lake. It details how to bait the hooks with skinned perch, how to position the rods and reels on the boat, and even describes the screeching sound the reel makes when you get a strike. In his youthful enthusiasm, he proclaims it "the best rainbow trout fishing in America."
Hunting and shooting were also a part of the summer experience. Dr. Hemingway was an excellent shot who knew the importance of safety and responsible hunting. Marcelline, recalled Dr. Hemingway enjoying a skeet trap and barrels of clay pigeons shipped from Chicago. Shooting skeet on the grassy hill behind the cottage soon became a Sunday afternoon tradition with everyone learning how to shoot. When it came time to move on to game rather than targets, Clarence insisted nothing be killed unless it could and would be eaten. This included a porcupine that Ernest and his friend Harold Sampson shot in retaliation for quills it left in the Bacon's dog in 1913. It's easy to imagine the look on the boys' faces when they were reminded of the family rule. The haunches cooked for hours but years later "Sam" still remembered that the meat "tasted like a piece of shoe leather." But usually, hunting brought in more tasty fare.
Like other families then and now, the Hemingways entertained guests and celebrated special occasions. Frequently family members, including grandparents, visited them from Oak Park for extended stays. Holidays like the Fourth of July were celebrated with friends who were fed with pit barbequed lamb, oven roasted pig, potato salad, and gallons of lemonade. Friends came from around the lake and as far away as Boyne City. The evening's highlight was sky-rockets set off at the lakeside by Dr. Hemingway. The children were allowed Roman candles and could light the pinwheels the Doctor nailed to the dock's flagpole.
A very special occasion for the Hemingways was the birth of a new baby in July 1911. Rather than stay at Oak Park that summer, a very pregnant Grace Hemingway escaped the city heat and made her way to Windemere. When she went into labor on July 19, Marcelline reported being sent a half-mile away to Murphy's Point with a sketch pad and book, Ernest went off fishing, and the younger children were hurried off to Bacon's farm with a promise that they would be summoned when they had a new sibling. With a trained nurse assisting Dr. Hemingway, a beautiful baby girl was born and named "Carol." Beginning the following year, she and Ernest (whose birthday was July 21) would annually celebrate with a special tradition of cutting and decorating the "birthday tree." With great pageantry, a small evergreen was cut each July, decorated, and placed in a special stand on the dining porch in celebration of their birthdays.
As anyone who owns a cottage knows, there is always some work mixed in with the play. The Hemingways began their stays by removing the winter shutters, opening windows and airing out the cottage. There were sticks and branches to clear from the yard and firewood to cut and split for the woodstove and fireplace. Older girls who either came along from Oak Park or were hired locally for the summer assisted with housekeeping, cooking and childcare. There surely was much to do with a family of six children - especially with Dr. Hemingway's frequent absences to attend to his patients at home.
While many Oak Park formalities were abandoned at Windemere, Dr. Hemingway insisted others remain. According to son Leicester, the Doctor demanded that meals remain formal with freshly scrubbed children wearing proper clothing and exhibiting dignified manners while eating correctly served food. Chores were assigned and expected to be performed with both the beach and yard raked daily. Ernest went to Bacon's farm with Mason jars on a "milk run" for that day's supply. As the oldest male when Dr. Hemingway was away, an increasing number of expectations would eventually frustrate Ernest who really longed to enjoy his friends, books, and summer rather than tending to chores.
For the Hemingways work soon extended beyond normal routine cottage maintenance. In 1905 a forty-acre farm on the opposite shore of Walloon Lake was being sold for back taxes. Standing on it were an old house, some sheds, and a nice timber stand. Dr. Hemingway liked the potential for teaching his family the value of good, honest physical labor and for securing a food source during the summer months. It was purchased, named "Longfield Farm," and introduced into the family's summer routine. The Frank Washburn family agreed to be tenant farmers with Clarence paying the bills and receiving a third of the crops. The Hemingways put in long hours planting trees -- black walnut, cherry, plum, peach and evergreens -- and vegetables. In good years there was enough surplus produce for the children to go around the lake selling potatoes, beets, carrots, and peas to other cottage owners and small resorts. Ernest likely preferred spending time fishing with friends to planting and digging potatoes, but he accepted his father's desire to have him help the Washburns and his own family.
Understanding his son's claim to a vacation, Dr. Hemingway contracted work with him. Leicester explained that this provided Ernest with spending money and at the same time accomplished the tasks Dr. Hemingway wanted done. In 1917 twenty additional acres were purchased and Warren Sumner, a local farmer, was hired to take Washburn's place. Ernest usually slept at the farm in his tent and worked that summer with Sumner removing the tenant farmhouse, cutting 20 acres of hay, and building an icehouse that they then filled with sawdust. During the cold winter, Sumner stocked it with ice cut and hauled from Walloon Lake. All summer long, chunks of that ice were brought across the lake to Windemere and kept in an icebox under the trees until needed to preserve food or cool drinks on hot, muggy summer days.
As they grew older, both Marcelline and Ernest spent more time away from Windemere with friends their own age. This was especially true in 1917, the summer after their high school graduation. While Marcelline's attention turned toward Petoskey where she played viola in the Bay View Orchestra, Ernest became a regular across Walloon Lake at Horton Bay. Nestled on the shore of Lake Charlevoix (and a three mile walk from Longfield Farm), the village had a slow pace and a nice mixture of locals and summer people. Family friends included the village blacksmith, Jim Dilworth, and his wife, Elizabeth, who ran Pinehurst, an inn famous locally for its chicken dinners. Ernest often stayed there and was comfortable eating his suppers and then lounging, reading day old newspapers. Away from his family, he was free to act as a typical teenager - trying to impress the girls, hanging out with buddies, telling exaggerated stories about his fishing exploits and life back in the city.
While the family would continue to enjoy Walloon summers, Ernest's experiences there ended in 1921. In all, he spent at least part of his first twenty-two summers in Michigan. In 1918 World War I was raging and he only had a few days of fishing with friends before being called back home to join the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. Shortly after arriving in Italy he was wounded and spent the rest of the year in a hospital recovering before sailing back to America in January. He would head back to northern Michigan in 1919 and 1920 but spent most of his time away from Windemere living at Horton Bay where he enjoyed friends whose interest were more in keeping with his. When he decided to marry in 1921, he did not do so in Oak Park. Instead he selected Horton Bay where he wed Hadley Richardson, a woman from St. Louis, Missouri, whom a Horton Bay summer friend had introduced him to at a Chicago party the year before. The service was held September 3 at the now demolished Methodist Church and was followed by a two-week honeymoon at Windemere. It would be the last time he ever stayed there or visited Michigan for any amount of time.
From Reality to Fiction
All the love went into fishing and the summer. He loved it more than anything. He had loved digging potatoes with Bill in the fall, the long trips in the car, fishing in the Bay, reading in the hammock on hot days, swimming off the dock, playing baseball at Charlevoix and Petoskey, ... the fishing trips away from the farm, just lying around. He loved the long summer. It used to be that he felt sick when the first week of August came and he realized that there were only four more weeks before the trout season closed...the hills at the foot of Walloon Lake, storms on the lake coming up in the motorboat, holding an umbrella over the engine to keep the waves that came in off the spark plug, pumping out, running the boat in big storms delivering vegetables around the lake, climbing up, sliding down, the wave following behind, coming up from the foot of the lake with groceries, the mail and the Chicago paper under a tarpaulin, sitting on them to keep them dry, too rough to land, drying out in front of the fire, the wind in the hemlocks and wet pine needles underfoot when he was barefoot going for the milk. Getting up at daylight to row across the lake and hike over the hills after a rain to fish in Hortons Creek... (Ernest Hemingway, from On Writing, The Nick Adams Stories)
Today, Ernest Hemingway is remembered as a world famous author, not a young boy tagging along on family vacations. While his later life and writings focused on extraordinary stories of marlin, African safaris, and wars, in truth, a good part of him never left the ordinary experiences of a boy learning about life in northern Michigan. A firm believer that good writing was based on firsthand experiences, he began creating stories about the Michigan people and places he knew and loved when he was still in high school. Those writings grew into many published short stories based in Michigan and The Torrents of Spring, a novel set in Petoskey. Sometimes controversial because they too closely (and unfavorably) suggested actual friends and family, the stories nonetheless provide readers from around the world amazing northern Michigan experiences from the comfort of far away easy chairs. While "Ernie" was a son, brother, and simply a part of a regular family that called northern Michigan home for part of the year, "Ernest" gave the world timeless stories that recall the magic "up north" holds for all of us who spend time there.