Paradise Uncovered:Discovering Charlevoix, Michigan


“Which way to turn?”


 “Towards the Light”, so said the Monarch, the Prophet, the Seer, the Revelator, James ‘Jesse’ Strang to his poverty-stricken, misplaced, flock of polygamous misfits as they followed their King along the Big Lake through the woods.


The year was 1850, and the snow was flying (So was the shit) all the way to Charlevoix, Michigan.


Jesse had been excommunicated from his Latter Day Saints.


Nobody liked him.


He was a Holy pain in the ass.


His teachings were too dictatorial.


He, somehow, kept uncovering secret Godly tablets, that were consistently found to be plagiarized.


He couldn’t organize a hunting expedition, and when they did find animals- he insisted they be sacrificed in rituals praying for food. Is that dumb, or what?


His original belief in the virtue of monogamy was suddenly changed in 1849 (and again in 1852, and once again in 1855) at the foot of a nineteen year old fair maiden (for a grand total of four wives with 14 children between them). Not surprisingly, his first wife, who had admired her husband for his stance against polygamy, found his about-face objectionable and separated from him in 1850. He lived with the additional three until his murder in 1856.



‘Murder!’ you say?

Yes. Murder.


Over his bossing the non-believers in the area. Specifically, over jury selection.

Jury. S-E-L-E-C-T-I-O-N.


Oh, those Gentiles. What a bother.



So, the Lord got involved and said,’Go forth Jesse and exert Holy control.’


‘Flog the adulterer and starve the thief.’

‘Pillage their homes and take their crops.’

You know- stuff like that.


Bang. Bang…………..Bang. Right between the eyes.

And…. they disbanded. (Duh).


But, Charlevoix soldiered on, specifically in:


1862: as Civil War veteran’s filtered in to buy land for $1.25 per acre (awesome!)


1866: the city surveyor completed the formal plat of town whereby he owned most of the property (I always wonder how they think they’ll get away with this?)


1876: all of the surrounding forest is leveled for the lumber to build the original McMansions of the Midwestern Robber Barons who summer on the shores.


1880: intellectual blo-hards, in the form of Chicago professors, form the first of many Summer Clubs and boring social gatherings.


1901: Detroit based D.M.Ferry Seed & Plant Co. sets-up shop along a company-owned ( and ONLY) 200′ dock on the lake and if you want your shit off the boat, you have to purchase a seedling. Cherries orchards are invented.


1918: Local crazy architect Earl Young begins to build homes using locally-quarried boulders, that become known as ‘Mushroom Houses’ and make romantics swoon.


1919: Albert Loeb, VP of Sears & Roebuck based in Chicago, builds an experimental (code: for unsupervised) farm. Loeb’s son, Richard “Dicky’ Loeb, will four years later, find a strange bedfellow with his equally disturbed schoolmate, Nathan Leopold, and together they will murder young Bobby Franks- for ‘kicks’.

Charles Darrow will represent the young mail-order heir in the infamous Illinois vs Leopold & Loeb trial , and visits the family at the ‘Farm’.

Long & Short of IT: Darrow famously argues for Loeb’s life, Loeb is imprisoned, Loeb is murdered in jail, the Farm fails (not in order of importance).


1930’s: Chicago gangsters discover the advantages of ‘getting outta town’ with a sweet lake breeze.


1996: Jon Benet Ramsey is murdered outside Boulder, Colorado. The family, who has always ‘summered’ in Charleviox, still owns their home by the Lake. They haven’t visited for a while.


2014: Cheryl, and family, drive through Charlevoix (on the way to a destination wedding) and she immediately insists they park, look around, go shopping, eat well, knock a few back, and talk to the ‘locals’.


In other words, get a ‘feel’ for the place.

I don’t think they saw me coming….

Looking from Main St. to lake Michigan.PINIMAGE

Looking from Main St. to lake Michigan.

It may just be me, but I feel a new dress coming on.PINIMAGE

It may just be me, but I feel a new dress coming on.


The Bay. In the Center. Of. Town. Need I say more?PINIMAGE

The Bay. In the Center. Of. Town. Need I say more?


Public Space. Public. Space. PINIMAGE

Public Space. Public. Space.



They threw an Art Fair for me, and Why Not? PINIMAGE

They threw an Art Fair for me, and Why Not?

  • Carol Cassara - Who knew? The only thing i know about that city is that John Ramsay’s family had a home there. I can’t believe I know that factoid.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I had no idea until I started chatting-up the locals. A few old-timers said they were always standoffish.ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen O'Donnell - Such a fun read! I’m gonna start my own religion. How hard can it be? Just think of the most ridiculous story you can come up with and say it’s a message from God. I’m onto something…ReplyCancel

  • Mari Collier - I believe you meant 1850 instead of 1950 in that one post. That would have meant she really old when she got the divorce from a ghost. Other than that, a fun read. I hope you’ve seen my latest.ReplyCancel

  • Diane - I LOVE a back story! The who’s and how’s and why’s of a place. Thank you for finding this one! I had never even heard of the town, let alone its somewhat spotty history. Fascinating!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I do too! I sought out the ‘backstory’ with the locals and the hysterical society while the fam was cruising the bay. Such a beautiful place with a fascinating history. So glad you enjoyed this!ReplyCancel

  • Charlevoix Convention & Visitors Bureau - Glad you enjoyed your time in Charlevoix the Beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Joan Bickley Stommen - This Michigan girl loves this! The history, your humor and your photos! Hope you got that dress! Can’t wait till my next visit up north ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *



CommentLuv badge

B l o g s   I   L o v e