Little Eden Camp

By Danielle Fink, Dean Fraley, Evan Mattison, and Nathan Wilson


Photo of Camp Little Eden

Most residents of Onekama know of Little Eden Camp on Portage Point Road, but there is a lot of its history shrouded in mystery. But with the help of Mr. Wendell Beck, we have uncovered some of the history of the camp.

Before Little Eden was first built, the site was considered for the establishment of a state-owned fish hatchery. Unfortunately, it was announced on September 2, 1902, that the fish hatchery would not be established there. After that it became a logging camp. In 1910, a barn from the Farr family farm was moved to the property with the intention of turning it into a hotel.

Later in 1913, natural gas was discovered on the grounds of Little Eden.

A January 22, 1913, article from The Manistee Daily News stated: “Gas was struck at Onekama this morning on the land now belonging to the Northern Michigan Transportation Company, but over which Ward Leonard at present holds an option. Drilling for gas has been going on for some weeks by W.W. Davis for Ward Leonard, and this is the first real find that has been made. It is of significance in the growth of Onekama and of the resort proposition as entertained by Mr. Leonard.”

Later that year, a boy's camp called “Camp Onekama” was established. Mr. O.L. Chaney ran the camp. A dining hall capable of seating 50-60 people was built, and the newly discovered natural gas was used for cooking and lighting. Camp Onekama was designed for the Y.M.C.A. boys, the Boy Scouts, and similar youth organizations. On July 1, the first boys arrived. Camp Onekama also sent out a pamphlet, which contained all of the rules. It read: “'All campers must comply with the rules of the camp which will be posted from time to time. Intoxicants or users of the stuff will be absolutely prohibited. Firearms will not be allowed. Trees must not be cut down or injured in any manner. Participation in good fellowship will be solicited and everyone in a measure, will be responsible for the pleasure of all the campers. “Grouches” should stay away.'”

On April 19, 1924, an article in the Manistee News Advocate announced that preparations were being made for St. Mary's summer school and camp. The large barn known as “Seymour Inn” was being renovated. Reverend Francis L. Carrington, Dean of St. Mary-St. Margaret Episcopalian Girls' School of Knoxville, Illinois, was superintendent of the camp later called “Camp Carrington.” The Michigan Junior School also used Camp Carrington for boys.

On June 4, 1937, the Manistee County Pioneer Press announced that Reverend Arthur E. Taylor was managing Camp Carrington and had renamed it “Little Eden.” Even though the property changed hands, the tradition of camping still ran strong. In 1944, Reverend Taylor sold Little Eden to a Mennonite Church group from Ohio. Their purpose was to provide a place for both children and families to come to relax and enjoy a beautiful setting in God's creation.

In 1988, the main building was demolished and a new log-sided building was constructed. In 1992, Little Eden began operating throughout the year, using the new lodge for weekend retreats during the fall and winter months. In the last few years, several of the old cabins that were built in the earlier years have been removed and winterized cabins were built in their places.

Today during the busy summer months, Little Eden has guests from all over the United States. As improvements continue to be made, people will hopefully continue to enjoy this beautiful setting for years to come.

The Creation of The Wellspring

By Megan McCarthy and Teresa LaPoint Smith, Onekama Middle School Teachers

This publication, The Wellspring, is a team-driven project, the product of the work of Onekama eighth grade students in two classes: Michigan History and English. In Michigan History class, students research the history of our community and interview senior citizens who live and grew up in our area. In English class, the students work to write articles based on their research.

The project, now in its third year, has taken on a life of its own. Beyond our academic goals of conducting research and completing writing in a truly meaningful way, the project involves both personal and service outcomes as well. The students involved have taken a personal stake in the project. As they learn about the history of our area and meet with senior citizens who grew up here, they form important relationships and develop pride in our community.

The Wellspring has important service-learning outcomes as well. As students and senior citizens work together, our community is made stronger. Our writing is a form of service — it is our way of giving back to the community by recording the history and sharing the stories of individuals who have helped to make this community what it is today. On March 24, 2003, two eighth grade students, Veronica Maidens and Autumn Miller, gave a presentation on The Wellspring at the National Service-Learning Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

We are especially grateful to those who shared their stories and allowed our students to interview them. Our historical articles could not have been completed without the help of Mr. Thomas Gerhardt and the Manistee County Historical Society. Mr. Gerhardt helped students to select topics for research, gather materials, and edit our drafts.

Through the work for this project, students learned valuable lessons about conducting research, interviewing, drafting, and revision, revision, revision. This paper is their VISION - it is story of our community, as told through the eyes of this generation. It is with great pride that we present to you this edition of The Wellspring.

Wellspring 2003, page 2

Wellspring 2002 / Wellspring 2001