History

The Hiawatha Sportsman's Club (HSC) was founded in 1927 by William E. McNamara, M.D. (1877-1954).
 
1938 Entrance of Hiawatha Sportmans ClubWho was this doctor and how was he able to purchase and develop the 35,000 acres of beautiful land that is HSC today?  William McNamara in the 1920's was a much respected surgeon and prominent citizen of Lansing, Michigan.  He was typical of physicians of that time in that he often travelled to his patients' homes by horse and buggy and performed operations on their kitchen tables.  Also typical of that time, he had a love of the out-of-doors.  He hunted and fished and was an early conservationist.  In the pursuit of these interests, he often travelled to the Upper Peninsula where, early in his career, he had practiced medicine in the mining camps.  On one of these trips to the U.P., he noticed the land that is now HSC.  He saw in this land a chance to create his dream of a hunting and fishing wonderland, and in 1927, with the help of like-minded associates, he created HSC.
 
Office 1938 - Hiawatha Sportmans ClubThe area which today is HSC was first inhabited by the Native Americans, primarily the Ojibwa (called Chippewa by the French).  Some of our Club names came from the Ojibwa tongue (i.e. Hiawatha, Mudjekeewis (old dining hall), Manitou (lodge).  Next came French and English explorers and fur traders.  The property which became the HSC golf course in 1931 was purchased by Dr. McNamara from a farmer named William Boucha (Boucher or Bouche) who was a former French-Canadian fur trader and sailor. After the fur traders, came the lumbermen.  In the late 1800's and early 1900's there were 22 lumber camps on HSC land.  These camps effectively clear-cut the land which so lowered its value that McNamara's group could afford to purchase it.  This extensive lumbering also provided another benefit.  Many of the trails we use today to reach the remote areas of the Club were built upon what were originally the narrow gauge railroad track beds used to transport logs to the sawmills in Naubinway.
 
HSC became and remains the largest private club in Michigan.  It has seven miles of Lake Michigan frontage, twenty-two lakes and ponds, including most of Millecoquins Lake, Pullup Lake, Cranberry Lake, Dollar Lake, Elbow Lake, Tee Lake, and other small lakes and ponds; and seventy-eight miles of rivers and trout streams, all spring-fed.  Thus members have enjoyed and still enjoy good hunting, fishing, water sports, boating, swimming, golf, tennis, trail-riding, observing wildlife, hiking six miles of trails snowmobiling and ATV riding.

Dining Hall 1938 - Hiawatha sportmans clubThe first building constructed on HSC's 35,000 acres was a hunting lodge called Cranberry Lodge on Cranberry Lake in 1927.  Next came Manitou Lodge (presently the HSC Museum), Mudjekeewis Dining Hall (unfortunately, burned in 1962), the Cook's Cabin, Waitress' Cabin, Hostess' Cabin, and Hostler's Cabin (now the Naomi Children's Museum).  The original HSC Office at the corner of G Trail and H 40 (Old US 2) burned in 1971 and was rebuilt as a private home in 1997 (note the "HIAWATHA" in the chimney which was reused). The present Club Office was built in 1958; the Activities Building in 1965; and the Golf Course Pro Shop in 2003. There were originally fifty-four cabins built on Millecoquins Lake for the use of members of which forty-two remain today.  There was also an Ice House, abandoned in 1939 when electricity came to HSC and the first Maintenance Building which is now the Craftsman's Building.  A second Maintenance Building was built in 1946 and turned into today's Recreation Building in 2009. Today's Paintin Place was moved from Engadine in 1931 and was originally the Commissary.  Also in the 1930's, a Caddy House was built at the Golf Course and today is used for storage.  One of our most noticeable constructions, the Golf Course stone entrance and teepee, were built in 1956 with the waterfall and pond added in 2010.

Three of our buildings, Manitou Lodge/HSC Museum, 1931 Maintenance Building/Craftsman Building and the Commissary/Paintin Place are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Interior View Dining HallDr. McNamara's vision of HSC wasn't just about constructing things.  Conservation was also very important to him.  The barren, clear-cut lands, that made purchase possible, almost immediately were replanted with 80,000 mostly red and white pine seedlings in 1931and 1932.  HSC joined with Michigan State University's Forestry Department to develop an Experimental Forest in 1941.  In 1947 over 30,000 red and white pine seedlings were planted east of Elbow Lake as a memorial to Mrs. McNamara.  Even today, maintenance of our forest is a high priority under the oversight of our Natural Resources Committee with professional guidance from qualified forest professionals.

Notable among the many individuals who helped all this construction and conservation happen were our earliest Club Officers and Governors.  Seymour H. Person, a member of the State of Michigan Representatives, Michigan Senate and a U.S. Representative from Michigan from 1915 until 1933, became the first HSC President (1927-30), while Dr. McNamara was the first Vice-President and Chairman of the Board of Governors.  Dr. Mac, who served on the Board of Governors from 1927 until 1949, also served as HSC President in 1935 and 1945.  His son, William B. McNamara was HSC Manager from 1931 until 1937.

Much of the history of HSC is on display at the Hiawatha Heritage Center.  Located just off of G Trail near the Golf Course and Trap Range, the Heritage Center is a mix of original log buildings (Manitou Lodge and Naomi Children's Museum) and replicas (1931 Club Cabin Replica and Cook Shack) nestled on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.  It's 17.2 acres provides six miles of hiking trails to original Club sites (Mudjekeewis Dining Hall) as well as many beautiful natural sites.  The centerpiece of the Heritage Center is the HSC Museum which not only gives one an example of early log construction on HSC but also is full of artifacts, photos, and memorabilia of bygone Club days.

The complete history of HSC is written in Our First Fifty Years 1927-1977 and Into the Millennium 1977-2002 which are available at the Club Office.