History

The Hiawatha Sportsman’s Club (HSC) was founded in 1927 by William E. McNamara, M.D. (1877-1954). 
1938 Entrance of Hiawatha Sportmans Club

Who was this doctor and how was he able to purchase and develop the 35,000 acres of beautiful land that is HSC today? He was a surgeon who visited his patients by horse and buggy in the summer and by cutter in the winter. Emergency surgery was often done on the patient’s kitchen table, the doctor staying until his patient was out of danger and the family could take over the nursing care. He became a very well-known and skilled surgeon of the Lansing area as well as a respected and prominent citizen in his community. His love of the outdoors, hunting, fishing and conservation of all types led him, in his late 40’s to return to the Upper Peninsula, where he had practiced medicine years before in the mining communities, and to notice the land that is now HSC. He was able to visualize this clear-cut torn land of the 1920’s as his dream of an extraordinary hunting and fishing wonderland, which came true for him at age 50 years in 1927 when he founded HSC.

Office 1938 - Hiawatha Sportmans ClubHSC was first inhabited by the native Americans, primarily the Ojibwa (Called Chippewa by the French).  HSC adopted the names Hiawatha, Mudjekeewis (Dining Hall), and Manitou (Lodge) from the Ojibwa language. Next came some French and English explorers and fur traders. Te lumbermen came with their camps in the 1860’s. There were twenty-two lumber camps on HSC during the 1800’s and 1900’s. Thanks to these twenty-two lumber camps, the remaining clear-cut devalued land made it financially feasible for Dr. William E. McNamara (Dr. Mac) to purchase HSC property and complete his dream. The HSC trails/roads were built upon the remaining narrow-gauge logging railroad track beds constructed by the twenty-two lumber camps to transport their logs to the Naubinway Saw Mill by logging train. These trails leadhunters, fishermen, and sightseers into the wonderful northern parts of HSC. Today these 22 historic lumber camp sites have signs and are mapped for viewing. There is also informative lumber camp display in Memorial Hall at the HSC Museum of the Hiawatha Heritage Center.

HSC became the largest private club in Michigan. It has seven miles of Lake Michigan frontage, many inland lakes and ponds including most of Millecoquin Lake, Pullup Lake, Cranberry Lake,Dollar Lake, Elbow Lake, Tee Lake, other small lakes and ponds, and seventy-eight miles of spring-fed rivers and trout streams.

The first building constructed on HSC in 1927 was Cranberry Lodge, a hunting cabin on Cranberry Lake. Next came Manitou Lodge (now the HSC Museum), Mudjekeewis Dining Hall (burned in 1962), the Cook’s Cabin, Waitresses’ Cabin, Hostess’s Cabin, and Supply Cabin (no longer needed and moved elsewhere), the Riding Stable an Hostler’s Cabin (now the Naomi Children’s Museum), the HSC Office at the Corner of G Trail and H-40, old US-2, (burned in 1971 and rebuilt as a private home in 1997 incorporating the original “HIAWATHA” fireplace chimney), the 54 Club Cabins on Millecoquin Lake (today numbering 42), the Ice House (abandoned when electricity came after 1939), the first maintenance Building (currently the Craftman’s Club) and the Commissary (Paintin’ Place) was moved from Engadine in 1931 to its present location. The HSC Golf Course was also created in 1931. Mr. Mac purchased the land from William Bouche (Boucher or Bouche), the founder of Naubinway. A Golf Course Caddy House was built in 1932 (torn down in 2018). The HSC stone entrance and Teepee on US-2 was constructed in 1956; the waterfall and pond were added in 2008. the present HSC office was built in 1958, and the Activities Building was completed in 1965. The Golf Course Pro Shop, log construction, was built in 2003.

The Recreation Building was created in 2007 by remodeling the interior of the second HSC Maintenance Building built in 1946. The current Maintenance Building was completed in 2006. Manitou Lodge/HSC Museum, the 1931 Maintenance Building/Craftsman’s Building and the Commissary/Paintin’ Place are listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. Manitou Lodge/HSC Museum is also a Michigan Historic site It is where Elliott Roosevelt and is wife, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s son and daughter-in-law, came to visit HSC and signed Manitou Lodge’s guest book on August 22, 1935.

Seymour H. Persons, (Michigan State Representative, Michigan State Senator and U.S. State Representative from Michigan, 1915-1933) became the first HSC President (1927-1930) while Dr. Mac was the first Vice President and Chairman of the HSC Board of Governors. Dr. Mac was a member of the HSC Board of Governors from 1927-1949 and was the HSC President in 1935 and 1945. Dr. Mac’s son William B. (Bill) McNamara was an HSC Manager (1931-1937).

Interior View Dining HallConservation was always important to Dr. Mac. The barren cutover lands that made HSC possible, began refurbishment immediately by the planting of 80,000 seedlings in 1930 and 1931- mostly white and red pine. The development of the Experimental Forest with the Forestry Department of Michigan State University in 1941 came next. Dr. Mac financed large planting of trees, including his wife’s memorial planting of 30,000 red and white pine trees east of Elbow Lake in 1947. Tree planting is continued today by HSC’s Natural Resources Committee in Conjunction with forestry professionals. Conservation and preservation of all environment and wildlife and limits development to only what is necessary for the members to enjoy its recreational assets and activities.

The Hiawatha Heritage Center, located on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan just off G Trail, was named in 2009. It includes four building within the 17.2 surrounding acres of the Hiawatha Nature and Historical Society Wildlife Sanctuary. Two buildings, Manitou Lodge/HSC Museum (a Michigan Historic Site and listed in the National Registry of Historic Places), and the Naomi Children’s Museum represent HSC’s 1931 log construction and log resort architecture. The other two buildings, the Museum Storage Building (built in 2006), and the 1931 Club Cabin Replica (build in 2007), represent HSC’s 1931 white frame clapboard architecture. Within the surrounding Wildlife Sanctuary are six miles of Hiking Trails and the handicapped accessible Heritage Walkway leading from Manitou Lodge/HSC Museum to the Mudjekeewis Dining Hall Site. This Center is where HSC’s history and nature can be relived, explored and enjoyed, even by the handicapped.

The Complete History of HSC is written in Our First Fifty Years 1927-1977 and Into the Millennium 1977-2002 available at the HSC Office. Memorial Hall in the HSC Museum contains all of HSC’s history Exploring books and museum is informative, but nothing can compare to seeing, experiencing, and enjoying HSC’s history throughout its 35,000 acres of incomparable natural beauty.