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Horsehead Lake History

Down Memory Lane...by Morris & Bob Andrews

Nathaniel Percy purchased the family farm in the 1870s from Arthur Hill and his brother, from Saginaw, for $1000. The farm consisted of Government lot #3 which was 46.25 acres, and lot #4, an additional 64.55 acres. Both lots were in section 22 township, 15 miles north of range 8 west (Martiny Township). Nathaniel was the fourth owner of the property after it was sold by the United States Government.  

Arthur Hill started the United States Steamship Company. He was the first secretary of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Prior to 1900 he gave in excess of one million dollars to the University of Michigan. The Collins Lumber Company lumbered the original white pine from the property. They operated a large sawmill on what is now Percy Flats employing in excess of 100 employees for approximately 2 years in the late 1880’s. A  narrow gage railroad connected  the mill with Mecosta where a major railroad carried lumber to major cities. One lumber train left Mecosta each hour at the height of the white pine harvest in this area. The white pine trees were cut by cross-cut saws at shoulder height. As a result the stumps were 3 to 5 feet above the ground. The stumps would later be cut off at ground level, put into the lake, and floated to a mill located at  the outlet where they were made into roof shingles.   When Nathaniel Percy bought  the farm some of the land still had white pine stumps. The property had to be cleared by dynamite, physical labor, and oxen so that the land could be farmed. Stumps and their roots were used as fencing around the fields. In later years the dry pine stumps were used as kindling in the Percy pot belly stove for heating the family log cabin.  The Luke Percy family raised 10 children in the log cabin which is still in use at the Percy Landing. Mother and dad had one bedroom, the five daughters shared one, and the five boys shared another. In the winter the boys slept in the hay loft in the barn.  At the south end of the property, Nathaniel erected a log cabin out of the logs from the cook shack from the mill located at the outlet. He rented the cabin out to men who wished to hunt and fish. At least one Michigan governor spent time at the cabin.  The Percy’s operated a boat landing and camp ground in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. This was the primary source of income for the family. Ernest Hemmingways father who lived in Oak Park, Illinois and had a summer place in Manistee, Michigan would stop at Percy Landing on his train trip to  Manistee.
When Luke and Ada were married in 1908, Mr. Hemmingway  gave them a punch bowl. 
  Mary Percy, Nathaniels wife, was a devoted catholic. On most Sundays she would take a horse and buggy (or sleigh) on the eight mile trip to the Remus catholic church.   The Percy brothers inherited the family farm in the 1903 to 1915 time frame.  At that time they owned the lake front property on the east side of Horsehead Lake.  Tom sold the north half of the east side of Horsehead Lake in two transactions for a total of $1050. Luke sold the south half in sixteen transactions for a  total of $3535. Tom sold all of his lake front property in 1917 and 1918. Luke sold his property starting in 1917 through 1946. Luke’s average price for a 100 foot lot was $220. None of the lake front properties had electricity until 1940.  All of the cottage owners used to buy ice from Luke to keep their food fresh. He would put up ice in February of each winter for sale in the summer. Each winter he hired two Chippewa Indian brothers for a month to help put up the ice. It was the largest source of cash for the family of twelve.

Submitted by Morris Andrews, son of Bessie Percy


Photos from the old Horsehead Lake Campground (now Hidden Harbor)

Courtesy of Greg Adams


Original cottage at Horsehead Lake Resort - 1938


Another view of the cottage as it was being worked on.


Front yard of cottage looking from lake.


Folks bathing a jeep at the swimming beach


Looking South toward West Bay


The Beach in the 1960's


TeePee Island before the Teepee.


Entrance to the HHL Resort


Beginning construction on the resort's log cabin.


Turn off of the country road to get to the resort... this is now the entry way to Hidden Harbor.


If you have any old photos from the lake that you'd like to share, please email them to Dom Theodore (see contact page).


Horsehead Lake Association

P.O. Box 344

Mecosta, MI 49332

Email: Information @ Horseheadlake.org

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