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Lake County celebrates sesquicentennial

Historic Idlewild
Realtors started ‘Cottage Colonies’, marketing the cabins as a way to escape into the wilderness. Among the most famous, was Idlewild.

Lake County has been around for 150 years. The Lake County Historical Museum is celebrating with a week of events that look back on the county's history.

Many people were drawn to Lake County after the Civil War, says museum President Bruce Micinski.

“Union soldiers that were looking for opportunities for timber claims, and they could get 40 or 80 acres of land.”

County seat dispute

When Lake County formally organized, there was a dispute over the location of the county seat.

Originally, the seat was located in Chase, but that didn’t last long.

“Locals from the Baldwin area petitioned to have an election audit around 1874.”

The votes came back in favor of the seat moving to Baldwin.

“Chase thought there was foul play,” says Bruce. “They got a court order to stop the move of the county seat.”

But ultimately that didn’t prevent some people from ensuring it’s move.

“In 1875, they took a train...went over to Chase and stole the county’s safe and records and brought them back to Baldwin.”

Some people were charged, but it never really went anywhere, says Bruce.

“As time went on, the county seat never went back to Chase– it remained in Baldwin.”

Idlewild: cottage colonies

There was an increase in tourism, especially in the 1920’s as roads began to be built and cities were growing– along with the desire to get away from the city.

Realtors started ‘Cottage Colonies’, marketing the cabins as a way to escape into the wilderness. The most famous one was Idlewild.

“That was marketing by some investors from Whitecloud, Michigan, the Branch Brothers, and they were marketing lots and an opportunity for African Americans to own land.”

Civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois owned property in Idlewild. He also wrote articles about Lake County.

“Where you could relax, and not feel threatened or intimidated.”

It was also good for entertainers. Many venues at that time did not allow entertainers of color to stay overnight, but Idlewild was different.

“You had some of the early people, Sam Cook, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan,” says Bruce. “They could all play here at the Flamingo Club or Paradise Club, and spend the night.”

150 years of history

The museum is celebrating Lake County’s 150th with a week of events.

“We’re still here, 150 years later,” Bruce says.

He says visitors are impressed when they realize such a rural community holds so much history.

“The first planting of the brown trout, the first selected black prosecutor in America was from here, the first doctor to perform open heart surgery was from Idlewild,” says Bruce. “A lot of unique things that can be attributed to this community”

You can find more information about the museum on its Facebook page.

The Lake County Historical Museum is celebrating the county's 150th with a week of events.