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Anatomy of a Community

The Les Cheneaux Chronicles is a labor of love, not just by the author, by all those connected with the Les Cheneaux Centennial History project and, most importantly, by the community itself - who made the history and then made it accessible to the author.

The story is a grand one, commencing with the discovery by Europeans of the St. Lawrence River access to the North American continent and working its way upstream and into the Great Lakes themselves as Europeans and then Americans inquired farther and farther into the heart of the continent, finally subduing and organizing the land.

The territory of the northern Lakes was first and most distinctly a land no one wanted. "The Chronicles" tells the story of the evolution of the area from unwanted real estate into highly desirable timberland and homestead settlements and summer resorts.

During a recent visit to the area, I had an opportunity to meet with the author of this book and its follow up, "RIPPLES FROM THE BREEZES", which completes some of the history and stories not included or discussed in "The Chronicles".

Islington Hotel Image cira 1904

Philip McM. Pittman was actually raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and vacationed during the summer with his parents at the Les Cheneaux Club starting in 1947. After spending 17 years in the academic circuit as a Ph.D. out of Vanderbilt University, Philip declared academics a losing game and "retired" to Les Cheneaux in the family's old summer home. The home sits on the water, complete with the recognizable Les Cheneaux trademark boathouse and offers magnificent views from Philip's study.

If there is any historical information you want to know about the area, Philip is the man to see. He has spent a considerable amount of time researching the information in both of these books and is a walking wealth of knowledge about the area. If you really want to get him started, just start talking about the Indian (native American) social interactions of the last few decades. It appears that there has been considerable conflict over fishing net use and over an accident that involved sport fishermen being dragged to the bottom of the lake in their boat after being caught in unmarked fishing nets. Quite an interesting issue and one that Philip and many Les Cheneaux residents will be very pleased to discuss with you.

Ripple from the Breezes book cover

The Chronicles book also has a wonderful photography section that Philip acquired from the Historical Society. The picture we have on this page is one of the Islington Hotel circa 1904. Can you gals imaging walking the boardwalk in those long dresses? There are dozens of photos like this in the book that transport you back to an era which many of us will have trouble relating to.

These books are available only from Philip and the Historical Society. In fact, if you want to get a copy, they may even be out of print. You can contact the Les Cheneaux Chamber of Commerce at lescheneaux@northernway.net if you want to try and get a copy. The ones that we worked with were loaners that were from a signed and numbered limited edition.

These are quite impressive writings about a very historically interesting area. If you can't get your hands on a copy, you can always stop by the Les Cheneaux Historical Society on your next visit to the area. They have a nice photo library and also operate the Nautical Museum right on RT134.

----- jrw

See Phil's article on Les Cheneaux Golf Club.

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