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Chippewa Lake

Chippewa Lake: A Community in Search of an Identity

Cindy L. Hull
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Chippewa Lake
    Book Description:

    Chippewa Lake is an idyllic waterfront community in north-central Michigan, popular with retirees and weekenders. The lake is surrounded by a rural farming community, but the area is facing a difficult transition as local demographics shift, and as it transforms from an agriculture-based economy to one that relies on wage labor. As farms have disappeared, local residents have employed a variety of strategies to adapt to a new economic structure. The community, meanwhile, has been indelibly affected by the advent of newcomers and retirees challenging the rural cultural values. An anthropologist with a background in sociology, Cindy L. Hull deftly weaves together oral accounts, historic documents, and participant surveys compiled from her nearly thirty years of living in the area to create a textured portrait of a community in flux.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-342-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    In the broad regional view, this current research is a “tale of two cities and a village.” Although I propose an ethnography—that is, a study of one community—this cannot be successful without locating the research community within a larger economic and social matrix. First, the most direct impact on current trends in the village of Chippewa Lake must be viewed in relationship with both Big Rapids (population 11,000), the closest city, and Grand Rapids (200,000), located seventy miles south. Grand Rapids is a growing urban area, with both its population and manufacturing base expanding beyond its city limits...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Geography and Indigenous People of Mecosta County
    (pp. 15-26)

    West-central Michigan is blessed with an abundance of rivers, streams, and lakes that have provided a pristine environment for early Native American communities, European settlers, and modern-day sports enthusiasts. Three river systems, comprising 293 miles of rivers and streams, drain the county. The Muskegon River flows through Big Rapids and, with the Little Muskegon River, drains the western eight townships, including Chippewa Township, flowing ultimately into Lake Michigan at Muskegon.The Flat River starts in southeastern Mecosta County and joins the Grand River before it too flows into Lake Michigan. Finally, the Chippewa and Pine River system drains six eastern townships,...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Locating Chippewa Township in Time and Place
    (pp. 27-46)

    Chippewa Township is located in northwest Mecosta County. It is one of the northernmost townships, bordering on Osceola County. Chippewa Township contains ten lakes, with Chippewa Lake being the largest and most significant economically in the history of the township. Because Chippewa Lake is located in the southwestern corner of the township, the focus of this study is on those sections that surround the lake itself. The survey population did not include the northernmost sections of the township or those on the eastern edge. The former are distant geographically from Chippewa Lake and more aligned to Osceola County to the...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Farm Families in Transition
    (pp. 47-62)

    We start our story of modern change and stability in the rural areas of Chippewa Township, as this is where the majority of residents reside. This is also the area that best identifies the history of the community since the 1800s, when the railroad tracks were ripped up, leaving the isolated farms behind. Descendants of these early farm families still live here, often on the same land their ancestors settled, perpetuating the promise the idyllic rural lifestyle.

    Born in the city, I have always had ambivalent feelings about my new life in rural Michigan. I miss the activities and the...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Chippewa Township as Rural Community in Transition
    (pp. 63-82)

    In applying the concept of community effect and examining how shared goals of rural communities are shifting, we can draw upon the factors that have defined the community personality of Chippewa Township in the past, and the changes that have occurred in the past twenty years. These factors include population growth and demographic factors, structure of households, economic factors and education, and historical factors. In this section we will discuss the first three of these and how they juxtapose with the rich tapestry of local history.

    The population of Chippewa Township has more than doubled since 1960, from 543 to...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Township in Transition
    (pp. 83-96)

    I first met Harry Dodge when he was recommended to us for a major home renovation. Everyone in Chippewa Lake calls Harry “Junior,” but my husband and I could not bring ourselves to use that nickname for a man who was, at that time, in his mid-sixties. I still remember the perplexed look on Harry’s face, and the soon-to-be-familiar gesture of removing his baseball cap and scratching his head with the same hand, as we described to him how we wanted to add a two-story addition to our small one-story house that would form an L-shaped structure. His look of...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Chippewa Lake as Resort Community
    (pp. 97-108)

    Eleanor Erlenborn’s family has been coming to Chippewa Lake since the early 1920s, when she was just a baby. She told me a wonderful story of how her grandmother, Louise Rosander, borrowed a boat from someone and rowed around the lake, looking for the best location to build a cottage. At that time, there were only a few cottages on the lake, and she found a beautiful spot on a small peninsula called Birch point, and their cabin still sits there today, all alone, with a large yard and beautiful beach. Eleanor’s grandfather was a tailor in Chicago; he was...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Contested Identities
    (pp. 109-126)

    Chippewa Township is like a microcosm of a city, with intriguing dramas playing out in an area of 36 square miles. Critical points contention that crosscut the occupational and geographical axes of Township can be dramatized by examining two local debates. These debates exemplify the complexity of issues and opinions in this community, but also bring into focus the underlying differences in worldviews that the discourse of the divergent interest groups. The first debate, on chemical treatments recommended for the lake, is one that primarily pits the seasonal and permanent lake residents against each other, but has ramifications all township...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Social Networks
    (pp. 127-146)

    When longtime residents remember the past, they describe the community in terms of cooperation, struggle, and shared leisure activities. In many cases, memories are secondhand, based on stories they have heard from their parents and grandparents. Various types of events dominate these shared or revisionist memories: the local musicians who played their fiddles at dances throughout the community; the various dance halls, and dances at the Grange; and progressive card parties. Memories of cooperation revolve around stories of threshing parties and other forms of mutual assistance.Stories of struggle inevitably involve the challenges of winter survival, illness, and the lack of...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Social Networks beyond the Community
    (pp. 147-164)

    Increasingly, residents of Chippewa Township reach beyond their immediate community. In many cases, the extension of local boundaries is forced upon them because of the consolidated schools and the need to seek jobs beyond the township and county. However, in some cases, residents seek social interactions that take them to surrounding towns and cities: shopping, volunteering, and searching for spiritual guidance beyond the local church. In this chapter we will look beyond Chippewa Township and trace the extended social networks that are shaping a more inclusive community identity. Then, we will examine those who are more likely to participate in...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Transformation and Contested Identities
    (pp. 165-178)

    At least two transformations are occurring in Chippewa Township. The first is the transformation from farm community to commuter community, a process that has been occurring for many years, but which is culminating in the loss of family farms and the subsequent outmigration of many young families seeking jobs or other opportunities “off the farm.” Those who remain are the descendants of longtime residents, tied economically and emotionally to the history of the community.

    Second, and simultaneously, there is an influx of residents who are seeking both the rural ambiance and the lake environment as an ideal retirement community. Even...

  16. EPILOGUE. Marijuana Mama
    (pp. 179-186)

    Edwin and Marilyn Taylor’s ancestors settled in Chippewa Township in the early 1900s.¹ The extended family owns several hundred acres of land, including a farmhouse and several sections where they produce corn and hay for their dairy operation. Edwin and Marilyn raised four children on the farm, two daughters and two sons. The Taylor brothers, Jack and Bill, were hulking youths whose mannerisms intimidated other children on the bus, and as adults they had a reputation as heavy drinkers and fighters. According to local rumor, they had the dubious distinction of being banned from every bar in three townships. When...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 187-196)
  18. Works Cited
    (pp. 197-200)
  19. Index
    (pp. 201-203)