‘Pioneer’ camper shares Lake Louise history

Thumb Lake sits between Boyne Falls and Vanderbilt, Michigan. In Methodist-speak it is known as Lake Louise.

Rev. Ted Halstead helped establish the new Gitcha Ninj Nebish Nature Center at Lake Louise.

REV. TED HALSTEAD
Retired pastor, Michigan Conference

Lake Louise United Methodist Camp has a new program facility. Gitcha Ninj Nebish Nature Center overlooks the lake. It is well-equipped with work tables, display cases for campersprojects, cabinets, and track lighting. Nature guides and displays identify trees, wild flowers, and animals. Campers and visitors learn how Lake Louise was created when a glacier melted around 12,000 years ago and formed one of the deepest inland lakes in Michigan (152 feet deep).

Displays include posters from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the prow of an Indian dugout canoe found in the bottom of Lake Louise in 1936, books and identification manuals, and native American cultural displays. More nature, historical, and cultural displays will be added as they are donated or loaned.

The center explores northern Michigan Native American history, the coming of pioneers with European ancestry, and the lumbering era. Louisa Hughes, one of the first settlers, who came to the lake in 1874, said it was named “Thumb Lake” by Indians. If this is historically accurate, Indians may have called the lake Gitcha Ninj Nebish in the Odawa dialect of the Algonquian language: gitcha (big) + ninj (finger) = thumb + nebish (water or lake).

The renovation of a 1938-era cabin to become Gitcha Ninj Nebish Nature Center is the gift of the Rev. Ted Halsted, who answered God’s call to Christian ministry 75 years ago at a campfire in the Lake Louise Bowl. Ted first came to Lake Louise as a seven-year-old in 1934 (84 years ago). In 1940 he helped his dad, Rev. Alfred T. Halsted, and brother Richard build a cabin on the north side of the lake with logs out of the woods. 

Ted’s gift of the nature center is in loving memory of his brother, Richard, and in honor of Richard’s wife, Betty. Ted has been a camper, counselor, dean, cottager, and trustee of Lake Louise Christian Community. His father was Land Agent of Lake Louise Christian Community from 1935 to 1968.

When old bunk houses were being removed to free the sites for new ones, Ted said of what had been the W.W. Horner log bunk house, “This was the first camp structure built in the forest. It was a harbinger of things to come. The building is historic. It must be saved.” The Board of Trustees agreed, and Ted provided the funds to relocate, renovate, and repurpose the cabin. A nature center had long been a need of the camp, and here was an opportunity to create one. The story of the cabin’s earlier life is told in Spring-Fed Waters, the history of the lake by Ted Halsted: 

Prior to the building of Kresge Lodge (in 1940), the physical center of the camp had been the farmhouse called Horner Lodge at the (former) Magee-Thumb Lake Road intersection. The first step to move the camp to its present woodland setting took place following the 1937 camp season. The plan called for building 25 dormitory cabins. The December 1937 minutes state that “on the recommendation of Brother (Edward) Horner, it was voted to authorize Brother Halsted to proceed with the location and construction of one model cabin (with)…the cost to be defrayed by Brother Horner.   

The Rev. Alfred Halsted, Ted’s dad, designed the cabin in February 1838 and it was built for $325, when dollars went a lot farther than they do now. At the request of the Trustees, Alfred Halsted then designed a plan for the camp layout in February 1938, with the positioning of a headquarters building, 25 bunkhouses, program building, dining hall, maintenance building, chapel, bowl, and other structures—all on one sheet of legal sized paper! The plan was approved and, to a remarkable degree, became a reality.

Gitcha Ninj Nebish Nature Center fronts the lake east of Strong Prayer Chapel. The renovation includes a new roof, floor, front porch, log repairs, new finish inside and out, and new electrical service and fixtures. The well-furnished nature center was completed in time for the opening of the 2018 camp season.            


~Photo Thumb Lake by Hgjudd at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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