In the footsteps of giants
By CHRISTOPHER DIEM, Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — Surrounded by old growth forest and bordered by the slow and winding Laughing Whitefish River, Peter White’s camp lays as an unspoiled connection to the Upper Peninsula’s history.
The Marquette icon’s camp is quiet and secluded — buried deep in western Alger County — miles away from Marquette’s busy streets and docks.White, one of the founding fathers of Marquette, hunted and fished at the camp while entertaining friends, family and guests from around the world.A few of the original structures built by White in the mid-1800s still stand.
A horse barn is there, as is the cabin in which White’s hired help prepared meals for the camp. The original cabin White built, which contained bedrooms and a living room, was torn down during World War II after vandals kept breaking in.White’s great-grandson, the late Maxwell Reynolds Jr., built newer buildings on the property from the 1950s to the 1980s.“(White) loved hunting, he loved fishing and he wanted a family place to get away from town,” said Phyllis Reynolds, Max Reynolds’ widow. “He and his family would ride the train into Deerton and then walk 5 miles to the camp.”George Shiras III, White’s stepson, used the area around the camp to take the first-ever night photos of wildlife. Shiras’ photos were a sensation at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, where he won the gold medal in the forestry division and top prize in the photographic division. Shiras, an avid outdoorsman and pioneer of experimental photography, was a contributor to National Geographic and wrote the two-volume book, “Hunting Wildlife with Camera and Flashlight.”
Phyllis Reynolds has registers of people who stayed at the camp dating back to 1913. Names of guests, where they hailed from and brief summaries of their stay are written in pencil, the pages slightly yellowed with time.After White died in 1909, the camp property passed along to his descendants and eventually to the Reynolds. They used the camp exclusively for family and friends. They built a new cabin in the 1950s and another one for their four daughters in the 1980s.“We have so many wonderful memories out here,” Phyllis Reynolds said, “It really is a beautiful place. I
t’s still a good stream for trout... and I think there are still deer out there.”After Max died in 1988, Phyllis Reynolds donated 1,700 acres of land surrounding the camp to the Nature Conservancy. Her daughter Alice Reynolds maintains the camp, cutting the grass and removing fallen branches.
White came to Marquette in 1849 when he was 14 years old. A runaway from Wisconsin, White spent time on Mackinac Island and on schooners on the Great Lakes before coming to Marquette.The Marquette Iron Company recruited White to help settle Marquette after iron ore was discovered near present-day Negaunee. Exceptionally bright, White was one of the few men recruited who was able to read and write. He was put in charge of the company store and also became postmaster. In his spare time White learned how to speak French, several American Indian dialects and studied law, opening a law office in 1854.
Soon White expanded his interests into banking, real estate and was elected the first state representative from Marquette County. Using his considerable skills and resources he helped finance northern Michigan’s fledgling iron ore industry and acquired considerable wealth.
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