Our early beginnings and traditions...

Edwin S. George, of Detroit, visiting in northern Michigan as a teenager, fell in love with the area and resolved that someday he would own a portion of it for himself. The opportunity to act upon his ambition arose, and from 1911 through 1915 he was able to acquire the 10,000 acres in Cheboygan and Montmorency Counties that make up the present day Black River Ranch.

George developed the site around Silver Lake into a model farm. A few years later he invited three of his friends to join him as land proprietors in this northern country. Frank Beall, Harold Emmons and Colonel S. D. Waldron were able to acquire more than 12,000 acres of land adjacent to the George property on the eastern border of the property.

These four men successfully persuaded other friends to pool their resources in a magnificent adventure that would make them owners of the largest amount of land owned by individuals in the Lower Peninsula. On July 9, 1920 a Michigan Non Profit Organization, the Black River Ranch, was incorporated with thirty members. The purpose of the organization was “To purchase hold and develop the land, to reforest and farm the same, to breed, graze, and raise livestock, to stock lakes and streams on the property, and to protect birds and wild animals and encourage their propagation, and to do any and all things necessary for incidental thereto, or connected therewith.”

They began with the long and tedious work of tracking down the old deeds, warrants, and surveys necessary to acquire title to the 13,000 acres. This was a monumental effort in itself because of the chaotic condition of the records, and their efforts took several years to accomplish. This also entailed a search of the reservations made by the state concerning coal, oil, gas, rights of egress and ingress, aboriginal records and antiquities as enacted by the state legislature.

“The Michigan Legislature (Act 207) P.A. 1923 hoped to limit the amount of land owned by any individual or corporation, or partnership, etc., to 15,000 acres of land. President Waldron and Attorney Emmons conferred with Governor Groesbeck concerning the constitutionality of the Act. In order to be on the safe side, it was decided to start the Canada Creek Corporation on September 1, 1923 as a Michigan Non-profit Corporation whose capital would be represented by shares of stock, and this vehicle would own the 12,000 acres.” No conveyance of title was ever recorded, the entire property being covered by the mortgage, and when this Tract was sold to Almond C. Monteith, Canada Creek Corporation was dissolved on January 11, 1940.” By June 1926 the owners of this corporation found that although they loved this land and all it meant to them that the financial burden was becoming too great. It had cost them $6.80 an acre and they were in debt to the sum of $100,500.00. They decided to sell the tract -- which many of their members had never seen, and which they could not use -- in its entirety as soon as a purchaser could be found. This was easier decided than accomplished. The great stock market crash of October 1929 with its bank closings did not help matters. From this time on until May 20, 1934 when they received an offer from A. C. Monteith, through Brewster Loud and C. Richard Brand to purchase the original 10,000 acre tract for $75,000, the Black River Ranch tried in every way to save their holdings. A. C. Monteith had just completed his Lost Lake Club in Alpena County. It contained 9,000 acres and had 3,000 members. Its success decided him to organize another club.

As talks progressed the original plan to purchase the Black River Ranch was changed and it was decided to sell the 12,472.99 acres of the unimproved tract, which constituted Canada Creek property for $40,000 subject to a $5,000 commission to Brewster Loud. This meant a big loss to Black River Ranch as the property had originally cost $56,377.91.

On August 8, 1934, A. C. Monteith of the Monteith Land Company contracted to buy the Canada Creek property from the Black River Ranch on deferred payments, and the birth of Canada Creek Ranch – a private northern hunting and fishing club -- had begun. In 1940 the sale was finally concluded and Canada Creek Ranch and the Monteith Land Company “received good and merchantable title to 13,000 acres.

Mr. Monteith put up the “first Nighter,” it served as a model cabin and was built and completely furnished for a cost of $1,000. It became the first clubhouse. John Sloat was caretaker and he and his wife served meals, at their own expense and profit, to the early members, salesmen and guests. “The First Nighter” is still standing where the two roads meet at the foot of the hill near the bathing beach.

By 1935 the first four rental cabins were built on Geneva Beach. They had two bedrooms and were completely furnished except for linens. They did not have porches, all shared a common well, and each cabin had its own outhouse with padlock. After the Ranch House was built the First Nighter was sold with its furnishings for $1,000.

The first spade of dirt for the Clubhouse was turned by Mr. Monteith a.k.a “Monty” on August 15, 1935. Mr. Ellenberger, who was starting a lumber business in Onaway, was hired to help construct it. He tore down Scotty’s barn on Geneva and several old barns near Onaway for some of the great rafters. Mr. Ellenberger was paid for his services in lots and timber. He acquired forty acres at the back of the Ranch near Black River and the property still belongs to his family.

“Hermit” Montague, with his ox team, helped haul lumber and build roads. Eighty miles of trails were brushed out.

The kitchen and dining room, at the southern end of the Ranch house were completed first, and the upstairs was used as a huge dormitory. When the south end was finished they gave a dance on the floor of the north end.

Hunters lived in the dining room in 1935 and brought their own beds and bedding and were charged $2.50 per day; much like our members still do today. The breakfasts were monumental: fried eggs, potatoes, pancakes, bacon, sausage, donuts, coffee and pie to top it off – our present day Sunday brunches are somewhat of a tradition from our founding days. Roy Sundeen, one of the first Canada Creek Ranch members in the early days recalls the wonderful meals and abundance of food and the special care taken by Mrs. Monteith to see that the eating was excellent.

A two car garage, tool shed and power house that later became the summer bedroom of the caretaker, were also built. By 1936 the next section containing the entrance hall, bedrooms and back porch were added. A magnificent double fireplace separated the hall from “the porch” and helped heat the rooms, and bring cheer to members and guests. The building was originally 170 x 60 feet and had 38 bedrooms. The bedrooms had hot and cold water and were furnished right down to special shaving articles for men. The entire building sturdily constructed, and fully furnished cost less than $40,000 and accommodated 125 guests. Twenty-eight hundred people, exclusive of cabin owners had registered at the Ranch House by October 1937.

Many people traveled the sand road from Atlanta to the main entrance of the Ranch for the gala opening of the Club House on May 30, 1937. It was exactly 2.1 miles from the Ranch entrance to the Club House and the drive was difficult and not anywhere near as beautiful as it is now. The trees were still thin and scraggly from the lumbering days but the people loved the drive just the same.

Stables were built on Geneva Trail down the hill from the present garage and well stocked with horses. Accommodations for 12 hunting dogs was built into the stables. The Ranch owned 50 boats; they purchased 28, and built the remaining 32 boats. The boats were placed on all the lakes except Saddle Creek. Boats were free to members.

In October 1937, Judy O’Grady, Society columnist for the Detroit News, had two articles describing the wonderful hunting and house party given by Mrs. Monteith of Sherwood Forest and Mrs. Ernest Liebold. It was an English weekend from Thursday afternoon until Tuesday morning. They hunted partridge, rode horseback, played shuffleboard and Auction Bridge. A great costume party on Saturday night was the highlight of the weekend, and in the middle of the party the lighting system went on the blink. The clubhouse had its own system then. On Sunday, a majestic turkey dinner was served. The News was lavish with space and pictures of the ladies in jodhpurs, mounted on their steeds for early morning canters down the trails. In the early days, Detroit society came to the Ranch and the Detroit newspapers duly recorded the doings. In November 1937, a picture of Mrs. Monteith and Miss Dorothy Lawson showed the two women dragging in a bear, shot by Miss Lawson, a noted woman hunter.

On October 30, 1937 the first Halloween Party started the tradition which was carried on until the Cabin Owners’ Jamboree took its place. Dennis Cooper had a two-day house party for a group called the “News’ Hikers No. 11” at the Ranch.

All the rental cabins were full and 46 members had managed to build their cabins by the end of 1937. Ten truck loads of cabbage and rutabagas were scattered along the trails to feed the deer. Hayracks were built in Montague and Virginia swamps. The Ranch was kept open through rabbit season in January, closed in February and opened in March for ice fishing. During the deer season of 1935-1936, “line walkers” (who rode on six of the Ranch horses) camped in the southwest corner of the property. They were paid between $75-100 for the season. The first official season was well pictured in the Detroit News and was a great success with 78 deer and one bear taken.

Mrs. Howard Jenkins recalls the wonderful fishing at Muskellunge Lake and the fine spring in Blind Alley. She said that many lots on Geneva Lake sold for $75 each, and a completely furnished cabin would bring $500.

Mrs. Paul Barnes told how Mr. Huske found the spring at Blind Alley and took an old wash tub out there and piped the water into it so the bear and deer could drink their full. It ran four gallons of water to the hour “as timed by Mr. Huske. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes kept it free of leaves and debris. Then Ken Art took over the work. Bears wallowed in the old tub and it became known as Barnes Spring. There was also a good spring at Homestead near where Hermit Montague lived. These springs can be made to function again today with a little ingenuity and enterprise on the part of the members.

“Monty” was liked by everyone.

CCR Milestones…

  • 1934 – On August 8th the Monteith Land Company contracted to buy the Canada Creek Corporation, 12,460 acres, from Black River Ranch.
    • The agreement was signed on Oct. 22, 1934, for the purpose of developing a private hunting and fishing club.On August 23, 1934, the Canada Creek Ranch Association was Incorporated
  • 1939 - First Annual Meeting help on August 9th in Pontiac.
  • 1947 – After stringing 17 miles of wire, the first telephone was installed at the Ranch House.
    • That same year, the official CCR insignia was designed by Charles C. Fontane, to be placed on members windshields.
  • 1949 – Electricity was installed to CCR cabins.
  • 1952 – CCR formed the first Reforestation Committee.
  • 1954 – The original wooden plank/unpeeled cider pole bridge over Canada Creek was replaced in with a cement and steel bridge named after member Mr. Wilson who engineered the project.
  • 1956 – The US Coast Guard erected a 70’ Geodetic Tower to do a survey, which was later torn down.
  • 1957 – it was decided to eliminate tipping at the Ranch House and include a 10% service charge, which was later raised to 15%. Today there is no tipping charge, members just leave a tip.
  • 1959 – The trailer park was moved to its present site.
    • In the ranch house an oil furnace and heat ducts replaced the coal burner and space heaters in the hallways.
  • 1960 – The Youth Activity Committee was formed with teens as officers. They also ran the Snack Bar where teens could gather, and, anyone who wanted an early evening snack could purchase one.
  • 1962 – A 40’ x 50’ garage was constructed to house ranch vehicles.
  • 1963 – Many improvements were made to the ranch house.
    • Members voted 1,349 to 8 to renew CCR as a non-profit corporation for another 30 years.
  • 1964 – Manager Vern and Hazel Tibbits retired after 19 years.
    • The first elk hunt to minimize further damage to the CCR range was established. Nine permits were issued, all hunters successfully filled all nine permits by the second day.
  • 1965 – New rental cabins were built overlooking Horse Head Lake.
    • Another elk hunt was established, 31 permits were issued, 24 permits were successfully filled;
    • Bill Neumann’s trophy-sized elk mounted still resides over the Ranch House fireplace.
  • 1966 – In September the Ranch’s Royal Oak business office was moved to the current office location that had been added on to the Ranch House to accommodate the move.
  • 1967 – The rifle range moved from its original location to South Gate Road.
    • Member Connie Crossman was retained to write a history of the ranch.
    • The beach outhouses were removed and new cement block bathrooms were built.
  • 1969 – 20 people lived on the Ranch through the winter.
    • The Fire Department bought a used fire truck from Lincoln Park MI.
    • Ranch house dormers were removed and a new roof was put on the Ranch House.
  • 1970 – The Ranch went from a 10-party telephone line down to two party line system.
    • Construction underway to add a basement level recreation room to the Ranch House.
    • First Annual Chicken BBQ was started and held in the trailer park (campground).
  • 1971 – Snow accumulation broke a 100 year record. The accumulation collapsed the garage roof at the Ranch.
    • Main entrance was moved 70 yards south to straighten the approach at M-33.
  • 1972 – Mgr. Bill Morris resigns due to ill health, member Chet Briggs becomes Acting Manager.
    • The purchase of a Fire engine with “fog” spray is authorized.
    • Storage area for trailers completed.
    • James Porritt is selected as our new manager.
  • 1973 – A newly acquired fire engine was received to replace the double-cab engine.
    • Ranch House goes through another phase of major renovation.
    • Boats are banned from Little Joe lake as of June 15 due to a small number of members having excessive catches.
  • 1978 – The Ranch House is finally completed and opened to the members.
  • 1979 – The Gift Shop opened on Sept. 1, 1979 in the newly built ranch house (the present one). Hand-crafted items were sold. Shop is still going strong with a majority of the items purchased from vendors. Founders were Helen and Paul Borke.
  • 1983 – A pavilion was built at the beach; which was eventually torn down and a bathhouse/pavilion was built in its place.
    • A par-3 golf driving range was created in Virginia Park.
  • 1984 - Paul Kriss, Editor of the CCR News, states that it was a bad winter with cold temperatures to –30 degrees in December and –28 degrees in January 1984. Because of the hard winter, the deer feeding program was put into effect the first part of January 1984. Jay Johnson and Dutch smith went to the outback at least three times a week with trailer loads of feed for the deer and elk.
    • Marion Larkin established the first exercise class (for women). The class was held in the large meeting room in the ranch house.
    • Al Neumann retires as CCR Fire Chief. He was instrumental in getting the fire hydrant in front of the ranch house.
    • Paul Kriss, chairman of the ranch’s 50th Year celebration, announced several events for the celebration:  A Memorial Day picnic which was held May 27, about 280 people attended. A dinner dance in July where 83 members attended. A beach picnic which was held on August 23 to celebrate the actual date of the beginning of CCR: August 23, 1934. A drawing was held for the #0050 CCR 50th anniversary stein won by Barbara Steele and a #0050 CCR 50th Anniversary vase won by Dorothy Lengemann. This picnic closed out the scheduled events for the 50th anniversary celebration.
    • Ron and Thelma Marchand presented the ranch with a beautiful carving, hand carved from cypress wood, as their contribution to the 50th anniversary celebration. It has many of the ranches recreational and sporting activities plus the State flower, bird, tree and fish. It now hangs in the lobby stairwell.
    • On June 2nd, President Dick Perry, planted 18 Michigan spruce trees at the main entrance to the ranch.
  • 1985 - CCR’s first computer arrives. Primary function will be a membership information file.
    • A dock and boat ramp were installed at Tibbits Landing.
    • CCR News editor, Paul Kriss, will resign after the October issue.
  • 1986 - Heavy snow and cold over the winter 1985-86 made it necessary to increase the deer and turkey feeding program.
    • Paul Kriss remained on as editor of the CCR News because “no one wants the job”.
  • 1987 - Natural gas first being discussed as an alternate fuel supply to CCR.
    • CCR area was added to one of the 1987 turkey huntign zones in Michigan.  This is the first time it's ok to hunt turkeys on CCR property.
    • Sunday, April 26, a large forest fire started at the SW corner of CCR near Clear Lake Road.  It burned up approximately 220 acres of which 80 acres were on CCR property.
  • 1988 - Manager Jim Porritt handed in his legger of resignation to be effection May 31, 1989 after starting on December 1, 1972.
  • 1989 - Ken Cramer was introduced as the new Ranch Manager effective April 24, 1989.  Ken, his wife Tammy and family moved into the new manager's home on Wildfowl Lake.
    • Cable Television arrives at CCR in June.
  • 1990 - Snowmobile Committee estableished.
    • Memorial fund established for d├ęcor inside the ranch house and landscaping outside or any other purpose approved by the Board of Directors. The Women’s Auxiliary is responsible for the collection of the money.
    • Vote to re-organize CCR from Profit to Non-profit passed with 1318 For, 83 Against
    • Dues increase from $88 to $110 failed by 77 votes. Many members then donated $22 to cover short-fall. Many services were cut.
    • CCR joins the Adopt-A-Highway Clean-up Program by adopting 2 miles of M-33 from the Presque Isle-Montmorency County County line south to the Red Mail Box Road.
  • 1991 - Room rates $35/day for members, $50/day for non-members; Cabins $40/day members, $60/day non-members; Trailer Park $5/day members, $10, day non-members.
    • Snowmobile bridge built in lowlands between trailer park and main entrance to eliminate using main road.
    • Flag pole and flag at main entrance donated by members Larry and Doretta Wecker.