Torch Lake History
By Anne Stanton
Torch Lake is known for its beauty, as well as its summer flotilla of floating parties thanks to an endless sand bar. The vast emerald blue lake is reputed to be the inspiration for Kid Rocks hit song, All Summer Long.
But, ever wonder how Torch Lake got its name?
The early settlers in the area saw Native American Indians waving birch bark torches along the shoreline in order to attract fish for supper.
Youll find that fact along with all kinds of history about the Torch Lake area in Torch Lake, The History of Was-Wah-Go-Ning, a 436-page book with stories that trace the lakes evolution from a frozen tundra to a resort that inspires rock song lyrics of catching walleye off a dock and watching waves roll off the rock. The book, priced at $60, features no less than 673 maps, drawings and photographs.
The book reflects the combined efforts of Mary Kay and Edward McDuffie, a wife and husband team. Ed (known as Eb to his close friends) focused on the areas ancient history, glaciers and maps, while Mary Kay compiled the more recent information and wrote most of the text.
Its interesting topography. Once youre aware of it, youll find yourself looking at the lake in a different way, Ed said. The glaciers, for example, left ancient beaches at different heights, and the cottages are built on one or more of these ancient shorelines.
The book is the product of pure determination on the part of Mary Kay, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrigs disease four years ago, and went onto finish the project despite the added handicap of having to rely on a voice synthesizer and tube feeding. But she never gave up.
Shed been in the middle of writing it when she was diagnosed with ALS and she continued writing it for three years, Ed said. She was still going after it, up to the point, where we said, we need to finish it.
Jeanne Hannah, who designed the books website, said this book was the miracle that gave Mary Kay daily purpose and inner strength.
This is a book filled to the brim with photographs and history that have nothing to do with illness and everything to do with the unique beauty, ecology, geology and history of Torch Lake. I can only imagine how it felt for Mary Kay to hold the published book in her hands a few weeks ago. She has given us a gift that will last forever.
Said Mary Kay through a voice synthesizer: Writing it was out of love for the lake.
After the text was mostly finished in 2008, Mary Kay and Ed had to work with the book designer, Margaret Wagner for the next year. There were a lot of things we had to change or amend, Ed said.
The book covers the history of Torch Lake from the retreat of the last glacier 10,000 years ago to the end of World War II. Ed said the book offers the most comprehensive history of Torch Lake ever published. Yet the work to research the book was actually a lot of fun for the most part.
I remember once, we went to a house across the lake from us. We went to the door and told them what we wanted, he said. Wed been to church so we were reasonably dressed up. Anyway, they didnt want to let us in because they thought we were Jehovahs Witnesses. But once we were there, we stayed for three or four hours. They let me take their photo albums home, and I was up all night scanning them because I told them Id return them the next day. It was really neat, and then they steered us to other people.
Ed said that as a boy, he lived in Cincinnati, but spent every summer on Torch Lake. Only once did we miss it and it was World War II. We didnt have enough gas. He met and married Mary Kay Unger, whose father owned a lumberyard in Bellaire. Ed said his wife began writing the book after taking a Michigan history class in the early 60s at an MSU extension course offered through Northern Central Michigan College.
She knew a lot about the area. We had a lot of relatives that were part of the history; one thing led to another, and she decided to write this book.
Over a span of 20 years, Mary Kay compiled and wrote the text. Although her health condition has deteriorated in the last month, she was able to see the book in printed form, Ed said.
Its been a long process, but it was my aim to get it into Mary Kays hands while she was still here because its been her lifes work. And we made it, he said.
To order Torch Lake, go to torchlake-history.com.