Native American Trails and Roads at Lake Evergreen

by Richard and Jan Peter


It all started in January of 2000 when wishing Clarissa Hunt Graham a happy 98th birthday. Clarissa was in a happy mood and began talking about her childhood days on the farm. As we sat at the lunch table in Caro, Michigan that cool winter day she told us about her early life experiences and her feeling about the many new inventions that had affected her life of 98 years. We talked about the steam engine, roads, Native Americans, the advent of electricity, the arrival of the automobile and the family farm. The farm she talked about is located just to the north of Lake Evergreen Estates. Lake Evergreen Estates is a housing development around a small lake in a rural area. It is about equal distance from Caro, Kingston and Mayville, Michigan. The barn and the stone house and the apple orchard are still standing. The home, barn and apple orchard are now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Tim Loney. As a child she walked and played on the land that is now part of Lake Evergreen. She also remembers walking through the woods to the farm house and barn that once stood on Murray Road that is part of Lake Evergreen Estates.

She talked about the Native Americans roaming this land. One exciting experience she remembers as a child happened in about 1910 when she was 8 to 10 years old. The excitement was buying a basket made from green ash and grape vines from the Native Americans with her parents. Clarissa said, " The Native Americans were camped right on the hill just to the south and a little east of our home. Dad must have seen them in the woods as he was working the farm. I got the impression from Dad that they were there often but they just seemed to come and go at random times. It is now your land where the mature trees make a canopy". Apparently I never told her most of the land has new owners. She said, "Animal skins or a blanket lay on the ground with 3 or 4 Indians weaving the baskets right out in an opening in the woods. We walked through the woods just a short distance to where we
could see the Indians sitting. Then I could see them making the baskets. Dad asked me if I wanted a basket and I said O yes. Dad talked to the Indians for a while and then I had my basket. I do not know how he paid for it."

Clarissa was unable to remember exactly the method used to pay the Indians. Native Americans often bartered for goods for they had no use for money. Knives, pans, mirrors, salt or shelled corn were often exchanged for furs and hand-crafted items. It would have been interesting if Clarissa could remember more of the details of the transaction but I am glad she could remember what she did. Ninety years is a long time to remember anything. It is likely the location of the camp had been used for many years for making baskets. Basket making required grape vines and green ash and both are plentiful today in this area.

Clarissa was not aware of any Indian trails in this area. From other research we know the Indians had trails that appeared to have been used for many years. One of the trails that was well used must have been very near the north and west edge of Lake Evergreen. We know from the notes of surveyors in 1834 and 1835 that the Indians had many trails along the ridges in this area. It appears that one of trails went from Shay Lake to Harmon Lake. This trail passed along the ridge on the North and West side of what is now Lake Evergreen.

We have stories of Native Americans camps in southeastern Tuscola County. We also have stories of local people trading goods with Native Americans and acts of kindness from both groups. Some of the lands at Lake Evergreen have never been plowed which qualifies them to be called virgin soils. When one puts these two facts together, it is quite likely that these lands may have artifacts laying on or near the surface right were the natives left them. Happy Hunting.

Clarrissa also talked about Lee Hill and Murray Roads in the early days. Today these roads are typical secondary hard surface roads. She said "These roads were non-useable to the horse and buggy much of the year. Walking on them was no fun. The mud, ruts, brush, swamps and water made travel difficult and slow. The water in the spring and fall and the snow in the winter took it's toll. As a child she remembers the best road to Caro was Lee Hill Road to East Dayton Road into Caro a distance of about nine miles. This route would be generally level and wooded with two creeks to cross. On one trip to Caro she remembers her father stopping to talk with Indian Dave.

Indian Dave was a popular Indian in the Caro area. Another possible route to Caro would be to take M46 or the rainbow trail west about three miles then north into Caro. This route had a good size swamp to cross. The swamp west of Cat Lake Road on what is now called M-46 was dangerously passable in the summer only. The method used to fortify the roads consisted of laying logs crosswise of the roadway. In that area the logs used to hold the weight of the horses and wagons often moved or slipped allowing the animal or buggy to slip into the unstable soils. The term use by Clarissa was the horses or the carriage would fall off the road and horses would be lost and people hurt.

Using the word lost meant the horses would injure themselves and have to be shot. Rainbow Trail, now known as M46, to Kingston was also bad near Plain Road making the sand trail or Bevens Road three miles north, the trail of choice. Using Bevens road added six miles to the trip each way. The general path of M 46 was known as the Rainbow Trail. It was named this, by the Indians, for it stretched from lake to lake, Lake Michigan to Lake

Richard and Janet Peter

HTML by Ed Van Horn


December 2000

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