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Several generations of Michiganders--as well as those from throughout the United States and around the world--have formed fond memories of Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling in Northern Michigan. Since the park was dedicated in 1935, millions of people have marveled at the towering pines. Many articles explain the history of the park and why the old-growth forest was spared from the lumberjack's saw, but there is far less written about the people who made the park a reality.

Most visitors to Hartwick Pines surmise that someone with the name of Hartwick must have had something to do with the creation of the state park. Some might even be able to explain that it's named after Edward Hartwick. While it is true that Edward gave his name to this park--originally called the Edward E. Hartwick Pines Park--it was actually his wife, Karen Hartwick, who gave the land to the state of Michigan. Seeking to honor her late husband, Karen purchased the 8,236 acres of land for $50,000--roughly $690,000 today--and subsequently donated it to the state of Michigan in 1927. Why did Karen choose this particular place as a memorial to her husband, and what were her expectations for such an expansive park?

A Pursuit for Preservation

The original deed for the land that would become Hartwick Pines shows that Karen Hartwick had several requisites for the property. She expected the Department of Conservation, now the Department of Natural Resources, to properly protect the timber on the premises, including an 86-acre stand of old-growth pine, and stipulated that the land only be used for park and conservation purposes. That is why, today, no harvesting of timber or removal of dead trees occurs within the park.

It is extremely interesting that Karen encouraged the protection of timber when she was the daughter of Nels Michelson, a lumberman and part owner of the Sailing Hanson Company, which owned and logged the land that eventually became Hartwick Pines State Park. In fact, Karen worked for the company as a secretary for a short time before her marriage to Edward, and both her father and husband made the bulk of their fortunes from the timber industry.

However, according to Genevieve Gillette--an early Michigan conservationist, a proponent of Michigan State Parks, and an acquaintance of Karen Hartwick--Edward spoke frequendy with his father-in-law on the merits of preserving the few remaining large pines in Northern Michigan. Those discussions and her husband's conservationist leanings were surely a driving force behind Karen's choice of creating a memorial at Hartwick Pines rather than establishing a building, statue, or small park elsewhere.

Genevieve Gillette's reminiscences shed even more light on how Karen acquired the land. The two women became acquainted through a mutual friend, Lucy Mason, who was from Grayling and, according to Gillette, was a childhood friend of Karen's. After hearing Karen's qualms about donating land to the state of Michigan, Mason suggested that she meet with Gillette, who was very involved in conservation work and knew important people in the Michigan Department of Conservation, such as Superintendent of State Parks, and future Director, P.J. Hoffmaster.

Karen was concerned the state might cut the large timber or install a sawmill there, but Genevieve reassured her that the state would not do those things, "especially if it was well-written into a deed." A meeting between Karen and Superintendent Hoffmaster went well, and on October 3,1927, Karen Hartwick deeded 8,236 acres, formerly belonging to the Sailing Hanson Company, to the state of Michigan.

Creating Hartwick Pines

Beyond the protection of timber on the property, Karen Hartwick added two other stipulations into the deed. She first required that the state of Michigan "shall cause to be constructed a roadway running from State Trunk Line M-27 to said property." Indeed, the state did build M-93 from State Trunk Line M-27--known today as Old 27--to the park. The motivations behind that particular clause are obvious. Without easy means of transportation to the land, no one would take advantage of visiting it.

Karen also required that the state "erect and maintain a memorial building on said premises in memory of Edward E. Hartwick and the lumbering industry." In the 1930s, the state completed that task with the help of the on-site Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp. The memorial building also served as the main welcome center for Hartwick Pines State Park until 1994, when a new visitor center opened.

Meanwhile, a separate logging museum was also constructed by the CCC. While Karen initially wanted lumbering incorporated into the memorial building, it is possible that P.J. Hoffmaster was behind the construction of a separate logging museum at the park. According to Genevieve Gillette, Superintendent Hoffmaster suggested that "maybe they could even build a kind of logging camp...and have some big wheels there like they used to carry the trees on." Indeed, the logging museum at Hartwick Pines emulates a small, historical logging camp, complete with a set of big wheels.

But why dedicate a museum to the industry that decimated the very trees the park seeks to preserve? Surely a combination of factors led to that decision. The museum is a reminder to all visitors that that kind of indiscriminate cutting must never happen again. It is also a shrine to the industry that catapulted Michigan onto a national stage long before the automobile industry. After all, it was Michigan lumber that rebuilt Chicago after the great fire of 1871, helped build the transcontinental railroad, and deposited $4 billion into Michigan coffers between 1850 and 1910. Karen's own personal experiences and familial history also drove that particular clause.

A Life in Grayling

As previously mentioned, Karen's father, Nels Michelson, became very successful in the logging industry. Born in Denmark in 1840, Michelson suffered several unfortunate experiences prior to immigrating to the United States. At the age of 15, he was bound out to a farmer for three years, earning only $25 during that entire time. He then fought with the Danish army in the war between Denmark and Prussia, was captured during the Battie of Dybbol in 1864, and remained a prisoner of war for two years.

In 1866, Michelson boarded a ship bound for America to join his brothers in Racine, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, his voyage was not without incident. Cholera broke out onboard the ship, and 200 passengers died of the disease. Thankfully, Michelson did not contract it, but the ship was quarantined in New York Harbor for two months. Because he was required to pay for his own meals while trapped onboard, Michelson was penniless by the time he reached his brothers in Racine.

Despite those early struggles, Michelson went on to achieve great wealth and notoriety. Within months of arriving in Wisconsin, he relocated to Manistee, Michigan, and began working in the logging trade. He quickly gained experience, saved money, and moved up in the industry, joining forces with Rasmus Hanson and Ernst Sailing to form the Sailing Hanson Company in Grayling, Michigan. By 1895, the company had cut nearly 60,000 acres of forest in Northern Michigan and owned more than 50,000 acres of standing timber, roughly 8,000 of which were located where Hartwick Pines stands today. Though not everyone achieved great wealth in the logging industry, with a great deal of hard work and a little luck, Nels attained the American dream that so many were searching for.

Growing up in Grayling, Karen watched her father and his partners achieve success and wealth, admittedly at the expense of some of Northern Michigan's forests. Such an upbringing undoubtedly engrained in Karen the importance and impact--both positive and negative--of the logging industry. Her life in Grayling left other indelible marks, as well, for it is while attending Grayling High School that Karen met her future husband, Edward Hartwick.

From Military Officer to Lumberman--and Back Agaii

After graduating high school, Karen attended Oberlin College and Edward enrolled at West Point. Edward graduated in 1893 and was made a second lieutenant in the 9th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army, commanding the famed African American "buffalo soldiers." According to one source, "Throughout his six years with the 9th, Lieutenant Hartwick was always proud of his men and was equally well-liked by them. Such a command was not the easiest, in fact it was one of the hardest, and it is a tribute to the personality and leadership of the lieutenant that he was successful" in leading his men. After gaining praise during the Spanish-American War, Edward returned home to Grayling and married Karen in 1898. Shortly thereafter, he resigned from the army and began his career in the logging industry.

Edward first went into business with his father-in-law and formed the Hartwick, Michelson Lumber Company. In 1901, he moved to Jackson, Michigan, "where he assisted in the organization of the Hartwick-Woodfield Company, wholesale and retail dealers in lumber, millwork and fuel, also planing mill and dry kiln work." All reports paint him as a strict yet amiable employer, and Edward enjoyed great success in the industry.

However, when the United States entered the First World War in April 1917, Edward "experienced an overpowering call to the colors." He joined the U.S. Army and was commissioned a major in the Officers' Reserve Corps of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with whom he would put his knowledge of lumbering to good use. The need for forestry and logging personnel was great and is emphasized by the fact "that one French Army Corps utilized 30,000 trees in one day alone." It is easy to see how Edward's skill--both at leading men and in logging--would come in handy to direct those constructing "dugouts, trenches, barracks, hospitals, roads, walks, camouflage screens, bridges, etc."

Edward reported to Camp American University near Washington, D.C., while Karen and their two sons, Nelson and Robert, settled in a home nearby to remain close before he went overseas. Edward departed for France on November 12,1917. Unfortunately, his time in France was cut short when he died of cerebral spinal meningitis on March 31,1918, at the age of 48.

A Legacy Worth Memorializing

After his death, Edward Hartwick was mourned not only by his family but also by the soldiers under his command who viewed him as a father. There were dozens of articles and letters written about Edward after his death. Perhaps the words of Private M.F. Malone best sum up everyone's feelings toward Major Hartwick: "I consider it not only an honor, but a revelation, to have been associated with and commanded by a man of his character and ability. He was never-tiring in his labors, never-weakening in his undertakings, and always looking out for the welfare of his men."

Edward's abilities and character in the Army were only overshadowed by his abilities and character as a husband and father. The letters to his wife and children overflow with heartfelt anecdotes, well wishes, and plans for future tours of Paris and the French countryside as a family. The love Edward shared with Karen and their children is obvious and palpable in every letter. The last letter he wrote to Karen is full of everyday family nuances. Edward mentions that Robert is making great improvements in his letter writing and complains about the lack of sugar and white flour in France. He thanks Nelson for the gift of Victrola records--presumably a Christmas gift--and encourages Robert to keep trying hard with his dancing lessons and not to get discouraged. Edward wrote, "Just remember when little discouragements come that when you tackle the job the next time you are going to do it better...I hope you will know all of the new dancing steps, so when I get home you and Mother can teach them to me." Those last letters, full of fatherly advice and trivial complaints shared between friends, are made all the more touching by knowing they contained Edward's last words to his beloved family.

It is easy to see why Karen Hartwick wanted to commemorate her husband in a substantial way. The extraordinary man and military officer deserved a splendid memorial. Karen survived to see Hartwick Pines State Park, the living memorial to her husband, take shape. She attended the park's dedication in 1935 and later witnessed the logging museum, the memorial building, and M-93 come to fruition. Unfortunately, she was also alive to hear about the Armistice Day storm of 1940 that knocked down 37 acres of the old-growth forest. Karen passed away in 1950 at the age of 78.

It is impossible to discern precisely what Karen Hartwick imagined her donation would look like 90 years after deeding her property to the state of Michigan, but it certainly seems that the Hartwick Pines State Park of today lives up to her expectations. Every year, tens of thousands of visitors enjoy the park, replete with its logging museum, old-growth forest, campground, trails, and lakes. Her substantial donation preserves Edward Hartwick's legacy--and no gift could better honor a soldier, husband, lumberman, and Michigander.

Construction of the memorial building at Hartwick Pines State Park began in 1929 and was completed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It served as the park's visitor center until a new building was constructed in the mid-1990s and housed exhibits, restrooms, and a book store. Visitors were welcomed into the structure by a vaulted ceiling and a dominating stone fireplace. Because the Michigan History Center and the Parks and Recreation Department of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recognize the importance of this historic structure, the DNR continues to work on stabilizing and restoring the memorial building with the aim of reopening it in the coming years.

by Hillary Pine

Hillary Pine is the Northern Lower Peninsula Historian with the Michigan History Center, a division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She oversees the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum, the Higgins Lake Nursery & CCC Museum, and the Tawas Point Lighthouse.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Guettarda.)

Caption: Visitors to Hartwick Pines surround a historic pine. (All photos courtesy of the Archives of Michigan, unless otherwise noted.)

Caption: Old-growth pines can still be seen at Hartwick Pines State Park. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Feldbush.)

Caption: Several of the displays found at the logging museum at Hartwick Pines. (Photos courtesy of Nancy Feldbush.)

Caption: Above: The Hartwick/Michelson family photographed in the early 1900s. Edward and Karen Hartwick and Karen's father, Nels Michelson, stand behind Edward and Karen's sons, Nelson and Robert. Right: Major Edward Hartwick in his military uniform, c. 1917.

Caption: The interior of the historical Memorial Building at Hartwick Pines. A wartime portrait of Major Hartwick hangs above the fireplace.

Caption: The Memorial Building at Hartwick Pines as it appeared in the early twentieth century, above, and as it looks now, below. (Both photos below courtesy of the author.)

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Title Annotation:Edward E. Hartwick and the Hartwick Pines State Park
Author:Pine, Hillary
Publication:Michigan History Magazine
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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