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Saugatuck Beechwoods Family Tree

A Brief History of Beechwoods

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A Brief History of Beechwoods
Vincent Beckman Family
-- Vince III (Bub)
-- Peter
-- Chris
-- Ed
-- Betsey
-- Julie
Paul Beckman Family
-- Mary Kay
-- Paul Jr. (Chip)
Leverone Family
-- Anne
-- Jean
-- Jack
-- Jil
-- Sue
Fathers Jack and Bob

How we all got here...

Betsey was gracious enough to compile the following history -- it's a good read -- enjoy and many thanks to Betsey!! 

 

Beechwoods Family History

 

Here are some stories gleaned from Vin and Jack after Mass this summer while reminiscing about the olden days in Michigan!  (So as not to confuse anybody, I’ll refer to Dad and U.J. as “Vin and Jack” in this letter to keep things straight.)  The bulk of this conversation comes from June 20, 2006.  I have also discovered notes from a similar conversation that Leslie had with Vin and Bob last summer (2005), so I’ll weave those stories in, too.  (Thanks, Leslie!) Finally, I’ll include some stories at the end that come from Julie O’Donnell, (our second cousin), whom Dad and I had a nice conversation with this week.

 

The Beckmans began coming up to Michigan in the summer of 1922, when Vin was six years old.  That year, they stayed at their Uncle Joe Hummel’s Cottage down the road, which was then called “Buckeye Lodge.”  Vin and Jack seem to remember that Uncle Joe and his wife (nee Julia Davis) were going to Europe that summer, and so the cottage was free.  Aunt Ada went along, too.  The Beckmans loved being up in Michigan so much, that they wanted to come back!  The next summer, however, they stayed home because Uncle Bob was born (on 6-26-23.)  After that, they came back and rented the Corner Houser for a summer.  Meanwhile, their Dad (Paw-Paw to most of us, but I’ll refer to him as “Vint” after this) decided to find some property of their own to buy.  They were very interested in both the Cobblestones Cottage as well as Beechwoods, but at that time, the Beechwoods property was held in trust by the Grand Rapids Trust Company.  It was held in trust for a woman who was either the daughter or wife of a minister (and later, the Beckmans remember finding various of her religious books still on the Beechwoods shelves.)  They think that the owner may have been named Warnick, as the woods behind is still called.

Anyway, Beechwoods was being leased in three year increments to another family who seemed quite attached to the place.  But when Vint contacted the Grand Rapids Trust Company, they said that the other family would need to renew their lease by March 1st.  Well, that date came and went, and there was no renewal, so the Grand Rapids Trust Company agreed to lease the property to the Beckmans.  Later it turned out that the other family had been in Europe, and so had not received the notices about needing to renew their lease.  Apparently, they were upset not to be able to come back to Beechwoods, but the new lease agreement had already been signed and a whole new family tradition had been set into motion!

 

So, the Beckmans took up summer residence at Beechwoods.  After leasing it from the Trust Company for about six years, Vint eventually purchased Beechwoods and the nearby property (which extended to the current Cobblestones cottage).  He paid $38,000 to the Grand Rapids Trust Company in order to acquire the house and property.

 

Vin and Jack remember that there was originally a tennis court on the property, somewhere behind where the Argonaut Cottage now stands.  Neither of them remember what happened to that!  They also said that for a number of years, they had a cornfield in back!  They thought that Vint had someone else plant the corn, but they helped to tend and harvest the corn.  Jack said, “I think Dad was just an old farmer at heart!”

 

Apparently, one of Vint’s favorite pastimes was walking in the woods.  He would often take them walking through Shorewood, Camp Grey and Baldy.  It’s nice to know where our family traditions started!

 

Vin and Jack also recalled that in the early days, there was no garbage pick-up, so that the boys always had the job of going out back to bury the garbage.  They never went back further than the drainage ditch to do the job.  They also remember that in the beginning, there was no electric refrigerator at Beechwoods.  Instead, ice was delivered by the Morgan Ice Company, which was owned by the Morgans, who lived in the house next to McVeigh’s Grocery (which was also a substation of the Post Office) down the road.  The Morgans would chip off huge blocks of ice from Lake Michigan during the winter and store it in sawdust in a barn.  Then, they would deliver ice to all the summer residents to keep them cool in the heat of summer!  The old ice box was kept on the back porch of Beechwoods.

 

There also used to be a big red barn in the back that served as a garage.  At one point, Vint sold the Little House to the Becker family and the two families shared the garage.  There were two sections of the Red Barn, a higher section with a wood floor, which was where the the Beckmans parked, and a lower section with a dirt floor which was where the Beckers parked.  Any of you who are kids of Vin know that in his teenage years, he and Paul sure had some fun out in that barn!  Apparently it was a great place to play poker after his parents had gone to bed.  Their parents just wondered why the car battery was dead the next morning!

 

Another nice feature of the Backyard was the huge treehouse which Jack and Vin both remember fondly.  As for the front yard, all the boys had to use a sickle to cut the grass and weeds down on the property before they could “play” (which meant - play baseball).  You can imagine how high the grass had grown by the time they arrived for summer vacation!

 

As for baseball, Dad said that in the years when the beach was big, there was always a 3:00 baseball game for the Lakeshore kids down near the public beach.  Then for a few years, all the Beckman kids were on the official Douglas Baseball Team.  Vin played left field while Paul was the pitcher.  Jack was the catcher.  Bob recalled he started being the scorekeeper at age 8, and this past summer (2005), Bob found his original scorebook in a drawer inside Beechwoods.  Vin will always be teased for the time he made the game start late, because when he looked around, Betty hadn’t arrived yet, so he figured she hadn’t gotten a ride, and he better go pick her up.  She was one of their best fans!

 

However, as you may know, Vin was not the first of the Beckmans to date Betty.  Jack dated her for several years first!  Jack reports that he and Betty were the same age; however, since Betty started first grade early, she was a year ahead of him in school.  They enjoyed dating during high school, but once Betty went off to college, she was not so interested in “younger men.”  That’s when she turned her attention to Vinny!  Hence, Vin earned the title of “Brother Rat”. 

 

Jack also reported that when Vin went off to Harvard for Law School, he counseled Jack to be sure to spend a lot of time socializing up in Douglas, because “you never know when you might meet your spouse!”  Uncle Bob seemed to enjoy dating also, and his girlfriend was Jane Porter.  I guess nothing ever came of that!

 

Now, at Beechwoods, here’s what the family sleeping arrangements were:

View Living Room - had two beds where Vin, Paul and Jack slept.

Little Bedroom at Top of Stairs – Uncle Bob’s bedroom

Left Bedroom at Top of Stairs – Mimi and PawPaw’s Bedroom (Vint & Irene)

Pink Bedroom at Front of house – Irene’s Bedroom

Back Room Upstairs – Maid’s Room

Downstairs Bedroom – “Aunt Ada’s Bedroom”

 

Vin and Jack speculate that originally, the Alcove was the kitchen for the house, and that its wall was an outside wall.  At that point, to access the upstairs, there was an outdoor staircase.  Apparently, if you look behind the curtains in the current hallway, you can see the brick which used to be the outside of the building.

 

When the Beckmans were kids, they were friends with the folks who owned the big farm down the way.  This was the Taylor Farm which abutted the Corner House property and extended southward.  They knew the children and played often on the farm.  The Taylor farm was run by Henry Yaeger and then by his son, Andy Jaeger.  There were two homes on the property.  One home was where the Yaegers lived - at the site of the “red house” which is currently near Mrs. Timm’s home.  Vin thought that perhaps the widowed wife of Andy may still be living there.

 

The second home on the farm was at the site of Jack and Leslie’s current house, Lake Ridge. This was Mr. Taylor’s home.  Mr. Taylor owned the Yaeger farm which operated as an orchard with a huge windmill on it.  The Beckman kids would go down and visit Henry while he milked the cows, and Henry would squirt them with milk.  Milk would also be delivered to Beechwoods as well.  There was also a big silo, which would be filled with cornhusks for cow fodder.  The kids would be invited to help pack down the husks as they were being loaded from the top. They remember how much fun it was to be in there jumping up and down while the corn husks fell down on their heads!

 

A few other things they remembered: often big boats would pass in front of Beechwoods traveling between Chicago and Saugatuck or Holland.  They remembered that Kingsley owned the golf course and that the people who owned Cobblestones also owned the Pavilion in Saugatuck. The old Minister’s Cottage is now Bub and Carmen’s.  Also, Buttons used to be the old gas station and for a while Vint wanted to buy that because he thought it would be a good thing for the boys to have jobs pumping gas in the summer!

 

Now, a bit of history about the Hummels down the road.  As was mentioned earlier, “Mimi”(Irene Hummel) had an older brother, Joe, who owned Buckeye Lodge down the lakeshore.  Uncle Joe was a fairly successful businessman.  Apparently, there was a time when Vint had financial problems during the depression and borrowed money from his brother-in-law, Joe.  Anyway, Joe married Julia Davis who went to Brown County for school.  Dad speculates that Julia probably met some girls at Brown County who were from St. Louis and who regularly summered in Douglas, and so she had a desire to go to Michigan, too.

 

When Vin and Paul were young, they used to caddy for the golf games between their Uncle Joe, Vint and one of the Von Brechts..  They sometimes played at the Glenn golf course, which was just nine holes.  They would bring their lunch, play nine holes, stop to eat, and then play the same nine holes a second time. (They also had a family membership to West Shore which cost $65 for the whole family for the whole summer!)

 

Anyway, Uncle Joe and Aunt Julia had two daughters whose names were Mary Julia and Gertrude Hummel, (which, would make them first cousins to Vin, Paul, Irene, Jack and Bob.)  Bob remembered that Mary Julia is Jack’s godmother.  Mary Julia went to school in Washington D.C. at Trinity College where Aunt Alma (or Sr. Mary Louis - pronounced “Louey”) was the president. That’s where Mary Julia met her husband whose last name was Wagner.   Cousin Mary Julia Wagner and her husband ended up having a son named Jerry, who is our parents'  “first cousin once removed.”  (That would make Jerry our second cousin.)  Jerry eventually built his own house on the back part of the Hummel property, where he still vacations.  His wife, Marianne died a few years ago. 

 

The second daughter, Cousin Gertrude, first married Karl Rohs who was from Kentucky.  They had three kids, the first named Julie (born somewhere about 1940.)  Then, when Julie was six, her father, Karl died.  Not long after, Gert ended up marrying her high school summer sweetheart, Chick Von Brecht, who was from St. Louis.  (Another match made in Douglas between Cincinnati and St. Louis!)  So, Gertrude Rohs eventually became Gert Von Brecht and she moved to St. Louis.  There she had a fourth child. 

 

So, Cousin Gertrude had four kids all together, three from the first marriage and a son from the second marriage.  Her first daughter, Julie, married Bill O'Donnell who was also from St. Louis.  Bill is 14 years older than Julie, and coincidentally, Bill also played on the Douglas Baseball team with the Beckman boys!  However, Jack said he only played “second string” – left field when Vin wasn’t there! 

 

Anyway, Julie is our second cousin (the generation of Bub, Mary Kay, Anne, etc.)  Julie and Bill are the parents of Chris O’Donnell, the Hollywood movie star, so that makes our kids’ generation (Veronica, Tracey, Emma, Franny, etc.) third cousins to Chris O’Donnell!   Julie and Bill O’Donnell have recently (2005) built the house just to the north of Beechwoods, so we have renewed our acquaintances with our cousins! 

 

Now as for the O’Donnells, Bill had an older sister named Betty who was good friends with Irene.  They also had a sister named Ginny who dated either Paul or Vin, we’re not sure which!  Bill met Julie up in Michigan, and five days later they got engaged; three months later they got married!  (Bill said we shouldn’t tell that story to our kids.)  They have seven kids, and Chris is one of the younger ones.  Three of their kids live in California, and the other three, I think, live in Chicago. 

 

Julie and her sister, Jeannie have built a third cottage down on the old Hummel property, which is the house to the north, known as the VonBrecht’s.  The one to the south is the original Buckeye Lodge and the third is Jerry’s which is behind.  Julie says as a child, the Beckman’s “Uncle Joe” was her grandfather, and they called him “Papa Hummel.”  At that time, since they didn’t  have a good view of the sunset from their house, their family used to come down to Beechwoods to watch the sunset.  She remembers playing with Irene in the Beechwoods yard.

 

Well, I guess that’s it for now!  Maybe we can get some more stories this summer at Ronnie’s wedding and add them on to the history of Beechwoods!  I’m sure there are a lot more stories to tell!

 

Well, I guess that’s it for now!  Maybe we can get some more stories this summer at Ronnie’s wedding and add them on to the history of Beechwoods!  I’m sure there are a lot more stories to tell!

beechwoodskitchen.jpg

 

 

Please send any information updates to me at: beechwoods@gmail.com