Lake Linden Our Community Tour: A history lesson on the village

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LAKE LINDEN, Mich. (WJMN) – Located on the shores of Torch Lake in the Copper Country lies the Village of Lake Linden. Population: 1,007 now, the town grew around the smelting and shipping of ore during the copper mining boom at the turn of the 20th century. There is so much history prior to that into today.

“Back after the fire they had an ordinance pass that said all the buildings were suppose to be made out of brick and no longer wood,” said Lake Linden Gerald Perreault. “Because that wood back then, it was just like kindling. 2/3 of the town actually burned down.

Perreault took Local 3’s Rebecca Bartelme on tour of the village with his wealth of knowledge on the place he calls home. He’s taking about the fire of 1887.

“There’s a lot of rumors about that but it started on one of the buildings on that end of town,” said Perreault. “It had apartments in that in there and they think it might have been spontaneous combustion but they’re not sure. But the problem was back then, you’re talking about the 1880’s and they didn’t have the fire equipment like they have nowadays.”

After that, the community had to rebuild.

On the tour, Perreault had us visit some historical spots in town like the Village Hall.

“They had another building that they used temporarily and then they had this one built around the turn of the century and it serves of course even today as the village office building,” said Perreault. “They have a clerk’s office inside, police officers building inside. Upstairs is kinda like a ballroom where you can have a pretty good size crowd. In the 1950’s and 60’s the kids use to have a teen center upstairs where they have dances on weekends, things like that. And the other thing too in addition to using it as the village offices and that sort of thing. On the side, the original building you can still see the doors, that’s the fire hall. That’s where all the fire trucks are stored here in town so they’re in the process of getting funding for a new fire hall which is going to be built behind this one here.”

In front of the building rests a monument Local 3 News told you about back in November for the Veteran’s special, the propeller of the Lady Be Good.

“The story is not nice,” said Perreault. “It’s a real tragedy, unfortunately. Cause all of those guys went through the desert, the Sahara Desert. 100 degrees, 110, 120 degrees. So they tried literally walking from there almost 100 miles through the desert back up to where the base was in Libya and none of them made it.

One of those men was Lake Linden’s very own Robert LaMotte.

Next Perreault tells us about a popular restaurant in the town, Lindell Chocolate Shoppe.

“Believe it or not, was part of a brewery we had in town and later became known as the Joseph Bush Brewery. [He] was a German that came over and started a brewery here in Lake Linden and of course this building was one of the main buildings two blocks further up a bottling plant and after that of course it got purchased by the gentleman that turned it into a restaurant and then for years, this was one of the places that  if you’re a kid this is one of the places where you would hangout, you know come down and get a coke and some French fries or whatever you know hamburger and French fries whatever so then later it’s been sold three different times. The Gekas family, they actually owned it 25, 30 years. So when they ran it as a restaurant, they made their own ice cream and everything. It was kind of a unique name. The booths inside look just like they did originally in the 1930’s.”

Another historic spot we looked at in the town is St. Joseph Catholic Church. There were met with Kathy Carlton Johnson, one of their parishioners with a wealth of knowledge on its history.

“One of the reasons that the churches were so important up here is that they enculturated a lot of the immigrants that came to work in the mines,” said Carlton Johnson.

In this community, it was the French who came to this region to focus on lumbering. As it was coming to fruition at the turn of the century, a young priest named Napoleon Raymond was head of it.

“He took on the debt,” said Carlton Johnson. “They had a debt of about $22,000 dollars which was a lot of money at the turn of the century. So he took this on and one of the things is he planned the church. He didn’t have a builder. He allowed people to come in and build everyday and he paid them everyday… cash as they were going out. So he really controlled the church itself. The church is based on the cathedral there in Montreal. Very similar. As you can see it’s very fancy. But it’s light. there is a lightness here that is unusual for a large church.”

Whether Catholic or not, Msgr. Raymond became known to everyone in the community.

“He built a Catholic school across the street,” said Carlton Johnson. “And in the basement of that particular building. He built a movie theater. It is called The Little Gem. And what he did is, he invited all of the community, particularly the kids to come in on Saturday and had movies for them. And if you didn’t have a penny, he would stand at the door and give a penny. How do I know this? My husband remembers this quite fondly.”

An interesting fact Carlton Johnson mentioned was that he wanted to be buried in the back of the church when he died, but the health department wouldn’t let him. She says the church here in Lake Linden has changed overtime but is still thriving as it has from the beginning.

“I love this church and I love the people that founded it,” said Carlton Johnson. “You know, when you walk in here, you can feel that faith.”

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