BARK RIVER, Mich. (WJMN) – Delta County’s Bark River was originally named Barkville.
“The railroad called the depot, Bark River but the original name of the town in 1871 was Barkville,” said Matt Hanson, Committee Member for Bark River Sesquicentennial Celebration. “Community leaders in 1900 petitioned the state and local government to change the name to Bark River and of course, that’s the name that we have today.”
It’s a town 150 in the making.
“The train arrived, the journey began,” said Hanson. “Bark River was settled by the railroad in 1871. The Chicago Northwestern Railroad. It had to do with the timber industry. It had to do with lumber for bridges and for railroad ties. Hardwood was used for kilns that develop in the area and so that’s the reason why we mention that the train arrived and the journey began.”
That’s the theme of Bark River’s Sesquicentennial Celebration July 2-4.
“The community celebration, really it’s a recognition of 150 years of Bark River, but it’s a community celebration,” said Hanson. “And that includes Harris and Hannahville and Wilson and Schaffer and Perronville and I’m going to include Eustis in that as well so it’s a community event that includes all of the communities in the Bark River community area.”
Technically, it’s a town 151 years in the making. The celebration was really suppose to be last year, but COVID put a halt on planning a big event like this.
“This takes at least a year in advance,” said Hanson. “So with the support of the Bark River Lions Club, in February 2021 they asked what we could come up with and we approached them with the idea of a history room which we did last year. We had 40 participants. Those were current businesses, previous businesses, homesteads, farms, religious organizations that all came and provided information. They each were assigned a table. We anticipated 400-500 for that event last year and it certainly exceeded our expectations. We had, we feel around 2,000 people came through the history room.”
This year, the plans and expectations are much higher.
“What we did as a group, we decided that we wanted to step back in time and do things from the past,” said Hanson. “And so, a lot of ideas and we culminated and put them together. So we have an ecumenical service starting off on Sunday. We have fiddlers, which at the turn of the century, when I say turn of the century I mean 1900. The fiddlers were very common as entertainment. I remember in my youth in the 60s and 70s polka bands, so we have a polka band playing in the afternoon. We have 1871 family games that we’re going to have. The Great Lakes Timber Show is going to be here. Log rolling because of the timber industry and how it was established. So what we’re trying to do is have a lot of things that were from the past that people can enjoy.”
The weekend will also be about sharing stories of the town and surrounding areas. Joseph Putvin, who helped put the centennial on 50 years ago says those stories helped him put together that event.
“I’m talking to first generation people. You know, people that remembered everything and it really was a great resource for my research of the surrounding area of Schaffer,” said Putvin. “Today, you couldn’t do it. You know, you’re talking 50 years. Mostly everyone around knows what happened in the last 50 years and that’s what our part is with just the last 50 years for our new book. That’s probably the major item was that these people aren’t around anymore. It would be really difficult to go back to research like I had the opportunity and the people of Bark River who also did research for their part.”
As people from all over will come to celebrate, and all-class reunion is bringing the people of this community together as well.
“It’ll be a day of old friends getting together and having a lot of great memories of the past,” said Bonnie Wenick-Kautz, All-Class Reunion Committee Member. “I’m starting just to understand from the forms that we’ve been getting, people talking about what going to school in the Bark River area meant.”
It will be held with events like a golf outing, tour of the school, a party and a chance to reminisce.
“One of our questions is on of your memories of school,” said Wenick-Kautz. “And he wrote that they were in class, class started and this one class member was late for school. Then all of a sudden they heard him drive up in his truck and this was the end of November and on the back of the truck was a big 12-point buck tied down. Needless to say, he was excused for being tardy at school. So those are the kind of stories I think, that’s definitely a good Yooper.”
And it’s a chance to learn where in the world others are now.
“In this little community, yeah we have people that, one of our students is on the verge of finding a cure for a certain kind of cancer,” said Wenick-Kautz.
Reuniting in a place that’s home.
“I think small towns in the U.P. are all attractive and I think Bark River is one of them,” said Hanson. “But at the same time, we have a lot of, there’s not just one thing that makes it attractive. I think geographically we’re in a great spot. We’ve got great neighbors. When I say that, Escanaba is 12 miles from us. Gladstone is not very far. You go the other direction to the west, you got Powers and Spaulding, you got Carney and Hermansville. We got great neighbors. We’ve got a great school system. We may not have as many jobs in Bark River as we used to maybe 50 years ago, but the jobs that we do have support families. But without a doubt, the biggest asset that we have is our people.”
Below is the list of events for Bark River Sesquicentennial Grand Celebration 2022
Saturday, July 2 – “All-Class Reunion Day”
- 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Golf Outing, Highland Golf Course
- 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. – History Room, Bark River Senior Center
- 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Bark River-Harris School Tours
- 6:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. – Bark River-Harris All School Reunion, Bark River Park
- 6:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. – Music by the Peltier Brothers
Sunday, July 3 – “Bark River Sesquicentennial Day”
- 11:30 a.m – Ecumenical Service, Bark River Park
- 12:00 p.m. – Cannon Shoot, Bark River Park
- 12:15 p.m. – Fiddler Performance, Bark River Park
- 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – History Room, Bark River Senior Center
- 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. – Great Lakes Timber Show
- 1:30 p.m. – Family Games, Bark River Park
- 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. – Polka Band, Bark River Park Pavilion
- 3:30 p.m. – Baseball Game, Bark River Park
- 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. – Music by “Oz”, Bark River Park
Monday, July 4 – “Bark River 4th of July”
- 11:00 a.m. – Bark River 4th of July Parade
- 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – History Room, Bark River Senior Center
- 1:00 p.m. Music by the Peltier Brothers
- Fireworks at Dusk