Early History of Park Township

Long before Park Township came into existence, the shores of Lake Macatawa, originally charted as Tuscarora Bay, Black River Lake, were inhabited by the Ottawa Indian Tribe. Their main encampment was located on the Ox-Bow Bend of the Kalamazoo River near Saugatuck, but their hunting and fishing grounds extended as far north as the Grand River and included Lake Macatawa.

According to Indian legend, the Grand River was stolen by nomad tribes from the north. An ensuing battle for possession was fought in the area of Point Superior, where Marigold Lodge now stands. It was just north and west of this point that white men established the village of Superior in 1835. It was platted and registered to be built by the Black River Company.

This village boasted a tannery, a blacksmith shop, a steam saw mill, a planing mill, a ship yard, and houses. It included several lots on the south shore where Central Park is now located. A ferry operated between the two shores to accomodate travelers. The village prospered for several years until the harbor became blocked with sand, bringing an end to navigation and business. In 1839, there were only four families left, and in 1847, Dutch settlers acquired the property.

In 1869, 837 acres of this land went to Hope College when Dr. Philip Phelps was authorized to purchase it by the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America. Used for farming, land proceeds benefitted the college, at that time called Holland Academy. The farm never proved profitable. In 1904, it was sold and replatted Waukazoo, named for the chief of the Ottawa Indians that had once inhabited this land.

There were many lost cities, towns that were platted and registered by speculators from the East but never passed the platting stage. One of these was Macatawa, located on the south shore of Lake Macatawa near the outlet to Lake Michigan. It was originally divided into more than a thousand lots surrounding a village square, but it never developed as a city. On this site in 1882, the first building, a hotel, was erected. Fifteen years later, a larger hotel was built, and the original was used as a dining room. Another paper city that never developed was Portsmouth, located just across the channel from Macatawa near the present location of Holland State Park.

The harbor as we now know, did not come into existence until the early 1900s. Prior to that time, the waters of Lake Macatawa were connected to Lake Michigan by a stream that wound its way northwest until it entered the lake at the north end of the state park. In 1837, a steamship, "Governor Mason," entered through this stream in four feet of water. In 1847, it was navigable only by canoes and rowboats. In the early years of the Dutch colony, a pier was built out into Lake Michigan so that small freighters could unload. Construction of the converging piers began in 1899 and was completed in 1909. The lighthouse built in 1907 was remodeled in 1936 and today stands as a landmark for the area.

Previously, Park and Holland were combined into one township. In 1916, Park, though smaller than a normal township, became independent. A unique characteristic is that Macatawa completely separates the north part from the south part.

In the 1920s, the Getz Lakewood Farm, located north of Ottawa Beach at the end of Lakewood Blvd., was a showplace of national renown. Getz, a coal millionaire and politician, bought two hundred eighty seven acres of barren land and developed it into a "paradise." He spent millions on his home, guest houses, landscaping, fruit farm, cattle, chickens and a zoo of domestic and wild animals. People came from all over the United States to enjoy its beauty. In 1938, however, this business was dissolved, the land sold, and the animals transported to the Chicago Brookfield Zoo.

In 1923, the resort area changed when the Ottawa Beach Hotel burned. The Macatawa Hotel and remaining buildings were razed in 1956 and replaced with the present Point West Motel and Restaurant.

The first election of officers for Park Township was held in 1916. The township population was 1,050 in 1917 and 8,619 in 1976.

There are three cemeteries in the township. They should prove interesting for researching genealogy. Ventura Cemetery, the oldest, is located at 168th Avenue and New Holland Street. Lakeshore Cemetery is located on 168th Avenue between Riley and Greenly Streets, and Lakewood Cemetery is located on Lakewood Blvd.

Transcriber: Leslie Coulson
Created: 26 November 2005
URL: http://ottawa.migenweb.net/twprecords/parkhistory.html