Lumbermill Ruins: JOHNSWOOD and SCAMMON COVE by Gerry Bailey
The village of Johns Wood, Chippewa County on Drummond Island began as a sawmill site and was located on the shore of Scammon’s Cove. The Scammon, MI post office was established as a fourth class office on February 19, 1884. In 1902 Maggie Walz Government Land Agent, moved to Drummond Island and began to plan a Finnish settlement. Maggie Walz (1861-1927) was originally named Markaretta Johanna Konttra Niivanan, which in Finland was shortened to Kreeta Kontra. By 1905 she had induced several families to settle in the Scammon area and became the postmaster of the community then called Kreetan.
Photo by D. Sandell
In the fall of 1883 a lumbering operation was located at Scammon Cove. It was the genesis of what was eventually the largest sawmill on Drummond Island. Hitchcock and Foster, Chicago were the principal owners of the Island Cedar Company. Although the Island Cedar Company moved to Detour (DeTour) in 1890, Harold Johnson inherited the Island property and formed the H. C. Johnson Company at the Scammon Cove location. This company was then acquired by Charles H. Wood, a prominent manufacturer of piano keys and actions with plants in Buffalo, NY and Rockford, IL. The company was re-named Kreetan Company with Charles H. Wood, president in 1916. The name of the post office was again changed (March 19, 1914) in recognition of H. C. Johnson and C. H. Wood to Johns Wood, which was eventually shortened to “Johnswood.” The office operated until July 15, 1927.
Continuously, through these years of name change, the sawmill poured out lumber ten hours a day, six days a week. The mill produced, in an average ten hour day, forty thousand board feet of hardwood lumber and sixty thousand in softwood, the “boxmill” production was in addition to that. There were numerous (8-20) lumber camps cutting 8, 12, and 16 foot logs for transport to the mill, and twenty to thirty miles of narrow gauge railroad was laid to transport the logs. The main railroad line went northeast toward Glen Cove with several spurs that went up north of Dry Lake, east to Marble Head and south, nearly to Bass Cove, to haul logs out to Scammon Cove. These logs were sawed into lumber at the mill in Johnswood and shipped out on sailing boats. In its heyday, Johnswood had a mill working two 10-hour shifts, a company store, a boarding house, a row of two-story houses, a row of one-story houses, a clubhouse, a silent-picture theater, a small hospital and was served by telegraph, a school, a post office and the above mentioned railroad. The mill caught fire in 1920 and by 1925 the Johnswood operations were shut down. The Finns, led to Drummond Island by Maggie Walz, dispersed across the Island and today their descendants continue to make up a significant percentage of the Island residents.
Only two “original” structures remain at the Johnswood Village site, one is the “Stone-house” where C. H. Wood resided and the other is the “Wayfarers Mart.” The Wayfarers Mart was built in 1915 as the Company store for the sawmill. In the 1940s it reopened as an eclectic, full-service, sporting goods store. It is currently a private residence.
The shoreline of Scammon Cove is entirely privately owned. However, venturous kayakers, canoers, snorklers, etc can gain access from the adjoining Big Shoal Bay at the public swimming beach and paddle around Scammon Point to explore Scammon Cove. Besides various man-made structures like docks and cribbing for docks and wharfs, there are two shipwrecks of the sawmill era located in the Cove.
Photo by D. Sandell
The Silver Spray was a tugboat used to maneuver the schooners (sailing vessels) that hauled lumber from the mill to the various ports on the Great Lakes. She lies on bottom, in shallow water, on the west side of the Cove. The second boat is one of the schooners. The Troy was a 186-foot sailing vessel that burned at the sawmill wharf. It is also readily visible at the surface.
Whether you like to bike or go by car, the road is paved to Johnswood. From the Four Corners, go east on Johnswood Road until you reach the intersection of Kreetan, Bass Cove and Johnswood Roads (7.5 miles). From you car or bike you should be able to see the ribs of the TROY and pilings remaining at the wharf of the shipping/lumber mill. Proceed east on Bass Cove Road, turn right at the second paved road onto Big Shoal Bay Road which leads you to the beach (1.5 miles). From here the canoers and kayakers can launch and paddle the 3.5 miles over to view the two wrecks. Intermediate skills are a prerequisite.