's Totem Pole Tales- The Onaway Area Fire Towers
Totem Pole Tales-The Onaway Area Fire Towers
Submitted by Nute Chapman
From Onaway Outlook November 23, 2012

Caption #1:  JIM CHASKEY'S SOUVENIR CARD issued to him on July 6, 1935.
width="600" Caption #2: THE OWEN'S TOWER at Black Mountain. Left to right, Arnold Harris, Dorothy (Chapman)Jurgenson, Nute Chapman Sr., Jean (Fitzpatrick) Chapman, Lucille (Chapman) Henning, and Edith (Chapman) Reiger. Take note that only one gun in this picture is pointed in the right direction.
width="600" Fire towers were part of my life growing up. My Dad started with the state of Michigan in 1944 as a fire tower watchman at the Owens Fire Tower on Black Mountain.
We lived in a log cabin owned by the state of Michigan. This cabin was sold to the Badgero family and moved to its present location southeast of Onawa on the "Badgero Forty" and used as a hunting camp.
We then moved to the Lake Emma Fire Tower, southeast of Millersburg. The state cabin for this tower was on Lake Fedelman. We only spent summers there, as the Lake Emma Grade was not maintained in the winter.
The cabin at Lake Fedelman was lost to an unknown fire. Today there is a boat launch area at this lake. The parking area is where our garden was.
When the tower closed Dad was transferred to the Presque Isle North Lookout Tower. This tower was located just off M-33 to the east between Highway 634 and Tomahawk Lake Road.
The South Presque Isle Lookout Tower was located south of the north tower off the Millersburg Road, before Clear Lake.
The King Lookout Tower was located on the west side of Ocqueoc Road, between Ocqueoc Falls Highway and Ocqueoc Highway. Jim Chaskey still has his souvenir card that was issued to you when you climbed to the top and joined the watchman.
The card was issued to him on July 6, 1935 by tower man, James A. Fredenburgh. The King Tower was 102-feet high. One has to stop here and think about how times have changed. In 1935 you were issued a card for climbing the tower.
Today most of the towers that are still standing have a tall fence around them, and if you are caught inside the fence, you would be issued a ticket for trespassing. My, My! Thanks for sharing with us, Jim.
This writer has spent time in five of the six area towers mentioned. I did not get a chance to climb the Osmun Lake Tower east of Osmun Lake. Michigan has 211 tower locations listed. There are only 25 remaining today. Some are state-owned, and some are owned by individuals. The first fire tower was built at Higgins Lake in 1913. There were 205 towers in use in the 1950s.
Using airplanes for aerial surveillance today has eliminated the need for fire towers.
-Onaway Outlook, November 23, 2012, p.3.
Retyped by J. Anderson.

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