DAYS GONE BY: The other Rainbow Club

By Paul Bigford

Lake County Historical Society member
Editors note: This article is part of Days Gone By, in which members of the Lake County Historical Society share stories of Lake County’s rich history. The articles will appear every other week in the Lake County Star. The Lake County Historical Society office and museum are located at 830 N. Michigan Ave. in Baldwin. Its mailing address is 830 N. Michigan Ave., P.O. Box 774, Baldwin, Mich. 49304.   The Flint Rainbow Club is a well known landmark on the Pere Marquette River near the crossing of the Marquette Rail tracks and 72nd Street south of Baldwin. But what about the other Rainbow Club? Go back in time to the turn of the century – not 2000 but 1900 – and the Lake County lumbering era was drawing to an end. West of Baldwin the lumbering town of Stearns Siding, the size of present day Baldwin, burned on Halloween eve of 1899. The mill owner did not rebuild. Just to the west of the Stearns Siding ruins a group of sportsmen, many from Ludington, founded a club to serve as a base for their fishing pursuits. It was located at the beginning of the Rainbow Rapids on the Pere Marquette River just downstream from the present day USFS public access site, on the north bank. The fishermen named it the Rainbow Club. The Rainbow Club appears on an early tourist map with the same symbol used for now vanished Wingleton and the Carrs Post Office. The map also tells us that Wingleton Road, still a gravel road today, was once M-20 while a map on display in the Lake County Historical Society Museum in Baldwin shows this section of M-20 as the best east-west road between Fremont and Traverse City. Membership in the Rainbow Club reached 40 people just after World War I and remained strong until the 1930s. Fishing for rainbow and brown trout in the cool clear waters of the Pere Marquette was a favorite pastime of the members. Fishing clubs located on the rivers of Lake County were popular destinations for sportsmen. The Kinne Creek Association, located just upriver from the Rainbow Club, in addition to The Indian Club, Fin & Feather Club, Pere Marquette Rod and Gun Club, Flint Rainbow Club and others catered to well-to-do businessmen throughout Michigan as well as surrounding states. The Rainbow Club had ceased operations by 1950. Today the club is in private ownership, but can be viewed only from the river as the first house on the right bank below the Rainbow Rapids access.