Idlewild continues early celebrations with history program

IDLEWILD — On Friday, Feb. 10, a group of area residents gathered at the Henrietta Summers Senior Center in Idlewild to celebrate African American History Month. The mistress of ceremonies was Pastor Nellie Blue. She and the Encouragers Choir provided some uplifting selections for the audience

Yates Township Supervisor George Walker, Jr. welcomed those in attendance and Brother Solomon Sims, Sr. led the group in prayer.

Evelyn DeScott, a member of the Historic First Baptist Church, Idlewild, offered comments on the occasion.

Brenda Nelson gave a historical reflection about how she came to Idlewild with her grandparents. She related how they stopped at the bakery in Bailey  which is still there, and then went to the store across M-37 for lunch meat to make their sandwiches for lunch. There is still a store there as well.

Nelson and her family now reside in Idlewild.

Featured were liturgical dancers, Apryl Coleman and Vanessa Hatcher Williams. Their vitality and lively expression had audience members keeping time to the music in their chairs.

Larry E. Lewis introduced the main speaker of the event, Percy Davis.

Davis stated at the beginning of his speech that his goal was to separate myth from history. He began with stories about how the Idlewild Resort Company had a booth at the Chicago Exhibition of 1913 that featured pictures of the Idlewild area and flyers with information about how to purchase property in this “Paradise.” The Idlewild Resort Company had purchased 2700 acres in Yates Township and plotted it off into 19,000 lots 25’ x 100’. The lots sold for $35, $6 down and $1 per week.

A couple, who were early salespeople for the company, Herman and Lela Wilson ended up purchasing 320 acres near Paradise Lake. Their home is now owned by Joe and Fredna Lindsey. It has one of the five historical markers placed by the State of Michigan in Idlewild. The Wilsons owned a grocery store and were instrumental in the development of Idlewild. Their home is located on Paradise Path which runs north from Baldwin Road.

Other salespeople were Pullman porters who worked on the railroad lines which had a stop on Forman Road. The corner of Forman and Baldwin roads is the current location of the Road Runners Variety Store.

Davis, who became involved in the later development of Idlewild and Yates Township after retiring to the area, also presented his list of doers and movers in Idlewild.

  • n Harrison Wilson, was a Lake County Commissioner who was instrumental in the founding of Yates Dial-A-Ride.
  • n Loretta Adams-Ashby became director of Dial-A-Ride and was instrumental in changes to health care in Lake County.
  • n Al and Julia Thomas, along with Davis were founders of Idlewild Housing which was responsible, along with others for the Idlewild Garden Apartment complex.
  • n Leonard Wyatt was the president of the Yates school board.
  • Leonard Howard was a HUD (Housing and Urban Development) representative who worked with Davis to create the Henrietta Summers Senior Center.
  • Bro. Solomon Sims, Sr. was someone who acted as  an “inspiration and a leveling force” in Davis words.
  • Margo Harding was a long-time president of the Idlewild Lot Owners Association, a social group which also funded programs for youngsters and group activities for all ages in the summer months. Some of those programs continue to this day.
  • Norman Burns became a township supervisor when Yates township was at a low point in 1985 and was responsible for returning the township to a solvent state.
  • Herman and Lela Wilson, as stated previously, were instrumental  in the early development of Idlewild.
  • “Ma” Buckles was reportedly the first deed holder of Idlewild property in 1912. She came from Medicine Hat, Canada to buy her property.

Davis closed his remarks by stressing the importance of keeping history alive.

He urged the audience to “remember the past as that guarantees that we will make fewer mistakes in the future.” And, finally he urged those in attendance to “remember that education was a tool for deliverance, particularly for African Americans.”

A bonus for those who attended the event was the program which contained a wealth of information about famous African ancestors from Hannibal to Dr. Daniel Hale Williams.