Fact Du Jour – August 22, 2019 – Michigan Parks Donated By The Dodge Brothers


John and Horace Dodge – who started their own car company – and bought a lot of land in Michigan. Though you can’t tell by this photo, they were both redheads.

Automakers John and Horace Dodge have been described as hard partying, hard drinking brothers who were as thick as thieves (wore identically tailored suits, would only open mail if addressed to both of them) and managed to piss off the sophisticated “elite” rich Detroit area folks around them with their crudeness/rowdiness. Standard movie/TV trope – “old money” folks disliking “new money” folks (and vice versa)! Just think about how much Judge Smails in Caddyshack (Ted Knight) hated Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) – this is probably how the Detroit “elite” felt about the Dodge Brothers (I’m only speculating of course).  As evidence of “old money’s” disdain for the Dodge Brothers, Horace was denied entry into a local country club, so he built a mansion next door to it.

Aided by their helping to bail out Henry Ford when his fledgling automotive business went bankrupt a second time (Dodge Brothers got a share of Ford’s profits after he got his business going), the Dodges had money to spend –  and they spent it freely. And by some accounts…loudly!

Sometimes they would take their “partying” to the great outdoors, and bought land for that purpose all over Michigan – even in the U.P. (northeast of the Mackinac Bridge). This land along the Munuscong River and surrounding area was a hunting/fishing retreat for the family. The majority of the land they purchased was in Oakland County in Southeast MI, and all of those parks were numbered and classified as Michigan state parks – at first. Dodge #9 is located near Rockwood in the “Downriver” area of metro Detroit. The family donated the land for all of these parks on the brothers’ behalf in 1922. Both men died months apart of illness complications in 1920.


Dodge #4 State Park in Waterford, MI. Don’t drink at this park (more about that in a bit)!

From the Michigan DNR web site:

Receiving the initial gift of 11 parks, Gov. Alexander Groesbeck said: “It was my privilege, especially in their later years, to count John and Horace Dodge as my friends. I knew them as employers, who were always careful and considerate of their employees and associates. They were never too busy to take an interest in the welfare of those who had helped them to achieve their remarkable success. Beginning in a small way, they had a large share in the development of the great automobile industry in Michigan. This state is fast becoming the summer playground of the people of the central west, and the automobile is the main factor in this development. John and Horace Dodge foresaw this condition, and I am sure, if they could express themselves today, the present action of your board of directors would receive their hearty approval.

Now, the only park still bearing the Dodge name – and  managed by the state – is Dodge #4 State Park on Cass Lake. Here’s a list of some other parks that were created when the Dodges donated the land to the state:

Parks Donated to Michigan by the Dodge Family

Note – This list goes to eleven (some of you will get this reference)
Current names denoted in boldface type
  1. Dodge Brothers State Park No. 1 – later incorporated into Island Lake State Recreation Area
  2. Dodge Brothers State Park No. 2 – now Lakeshore Park in Novi (on Walled Lake)
  3. Dodge Brothers State Park No. 3 – on Crescent Lake west of Pontiac, now Optimist Park, in Waterford.
  4. Dodge #4 State Park, Waterford (on Cass Lake).
  5. Dodge Brothers State Park No. 5 – now Dodge Park V in Commerce Township (on Reed Lake)
  6. Dodge Brothers State Park No. 6 – now Beverly Park in Beverly Hills
  7. Dodge Brothers State Park No. 7 – (1923–1947) now Horseshoe Lake State Game Area near Oxford
  8. Dodge Brothers State Park No. 8 – now Dodge Park in Sterling Heights (on the Clinton River)
  9. Dodge Brothers State Park No. 9 – now Dodge Park in South Rockwood (on the Huron River)
  10. Dodge Brothers State Park No.10 – later incorporated into Highland State Recreation Area near Highland
  11. Munuscong State Wildlife Management Area, Pickford (campground on Munuscong River).

Almost as kind of a “punchline” to all of this since the Dodge Brothers were fond of drinking – and by some accounts, even provided beer to workers in their plants (show of hands who wants to go back in time and work for these guys)?  Alcoholic beverages are prohibited at all times of the year at Dodge #4 State Park and April 1 through Labor Day at Island Lake State Recreation (formerly Dodge #1). If you’d like to raise a drink in memory of the Dodge Brothers in one of their parks, plan a camping trip at the Munuscong River State Forest Campground in Pickford – or at Highland State Recreation Area! I’ve had some drinks at Highland State Recreation Area on at least a couple of camping trips! Remember drinking is a no-no at Dodge #4 (tsk, tsk)!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.