According to The Pageant of Tuscarora, the first summer resort built on the Inland Waterway was the “Mullett Lake House,” on Mullett Lake, of course. This hotel was built on the east side of Mullett Lake when the developers had erroneously believed that the railroad would come to that section of Tuscarora Township. The railroad went west however, and the Mullett Lake House was deemed a failure after guests failed to book their rooms.
The hotel was dismantled board by board in 1886. (It is rumored that many nearby homeowners helped themselves to the boards too.) Much of the hotel went to Sault Ste. Marie to rebuild accommodations after a fire had destroyed much of the city. The boards were rebuilt and renamed as the Iroquois Hotel. However, in 1896, fire yet again destroyed, finishing what was left of the hotel.
It is said that you can still see the pilings from the dock that once stood waiting for the guests to arrive.
Horace Pike’s hotel in Topinabee fared better thanks to the westerly built railroad. Built in 1882, the three-story hotel roomed upwards of 40 guests on the shores of Mullett Lake. The hotel operated under the name Pike’s Summer Tavern but when the hotel succumbed to fire in 1917 it was rebuilt the following year as the Hotel Topinabee. As it happens, fire destroyed the hotel in 1928 but it was rebuilt again. Sadly, the hotel was condemned in 1969 and when the hotel’s casino was leveled by fire in 1974, the Topinabee was never rebuilt. Great history and photos can be found here.
A quick dive into the name Topinabee –
Mr. Horace Pike chose the name Topinabee based on his appreciation of the Potawatomi Chief (1758-1826). Mr. Pike had previously lived in Niles, Michigan, and is said to have operated a hotel (the Pike House hostelry- 1867) there as well before moving north.
Topinabee means “he who sits quietly” or just “sits quietly”. A most appropriate name for the tranquil shores of Mullett Lake, don’t you think?
Sager’s Resort, according to a 1917 nautical chart, was on the southwest side of Burt Lake. The Sager family was one of the first to settle along Burt Lake, having transplanted themselves from Trumbull County, Ohio. Now, perhaps The Buckeye House name is more familiar to you. The settlement was renamed the Buckeye House (in the 1890s) to honor its owners and visitors’ home state.
Having purchased 64 acres, the Sager family built their log cabin in 1877 and built the first framed home to be built in Tuscarora township (shortly after). At the time of settling, the Sager family was just one of 3 white families on the west side of Burt Lake.
In a 1904 edition of the Cheboygan Democrat, a letter to the editor claims that Mr. (Edwin) Sager originally built a store adjacent to his home but as demand grew, he expanded his building no less than 3 times into the three-story, 25 room hotel seen in many historic postcards, and it was no small building. A store was later built off the kitchen of the Buckeye House.
Mr. Sager passed away in 1893 but his family continued on his legacy and by 1897 the hotel was offering “tent and board” to fishermen.
In the publication; “Our Burt Lake Story,” there is a chapter recounting how Mr. Sager was well known and well-liked in the community by both the Native American population, nearby farmers, and fishermen.
(Note, it is often published that the proprietors were the Sager Brothers but in other publications, it is noted that the single owner – JNO. M. SAGER, was the proprietor. Perhaps this confusion is due to the multitudes of Sagers having assisted in the running of the hotel. John (perhaps JNO. M?) and Will Sager are said to have seen it necessary to improve the dock for mail boats.)
During the time of John and Will Sager, they saw to it that much of the 64 acres was subdivided for cottagers to build and enjoy the property. This is why you will often see both the Sagers Resort and the Buckeye name together. (The resort identifies the area in which the cottagers resided.) The brothers joined the informal community of Sagers Resort to the Buckeye through the use of a boardwalk.
The Buckeye House was known to be one of the most popular destinations of the Inland Route. Known for its cuisine, the resort hotel was frequented by locals and tourists alike. One ad (1920 edition of the King’s Official Route Guide) notes that special fish and chicken dinners were available by appointment in the porch dining room. The ad continues to note “fine flowing wells”, abundant in the region, and telephone/ post available at the hotel. At some point, the local Burt Lake post office moved to reside within the walls of the Buckeye House. As with almost all of the Inland Water Route hotels, the Buckeye House burned down in 1924 but boy did it thrive in its time.