The History of Polk's Land

by Cynthia Polk Muller

Grandfather Edmund Richard Polk and Grandmother Agnes Mary Little Polk raised a family of five children – Wesley, Arthur, Robert, Mary, and Edna. The children were born in LaGrange, Illinois, in a large, rambling house, which is still in use and remains painted the original yellow. Grandfather was an entrepreneur who dealt in horses, real estate, and various other business ventures. Both he and Grandmother owned property in Illinois and Michigan, and Grandfather liked to trade, and sell, his plots of land. Prior to summering at Magician Lake, the family would travel to Muskegon, to a tract of land called Idlewild, on Lake Michigan. Many family photographs record their happy times there.

On June 23, 1910, E.R. Polk purchased the Magician Lake property from Mary H. Southwick for a sum of $3,460. The property was a grain farm prior to the sale; the land was left fallow under Edmond’s ownership. The Polk’s, with the help of their sons and daughters, developed a summer resort, providing rental cottages for the season. Of eight original cottages, built one per year, beginning in 1911, seven are still in use as summer homes. The cottages had no electricity, and were supplied with blocks of ice cut out of the lake in the winter and stored in the ice-house. As a child I remember when all the oak ice-boxes were dumped to make way for the new Frigidaire’s. Oh, to have all those old ice-boxes now!

Behind the original 8 cottages there was a swamp that sported beautiful, bright yellow cowslips each spring. The fields behind the family cottage, where the old white house stands now, were blanketed with waving, yellow daisies. What a treasure to discover one solitary cowslip plant at the edge of the channel last spring (2006) where the swamp once was!

On April 19, 1930, Edmund and Agnes gave the Magician Lake property and business to their son, Arthur Eugene Polk. A quit-claim deed was filed for the sum of one dollar. Edmond R. Polk passed away in December 1936 and Agnes in October 1950.

The love of the land by magical Magician Lake has spanned many years, and new generations of Polk’s and other families near and far. Many changes have taken place over the years, many faces have come and gone, and still others return, year after year, to enjoy the peace and tranquility of Magician Lake. 

Polk Bridges

After completion of the mile-long “Polk Channel dig” in October 1959, Arthur E. Polk, Sr. made a deal with the Cass County Road Commission to purchase the Sumnerville, MI single-lane bridge (called a “pony” bridge) which was scheduled for replacement after 31 years of service. The Road Commission sold the Sumnerville Bridge for “scrap,” for $250. Mr. Polk, Sr. and his son Arthur Polk, Jr., poured concrete abutments in preparation for installation. Following Thanksgiving 1959, the bridge was lifted from over the Dowagiac River in Sumnerville and was moved, by house-movers, 22 miles to its current location on Polk Road; it remained in service for another 45 years.

In 2005, concern arose regarding the condition of the wooden planking on the bridge as well as its inability to carry heavy load limits such as fire trucks, cement trucks, and waste management vehicles. Consultation with an engineering firm produced a plan to construct a new bridge that would accommodate heavy weight limits and also continue to allow for watercraft passage along the entire length of the channel (detractors wished to fill in the road to eliminate the need of a bridge). In the dead-of-winter, January 2006, forms were built, concrete poured, supports put in place, and the road-bed laid. By the end of two weeks, our new bridge was a reality! 

Initially, a wooden bridge was considered; the next generation proposed that we use materials that are more lasting as they did not wish to address the same challenge during their lifetimes.