In April of 2021, as I was sitting in my car dealership waiting for my oil change, I got a text from my cousin Dee, in Beulah, Michigan. Her husband Bob had died in March, and she was letting me know that there would be a short graveside service on Saturday, May 15. Up until then, I had no plans to travel because Pandemic, but just out of curiosity, I looked up plane fares to Traverse City. And found a round trip ticket for $275. That was too good to pass up, so I booked a flight and landed in Traverse City on May 13, for a week's stay in Beulah.
I had more than one reason to travel to Beulah. First of all, I was writing the history of a family that wasn't mine: the Case family, whose earliest settler in Benzie county, Lucius W. Case, arrived in 1860. And second of all, I had managed to contact the current owner of the house in Bear Lake that was built by my great-grandfather Henry Hickox Chase, and she had offered to give me a tour. (I'll have more to say about that in another blog post.)
I had my research agenda well-planned, and in turn (sometimes more than once) I visited the Benzonia Congregational Church, where I was able to view the original church register from 1860; the Benzie County Historical Museum, which had lots of original documents and primary information about the Case family, and the Benzie County Courthouse, where I made notes of several vital records. On my last day there, just before I left for Traverse City and my flight home, I met with Andy Case, the great-great-great grandson of Lucius W. Case, and owner of The Cherry Hut, a well-loved local restaurant famous for its cherry pies.
As we both sort of expected, Andy didn't have a whole lot to add to what I already knew about the Case family. I had brought along my latest book, a family history written for a client with North Carolina roots, and explained that this was the kind of family history I was envisioning. He looked through it thoughtfully, set it down and said, "You know, the Cherry Hut is turning 100 years old next year, and we have thought of doing some sort of commemorative album or something...." Before he could finish his sentence, my hand shot up and I said, "I'll write it!" I went on to explain why I was the perfect choice: I had deep roots in the area, I knew all the repositories and what they held, and I had been doing research as a genealogist and librarian since 1974.
We came to an informal agreement, and I flew home. The Cherry Hut was about to open for its 99th season, which (as always) was very busy, so it was actually not until November that Andy and I came to a firm agreement. Since neither he nor his staff had time to scan anything from their archives, they packed up the whole thing and shipped it to me, in a box that must have weighed at least forty pounds!
In the meantime, I had been busy researching online. The Benzie Shores District Library has scanned and digitized Benzie County newspapers dating as far back as 1888. I had a blast looking up articles about the Cherry Hut and its original owners, James and Dorothy Kraker, who began the restaurant as a simple roadside stand in 1922.
On April 11, 1921, James and Dorothy Kraker bought their land from my great-grandfather, Percy A. Reed.
Over the next several months my work life was concentrated on writing "the book", and with the help of numerous people, it was published at the end of May. You can find it on Amazon here, or if you're in Beulah, you can buy it at the Cherry Hut.