I remember the first time I went camping at Indian River; we were right on the shore of Burt Lake. What really stuck out in my mind about that trip was swimming in the lake. Burt Lake stays pretty shallow for quite a ways out; I got in the lake and started walking...and walking...and walking...and the water was very, very slowly getting higher. It stayed shallow for so long, I finally turned around to look back at the beach: it was scary. I was wayyy out in the lake – so far, the beach seemed a mile away. The water had the same effect as deep water: the waves were moving very slowly which freaked me out a little...and that's when I thought “I better get back to shore before panic sets in.”

Aside from that 1970s experience, the Indian River area is a place where I usually stop, either heading back from - or heading to – the north. It's a great place to visit if you're a tourist or history maven.

The town of Indian River was named after the river of the same name. In 1876 it was settled by five men including John Clark, who sold the land in 1878 to a Mr. McHenry and Floyd Martin. The town was platted in 1879 and given the name 'Indian River'.

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The very first store belonged to Floyd Martin, "F.E. Martin Dealer in General Merchandise". The store had just about everything you needed: drugs, dry goods, groceries, hardware, and lumber. The hours would rival anything we have now: from just before sunup to after sundown.

The railroad finally laid tracks in the 1880s bringing more settlers, tourists, and vacationers. Huckleberries were a popular export; local Indians picked the berries and the squaws would lug baskets of them to a waiting baggage car for transport.

Indian River also has - what was once - the world's largest crucifix, the “Cross in the Woods”, that is visited by thousands of people each year. You can read more about that here. (And don't forget "Chillermania" nearby!)

Now peruse the gallery below and take a look back at how Indian River looked up to 120 years ago...

Vintage Photos of Indian River: 1900-1950s


Vintage Photos of Hillsdale, Michigan

Vintage Images of Gaylord

Vintage Photos of Pompeii, Michigan

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