Isle of B

Dr. Wendell D. Neville

Dr. Wendell D. Neville patented the Isle of B in October of 1903. To patent land from the United States government, you must fill out federal paperwork, send it off to Washington and have the sitting president sign the patent deed. This Dr. Neville did.

Dr. Neville was born in Ontario, Canada in 1860 and moved to the United States in 1880 and studied medicine at the Detroit Medical College in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Neville was one of the first doctors to come to Eagle River (in 1894) and had his office in the back of Frank Beardsley’s drugstore on the corner of Wall and Main Streets.

In 1987, Dr. Neville married Mae (or May) Ross. Mae was born in Sanilac County, Michigan in 1873. After Dr, Neville’s death in 1911 at Chicago, Mae married Fred Morey, the original owner of the Everett Resort. Morey sold to E. A. Everett in 1899, then later built the Morey Resort on Duck Lake.

Dr. Neville also owned a shingle mill on north Main Street, north of the courthouse on the river. It produced 40,000 to 50,000 shingles a day and employed between 20 and 30 men. The shingles were shipped by rail mostly to Chicago to cover the roofs of new construction there.

Dr. Neville owned more than 1,500 acres of land, much of it covered with fine hardwood that was suitable for manufacturing furniture. He bought and sold farms on a regular basis and was a pillar in the community.

He quickly had built a large cabin on the island that would eventually be capable of sleeping 32 people. It was constructed of vertical tamarack logs that were oiled on a regular basis to protect them from the elements, with shingles siding for the second floor, no doubt from the doctor’s own shingle mill.

The “Wig-Wam” shortly after construction on the Isle of B

The cabin, which Dr. Neville called the “Wig-Wam” had two large bedrooms upstairs, the rest of the upstairs has double bed mattresses suspended on chains from the ceiling and could swing like a hammock. The cabin had covered porches on two sides, an immense fireplace and a cupola with a skylight. With an outdoor privy, it was state of the art in cottage construction in the early 1900’s.

Later, in the 1920’s, the siding shingles were stripped off the structure and replaced with clapboards and then the clapboards were painted white.

The Isle of B cabin, formerly Dr. Neville’s “Wig-Wam”

In October of 1915, four years after Dr. Neville’s death, and after Mae had married Fred Morey, Mae sold the island to a man M. K. Brooks. He named the island the Isle of B, probably in honor of his family name.

In October of 1920, Brooks sold the island to the Seng family. The Sengs had a daughter named Barbara, so the kept the name; Isle of B for the island. A former owner, a member of the Kent family who purchased the island from the Sengs in 1945, told the author that during the Seng ownership that additional porches had been added with bedrooms above them, and a kitchen was added as well with a bedroom above it. The Kent family member was not sure if the boathouse was built by the Brooks family or the Seng family, and the author has not been able to nail down when the boathouse was constructed.

The boathouse at the Isle of B, as seen from the shore.

The Isle of B boathouse seen from the west.

The boathouse had four slips and was two storied. There were summer sleeping arrangements on the second floor and a ping-pong table as well for rainy days. The Kent family had a Chris Craft inboard and rowboats tied up in the boathouse, and a small sailboat was tied to a buoy offshore, protected by a tight-fitting tarp. There was a lawn table and chairs on the southeast point with two swinging couches for relaxing in the shade, cooled by the breeze off the lake.

The force of the wind blowing the ice around the lake in the winter and spring were too much for the boathouse. It began to lean and sag and, though it probably wouldn’t have cost more than $10,000 or so to fix the boathouse, it wasn’t fixed and was eventually torn down (more like six figures nowadays).

The island could be reached by parking one’s car at the four stall garage at the base of Isle of B Road, then motoring (or rowing) out to the island. The large garage had to be torn down in the seventies and it was replaced by a private ranch house residence. A line squall blew through in the 1950’s knocking down a bunch of trees on the island, but worse was in store for the Isle of B.

The Kent family sold the Isle of B to the Steiner family in 1970, and sometime after that, the cabin caught fire in the winter, and the fire department wasn’t able to do much more than throw snowballs at the flames because there was no way to get a fire truck to the scene.

The island has changed hands several times since the fire and now has a more modern structure on it, but the boathouse was never replaced.

The author is indebted to Laurie Kent Fahrendorf for details of the island and its history, and to Kristine and Chris Sarkaukus of Inland Lake Dredge and Dock for information on boathouse reconstruction so I could write this chapter.