History of the Onigaming

The Onigaming Yacht Club was established in 1894. In that year the principal officers of the club were C.D. Shelden, Commodore, Frank A. Douglas, Vice Commodore, W.D. Calverly, Secretary, and Thomas Dee, Treasurer. The name Onigaming was given to the club by Francis Jacker, brother of the Rev. Edward Jacker, who was a missionary colleague of Bishop Frederick Baraga. The name was derived from thje Chippewa word “onigam” which means portage.

In 1896 the yacht club purchased a large parcel of land adjacent to Portage Lake and built a clubhouse with a long porch facing the lake, a pier, tennis courts, and a bathing beach. Among the yachts owned by the club’s charter members were four sloops, two schooners, a cutter, and four steam yachts. Probably the most splendid of these was the steam yacht Sea Fox owned by Commodore Alan F. Reyes, who served as the club’s commodore from around nineteen hundred until his death in the early nineteen forties. The Sea Fox, which was some 120 feet long and powered by anthracite coal, led the club’s regattas on Portage Lake, and Commodore Rees presided over the club’s grandest years. Today, against the Ripley sore opposite the Michigan Tech campus, the remains of the Sea Fox lie just beneath the surface of the Portage Canal.

In 1924 a fire of unknown origin destroyed the Onigaming clubhouse, but it was immediately rebuilt, and in June of 1925 a gala dance was held to inaugurate the new building. The club flourished for many more years, but the Depression, World War II, and the postwar economic decline and closing of the area’s copper mines took their toll. By 1960, the Onigaming Yacht Club was nearly at an end.

In 1962 the disbanded club’s property was divided and sold, and the clubhouse became the Onigaming Supper Club and went on to become one of the area’s finest restaurants.

In 1976 the Onigaming Yacht Club was reestablished by a group of sailing enthusiasts, several of whom moored their boats in front of the supper club, and again the Onigaming burgee was a frequent sight on Portage Lake and Lake Superior. The Onigaming Yacht Club has since purchased property in Dollar Bay and maintains a mooring field there.

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Sea Fox.jpg
(3163k)
Jim Hertel,
May 21, 2015, 4:28 AM
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