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Petoskey, Michigan - Hemingway Country

One of the great Michigan getaways is visiting Ernest Hemingway Country in Petoskey Michigan.

Ernest Hemingway was born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, IL in 1899 to Dr. Clarence and Grace Hemingway.  The family spent their summers at Bear Lake (later known as Walloon Lake) in Michigan, near the tiny havens of Petoskey Michigan.  Grace name their lake retreat Windemere after England’s Lake Windemere, popular with the romantic poets.  Windemere was actually just a rustic cabin with a wood stove and a water pump.  Some of their neighbors were from the Ojibway tribe.  A dedicated sportsman, his father taught young Hemingway how to hunt and fish.  Ernest favored the rugged Petoskey Michigan summers over his Illinois school days.  In Michigan’s wilderness, he had some independence and earned respect as a superb fisherman and a crack shot. Visiting his haunts is a great Michigan getaway.

Hemingway described his upbringing in Oak Park as “full of wide lawns and narrow minds”.  As he grew older, his father pushed him toward a career in medicine.  In1918, when he was 18, and before the United States entered WWI, Ernest volunteered as a Red Cross ambulance driver.  He served briefly in France before being sent to the Italian front.  Shortly after his arrival, he was wounded in a mortar attack.  It was reported that he took over 227 pieces of shrapnel in his body.  As he was being evacuated, he also took bullets in his shoulder and leg.  Ernest returned home to a hero’s welcome, limping and with an Italian medal for valor.  But he soon left Oak Park.  His parents did not understand their son’s dark moods or why he wanted to bum around Petoskey Michigan camping, fishing, and writing stories – stories they thought no one would ever want to read.  Fortunately, his parents, who never encouraged his writing, were wrong.

In one of his most acclaimed stories, “Big Two-Hearted River,” Nick Adams, psychologically damaged by war, finds a healing sanity in a day of trout fishing.  The inspiration was Hemingway’s own fishing trip on the Fox River, in Seney, Michigan, after his return from the war.

Going Wild in Michigan

Today, Hemingway’s fans journey to Petoskey Michigan to experience firsthand the people and the country that the Nobel Prize-winning author brought to life.

Nick Adams is Hemingway’s young, autobiographical hero, a doctor’s son who thrives on fishing and hunting in northern Michigan.  Like the author, Nick goes off to war as an ambulance driver.  When he returns home, Nick suffers from post-traumatic stress – whether Hemingway suffered those mental problems is a topic of debate.

The Nick Adams stories were written and published as individual works over a span of ten years.  Some were written after the author completed his famous WWI novels, “A Farewell to Arms” and “The Sun Also Rises.”  Most were written after Hemingway married and moved to Paris in 1922.  He never returned to Michigan, but it continued to inspire him long after his departure.

Hemingway Country

Because of his attachment to Windemere and its environs, along with its appearance in his work, the area is known as “Hemingway Country.”  Plenty of places boast, “Hemingway was here.”  Here are some Petoskey Michigan sites where Hemingway left his mark (they are great Michigan getaway destinations):

  • Little Traverse Historical Museum – Mentioned in his story “The Indians Moved Away,” the building houses a Hemingway exhibit.
  • The Stafford Perry Hotel – Hemingway stayed here briefly in 1916 after a fishing trip.  Every October, the hotel hosts a “Hemingway Weekend” sponsored by the Michigan Hemingway Society.
  • Eva Potter’s Rooming House – In the winter of 1919-1920, Hemingway rented a room here to escape his family and to work on his first novel, “The Torrents of Spring.”
  • Jesperson’s Restaurant – A Hemingway hangout that may have inspired the setting for “The Killers.”

From Petoskey Michigan, it is a short drive to tiny Horton’s Bay, which Hemingway described as “only five houses on the main road.”

  • Horton Bay General Store – Hemingway bought supplies at the store, described in “Up in Michigan.”  Its walls display Hemingway-related photos and news clippings.
  • Pinehurst – Hemingway often visited this cottage owned by family friends, Jim and Liz Dilworth.  His family was stunned when one of Hemingway’s most sexually frank stories, “Up in Michigan,” had characters name Jim and Liz Dilworth.
  • Horton Bay Creek – Hemingway loved to fish here, once catching 64 trout in one day.  The creek runs through “The End of Something” and “The Indians Moved Away.”
  • The “Indian Camp” – where the Ojibwa once lived is now private property, but it was here that Hemingway made the friends who inspired the story of the same name.
  • Windemere – a private home, is still owned by Hemingway’s family and is not available for tours.  Located on Lake Grove Road, it became a National Historic Landmark in 1968.  This was the cottage where Hemingway came each summer for 22 years – except for the summer he spent in Italy.  Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, spent their honeymoon at Windemere in 1921.  Windemere also features in several Nick Adams stories, including “The Doctor and The Doctor’s Wife,” “Ten Indians,” “The Indians Moved Away,” “The Last Good Country,” and, fittingly, “Wedding Day.”


“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”  The man knew something!

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