“Mackinac Island: Inside, Up Close and Personal” (Arbutus Press, $40) by
Dennis O. Cawthorne is an exceptionally entertaining new book that
focuses on a wide variety of subjects relating to one of Michigan’s most
popular tourist attractions.
Cawthorne, an attorney who lives in East Lansing, offers a unique
perspective on the resort area, where he has worked for over 50 years.
His employment at the island began in 1960, as an Albion College student,
when he initially became a carriage driver, transporting tourists to
Over the years, he became the chairman of the Mackinac Island State Parks
Commission, Chamber of Commerce manager and a saloonkeeper-restaurateur.
A Harvard Law School graduate, Cawthorne was also a businessman, lawyer,
legislator and world-traveler.
In a smooth, sometimes folksy manner, he covers a lot of territory,
detailing numerous events, including the development of Fort Mackinac.
He analyzes unusual occurrences, such as the 1960 unsolved murder case of
Frances Lacey, a Dearborn widow whose body was found under a pile of
Cawthorne deals with much more pleasant situations, including visits to
the island by Presidents, politicians and important dignitaries.
But this isn't a boring book filled with just facts and numbers – it’s
jam-packed with many full color and black and white photographs. There
are lots of images of landmarks, visitors, businessmen and many vital
people of the island.
He offers a unique viewpoint unlike any book published on Mackinac
Island; it’s overflowing with personal, candid, humorous and informative
The author doesn't shy away when dealing with controversial issues; he
provides intriguing facts regarding the constantly changing policies of
governors, local politicians and legislators.
Cawthorne’s association with many of these prominent people over the last
50 years is highly detailed, exploring the challenges of keeping
landowners, business people and tourists happy.
Taxation, funding and business rivalries are also covered, with an
emphasis on the island’s carriage ride system, bars, restaurants, fudge
shops and hotels. He was personally involved with many of the issues
relating to the island’s ferry services, including numerous still
This is an ideal book for travelers, historians and libraries. It’s a
great gift idea for anyone interested in learning about or enjoying the
rich heritage of Michigan’s picturesque Mackinac Island.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed
Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.
Find this book and other great titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.
Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan
This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on August 10, 2014.