Posted by: Rae | December 14, 2007

Oldest building in Charlevoix … 1865: Philo Beers homestead

Georganna Monk, the owner of the building that houses the Alcove Cafe, has been researching its history on and off for years. She planned a meeting of the Charlevoix County History Preservation Society at the Alcove on November 26. It was the group’s Christmas/Holiday party, and in addition to dinner the group enjoyed Georganna’s presentation on the history of 103 Park Avenue, formerly 101 Park Avenue, formerly 101 Main St.

Most people here are aware that a large Mormon colony was established in the 1840s in what is today Charlevoix County, and on Beaver Island, just off the coast in Lake Michigan. In addition to the Mormons there was a large native American population (a story for another day), some fishermen, and a couple of farm families.

Philo Beers, an early pioneer, arrived in what was then Pine River (now Charlevoix) sometime in the early to mid 1860s, soon after the assassination of “King” James Jesse Strang, the leader of the polygamous Mormon sect. Beers owned all of block 2, which is bordered on the east by Bridge Street, the south by Main Street (now Park Avenue), and the north by the Pine River (now “the channel”). He built his homestead there in 1865 by the earliest newspaper account, in 1866 by later ones. Official deeds burned in a fire in Boyne City, and although some deeds were re-recorded, the record is spotty. So we have to depend upon newspaper accounts from the era and other public records. Philo’s homestead still exists — it’s the building that houses the Alcove Cafe, and it is the oldest building in Charlevoix.

Philo was an interesting character. He moved from Kent County (wilderness then, now Grand Rapids) to Northport on the Leelanau Penninsula to Pine River (now Charlevoix). We have been unable to find a trace of him before 1830. His wife (we think, although she was unnamed in the 1830 census, which recorded names of household heads only) died or otherwise disappeared between the 1830 and 1840 censuses. He had many children, and many of them died young, not uncommon at that time. In Kent County he was a farmer. In Northport he was a Deputy U.S. Marshall, and the first Lighthouse Keeper. In Charlevoix he was a druggist, the Probate Judge, and Postmaster. In fact, until it was moved across the street a couple of years before his death, the Philo Beers homestead was the site of the post office — the first post office in Charlevoix. In August of 1870 Philo lived in his homestead on Main with two of his daughters, Lennie Ingalls and Harriet Beers, and Lennie’s 1-year-old son, Ammon Ingalls. Two weeks after the census that described the household, the local newspaper reported Ammon’s death. Lennie’s husband, also Ammon, had died of illness one month before their child was born.

In 1868 Lennie’s brother-in-law, Jackson Ingalls, built a home diagonally across the street. Before her infant son died she (and perhaps her husband) had arranged for Ben Campbell, a local ship chandler from Beaver Island, to build a home just east of the Jackson Ingalls home. It was finished in 1870. By 1880, Lennie was married to Ben Campbell and living in what is now Petoskey. Her home, and the Jackson Ingalls home, still exist. Lennie’s home houses the Charlevoix Land Conservancy; the Jackson Ingalls home is a gift shop called The Treasure Chest. To the west of Lennie Ingalls’s house is the M.J. Stockman house, built in 1869. It is currently occupied by Hugh Mason’s accounting business.

Philo Beers died in 1872. His estate was finally settled in 1879, and block 2 was divided among a number of local settlers. More on this later …



  1. In regards to Philo Beers: I am a distant cousin through his dau., Lucy A., 1832-1911, who married Robert Carlyle, 1831-1909. Hattie and Lucy travel between frequently between their homes in Rockford, Kent Co., and Charlevoix. It appears that Philo’s wife was one Magdelena Pittenger of New York, hence the last child, born was named Magdelena. Mother “Lena” died giving birth in 1848. Her grave site is unknown, however it was a custom of the times that the burial is most likely on the old homestead in Courtland Twp., Kent Co.,MI
    The Carlyle family dates back to the 13th century and before. What is known that one William Carlyle married the younger sister, Margaret, of the Robert Bruce that was made famous in the Mel Gibson movie “Braveheart.”

    • John,

      So nice to hear from you. There are two ladies here in Charlevoix (one comes only in the summer) who are granddaughters of Philo’s son Ammon, who was a farmer in the area and died some time in the 1930s in nearby Boyne City. They have a framed photograph of Philo, and allowed me to take a picture of it. It’s on the website, along with other information we’ve been able to find about the family.

      I knew about Magdalena Pittinger. Her daughter Magdalena, usually called Lennie or Lena, lived in the area all of her life as well. The home she built after the death of her first husband still stands; it’s diagonally across the street from the restaurant. Two of her granddaughters lived in the home until fairly recently, after which it was sold to the city of Charlevoix. There are pictures of that home on the same website.

      Great to hear about the Carlyle family — knew he lived with the family, and later married Lucy, but didn’t know about the Robert Bruce connection.

      Stay in touch!

  2. Cheers Trouble/Rae,
    The history of the Carlyles dates back to the 11th century in Scotland. They were always “players” in the great battles for Scottish independence, but never played major roles.
    The village of Terregles, Kirkcudbrighshire, Scotland, where Robert Carlyle, 1831-1909, the husband of Lucy Ann Beers, 1832-1911, dau. of Philo, was born, temporarily housed Mary Queen of Scots. She was also Queen of France and thus the one of the Carlyle’s Royal connections as the Carlyles are connected to the current Royals of England.
    Even today the Scots show polite contempt for British rule, and call Prince Charles, “the Scottish Royal Pretender.”
    Thank you for publishing the photos of Philo, which will be sent to Rockford, Mich. Historical Society in my next “Carlyle Biographies” along with the Carlyle research found on my recent trip to Scotland.
    Yours Aye, for the Holidays,

  3. Cheers Rae,
    Mothers’ Day Greetings….
    Found the land grant information on the BEERS family in Courtland Township, Kent County, Michigan. George D. Beers owned 80 ac. adjacent to Lucy’s 40 ac in Section 28. Then in Section 27, Lucy owned a half section or 320 ac. All are dated 1841 and just east of Rockford.
    George and Lucy are the children of Philo.
    Those land grants are adjacent to Wm and John Carlyle brothers. William is the father of Robert, who married Lucy Beers. Warmest regards, John

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