A Window into History
In the mid 1800s throughout the north and south, the phenomenon of camp meetings paralleled a wave of spiritual revival. Simpson Park is Michigan’s oldest such continually-operated camp, recognized by the Michigan Historic Sites registry.
by Debi Martone
Quite possibly the oldest house in Macomb County, and one of the oldest in Michigan, the Starkweather House has been standing peacefully in Bruce Township virtually unnoticed with its 175 years of history quietly tucked inside.
Starkweather purchased 160 acres of property on Campground Road between Gates and 33 Mile roads and built the original section of the house, which is situated on the north end of the Greek revival style home.
The house was nestled in what once made up the largest pine grove in southern Michigan. Some of the pines and their offspring are still standing on the southeast side of the house.
Starkweather and his wife, Roxanna, raised eight children on their farm, six of whom were born in the home. According to a historical engineering study, the house had three major additions, most likely added early on by the Starkweathers. Legend has it that the original section was used as an Indian trading post and that Native Americans traveled from Mount Clemens to collect government subsidy checks from the Starkweathers, who would also let them sleep near the hearth in the kitchen during the winter months.
The farm remained in the Starkweather family for three generations, including Weed Thorington Starkweather, father of Romeo icon Helen Starkweather, until it was sold in 1914 to Jerome Schoof.
Like the Starkweathers, the Schoofs maintained a close relationship with Simpson Park Camp and continued to sell the property to the camp, including a large portion of their peach orchard where the soccer field is now located.
Since the mid-1970s, the farm was owned by Waino Husko, who left directions upon his death that the house, barn and remaining land be sold to Simpson Park Camp. Husko was told by a personal friend, Henry Ford, to “save interesting things.” With that advice in mind, he saved everything he could from the home and the barn.
And now, Simpson Park Camp has the privilege of being custodian and preserver of this delightful window into local history.
by Debi Martone
Preservation of the house and an adjacent barn is a top priority for the board of directors of Simpson Park Camp, who purchased the historic buildings and five acres of property surrounding them.
“What we now have is a key link to the history of the area that’s kind of been forgotten,” said Dwight Gibson, a lifelong member of Simpson Park Camp who is now the vice chairman of the board, and director of future development for the camp.
The house was purchased outright with funds donated by camp members who continue to contribute towards the restoration of both buildings with the importance the property has to the camp’s history in mind.
“This house is still preserved in its most original form,” Gibson said. “It hasn’t been muddled at all.” Gibson said the structure of the home and barn are solid and all that needs to be done is a little “facelift work.”
Simpson Park Camp dreams of seeing the Greek Revival style Starkweather Homestead and Schoof Barn restored to their original luster and made available to the local community and surrounding areas as a retreat house dedicated to sharing the story of a family dedicated to God. The Simpson Park Camp Historic Committee can envision the property as a hands-on piece of living history that helps others learn about and understand the area’s past.
If you’d like more information on the Starkweather Farm contact our Camp Director, Doug Kelley, or our Marketing Manager, Nathan Zimmerman, at
(586) 752-3202, or by email, for a private tour and a free event consultation.