Out From the Shadows #2: Colonel Edwin S. George

Many years ago, when I worked at the Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society, I came across a man named Edwin S. George in reference to his home, “Cedarholm,” which he built in 1923 in Bloomfield Hills, and is now a part of Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church.

What many people do not realize is the colonel’s long-standing connection to Cranbrook. Recently, while searching for photographs for a researcher, I stumbled upon the negative of a stocky, kind-looking man standing by a grove of trees. Fortunately, early Cranbrook photographers kept great records and I was able to look up the subject on the index of negatives in the archives, and it is indeed a photo of Colonel George.

Colonel Edwin S. George, Apr 1930. W. Bryant Tyrell, photographer.

Colonel Edwin S. George, Apr 1930. W. Bryant Tyrell, photographer.

Much can be read about the Colonel’s acumen as an influential Detroit businessman and philanthropist, and there is no doubt that he and George Booth knew one another in Detroit. However, once they both moved to Bloomfield Hills, the relationship grew. The colonel organized the Bloomfield Hills Country Club of which Booth was a founding member, and both men were members of the Bloomfield Open Hunt Club. In 1912, Colonel George became one of the stockholders in the Bloomfield Hills Seminary (the pre-cursor to Brookside School) established by George Booth, and in 1926, the two men worked together to bring a post-office to the then Village of Bloomfield Hills.

Cranbrook School students with Colonel George (seated), The Edwin George Reserve, Sep 1930. W. Bryant Tyrell, photographer.

Cranbrook School students with Colonel George (seated), The Edwin George Reserve, Sep 1930. W. Bryant Tyrell, photographer.

But certainly the most important contribution Colonel George made to Cranbrook was through the Institute of Science. In 1930, the colonel became a member of the Institute’s first Board of Trustees, a position he held until just before his death in 1950. That same year, he donated 1,250 acres of land near Pinckney, Michigan to the University of Michigan to be used not as a public park, but as an educational resource for University of Michigan students, scout troops, and Cranbrook School students. Known as “The Edwin George Reserve,” it featured hiking trails, streams and a small lake, stables, outbuildings, a gate lodge, and even an airstrip. Colonel George also stocked the reserve with wildlife including deer brought from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and antelope from Alberta, Canada. The colonel wanted the boys to have “an appreciation of the truer values of life as expressed by the truth in Nature,” and provided a place for them to do so.

So, while we have no direct proof that Booth and the colonel discussed the virtues of nature as education, it sure seems to me that they had a lot more in common than we previously thought!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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