Captain Kidd Island

North Shore

McPherren Cottage, 1935: Wolbrink [Sheet 047, Photo B], ISRO Archives.


ometime following 1934, Wayne and Marjorie McPherren purchased the 20.6-acre Captain Kidd Island, near Crystal Cove and Belle Isle, from the Nixon family of Omaha. Nixon purchased Captain Kidd from the McGeath family and only owned the island for a couple of years. The McPherren's made their purchase after park establishment, using the compound as a private camp. Under the McPherren's ownership, buildings were recycled from other areas, and additional buildings were built, including the 1930's McPherren cottage (#300), and 1940s boathouse (#301c).

When the park service began acquiring Isle Royale lands, the appraised value of the McPherren land, dwellings, outbuildings, and dock totaled $1675.45. During the 1937 season, after the land had already been appraised, Wayne McPherren rebuilt a lodge on the spot of an earlier fire. The fire left the chimney standing and at the time of appraisal McPherren had gathered some lumber to use in construction. On March 23, 1938, land purchaser E. G. Willemin wrote a letter to McPherren expressing surprise over the new lodge. Willemin described the decision to build the lodge as a "big risk" given that new construction had never been added to property value after the first appraisal. After some discussion over the specifications and value of the building Willemin eventually informed McPherren that the ISRO Commission had allowed for an increase of $400 in the appraisal to cover the value of the chimney that was standing at appraisal and the wood that was stored on the property. The construction itself occurred after the appraisal and was given no value. However, the McPherren family has had the use of the building throughout their life lease and, now, through a Special Use Permit.

Sally McPherren Orsborn holds a Special Use Permit first issued in 2003.

Physical Appearance and Construction

The McPherren Cottage and the three sleeping cabins are all of the same type of saddle-notched log construction as those in the McGeath Compound, and are all one-story, with either gabled or pyramidal hipped-roots. Roofing is mostly rolled asphalt. The architectural style, materials, and workmanship of the log buildings are similar to those at the McGeath Compound. As stated previously, the majority of buildings at the McPherren Compound are saddle-notched log construction built by Emil Anderson. However, one log building, the McPherren cottage (#300), was built in 1935- 1936 by Wayne and William Ft. McPherren. This building is a one- story, one-room gabled structure, measuring approximately 24' x 14', and exhibits different design and workmanship than the earlier log structures, which have pyramidal hipped and hipped-roots, and a tighter saddle notching used in the joinery technique.

Like the McGeath Compound, the McPherren Compound has structures that are frame construction: sleeping cabin #1 (#301A), and the boat house (#301 C). Sleeping cabin #1 was built by Emil Anderson ca. 1920, and is a one-story frame structure with a pyramidal hip roof, and a flat-roofed addition. Siding on both the original building and the addition is ship-lap. The original pyramidal section measures only 8' x 8', and has two large one-over-one windows to the right of the entry. The building was moved, possibly from the McGeath Compound, in 1940, and may have been built to serve a non- residential purpose. A second addition was added to the building ca. 1975. The bathhouse was also moved from Amygdaloid Island in 1940, and was originally part of the McGeath Compound.


The McPherren Compound has eleven surviving structures, most retaining high integrity. These include a cottage, three sleeping cabins, a boat house ruin and winch, bath house, tool shed, privy, woodshed, crib docks, and a flagpole.

Image Gallery


Help Tell The Story

Are you related to this family? Would you be willing to share stories or photos associated with related events? If so, we would love to hear from you! Please contact the Cultural Resource Manager at Isle Royale National Park. Or write to:

Isle Royale National Park
800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931-1896


  1. Franks, Kathryn E. and Arnold R. Alanen, 1999. Historic Structures at Isle Royale National Park: Historic Contexts and Associated Property Types. Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison, January 1999.

  2. Newland, Dave. 2003. Executive Summary of the McPherren Life Lease. Isle Royale National Park. Houghton, MI.