One of the Israelite House of David’s more novel business ventures took place on High Island, a small island in northern Lake Michigan four miles west of Beaver Island, and featuring a sand dune reported to be the highest point in the lake. Between 1912 and 1928, approximately 150 colony converts accepted assignments to live and work in a new lumber enterprise. The segment of the House of David membership that lived and worked there gave this island a unique history while contributing significantly to the material growth of the House of David. It also, quite unwittingly, contributed to the commune’s infamy which culminated in the sensational 1927 court battle Michigan v. The Israelite House of David in which the State sought the dissolution of the community. Among a host of charges, the state prosecutors claimed that High Island served as an Israelite “penal colony.”
The heart of this essay lies in the experiences of seven men and one woman who shared their youthful memories with me in extended recorded interviews. Each is cited in this essay and a piece of each still plays in the woods of High Island.