Tucked in the southwest corner of Tyrone Township and the northeast corner of Deerfield is a lake community that boasts not only some impressive, upscale homes and properties, but some interesting history as well.
Although they did not complete their life’s journey together, a one-time husband and wife, Jim Cole and Sylvia Cole, are said to be responsible for the building and future success of Lake Shannon real estate.
According to “Cole leaves beautiful legacy,” an article published in the Tri-County News in November of 1993 following Jim Cole’s death, he was raised in Holly, having graduated from Holly High School as president of his class. Following graduation, he attended Michigan Technological University in Houghton, receiving a degree in civil engineering in 1943, after only three years of study.
He immediately joined the U.S. Navy, serving in the Pacific during World War II. After he was honorably discharged in California, Cole purchased an amphibious “duck” at a surplus store, drove it back to Michigan and started his first business, Cole Lake Service.
Cole invented a drag to level beaches on existing Michigan inland lakes. He built docks, cleared lily pads and cattails from shorelines, cleaning lakes. During the winters, he earned his livelihood trapping beaver, mink, fox and muskrats in Michigan swamps and forests.
After 10 years of “cleaning up lakes,” Cole decided it would be easier to “make a lake from scratch.” During the 1950s and ’60s, he changed the face of Michigan and Wisconsin by developing and building 16 inland lakes, which totaled more than 200 miles of shoreline and thousands of acres of sparkling lakes. Thirteen of the 16 were private all-sports lakes with no public access.
Cole became known as the “Lake Builder.” He purchased the land, cleared it for the proposed lake bottom, built the dam and flooded the valley. Next he built roads around the lake and subdivided lots around the shoreline, selling them for year-round and summer homes.
Lake Shannon is among those lakes. It was his personal favorite and where he built his permanent home.
An old friend, Stewart Oldford Sr., who now resides in Parshallville, just down the road from Lake Shannon, said he first met Jim when he came across the Lake Shannon project in the ’60s. It was all gravel roads. Just two houses were built and several more were started, Oldford said.
“The lots were $15,000 to $25,000 and I was tempted, but I had too much going on in Plymouth,” he said. “So I passed on buying; it was too far from work.”
In 1973, Oldford said he bought a farm and moved close to Lake Shannon. “The community was half built and lots were now twice as high,” he said. “Jim had left town and his ex-wife was living
there and selling.
“He told me he did (Lake) Shannon all by himself with $20,000 cash,” Oldford said. “A truly wild entrepreneur.”
As Oldford said, Sylvia Cole continued to live at Lake Shannon and develop the land as a Realtor. A graduate of Michigan State University and one-time crime reporter for the Pontiac Press, she gave up her career to work alongside her husband as his secretary.
Known as “Mama Shannon,” Sylva died in May of this year at the age of 84. On the day of her funeral, the procession drove around Lake Shannon on the way to the church.
Sylia was a child advertising model from ages 3 to 6 for Pontiac Motor Company and Household Finance Company, according to her obituary. She graduated from East Detroit High School and later Michigan State University with a degree in Journalism. After her journalism career, she was self-employed as a lake developer and real estate broker.
Jim Cole and Sylvia Cole’s names continue to be synonymous with Lake Shannon. Jim’s foresight to build the lake and start selling lots there, and Sylvia’s reputation and dedication to Lake Shannon made for a successful, long-time real estate career at that location.
About Lake Shannon
Lake Shannon is a 262-acre lake that has a maximum depth of 75 feet.
Lake Shannon is a private lake fed by Ore Creek with a dams at either end. There is no public access. On the south end of the lake, the creek widens but not enough for skiing. There is no access from Lake Shannon to other lakes by boat. The lake is wider at the northern part of the lake and gets narrow as you go south.
Since the lake is in two townships, children who live in Deerfield Township attend Hartland schools, while those who live in Tyrone Township attend Linden schools.
Lake Shannon real estate and Lake Shannon waterfront properties feature nice homes, most of which are 2,000 square feet and larger. Some of Lake Shannon’s real estate is heavily wooded. There are some waterfront properties that do sit higher above the lake and there are stairs needed to go down to the water’s edge.