Reverend James McCabe, pastor at Sacred Heart Church, Hudson, envisioned the need for a chapel at Devils lake in his letter to Edward Cardinal Mooney in Detroit, November 24, 1949. Four days later he received a response suggesting that he look for property for a chapel to accommodate the spiritual care of the permanent residents and the “resorters” in and Near Manitou Beach.
In March of 1953, Father McCabe was invited to bring a map of the area to Detroit. In October, Gonda Page, a real estate agent, wrote describing a choice location and the approximate cost per acre ($550). Three days later a positive response came from cardinal Mooney, and on November 5 a payment of $5,000 was forwarded to Charles, Nora and Ollie Imerson for the purchase of the 8.5 acres on Manitou Road, adjacent to the public elementary school.
In March 1956, Dominican Sisters came to take a census of Catholics in the area since it was necessary to ascertain the concentration of the Catholic population nearest the proposed building. A letter dates June 1, 1956, confirmed cardinal’s permission to provide Sunday Mass during the summer for the “cottagers” of the Devils Lake area. Services were to be held in Mr. Brown’s dance hall, “provided no alcoholic beverages be displayed or served prior or immediately after the services.”
Father Edward Hurley was the pastor at Sacred Heart Church at that time, he then hired Francis Faulhaber as architect on October 18, 1956 and the first church building began. Cost of the building was $70,700 and was completed the summer of 1958. St. Mary on the Lake Parish was designated a mission parish of Sacred Heart. Hudson.
Palm Sunday, April 1, 1966 was the day of devastation for the parish and the surrounding area. Father Gerald Loewen reported: “The tornado of Palm Sunday night resulted in a total loss of our mission church. The statue of Mary was the only thing that was still standing. Nothing else remained except what we could pick out of the trees and fields.” There was no place immediately available for the little parish of forty families and the additional summer count of 1,200-1,400, since the public school, the dance pavilion and the nearby Baptist Church had also been demolished. Parishioners were invited to hold services in the gym at Addison Schools until the replacement church could be built.