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Jo Labadie and His Gift to Michigan

A Legacy for the Masses

Bubbling Waters




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  The Labadie Print Shop
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  Agnes Inglis (1870-1952)
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Special Collections Library
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

In 1912, Jo's wealthy friend Carl Schmidt purchased 40 acres of land for the Labadie family, some thirty miles north of Detroit, off Grand River Road in Livingston County. This became the Labadies" summer home, and Jo built several structures ( 61, 67) on it for the purpose of providing a summer retreat for working people who could not afford private resorts and cottages. This venture proved more effort than the Labadies were able to handle, but they hosted many guests and friends throughout their years at Bubbling Waters, as the retreat came to be known.

Among the buildings Jo built were a cabin, a barn, a henhouse and a press shop where he worked and stored his printing press. Jo and Sophie committed themselves to setting up Bubbling Waters as a refuge from an increasingly noisy and congested Detroit. They returned to their home and family in Detroit during the winter months where Jo was able to resume his job at the Water Works.

In addition, Jo's brothers Oliver and Hubert, both entertainers ( 8, 11), purchased 300 acres of adjacent land and opened a film studio, the Labadie-Detroit Motion Picture Company ( 12, 13). Here several early silent films were made, including Three Bad Men (1915), The Rich Slave (1921), The First Woman (1922), and Then Came the Woman (1926). Famous Hollywood actors of the time could be seen there on location. The Labadie Collection owns a video print of the only extant Labadie film, a 62-minute segment of Then Came the Woman. This segment includes a forest fire scene which, according to one Labadie descendent, was started by pouring gasoline along the proposed path of the fire. Jo's brother, Francis, was also a professional entertainer at that time, and ran a company called the Labadie Lecture and Amusement Bureau.

The land at Bubbling Waters was passed down to Jo and Sophie's children, Laura, Charlotte, and Laurance, and in 1941 was deeded to the county to be preserved as parkland. Today, the Kensington Metropark Nature Center displays artifacts and information about the Labadie home, and although long since ravaged by time, remnants of the foundation of the cabin can still be seen along the Aspen Trail.





Bubbling Waters, clear and cool,
Forming a sparkling, pleasing pool,
Running from a boiling spring
Like a living, sprightly thing,
Cheering a modest rural home,
Singing sweetly a rural poem,
Making a woodland rondelet,
As sung by sprites along their way
Thru life's fields and marshes green
Lead by a wild, uncultured queen.

--Jo Labadie



"Bubbling Waters was the fulfillment of a pleasant dream we long had, to have a little place far enuf away from the noise and hurry-up of the big town, where people do not take the time to live like human beings..."

Joseph Labadie