Michigan Military Academy
Orchard Lake, Michigan
The best sources of information on Michigan Military Academy are the catalogs, available through HathiTrust. The Lake Gems of Oakland gives a history of the school and its programs, and a description of the campus. A History Without Words has photos of the campus and students.
In 1875 Colonel J. Sumner Rogers saw a need for a school in the Northwest that would combine military instruction with a curriculum found in academies and colleges. Subsequently, Michigan Military Academy was chartered in September 1877 and opened for 40 students with six instructors. Enrollment had reached 138 by 1883 and settled at slightly over 100.
M.M.A. was basically a four-year academy. By 1896 it added a one-year preparatory course, equivalent to eighth grade. The 1902 catalog notes the addition of a graduate year—the equivalent of junior college. The required four-year curriculum included algebra, history, English, physics and a foreign language. In addition to advanced electives to prepare students for universities, M.M.A offered courses in music, bookkeeping, and “Manual Training and Electrical Work.”
Cadets at Michigan Military Academy. Image from A History Without Words Accessed 11-24-2019
Students had a band, an orchestra, a dramatics club, a debate team, and a newspaper. Under “social life” the catalog lists regular weekly lectures by outside speakers, musical events, receptions, and dances. There was also a boat club.
Colonel Rogers died in 1901, and the school was purchased by General Harris Wheeler and Lawrence Hull. By 1903 newspapers reported that the school was experiencing financial difficulties and that Hull had become superintendent. At Christmas 1908, Hull announced that the school would not reopen. At that time indebtedness was listed as “up toward $100,000,”and enrollment was down to 50-60 students.
Bricks and Mortar
Colonel Rogers was able to purchase a 100-acre property on the north shore of Orchard Lake, 26 miles northwest of Detroit. The school’s original building, “the Castle,” had served as a family residence and also a hotel. Academic Building was added in 1891. It was a three-story brick structure measuring 30 by 80 feet. The top floor contained a chapel seating 200. There were nine classrooms on the second floor. In addition to administrative offices, the ground floor contained a reception room, the library and three laboratories. After outgrowing “the Castle,” M.M.A. added a three-story barracks building measuring 30 by 120 feet. Each of its six divisions housed 24 cadets. The Gymnasium had a floor space measuring 50 by 150 feet. The building contained a running track and basement-level dressing rooms. The campus contained six tennis courts, a golf course, a boat launch and a 60-acre farm.
When M.M.A. closed, the campus was purchased by SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary. Today it houses all component parts of Orchard Lake Schools—the Polish Mission, St. Mary’s Preparatory school, in addition to the seminary. The campus was placed on the National Register in 1982. The vandalized barracks were razed in 2014.
Academy Building in 2004. Image by Gsgeorge. Accessed 11-24-2019
Team name: Newspapers refer to teams
School colors: Maroon and White
College Football Data Warehouse shows football games as early as 1892. That year the Cadets played Albion College and Detroit High School—one of the first high school games played by a Michigan high school. In addition to Albion, M.M.A. played Ypsilanti Normal School (four times), Rush Medical College, Detroit College, and Detroit College of Law. The Cadets played the University of Michigan three times in 1894 and 1895--a draw and two losses to the Wolverines. For a time, M.M.A. was a member of the Northwestern Military Schools conference with Shattuck (MN) and St. John’s (WI), playing for a western championship. Most of the M.M.A schedule involved top high school and academy sides from the Detroit area, Cleveland, and Buffalo (NY).
Images in the photo history show that the Cadets also fielded teams in baseball, track and field, tennis, and rowing. Newspapers reported that MMA participated in a national marksman competition in 1897.
1900 Michigan Military Academy football team. Image from A History Without Words Accessed 11-24-2019