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"Spikehorn" Comes Home
(Obituary from the Shepherd Argus)
Spikehorn Meyer came home Tuesday to Shepherd, MI when he was buried in the Salt River Cemetery following services which were held at the Stephenson Funeral Home in Clare.
He passed away at the Gladwin Nursing Home at the age of 89, where he had been cared for the past eighteen months.
Spikehorn, as he was known far and near, was born John A. Meyer July 15, 1870 in Stark County, Ohio, and came to Shepherd in 1876 with his parents to farm two miles north of Shepherd.
He grew up in this community and for some time operated a deer park before moving to Clare County, where he had a bear den and deer park since the early thirties on US-27 near Harrison.
Spikehorn worked as a farmer, guide, woodsman, hunter, trapper and lumberjack and many were the tales he told of the early days, some of which had pretty much of a Paul Bunyon flavor. He chose to dress in pioneer costume with buckskin jacket and always wore a 1ong flowing beard and long hair according to the memories of those who knew him. He long claimed to be in his eighties and by his appearance, looked it, but was only 89 when he died Saturday.
He was quite a hand to invent and manufacture machines. Among them was a sugar beet lifter, tile and chairs, and one especially remembered by local residents was a logging tractor which proved to be so heavy it could scarcely remove itself, engines in those days not being so powerful.
He advertised his bear den as the only bear den in the world where visitors were allowed to shake hands with the bears and as a result he faced law suits from visitors who were mauled by his bears. He was also taken into court by the Conservation Department for failure to get a permit to keep bears and was consistently criticizing the department.
In 1948 Spikehorn was campaigning for state representative to the legislature from the Clare Isabella District and ran afoul of the law when he distributed defamatory literature about one of his opponents. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail after conviction by a justice court jury. He had served three hours when the case was dropped after he was defeated in the race.
Many years ago he drew plans for a tunnel under the river at Detroit for the Michigan Central railroad. It was later built from almost identical plans. He also appeared before the legislature at Lansing with a model of a tunnel across the straits for consideration, long before the bridge was considered. All of these things brought him publicity and many a tourist stopped to visit his bear dens as a result.
One final memory shared by the long ago boys of this community were his various ingenious traps to catch the watermelon-hunting kids. However, kids being kids, they managed to elude them.
His bear dens and park were damaged by fire in 1957 and his age prevented his from rebuilding. With failing health he entered the nursing home at Gladwin, where he spent the remainder of his life.