Horseshoe Bay Farms and Golf Club

The land of Horseshoe Bay Farms is steeped in history.  It is a timeline of legend and mystery.  Of exploration and discovery.  Of dreams and reality.
Over 16,000 years ago the last of the Great Glaciers receded from the Great Lakes, leaving behind the lakes basins and the basins of the bays. The receding glacier also left a hard wedge of dolomite limestone in its wake.  This limestone ridge stretches roughly from what is today Niagara Falls, New York, southwest through Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine Forest. Today this formation is known as the “Niagara Escarpment” and one of its primary features is the Door Peninsula.
It was the scenic Door Peninsula that Frank E. Murphy and his nephew Eldridge N. Murphy chose as the site for Horseshoe Bay Farms in 1917 with the bluffs of Door County as its dramatic backdrop. But let’s not jump ahead.
The History
For generations the Potawatomi Indians thrived off the lands and waters of Door County in relatively undisturbed tranquility. In 1634 French Explorer Jean Nicolet landed in Door County, finding a peninsula rich in wildlife, fish and forest. Later severe winds drove La Salle’s expedition ashore in 1680 along the banks of what is today known as Frank E. Murphy County Park.  The first White settlers of the area were the Carmody cousins, Thomas (Blackjack) and William (Redjack) in 1869, and the area became known as Carmody’s Prairie.  It is believed the Carmody’s moved north from Carlsville in search of more cedar for the production of shaker.  Carmody’s Prairie lies due east of the 16th hole at Horseshoe Bay.


By the early 1870’s Andrew Anderson had finished building a pier at Monument Point (just south of the present day Murphy Park) and began buying and shipping cordwood. Mr. Anderson also opened a general store and a sawmill.  He eventually sold the sawmill to Albee and Taylor, who in turn added a second sawmill, a blacksmith shop and a Cooper’s shop.  The “Coopers” or barrel makers sold their barrels to local fishermen who used them to ship salted fish to the cities.
The barrel making industry resulted in Horseshoe Bay being named Cooperstown in the late 1870’s.  A school and dozen homes were built on the bay during this period.  Albee and Taylor sold their business to the Hamilton Company in the late 1880’s.  Hamilton added an ice business, cutting and storing as much as 3,000 tons a year.  By 1890, the ice business had collapsed and the village of “Cooperstown” became a ghost town.



The Dream
Early in the 20th century the Frank E. Murphy family began acquiring land in the Horseshoe Bay Area and established Murphy Farms in 1916, Frank E. Murphy and his nephew, Eldridge N. Murphy began construction of the beautiful and now historic Horseshoe Bay Farm barns, and the dream began to take shape:
“…To create a very special place for people to live, work and play.
… To create Horse Shoe Bay Country Club and establish it as an enduring world class facility.”
By the early 1920’s the dream was becoming a reality. “The Horse Shoe Bay Country Club” clubhouse was constructed, streets were paved, and a number of summer cottages were built.
The Horse Shoe Bay Country Club was, “Organized under the laws of the State of Wisconsin for the purpose of maintaining club house and grounds, and to furnish faculties for games, amusements etc. The first “modern Club House’ at Horse Shoe Bay (now Horseshoe Bay), was equipped with electrical light, hot and cold running water, baths, lavatories, sleeping rooms, dining room, etc., which were available to Club Members, together with Tennis, Golf, Shooting, Boating, Motoring, Fishing, Bathing, Dancing, and Social Pleasures.” Members were given the opportunity to purchase a, “beautiful shore lot, where he may build his own summer home if he so desires.”
Although Horseshoe Bay was advertised as the “California of the North” and “a vacation triumph”, the club did not attract enough interest to succeed. However, the original clubhouse stood until it was torn down in 1975.



When the Golf Club did not materialize, the Murphy’s shifted their attention to farming. As farming became the focus, Frank E. Murphy’s Horseshoe Bay Farm grew to be well-known Holstein dairy breeder. The most notable cow in the herd was named “Johanna Star Reka” renowned in her day for being the third largest milk producer in the world.
In time the farm became the largest employer in Door County, principally due to the fruit orchards it developed. Horseshoe Bay Farms grew several varieties of apples to market through the Sturgeon Bay Fruit Growers Cooperative. In its heyday, the farm was the largest fruit producer in the county (apples, cherries and plums) and one of the cooperative’s major participants. The “Co-op”  had a large supply house located where the current Horseshoe Bay Beach Club stands and had built the large dock at Horseshoe Bay to ship fruit to Peshtigo and Dykesville were it was then distributed by rail to it’s final destination. The dock has been rebuilt and is now used by the Frank E. Murphy County Park.


Until the early 1990’s farming and fruit production continued to be the focus of Horseshoe Bay Farms. In 1995, the Frank Murphy Cowles family descendants of Frank E. Murphy began the fulfillment of Frank E. Murphy’s dream. Home sites, with beautiful water views and bluff vistas were made available to those who dream of owning a special place in Door County. In 1998, the second phase of Frank’s dream started to become a reality. Designed by renowned Architect’s Rick Robbins and Brain Lussier of Robbins & Assoc., Int’l and constructed by Ryan Incorporated, Central, Frank’s world class golf course at Horseshoe Bay Farms began to take shape.


In July of 2000, the dream of building that world class golf course was completed when Horseshoe Bay Golf Club hosted its grand opening celebration.  Now today we would like to share his dream with you.  Nowhere else in Door County will you, as a prospective home buyer, find such a unique combination of history and beauty with an ongoing commitment to land and wildlife preservation.  Nowhere else in Door County, will you, as an avid golfer, find a residential community that matches the quality of 18 hole world class golf course set amid such spectacular surroundings.  Nowhere else in Door County will you have the opportunity to be part of one of the county’s most historic locations…Horseshoe Bay Farms and Golf Club.