Demolition of Camp Mercer

Bill Summers, Camp Mercer Project Superintendent, 1933-1942

Camp Mercer project superintendent Bill Summers outside of the ranger garage.

Summers helped the Army demolish Camp Mercer in 1942. [Modern photo of Circle Lily Creek (foreground) and the Manitowish River (background)]

While demolishing camp, Summers hoped to salvage camp materials to share with poor families. However, the Army officer in charge insisted on following orders to destroy all items. Summers devised a plan to “destroy” the goods by dumping them in the Manitowish River. The officer agreed, not knowing the rest of Summers’ benevolent plot. Immediately after the officer departed, Summers and crew salvaged the sunken materials. The gathered tools, bed frames, utensils, and other valuables were driven to Mercer churches for distribution.

Automobile with bullet holes and infamous criminal John Dillinger

On April 22, 1934, 660th Company leadership sent Eugene Bosineau and company cook John Morris to nearby Little Bohemia restaurant on a beer run. Mercer resident John Hoffman drove the men in his 1933 Chevy Coup. In a calamitous turn, the FBI, who had been searching for gangster John Dillinger in the area, mistook the trio as members of Dillinger’s criminal gang and opened fire on the car. All three were wounded. Morris escaped, leaving Bosineau, who was mortally wounded, to call Camp Mercer for the ambulance. Both Hoffman and Morris survived the tragedy. Bill Summers had left the bar at Little Bohemia just 30 minutes before the FBI opened fire on his men.

Camp specialists earned greater responsibilities and pay by passing assessments that qualified them for leadership roles. These specialists were Bill Summers’ key leaders.