This unique wooded peninsula surrounded by the pristine waters of both Green Bay and Lake Michigan attracted the Robertson ancestors to Door County in the late 1800’s. Michael Robertson immigrated from Norway as a young man, and in 1874 he appeared before the Door County Clerk of Court renouncing his allegiance to King Oscar II, King of Norway and Sweden, for good. He wanted to be an American!
Michael quickly homesteaded land just south of Sturgeon Bay. The area became known as Shiloh. It was a beautiful place with tall virgin pines, but sadly the soil was thin, unproductive, and rocky; similar to the farm he had left behind in Norway. Michael generously donated a plot of his new land so a neighborhood church could be built. It became the historic Shiloh Church which is now surrounded by the graves of early settlers. Many of which belong to the Robertson family and generations of other relatives. Shiloh Church is still in use today for special ceremonies.
In 1881 Josephine Berensten, a daughter of Norwegian immigrants, married Michael Robertson when she was just 19 and he was 29. Their first child, Emma, was born on Christmas Day in the primitive log cabin Michael had built with the trees he cut from his land. Mike, as he preferred to be called, found extra work at the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. He continually cleared land and established a small dairy farm. Three of their eleven children died in infancy, but four sons and four daughters lived long and fulfilling lives within just a few miles of the farm where they were born.
Chester, their son born in 1893, served in the US Army in the trenches in France during World War I. Upon his discharge he spent time working on a ranch in Paradise, Montana until Door County and his family called him back to his roots. He opened a popular barber shop on the West Side (once called Sawyer) of Sturgeon Bay.
Joyce Wood, a native of Minnesota arrived in Sturgeon Bay to teach Home Economics at the new West Side School. She was a very tall and attractive woman. Joyce had grown up on a farm in Southern Minnesota and was very intelligent and determined. Her two brothers both attended the University of Minnesota, but education for a girl in the 1920’s was not a priority for most families. A determined Joyce decided she definitely desired to attend college, and in order to fund her schooling she took difficult tests so she could qualify to teach in a country school which brought her to Sturgeon Bay. She lived in a rented room in the area and had her own horse and buggy. She taught grades one through eight, and every penny she earned from teaching was saved for her college education. Each morning Joyce walked by Chester’s shop on her way to teach classes at the brick school building just a few blocks away. Chester carefully planned to sweep the sidewalk or shovel snow early each morning around the same Joyce would walk by. She decided she wanted to meet that handsome, friendly guy who greeted her each morning, so she made a visit to the barber shop and bravely had her hair fashionably “bobbed.” The friendly, outgoing, handsome barber, and the attractive, educated, and intelligent teacher were definitely a study in contrasts, but they still fell in love. In 1926 they were married at Joyce’s family farm near the village of Delevan, Minnesota. Their only child, Beth, arrived in 1928. During the years before Beth’s Birth Joyce had used her savings to attend The Stout Institute (University of Wisconsin Stout) where she studied “Domestic Science.” She had also become an activist for Women’s Suffrage.
Although the years following Chester and Joyce’s marriage were during the great depression, they somehow built their beloved cottage “Harbor Home” near the shores of Sawyer Harbor in 1938. This humble start was destined to evolve into “Robertson’s Cottages at Idlewild.” Now, all this time later, four generations of the Robertson-Yount family have deep roots in this unique and wonderful place in Door County with the intention of carrying forward and preserving this legacy and tradition.