Big Bay – Anatomy of a Murder and a shuffle

by | Jan 27, 2015 | Travel

Our Michigan Winter vacation in the U.P. continued with a trip up to Big Bay, Michigan to learn more about the place where the movie Anatomy of A Murder was made. While we were there we met great people and learned about the Big Bay Shuffle.

Big Bay, Michigan – Anatomy of a Murder and a shuffle

Lumberjack Tavern Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -2

Bill Thompson from Down Wind Sports who had suggested our Yellow Dog River snowshoe hike, mentioned that if you were driving out there to hike you might as well go to Big Bay for lunch and do a tour of where Anatomy of a Murder was based and filmed. By the way, many thanks to Bill and everyone at Down Wind Sports as they were all very helpful and hooked us up on an incredible adventure.

We’d heard of the 1959 film with Jimmy Stewart, but had no idea that it was based on an actual murder of Maurice Chenoweth that took place in the Lumberjack Tavern. John Voelker, the lawyer who defended Coleman Peterson in the case, wrote a fictional book based on the trail which was later made into the movie. If you are interested in the story that lead to the book, read this great article over on crime story.

Lumberjack Tavern

We easily found the Lumberjack Tavern as they proudly have a giant sized movie poster for Anatomy of a Murder on the outside of the building. The body outline on the floor lets you know you are in the right place.

Lumberjack Tavern Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -1

The Lumberjack tavern is a great place regardless of its racy history. It’s a big open space with lots of seating. The hardwood floors and paneled walls give it the feel of a big U.P. cabin. The walls are adorned with memorabilia from the movie and the actual murder. We just got a few pictures before the place filled up with snowmobilers.

Lumberjack Tavern Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -10
Lumberjack Tavern Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -3

The owners of the bar were warm and friendly. They showed us their scrapbook, which includes lots of great information about the actual murder and the making of the movie. They even have the gun that the former owner/bartender who was murdered kept under the bar. Evidently that gun didn’t do him a whole lot of good. Stop by the gallery to see more pictures from the Lumberjack Tavern.

Lumberjack Tavern Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -14
Lumberjack Tavern Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -15Lumberjack Tavern Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -13

The Big Bay Shuffle

A real hidden treasure in our stop at the Lumberjack Tavern was to learn about the “Big Bay Shuffle”. I could tell you the story, but I think its better to hear it from the original storyteller himself, Mr. Jeff Daniels who apparently is some dude that sits in with the Ben Daniels Band:

Thunder Bay Inn

After a beer at the Lumberjack, we headed down to the Thunder Bay Inn for some lunch at Duke’s Grill. The Thunder Bay Inn has a long history in Big Bay (just check out the history page on their website). It was a warehouse and then became Henry Ford’s vacation home, and finally changed into an inn and pub when production cast and crew for Anatomy of a Murder setup camp in Big Bay.

Thunder Bay Inn Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -6

They were doing some work on the fireplace in the bar area, so we didn’t poke around too much. The bar was bright and comfortable with lots of gleaming wood from floor to ceiling. They had our favorite beer of the trip, 51K IPA from Blackrocks in cans as well as Escanaba Black Beer from Upper Hand Brewing which made us all happy. Not sure what was up with the peacock, but it looked cool.

Thunder Bay Inn Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -3
Thunder Bay Inn Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -2
Thunder Bay Inn Big Bay - U.P. Winter - 2014 -5

Our visit to Big Bay was an unexpected boatload of fun. We learned new stuff, enjoyed the company of great people, and the taste of excellent U.P. beers. Not sure we could ask for a better way to spend part of our day during our 2014 Michigan Winter Vacation. We have many more pictures in our gallery and our upcoming itinerary blog post condenses the vacation into a single post. As always, you can keep in touch with us by signing up for our email or you can find us on FacebookTwitter and Tumblr. Cheers!


  1. Peacock is the last name of the owners, hence the peacock.

    • Ah…mystery solved 🙂 We figured they just loved those colorful birds 🙂 Thank you for the info!

  2. Wish I had met you during your visit. Would like to have given you some more history and a tour. Thanks for the mention.

    • Sorry we missed you Wayne! We enjoyed our food and the service was very nice 🙂 The updated fireplace is going to be really nice 🙂

  3. my grandpa orville alexander was standing at the bar when he came in and stood next to him and shot the bartender

    • Wow…that had to make for some intriguing family stories! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Is there an Iron Cliffs County?
    How close is Big Bay and the bar where the murded took place to Northern University?

    • Hello Thela,

      There is not an Iron Cliffs County. The book fictionalized the real county which is Marquette. However, there is an Iron Country as well. Big Bay is about 25 miles from Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

      thanks for reading!

  5. My mom Doreen Nora Bilkey was a spectator in the court room, She is rt. Behind Jimmy Stuart wen he was standing up ..She has short dark hair …She also has pics taken with Ben Gazarra, n Jimmy Stuart I remember watching it every time it was on, as a little girl, I still watch it, Mom is my Star

    • Debbie this is such a great story! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  6. When I was there the story was about Henry Ford. He stayed at Thunder Bay since they were using the wood in the area for his Woody. The train depot blocked his view so he had it picked and moved
    out of the way. I really liked the hogie they served. The bar was old growth timber so it was a single
    piece of wood 20-30 inches wide.

    • Thanks for sharing John!!


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