The Burnside Township was originally settled in 1854 after being organized in 1853. The first settler, William Brown, arrived in Burnside in 1854. The area was primarily agricultural with the exception of Deanville, which was a thriving lumber center.
The property on which the Bruce Mansion rests was originally owned by John C Emery who was award the 160 acres on February 16, 1857 by President Franklin Pierce. He had been a member of the 31st regiment serving during the War of 1812 under Major Hamilton. He was also a skilled physician. He moved to the town of Allison with his wife Miranda and children. His son Franklin acquired the 160 acres south of his land 5 months later. However, Franklin was enlisted in the Civil War and was killed instantly at the battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 11, 1862. Miranda passed away the following year at age of 67. John moved to Lansing with his son Jarod and eventually remarried, this time to Miss Mary Agge of Salem, MA.
The property then passed hands to J. Gunn in 1863. During this time, During the time Gunn owned the land, John G. Bruce opened the Bruce and Webster General Merchants with his brother-in-law. He was also the Burnside postmaster for 16 years. Eventually, Gunn sold the farm to Bruce in 1874. The Bruce Mansion was then erected in 1876. The Victorian Italianate home was a rare example of Second Empire style in the county.
The area though was not without tragedy. Fires became a huge problem for the township. The great fire of 1881 destroyed a good deal of the built township. While the Bruce Mansion must have been spared, fire in 1894 claimed Bruce’s original store. He then rebuilt the establishment out of brick. Upon his retirement, he sold the store to Phineas White and Kirk Williams who renamed it the Burnside Mercantile.
The home eventually left the Bruce Family and was acquired by Cynthia Smith. Cynthia maintained the property until she died in the house from “Fever” in 1921. It was willed to her son, Frank. Frank Smith did not keep it, selling it to Lambart Bowman Cowell in 1922.
The home changed hands numerous times in the 1920s. Five more owners took possession of it in succession during this time. This included John Walker in 1926. He died of “unknown” reasons on the property.
One of the most interesting stories about the Bruce Mansion aligns near this time. One owner was said to have been taking the back roads in his automobile when he hit a pedestrian. Terrified at what he had done, he took the body back to the Bruce and buried it somewhere on the estate. Some say the ghost of the victim, others simply guilt, caused the man to lose his fortune and drive him to hang himself in the old bell tower. Perhaps this is Mr. Walker and the reason for his short stay.
John and Sarah “Sadie” Homer took ownership of the property in 1929. Due to issues with the state, they lost the land, only to reacquire it in 1945. Sadie however passes on.
The house falls into the hands of Robert Kreiner. When he passed away in 1984, the ownership of the house came to question. It was awarded by the court in 1986 to his family, each gaining 1/5th ownership. They hold the property for over a decade when they sell it to Arnold Muxlow and Thomas McCoy. These gentleman quickly turn it over to Barbara Millsap and her brother Bill Masiak.
Millsap and her brother start to restore the property and look to convert it into an Inn similar to a bed and breakfast. During this time in 1996, Masiak confesses to the Lapeer County Press that he believes the property to be haunted. An article is published mentioning doors opening and closing on their own. The house is then sold in 2004 to the McIntosh family. The home tragically falls to foreclosure in 2008.
The current owners, the Waite's, acquired the home out of the foreclosure in 2009. Its Victorian Italianate architecture is the perfect facade for their blossoming costume rental company. In preparation for their business, they realize that some of its previous owners may not have left. Grimstone Inc. Paranormal Researchers were called in the fall of 2009 to substantiate their claims. One of the team members leaves the organization due paranormal encounters at the investigation. As paranormal activity continued through the years, Beyond Paranormal was called to investigate claims in 2011. During the investigation, they recorded over 2 dozen EVPs, had one member pushed, and one camera which was video recording suddenly toppled on its tripod as it captured the voice of a small child saying "Grandpa". The Waite's closed the rental company, but the activity continues. Today, the Waite’s own this lasting piece of history and perhaps all the passed away occupants as well.