Beaver Island, Lake Michigan's Biggest Isle

Beaver Island, Lake Michigan's Biggest Isle

Be amazed at this Island in the middle of Lake Michigan has such a dramatic history.

Beaver

Data:

  • 13 miles by 6 miles
  • 56 sq. miles
  • 657 year round residents
  • 32 mile trip from Charlevoix
  • Two airports: one private; one public
  • One grocery store
  • Two gas stations
  • Two convenience stores
  • A hardware store
  • A building supply store
  • Restaurants
  • Spa
  • Hotels
  • Home rentals
  • Car rentals
  • Bike rentals
  • Shops
  • Health center
  • Golf Course
  • Pet friendly
  • An awesome place to see stars with little light pollution

Lakes within the Island:

  • North - Barneys Lake
  • Central - Font Lake, Egg Lake, Round Lake, Barneys Lake
  • Southeast - Greenes Lake and Fox Lake
  • South - Lake Geneserath

Snapshot History (You'll need to visit to get the full stories):

White man appeared on the Island in the mid-1700's displacing most of the Indian population. Odawas Indian artifacts have been found around the Island. Missionaries worked to convert the Indians to Catholicism.

Traders and trappers arrived in the early 1800's.  Economic power shifted from Mackinac Island to Beaver Island due to its resources of fishing, forests and harbor.

Joseph Smith founder of the Latter Day Saint movement practiced in New York, Ohio, Missouri and Nauvoo, Illinois where he was imprisoned for polygamy and a mob stormed the jail killing him.  Two leaders of the church, the first Brigham Young and his followers went to Council Bluffs, IA and later to Utah.  The second followed James Strang on Beaver Island. These folks were called Strangites.

In 1850 with 100 people living there, the Mormons began to displace all others in the "War of Whiskey Point." The battle consisted of single cannon shot by Strang into a crowd of marauding Irishmen. No injuries reported.

It's suggested that the Strangites acted as pirates burning sawmills and robbing stores along the mainland coast. Some reports suggest they lured ships to the Island by putting up false navigation lights letting the ships run aground, the pirates boarded, murdered the crew, stole the goods and burned the ship.

King James Jesse Strang created America's only "kingdom" as a Mormon leader, having up to 12,000 followers, eventually getting elected to the Michigan legislature twice. The town of St. James on the Island was named after Strang. He became a polygamist, with five wives and fourteen children. Two of his unhappy followers killed him in 1856.

Mobs came from Mackinac Island and St. Helena Island driving the 2,600 Strangites off Beaver Island after his death.

Shortly thereafter, Irish fishermen took over the Island and called it "America's Emerald Isle."

Father Gallagher became the Island Priest in 1865 as a man of the people and was involved in everything. He loaned money, settled disputes, arranged marriages, bought up land, owned a merchant ship, hunted and fished.  He passed in 1898.

Feodor Protar, from Estonia, a follower of Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Leo Tolstoy, writer of 'War and Peace', 'Anna Karenina') arrived in 1860.  He changed his life from a newspaper editor and actor to undertake his spiritual quest. He tried to live self sufficient and was a bit of a recluse. He went out of his way to help everyone he met including performing medical services for those too poor or too far to travel to St. James.  People called him Doctor Protar, which he didn't care for.  He passed in 1925.

Beaver Island Logging Company began in 1901, building docks, a sawmill, 10 miles of train tracks with 3 steam engines, built housing and hired 125 men. Derailments occurred often going too fast around bends, one time crushing an engineer. The company ceased operations in 1916.

Telegraph came to the Island in 1905. Power arrived on the Island in 1939 with a power plant. Developers sold vacation cottages in the 1920s and 1930s on the east coast of the Island.

As fishing declined the population shrank from a high of 1,000 to 200, however in 1970 tourism picked up and more people bought homes. Carpenters have replaced fishermen as the dominant trade today.

You can take a ferry from Charlevoix, MI to St. James Harbor on Beaver Island, MI.  It is a 32 mile trip that takes 2 hours.  You can take your pets, bikes, bags and car too.

BeaverLocation

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