Area History Articles

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is rich in area history from early Native American cultures to the shipping, logging, and agricultural heritage of the area. Even the name of the area comes from the Native American Legend of Sleeping Bear.

Many projects funded by Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes are to help preserve and interpret historic sites and cultural traditions of the Manitou Passage. We’ve published a number of Visitor Guides which describe the maritime, logging and agricultural history of the area. These booklets can be downloaded FREE from our web site or may be picked up for a donation at the Visitor Center, Platte River Campground, the Cannery in Glen Haven, or the Maritime Museum in Glen Haven.

Each year we work with several other community groups to plan and sponsor the Port Oneida Fair which is the second Friday and Saturday of August. The Fair highlights the 1860 – 1945 agricultural heritage of Northern Michigan. Five historic farms and a one-room schoolhouse provide the venue for the Fair and visitors can walk, drive, or ride a horse-drawn wagon or shuttle bus between sites. There are plenty of hands-on activities for the kids to learn how things used to be done on the farm. See pictures of past Port Oneida Fairs on our Flickr site.

The little historic logging village of Glen Haven was a fueling stop for the Great Lakes Steamships carrying cargo and passengers from Buffalo, NY to Chicago and Milwaukee. The local loggers and sawmill provided cord wood to fire the boilers on the ships. Horse-drawn rail cars brought the wood from the sawmill on Glen Lake to the dock at Glen Haven. Visit the working blacksmith shop that is open each day in the summer staffed by volunteers. An exhibit describing of the life of D.H. Day is open in the General Store during the summer season. The exhibit was funded by the Friends and several members worked on its development. Day was the owner of much of the land around Glen Haven and entrepreneur owner of several businesses in the area from 1878 through 1927.

The Maritime Museum is located in the old US Life-Saving Service (US Coast Guard) buildings near Glen Haven. The Life-Saving Service opened at Sleeping Bear Point in 1901 and was moved to its present location in 1931 due to the drifting sand encroaching on the grounds and buildings at Sleeping Bear Point. One of the most popular activities in the summer is to watch the Life-Saving crew practice firing the Lyle Gun cannon to get a rescue line to a sinking ship. A ranger will also get the kids involved in a rescue using the breeches buoy. The Friends support the development of these interpretive activities.

More historic information is available at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore history web site.

Links to Related Historical Information

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