The village of Glen Haven was established in the mid-1860’s to supply cord wood as fuel for the steamships that sailed between the Erie Canal and the Chicago area. It is representative of many of the little logging villages that dotted the shore of Lake Michigan in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is restoring some of the buildings in the village to interpret this period of history. In Glen Haven, you will find a working Blacksmith Shop, a General Store which also has an exhibit of the life and entrepreneurial activities of D. H. Day, the Cannery (used to can fruit harvested from local orchards – now a museum of Great Lakes Boats), and the Maritime Museum and US Life-Saving Service.
The sawmill for this operation was located on Glen Lake near the Dune Climb. There is a small pond (Mill Pond) on the west side of M-109 and the clearing near it is where the sawmill was located. Logging was generally done in the winter months when it would be easier to use sleds to move the logs to the frozen surface of Glen Lake. Also, many of the loggers were also local farmers, who worked in the logging camps in the winter. In the spring when the ice melted, they would tie the logs together into rafts and use a tugboat to pull the raft of logs to the sawmill. The sawmill operation was typically done in the summer months when shipping resumed. The sawmill was located about 2 miles from the dock, so a narrow-gauge rail system was installed to bring the lumber to the dock. Before a train engine was purchased, they used a team of two horses walking between the rails to pull the loaded rail cars to the dock.
When the Norther Transportation Company, which owned the Glen Haven operation, switched their steamships over to coal for fuel around 1880, there was no longer a use for the Glen Haven fueling stop (wooding station). The manager of the operation at that time was D. H. Day, who raised the capital to purchase the operation and convert the sawmill over to dimensional lumber. He sold hardwood lumber into the building industry – mostly in Chicago. Day and his family lived upstairs in the General Store, which provided most of the necessities for village residents and also acted as the social center of the village.
As the land was cleared, farmers took advantage of the cleared land to start subsistence family farms. D. H. Day also set up his farm – the white barn and house on the east side of M-109 between the Dune Climb and Glen Haven. His farm started as a dairy farm and then fruit orchards. The fruit of these orchards and other area orchards including North Manitou Island was canned at the Glen Haven Canning Company near the dock.
Roads in the area were rutted dirt roads for many years. D. H. Day recognized the opportunity to build a tourist industry in this area, and better roads were essential to getting people here on vacation. Day was involved in the West Michigan Pike to encourage improved roads and vehicle tourism. He was also the first Chairman of the Michigan State Parks Commission and donated the land for the first State Park – D. H. Day State Park, which is now the D. H. Day Campground at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
More information about Glen Haven is available in the Visitor Guide Booklet which you can download FREE: Glen Haven Tour 020511. It is also available at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center in Empire for a donation.