Before America was discovered, indigenous people hunted and fished the Grand Traverse region for thousands of years. As far back as 8,000 B.C., the waters of Grand Traverse Bay, Elk River and the 14 lakes of Antrim County's Chain of Lakes had been home to the Anishinabek, "the People."
When European explorers, missionaries and traders made their appearance, the lakes and rivers provided a "water highway," a means of transportation to easily reach Antrim County and venture into its interior. The shores along these waters offered desirable locations to build industries that used many local resources:
· The first sawmill was built in 1850 utilizing the force of the water in Elk River to power its machinery. Over the years several dams were constructed taking advantage of this "waterpower" for industrial applications and electricity production.
· Pig iron, chemical and cement factories eventually dotted the shoreline. As local natural resources played out and new technologies developed, the factories closed; leaving behind depleted land and waters.
· About this time it was observed [that] the surrounding lakes had an influence on the area's unique climate. It provided proper growing conditions for fruit orchards. Thus a new and sustainable agricultural industry was established especially for growing cherry trees; then
picking and processing their fruit.
Eventually, through nature's healing process and an increasing human desire to properly preserve and manage their environment, the landscape and waters have regained much of their original vitality and beauty. Our constant vigilance is necessary to preserve and enhance the regions [sic] vitality and beauty for future generations.
The revitalization of the land and water has resulted in growing tourism and recreational activities. People looking for natural beauty and a slower life style now call the greater Elk Rapids area home - "Because of the Water."
1. The Steamer Ruth in Clam River
Down bound from Clam Lake. Built in 1873 named Odd Fellow. In 1893 Joseph Hawley of Elk Rapids, bought her and changed the name to Ruth in honor of his daughter. Capt. Hawley operated on the Chain-of-Lakes hauling passengers and freight until 1910.
2. Mabel in Torch River
Built in Milwaukee in 1893 as a "party boat" named Arthur Frank. In 1899 Ira Sharp, of Elk Rapids bought and renamed it Mabel after his daughter. He ran the boat on the Chain-of-Lakes until 1915, hauling passengers and freight.
3. Mabel at Dock Bellaire
The Mabel moored at her home port of Bellaire, c.1905.
4. The Jennie Silkman
the Eastport dock, c.1900. Owned by the Cameron Brothers of Torch Lake Village. Used for passengers and freight.
5. Elk Rapids Iron Company and Chemical Works on the east side of Elk River
1900 - Elk Rapids Iron Company's blast furnace on the left and the Chemical plant on the right, all on the east side of Elk River.
The railroad swing bridge is open for river traffic to the Saw Mill and the Iron Company's store.
The steamer Ruth is at her dock preparing for her daily run through the Chain-of-Lakes to Bellaire.
6. Chemical Works - Elk Rapids, Michigan
1880 - The Bangor Chemical Co. of Bangor Michigan was moved to Elk Rapids.
1881 - A plant at the furnace grounds was built for the new Chemical Plant.
October 1881 - The Chemical works is in operation. Products included Acetate of lime, wood alcohol, tar, boiler descaler.
1888 - Elk Rapids Iron Company absorbs the Bangor Chemical Company. Production per day, 200 gallons of wood alcohol and 1500 pounds of acetate of lime.
1906 - The Company had 64 wood kilns.
7. Bay fishing boat livery
Bay fishing boat livery below the Power Plant on Elk River. c.1930's.
Sport fishing in the bay and on the Chain-of-Lakes was a lucrative business through out the history of Elk Rapids.
8. 4th of July celebration on Torch
Recreation Park, at West Torch Lake. A private retreat c.1906.
9. Ice boats on Elk Lake
Ice Boating on Elk Lake.
10. Watching the speedboat races on Elk LakeSpeed boat regatta on Elk Lake 1920's.
11. Kayaking in Elk River
Kayaking in Elk River.
12. Jennie Silkman
The Jennie Silkman docked at the Eastport dock, c.1900. Owned by the Cameron Brothers of Torch Lake Village. Used for passengers and freight.
13. Erwin L. Fisher of Free Port, MI
The steamer Erwin L. Fisher of Free Port, Michigan, loading Pig Iron for the steel mills of the lower lakes. c. 1910
14. Tug Torch Lake on Torch River
Tug Torch Lake c.1900 - Towing two scows of cord wood from the shores of Clam Lake and Torch Lake down Torch River to the Elk Rapids Iron Co.'s Smelting plant. These scows are 14' wide and 40' long. Later scows were 18' x 60'.
The tug was built in 1873 for the Dexter and Noble Iron Co. 58' long and 15' beam. She had a crew of five.
The tug also did some log rafting for the Dexter and Noble saw mill.
15. The steamer Winnebago
The steamer Winnebago unloading a cargo of iron oar [sic - ore] from Escanaba at the Iron Co.'s dock.
16. Three Sisters aground in
The Three Sisters of Marinette Wisconsin, in trouble south of the Cement and Lime Co.'s dock in East Grand Traverse Bay. While awaiting a cargo of lumber at the Iron Co.'s dock, a severe storm came up and she dragged anchor into shallow water. Capt Ole Oleson came ashore on a raft made from the hatch covers.
The ship was towed to Charlevoix for repairs to sail again.
17. J.W. Westcott docked in Elk Rapids
J.W. Westcott unloading iron oar [sic - ore] from Escanaba for the smelting plant.
18. E.M. Bunce coming into Elk Rapids
The steamer E.M. Bunce coming into the Elk Rapids Cement Co. dock, bringing in a cargo of coal and shipping out a load of cement for market.
19. Car Ferry docked in Elk Rapids
The Northern Michigan Transportation Co. car ferry at Elk Rapids Municipal Dock c.1905. With stops from Chicago to Cheboygan.
City Dock and Iron Company Dock
20. Ship Illinois at City Dock
Lake Michigan steamship Illinois at the City Dock, c.1910.
21. The Missouri at City Dock
The Missouri, sister ship of the Illinois, was launched March 1904 with Capt. Finnucan in command. She was 275' long and 40' beam. Accommodating 300 people.
22. Schooners at Iron Company Dock
Elk Rapids Iron Company dock
July 4, 1888. Eight Great Lakes schooners at the dock loading lumber and unloading iron oar [sic - ore]. The Waukesha, the Sea Gem, the C.A. King, the F.M. Clark, the Montgomery, the Melvina, the Leland, and the Gilbert Knapp. The Wolverine standing off to the right, no room at the dock.
23. Remnants of the Iron Company Dock
Remnants of the Elk Rapids Iron Company dock in East Grand Traverse Bay c. 1940-50's.
Built in the 1850's for the lumber and mercantile business of the Dexter and Nobel Company. Rebuilt in 1877 for the receiving of iron ore and shipment of pig iron.
A. South Manitou Lighthouse
B. Round Island Lighthouse
C. Beaver Island Lighthouse
D. Gray's Reef Light
E. Charlevoix South Light