A Unique History

Oral accounts show that Native American tribes passed through Beaver Island on journeys through the Great Lakes, leaving many archaeological artifacts behind. In the mid 1700s, the Odawa migrated westward and permanently settled on Beaver Island. European settlers arrived on the Island in the early 1800s and trapped, fished, and logged on the Island. By 1850, settlers were flourishing on the Island.

In 1848, Mormon leader James Strang formed a colony on the Island. The colony contributed to the Island’s infrastructure by building roads and homes and cultivating ground. James Strang became the selfproclaimed King of Beaver Island and caused disputes between the Native Americans and other European settlers on the Island. In 1856, this unrest erupted; James Strang was killed and the Mormon colony collapsed.

Irish fishermen and their families began to settle the Island in the mid 1800s. The population of the Island began to grow steadily. Calling the Island “America’s Emerald Isle,” these families created an Irish culture that still exists today. Fishing and logging remained the mainstays of the Island’s economy while the Island accepted new groups of immigrants and entered the industrial age.

Today, the Island remains among Michigan’s most beloved and unique communities. The Island community is mix of newcomers and long-standing families, each bringing a unique perspective.

Beaver Island Lighthouse 1930

Beaver Island Lighthouse Today