Saturday, July 31, 2010
Some history on Old Mission Peninsula
This is a terrible map that I lifted from Wikipedia, but let's pretend it's a good map for a second. See the bay up where the "pinky" of Michigan is? That's Grand Traverse Bay. It's separated by that little red line, the Old Mission Peninsula, into the East and West bays. Traverse City is on the west bay, right next to the Old Mission Peninsula, and the other peninsula between Lake Michigan and the West Bay is the Leelenau Peninsula. Old Mission Peninsula is where the wineries we visited are located. Got it?
On Saturday we drove all the way up Old Mission Peninsula to visit the Old Mission Point Lighthouse and found a bunch of very interesting historical sites while we were there. The residents of Old Mission are really proud of their history and very keen to preserve it.
The lighthouse was built in 1870 and decommissioned in 1933. Did you know that Michigan has the second longest coastline in the US? Alaska has the longest.
Michigan has the most lighthouses of any state! Some are still used but are now automated, some have been reopened as museums, and some have been abandoned. Many of the abandoned lighthouses have dedicated groups trying to raise money to renovate them. If you're familiar with the Gordon Lightfoot song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," you know why lighthouses were so vital on the Great Lakes. It was an extremely important shipping route with lots of dangerous shallow shoals, bad storms, and little islands. Lighthouses played a vital role in keeping the sailors (and cargo, of course) safe.
This was taken from a mud flat close to the coast. See how shallow the water is here?
In the same park as the lighthouse is the Hessler Log House, a log cabin that was built between 1854 and 1856 by Joseph and Mary Hessler, some of the first white settlers on Old Mission. They have a really nice audio piece that explains about the cabin and the household items that have been put in it. It's like a mini-museum of the lives of early settlers in this part of the country.
This one was taken behind glass so it isn't very clear but you can see the sort of household implements they would have used. The stove was used mostly for heating. Settlers usually put the kitchen in a separate building or in a separate room so that the house wouldn't get too hot in the summer.
Next we went to the Dougherty House. Reverend Peter Dougherty arrived on Old Mission in 1839 to provide education and religion to the local Odawa and Ojibwa (also known as the Ottawa and Chippewa), who had signed a deal with the government to give up their land to be settled by whites. The house was built in 1842 with help from the local tribes.
The house has been continually used, either as an inn, private residence, or storage, since it was built. The Old Mission Peninsula Historical Society is currently renovating the house and preparing to open it as a museum. We were there on a Saturday so there wasn't any work going on, but I did get to snoop around the property and take pictures.
The back of the house showing the summer kitchen and the storage shed. You can see the ongoing renovation work. There are still a lot of old barns in the area so they often use period wood from those old barns in restoration work.
The outhouse. They made a big deal out of the fact that it's a three seater - two adults and one kiddie seat. One of the few three seaters in Grand Traverse County!
Next stop was the replica of the church and school that Dougherty and the Native Americans built together for his mission work. Eventually the mission was moved to the Leelenau Peninsula on the other side of the bay and the church was moved there too, log by log. If I remember correctly that church still stands and is still used.
Next to the replica of the church is the Old Mission General Store, which has been in this building since 1839! It's very cute on the inside, kind of dark, very old-timey and rather cluttered with things like old lanterns, coon skins, candies, and their homemade cherry salsa and preserves.
We also stopped briefly at Haserot Beach, a small, very picturesque beach located pretty far up the peninsula. You have to know about it to end up there.
There was also a cute playground for the little kids there.