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Emmet County, Michigan

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Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Emmet County, Michigan.

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Ottawa history records that Emmet County was thickly populated by indigenous peoples called the Mush-co-desh, which means "the prairie tribe". They had an agrarian society and were said to have "shaped the land by making the woodland into prairie as they abandoned their old worn out gardens which formed grassy plains". Ottawa tradition claims that they slaughtered from forty to fifty thousand Mush-co-desh and drove the rest from the land after the Mush-co-desh insulted an Ottawa war party.

The Odawa were important prior to European colonization for their trading network throughout the Great Lakes area. They retained this influence into the 18th century, as French traders relied on them to take furs east from tribes they traded with to the north and west. When French explorers first came to this area, they claimed it as part of New France, based in today's Quebec province.

The Ottawa and Ojibwe tribes were the principal inhabitants of this area, extending across to Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula of Ontario, Canada. The French established Fort Michilimackinac in about 1715. It was a trading post and the basis of a multicultural settlement that developed around it. Seasonally numerous Native Americans of various tribes would come to trade there.

During the Seven Years' War (1754–63), British and French forces, together with Indian allies on each side, fought on the North American front in what became known in the British colonies as the French and Indian War. The British took control of Fort Michilimackinac in 1761 and continued to use it as a trading post. In 1763, Ojibwe warriors took the fort as a part of Pontiac's Rebellion and held it for a year before the British retook it. The British abandoned the wooden fort in 1781 after building the limestone Fort Mackinac on nearby Mackinac Island.

An Indian community on the lakeshore in the western part of the county continued to thrive after the British abandoned the fort. After the War of 1812, Mackinac Island and this area became part of the United States.

In the 1840s, Odawa villages lined the Lake Michigan shore from present-day Harbor Springs to Cross Village. By Act 119 of the Michigan Legislature approved 1 April 1840, a number of northern counties were delineated. Tonedagana County, a name derived from a Cross Village Odawa war chief, was delineated from Michilimackinac County but unorganized, so remained attached for judicial purposes. The area was mostly reserved for native tribes by treaty provisions with the US federal government until 1875.

The county was created by the Michigan Legislature in April 1840, from Mackinac County. It was first named Tonedagana County and renamed Emmet County effective March 8, 1843. Emmet County remained attached to Mackinac County for administrative purposes until county government was organized in 1853. "Emmet" refers to the Irish nationalist Robert Emmet, who in 1803 was tried and executed for high treason against the British king for leading a rebellion in Dublin.

In 1847, a group of Mormons settled on nearby Beaver Island and established a "kingdom" led by "King" James Jesse Strang. There were bitter disputes between Strang's followers and other white settlers. Strang, seeking to strengthen his position, gained election to the Michigan State House of Representatives. In January 1853, he pushed through legislation titled, "An act to organize the County of Emmet", which enlarged Emmet County by attaching the nearby Lake Michigan islands to the county, as well as a portion of Cheboygan County. It also annexed the old Charlevoix County, which was originally named Keskkauko County and was as yet unorganized, as a township of Emmet County. Due to Strang's influence, Mormons came to dominate county government, causing an exodus of many non-Mormon settlers to neighboring areas. In 1855, the non-Mormon resistance succeeded in getting the Michigan Legislature to reorganize Emmet County. The islands, including Beaver Island and North and South Manitou Islands, were transferred into the separate Manitou County, which effectively eliminated Mormons from Emmet County government.

On April 27, 1857 an election selected Little Traverse (now named Harbor Springs) as the county seat. However, at about this time, investors were trying to promote development at Mackinaw City. Due to their influence, in February 1858, the State Legislature passed an act establishing Mackinaw City as the county seat. The Emmet County Board of Supervisors protested that the county seat had already been established at Little Traverse, and in 1861 the act was repealed as unconstitutional. In a contested election in 1867, residents voted to move the county seat to Charlevoix, which was upheld by a Circuit Court decision in 1868. However, in 1869, Charlevoix County was split from Emmet County, resulting in the county seat being in another county. No provisions for official relocation were authorized, although Harbor Springs served as the unofficial county seat until April 1902. The present county seat of Petoskey was selected at that time in a county-wide election.

Adjacent Counties

Cities & Villages

  • Alanson
  • Harbor Springs
  • Mackinac City (part)
  • Pellston
  • Petoskey (County Seat)

Townships & Communities: Appleton, Bay Harbor, Bay Shore, Bay View, Bear Creek, Bliss, Brutus, Carp Lake, Center, Conway, Cross Village, Ely, Friendship, Good Hart, Harbor Point, Levering, Little Traverse, Littlefield, Maple River, McKinley, Oden, Pleasantview, Ponshewaing, Readmond, Resort, Springvale, Sturgeon Bay, Stutsmanville, Wawatam, Wequetonsing and West Traverse

Indian reservations

Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians occupies at least 13 scattered reservation areas within Emmet County, including portions within the city of Petoskey and the townships of Bear Creek, Bliss, Center, Little Traverse, McKinley, Readmond, Resort, Wawatam, and West Traverse. Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians



Nat'l Reg. of Hist. Places