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Beaver Island Historical Society

26275 Main Street


Beaver Island as we know it first appeared out of the ice eleven thousand years ago. Since then, its form has changed considerably because of the rise and fall of Lake Michigan, which has ranged over a differential of 375'. The Lake dropped to a very low level about 8,000 years ago, and stayed down for 4,000 years. During this time, this land was not an island at all but an appendage of the mainland. Then the Lake rose to 30' above its present level, submerging all of Beaver except the central plateau. Next, it dropped about ten feet, producing a slightly smaller version of our present Island. The edge of this configuration was layered with beach gravel. When a logging railroad was built in 1904, it was placed on this firm bed.

We know that Native Americans passed by Beaver Island as long ago as 2,200 years. There is no proof that they lived here, but the oral tradition of the Odawas, who have resided here for over 300 years, is that there were small fishing villages in many of the bays when they arrived. Arrowheads, spear heads, and fragments of Woodland-period pottery indicate that at least they came ashore. Fire-cracked rocks mark their cooking fires along the bluff. In 1871 the archeologist Henry Gillman opened some of the mounds in the harbor, and was surprised at the "uncommonly skillful workmanship" of the artifacts he found.

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