Northern Michigan in Focus: Beaver Island History

We all know what it’s like to run out of room in your House. But what if you had centuries of stories and artifacts and no room?

Corey Adkins takes you to Beaver Island to explain in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

“A small town is a small town but there’s something really special here,” says Angel Welke with the Beaver Island Historical Society. “When you get off that boat or off that plane and you’re here. When we close the hangar doors at night and you’re here you really get to know your neighbors pretty well.”

If there’s one thing everyone on Beaver Island can agree on, it’s how important the history is to the island.

And soon there’s going to be more space to tell the islands stories.

“We are in what is normally known as the Mormon print shop but right now to construction site and we are adding on to build some more exhibit space,” Angel Welke says. “This building was built in 1850 by a group of Mormons that broke away from Brigham Young’s group. The leader of the islands group was led by James Strang. He was declared king by his community, then assassinated right near here by two disheartened followers.”

But as the crew from McDonough Construction was working one day, they found something fascinating.

“When they are doing some of the construction, they found some Strang-era tongue and groove,” Angel Welke says. “They are handmade wooden nails and that’s going to become part of the exhibit with the Mural. It’s an incredible piece of wood now pushing 170 years old.”

The mural she’s talking about is called Hauling in the Net.

“It’s being restored at Cranbrook by an art restorer in the Detroit area,” Angel Welke says. “It’s a WPA 1930s mural from a post office in the Detroit area. It was rescued from the trash in the ‘50s or ‘60s. It’s a pretty rare piece and that’s what’s going to be the main exhibit in the new addition.”

The new addition is giving the beaver island historical society much needed space.

“It’s going to be a small conference room,” Angel Welke says. “It’s going to be a place for our historical society board of trustees meeting. There’s going to be some educational space, it’s going to be a place to have small group presentations, which will be nice to have a place with historical presentations.”

They hope to be done with everything early this summer.

“I think it’s that thing that history is just as important as the present,” Angel Welke says. “This is how we got here. This is how Beaver Island became as unique as it is.”

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus