The Portage Lake Region
Following the fur traders into this region came a few adventurous lumbermen looking for saw-mill sites. Interested by what he saw in 1840, Joseph Stronach built a dam and water mill on the swift, natural outlet of Portage Lake.
Soon homesteaders followed to clear surrounding land for farms. Frustrated by annual flooding on their land by water needed to run the mill and the slowness of court action against the mill owners, the determined settlers dug by hand a four foot wide cut between the two lakes. On May 14, 1871 the water of Portage Lake rushed out cutting a channel five hundred feet wide and carrying large trees far out into Lake Michigan. The leveling of the two lakes created a fine new harbor of refuge accessible through the new channel.
Later in 1879, available timber having been depleted, the mill and its holdings were moved to a more desirable location on the East end of the lake, to the site of this marker, thus establishing the village of ONEKAMA.
Many meanings have been offered for the Indian word O-NEK-AMA-ENGK: place of great beauty, place of contemplation, to carry on the shoulder, and to portage or carry across.
The Settlers' "CUT"
The natural outlet and the original saw-mill site located here, were left some eight feet above Portage Lake after the cut was made.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Native Americans • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is May 14, 1871.
Location. 44° 21.811′ N, 86° 12.427′ W. Marker is in Onekama, Michigan, in Manistee County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street (State Highway 22) and Lake Street, on the left when traveling west on Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: Portage Lake Park, Onekama MI 49675, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 10 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. War Memorial (here, next to this marker); Paul P. Harris (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Harriet Quimby / Childhood Home (approx. 6˝ miles away); Restoring Arcadia Marsh and Fish Passage within Bowens Creek (approx. 8.6 miles away); Trinity Lutheran Church (approx. 9 miles away); Explore the Heritage and History (approx. 9.1 miles away); U.S.S. Michigan (approx. 9.8 miles away); Manistee Fire Hall (approx. 9.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Onekama.
Also see . . .
1. Onekama at Pure Michigan. (Submitted on September 4, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Onekama Heritage. (Submitted on September 4, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on December 8, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 4, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 219 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on September 4, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.