Because of the Water...
When European explorers, missionaries and traders made their appearance, the lakes and rivers provided a "water highway," a means of transportation to easily reach Antrim County and venture into its interior. The shores along these waters offered desirable locations to build industries that used many local resources:
• The first sawmill was built in 1850 utilizing the force of the water in Elk River to power its machinery. Over the years several dams were constructed taking advantage of this "waterpower" for industrial applications and electricity production.
• Pig iron, chemical and cement factories eventually dotted the shoreline. As local natural resources played out and new technologies developed, the factories closed; leaving behind depleted land and waters.
• About this time it was observed [that] the surrounding lakes had an influence
Eventually, through nature's healing process and an increasing human desire to properly preserve and manage their environment, the landscape and waters have regained much of their original vitality and beauty. Our constant vigilance is necessary to preserve and enhance the regions [sic] vitality and beauty for future generations.
The revitalization of the land and water has resulted in growing tourism and recreational activities. People looking for natural beauty and a slower life style now call the greater Elk Rapids area home - "Because of the Water."
1. The Steamer Ruth in Clam River
Down bound from Clam Lake. Built in 1873 named Odd Fellow. In 1893 Joseph Hawley of Elk Rapids, bought her and changed the name to Ruth in honor of his daughter. Capt. Hawley operated on the Chain-of-Lakes hauling passengers and freight until 1910.
2. Mabel in Torch River
Built in Milwaukee in 1893 as a "party boat" named Arthur Frank. In 1899 Ira Sharp, of Elk Rapids bought and renamed it Mabel after his daughter. He ran the boat on the Chain-of-Lakes until 1915, hauling
3. Mabel at Dock Bellaire
The Mabel moored at her home port of Bellaire, c.1905.
4. The Jennie Silkman
Docked at the Eastport dock, c.1900. Owned by the Cameron Brothers of Torch Lake Village. Used for passengers and freight.
5. Elk Rapids Iron Company and Chemical Works on the east side of Elk River
1900 - Elk Rapids Iron Company's blast furnace on the left and the Chemical plant on the right, all on the east side of Elk River.
The railroad swing bridge is open for river traffic to the Saw Mill and the Iron Company's store.
The steamer Ruth is at her dock preparing for her daily run through the Chain-of-Lakes to Bellaire.
6. Chemical Works - Elk Rapids, Michigan
1880 - The Bangor Chemical Co. of Bangor Michigan was moved to Elk Rapids.
1881 - A plant at the furnace grounds was built for the new Chemical Plant.
October 1881 - The Chemical works is in operation. Products included Acetate of lime, wood alcohol, tar, boiler descaler.
1888 - Elk Rapids Iron Company absorbs the Bangor Chemical Company. Production per day, 200 gallons of wood alcohol and 1500 pounds of acetate of lime.
1906 - The Company had 64 wood kilns.
7. Bay fishing boat livery
Bay fishing boat livery below the Power Plant on Elk River. c.1930's.
8. 4th of July celebration on Torch Lake
Recreation Park, at West Torch Lake. A private retreat c.1906.
9. Ice boats on Elk Lake
Ice Boating on Elk Lake.
10. Watching the speedboat races on Elk Lake
Speed boat regatta on Elk Lake 1920's.
11. Kayaking in Elk River
Kayaking in Elk River.
12. Jennie Silkman
The Jennie Silkman docked at the Eastport dock, c.1900. Owned by the Cameron Brothers of Torch Lake Village. Used for passengers and freight.
13. Erwin L. Fisher of Free Port, MI
The steamer Erwin L. Fisher of Free Port, Michigan, loading Pig Iron for the steel mills of the lower lakes. c. 1910
14. Tug Torch Lake on Torch River
Tug Torch Lake c.1900 - Towing two scows of cord wood from the shores of Clam Lake and Torch Lake down Torch River to the Elk Rapids Iron Co.'s Smelting plant. These scows are 14' wide and 40' long. Later scows were 18' x 60'.
The tug was built in 1873 for the Dexter and Noble Iron Co. 58' long and 15' beam. She had a crew of five.
The tug also did some log rafting for the Dexter and Noble saw mill.
15. The steamer Winnebago
16. Three Sisters aground in the bay
The Three Sisters of Marinette Wisconsin, in trouble south of the Cement and Lime Co.'s dock in East Grand Traverse Bay. While awaiting a cargo of lumber at the Iron Co.'s dock, a severe storm came up and she dragged anchor into shallow water. Capt Ole Oleson came ashore on a raft made from the hatch covers.
The ship was towed to Charlevoix for repairs to sail again.
17. J.W. Westcott docked in Elk Rapids
J.W. Westcott unloading iron oar [sic - ore] from Escanaba for the smelting plant.
18. E.M. Bunce coming into Elk Rapids
The steamer E.M. Bunce coming into the Elk Rapids Cement Co. dock, bringing in a cargo of coal and shipping out a load of cement for market.
19. Car Ferry docked in Elk Rapids
The Northern Michigan Transportation Co. car ferry at Elk Rapids Municipal Dock c.1905. With stops from Chicago to Cheboygan.
City Dock and Iron Company Dock
20. Ship Illinois at City Dock
Lake Michigan steamship Illinois at the City Dock, c.1910.
21. The Missouri at City Dock
The Missouri, sister ship of the Illinois, was launched March 1904
22. Schooners at Iron Company Dock
Elk Rapids Iron Company dock July 4, 1888. Eight Great Lakes schooners at the dock loading lumber and unloading iron oar [sic - ore]. The Waukesha, the Sea Gem, the C.A. King, the F.M. Clark, the Montgomery, the Melvina, the Leland, and the Gilbert Knapp. The Wolverine standing off to the right, no room at the dock.
23. Remnants of the Iron Company Dock
Remnants of the Elk Rapids Iron Company dock in East Grand Traverse Bay c. 1940-50's.
Built in the 1850's for the lumber and mercantile business of the Dexter and Nobel Company. Rebuilt in 1877 for the receiving of iron ore and shipment of pig iron.
A. South Manitou Lighthouse
B. Round Island Lighthouse
C. Beaver Island Lighthouse
D. Gray's Reef Light
E. Charlevoix South Light
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native Americans • Parks & Recreational Areas • Settlements & Settlers • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1850.
Location. 44° 53.809′ N, 85° 24.566′ W. Marker is in Elk Rapids, Michigan, in Antrim County. Marker is on U.S. 31
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Elk Rapids (here, next to this marker); Land of Anishinabek (here, next to this marker); Why All of the Stumps? (here, next to this marker); Rotary Park "Centennial Project" (here, next to this marker); Elk River, Entry to the Chain of Lakes of Antrim County (a few steps from this marker); Early Elk Rapids and the Elk River (a few steps from this marker); The Old Mission Church (approx. 5.6 miles away); The Old Mission House (approx. 5.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Elk Rapids.
Also see . . . Elk Rapids Waterfront Cultural Landscape Report. (Submitted on September 25, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on January 6, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 25, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 315 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on September 25, 2016, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.