Thanksgiving on the Leelanau Peninsula

Traverse City Turkey Farm

Hospitality in the 1800’s depended very much on supply. You could not give what you didn’t have, even if it was Thanksgiving. One of my favorite characters from that time is a woman known only as Mrs. Gay. She was only about 15 or 16 years old, a new bride coming to the wilderness with her new husband and a 14 month old baby but she was very spunky! Mrs. Gay’s house on the Lake Michigan side of Leelanau, had only walls at first, no roof, floors, doors or windows. A lean-to, or open shed with a floor of hewn… Read More »

Keith Brown – The Harbor Bar and Marina

Putnam's Gas Station

Harbor Bar in the mid 1950’s after Keith Brown bought it from his stepfather, John Putnam and made some additions. The service bay is visible on the right and the bar on the left. Courtesy Omena Historical Society Kori Wheeler remembers that on Monday mornings when she was growing up her dad would come out and swim with the kids. He was a perfect diver and taught his children to dive and swim underwater. They laughed at his white legs…. white because he did not have a tan there, he never wore shorts as he worked all the time. For… Read More »

Omena’s Ghost Towns

Amos and his Ice Wagon - Courtesy Omena Historical Society

Amos and his Ice Wagon – Courtesy Omena Historical Society “Please find enclosed one weather-beaten old shoe. The shoe was removed from Bodie (a Ghost Town) during the month of August 1978… My trail of misfortune is so long and depressing it cannot be listed here.” said one person, returning the old shoe. A younger correspondent blames getting grounded by his parents on the ghost town curse. Another child simply writes: “Sorry I took the glass pieces. I thought they were pretty. My fish died the day after.” And then there is this, “So sorry for picking these up. I… Read More »


Halloween Greetings

Photo Credit: Flickr The pumpkins we carve today are descended from the Jack-O-Lanterns of the past, which were a blend of immigrant custom and Native American harvest crops, according to The Henry Ford Museum. Early Halloween parties were, back then, matchmaking parties for young people with games to “predict” marriage futures and much opportunity for flirtation. You can see that in this photo from the Henry Ford, and in this chapter of the book “Spells, Charms, and Incantations.” Happy Halloween everybody!  

Armed Robbery in Omena

Barth General Merchandise Store

It still happens at least once a summer, but in the early years of cars, the quiet of the night would often but broken by the screeching of tires, and a loud splash as an old car missed the corner of M-22 in Omena and splashed into Omena Bay. Speeding in Omena is not a new thing. Speeding through town, and the resulting consequences, has happened ever since the early 1900’s. It was against the law then and still is now. But this is Omena. Other crimes happened as well in this peaceful little hamlet. Saturday nights when the migrants… Read More »

Summers at the Manse

The Marbachs – Rob, Will, and Rev Marbach standing on M-22 in front of the parsonage. 1930’s. Courtesy Omena Historical Society M22 was a busy road in 1928, but unpaved. The road grader went by twice each day, up the hill to Northport in the morning, and back south to Suttons Bay each afternoon smoothing out the ruts. It raised a lot of dust, but that did not bother Bob and Effie Barth, or their cows who crossed the road twice each day to get to pasture and back. And it did not bother Bill and Rob, two little boys… Read More »

Janet Barth

The little house Janet lived in for most of her life is across from Omena's historic Presbyterian Church. Kathy and Mike Bosco now own it and are preserving it from future development. Photo credit: Omena Historical Society archives

The little house Janet lived in for most of her life is across from Omena’s historic Presbyterian Church. Kathy and Mike Bosco now own it and are preserving it from future development. Photo credit: Omena Historical Society archives “Mr. Bushman” often made the Omena Column of the Leelanau Enterprise in the 1980’s. Who was this Mr. Bushman? We had a homeless man who had come to the village to work at the cherry processing plant during the cherry harvest for a few years. He probably worked nights and usually spent his days sleeping under a bush near the Omena Public… Read More »

General and Mrs. Byron Cutcheon

This is the waterfront near where General Cutcheon and his wife had their cottage, Maplewood, from 1896 to 1908. He once said that he wanted his town’s future to remain “as evergreen as our forests, and as everlasting as the inland sea.” The first day of autumn is only a couple of days away. You can feel it in the air. You can hear it in the waves and the wind. In September of 1903, Mrs. Byron Cutcheon wrote to her friend Rebecca Richmond from their cottage on Omena Point. She reported that, “The general is feeling the drafts.”  She… Read More »

Clara Pierson, Author

Clair Pierson Children's Author at her desk

Clara at her desk in “Pencroft”, her cottage in Omena. Courtesy OHS Archives The heat was suffocating the summer of 1896 in Traverse City. It was a long-delayed vacation in which the young couple had hoped to get away from the heat, but it appeared it had followed them. By lucky coincidence, they happened to meet an old friend in their Traverse City hotel, who recommended they take a steamer north to Omena to escape the heat. Clara Pierson and her husband, John, took the suggestion, and after their stay at the Omena Inn, they were so taken with Omena… Read More »

Preserving Fruit


Preserved Fruit – Photo Credit: Don Lee Aldrich. I remember my mother and grandmother sitting at the kitchen table talking loudly over the radio as they peeled peaches for canning. No doubt my grandmother did the same with her mother before that. I think about them as I peel apples for applesauce. Without preserving fruit back then, you had a pretty fruitless winter. The farmhouses in this area mostly had root cellars or Michigan Basements where they stored their canned fruit, potatoes, apples, and other things. They had simple dirt floors and fieldstone walls which held the frost at bay… Read More »