The History of
Presque Isle Township


Prior to European settlement, the northeast Michigan area was inhabited by Native American Tribes, including the Chippewa and Ojibwa.  In the 1600’s, the earliest European visitors were French explorers, missionaries, and fur traders.  In 1836, the land was officially ceded to the United States, and Michigan became a state in 1837. What later became the north half of Presque Isle Township was first surveyed in 1840. This area was first part of Mackinac County, then Cheboygan County, then Alpena County, and finally in 1871, part of the newly formed Presque Isle County. (link to original survey maps, 1841 survey, 1856 survey, 1858 survey)

Because of the isolated location and lack of roads, water transportation was the key to development and trade. Much of the area’s early settlement began along the Lake Huron shoreline.  The name “Presque Isle” comes from the French term and means “almost an island”. This phrase describes the Presque Isle peninsula, which juts out into Lake Huron in the northern part of the Township.  The natural Presque Isle Harbor offered boat traffic safe refuge from Lake Huron storms, and the surrounding woods supplied fuel for steamboats plying the shorelines.  The development of Burnham’s Landing in the southern part of the harbor established Presque Isle Harbor as a thriving port by 1854.

Lighthouses were also essential to Great Lakes navigation and early land settlement. Two lighthouses were built in Presque Isle Township; the Old Presque Isle Light was built in 1840, and later replaced by the New Presque Isle Light in 1870. The New Presque Isle Light is one of the tallest on Lake Huron.
Early industries in the Township were resource based, and included fishing, lumbering, and mining.  Little development occurred until the late 19th Century when lumbering of white pine became an active industry. Lumbering of pine continued until about the turn of the century when the supply was exhausted. Hardwood and swamp timbering activities continued until about 1930, when these operations effectively ceased.  The Township’s population during the 20th Century was at its lowest level at the time of the 1930 Census with only 77 residents.
Tourism and recreation have been a part of the fabric of Presque Isle Township since the late 1800’s.  Numerous areas of the region can trace their development to tourism.  The Grand Lake area was probably the first part of Presque Isle County to actively solicit tourist business during the late 1800’s.  Several resort hotels were constructed along Grand Lake. Before the advent of good roads, tourist access was via steamboat from Lake Huron. Fireside Inn and Presque Isle Lodge, both dating from the early 20th Century, are surviving examples of Grand Lake’s early leadership in lake resort development.