Water Emergencies please call Jake Cline - (231) 383-3731
Water Emergencies please call Jake Cline - (231) 383-3731
In 1836, individuals from various tribes of native people signed the Treaty of Washington, which ceded the land of northwest lower peninsula to the United States. At the time, native people lived in the Bear Lake area, evidence remaining in various burial mounds of the region, including one at Pierport. The next year, in 1837, Michigan became a state.
On May 20, 1862, President Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act, which offered 160 acres (0.65 km2) of undeveloped federal land to anyone who filed an application, created a farm, and applied for a deed. Almost immediately, people began exploring the area between Manistee and Traverse City, looking for prime farmland.
In 1863, Russell Smith, D.E. Sibley, Elisha Richmond, George W. Hopkins, Simeon Anderson, and others came to Bear Lake on such scouting expeditions. At the time, the region was entirely heavily forested with white pine and hardwoods, and with only a single walking trail. Smith and Sibley both moved their families to the area that year, and began their homesteads. Sibley's homestead was on the north side of Bear Lake; Smith's was on the south side, and included the present village.
By 1864, Simeon Anderson and about 25 other families had started homesteads in the Bear Lake area. In that year Elisha Richmond made his first failed attempt to move his large family to the area from Illinois.
In 1865, the township of Bear Lake, also including the area of Pleasanton, was created, formerly being part of Brown Township. A township council was formed.
By 1867, many more families had established homesteads, and two-thirds of the prime farming land had been claimed. A post office was established and the Elisha Richmond family completed the eleven week journey to Bear Lake. In this year, George W Hopkins, wife Emma Hopkins, brother David H Hopkins, and sister Mattie Hopkins arrived in Manistee to begin a brick manufacturing plant.
About this time, Russell Smith made an offer of some of his land to anyone who would set up a saw mill to turn the trees into lumber and a gristmill to created flour from grain. The offer was taken by Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Harrington and rudimentary mills for each were constructed. Carpenter and Harrington then subdivided the land, and offered it for sale. Stores were established by Anderson, Tillson, Erb, Lewis and A.H. Cook.
By 1870, the Hopkins family had switched from brick manufacturing to lumbermen, primarily putting logs in the Manistee rivers, and floating them to the mills for sale.
Homesteaders in Bear Lake were cutting the trees, and burning all the trees that they couldn't use, in order to clear the land. There was no one interested in buying the trees, and no way to get cut logs or lumber to market. Prior to the sawmill, boards were brought by boat from Manistee to Portage Lake and then carried, or carted, to Bear Lake.
In 1873, the Hopkins family company purchased 88 acres (360,000 m2) of the Smith property. The Bear Lake Tram Railway was built from the south side of Bear Lake down to Lake Michigan at Pierport. The railway was made of maple wood rails with steel straping, and horse drawn trailers were built and put on the rails. This railway enabled the transport of lumber cut in the Bear Lake sawmill to be moved to Lake Michigan, and then sold to the various markets in Chicago and Milwaukee.
In 1874, the Hopkins built a large sawmill, a brickyard, a gristmill, and a store.
On September 25, 1874, the original subdivision or plat map of the village was filed by the Hopkins family members including George W. Hopkins, Ella Hopkins, David H. Hopkins, Maurice M. Hopkins, and Mattie E. "Martha" Hopkins. This plat was amended in 1877, including a slight change to the position of Stuart Street.
The village was platted with 299 lots, and included almost all of the land bordered by the lake on the north, Smith Street on the east, Potter Road on the South, and West Street (which originally ran due north from the current Potter Road - US-31 intersection) on the west. The south west corner of this rectangle was added to the village as the Hopkins Addition in 1881 with 95 more lots. Most of the Hopkins addition lots are now occupied by the school, and to the south of the school, owned by the village.
In 1879, prior to the Hopkins Addition, the Smith Addition, which was then owned by Harriet L. Smith, Elisha J. Richmond, and Clara Richmond, added 25 lots to the NE of the Smith Street - Main Street intersection.
Six additional plats, the most recent in 1949, expanded the village to its current size, adding all the land between Smith Street and Russell Street. Numerous other plats around the lake created lots for lakeside homes and cottages.
The 1880 census shows 1,258 people living in Bear Lake and Pleasanton townships, growing by 1890 to 1,880 people.
In the fall of 1893, the Village of Bear Lake was incorporated by action of the Board of Supervisors of Manistee County.
The 1900 census shows 2087 in the two townships, with 448 of them living in the village.
By 1902, all of the trees in the area had been cut. George W. Hopkins purchased over a hundred thousand acres in Florida (near Cape Canaveral) and he moved his business there, along with parts of the railway.
Industry shifted to predominantly agriculture, and later, summer tourism.
History from geneologytrails.com
Village of Bear Lake
P.O Box 175, 12376 Virginia Street, Bear Lake, Michigan 49614, United States
Copyright © 2023 Village of Bear Lake - All Rights Reserved.
There will be a Special Meeting of the Village Council to finalize the proposed 2024 Budget on Thursday, February 22, 2024 at 6:30PM at the Village Hall.
The Public Hearing on the proposed 2024 Budget will be held on Thursday, February 29, 2024 at 6:30PM EST. The regular monthly meeting of the Village Council will be held on February 29, 2024 after the Budget Public Hearing.
We look forward to seeing you at the meeting(s)!