Glen Arbor Area History

The Coast Guard Station at Sleeping Bear Point was established in 1901, as the U.S. Life-Saving Station. In 1931, it was moved eastward to its present location near Glen Haven, then closed in 1944, and now is the Maritime Museum of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

About 1848 John LaRue moved from South Manitou Island to set up a trading post at Sleeping Bear Bay. LaRue traded with the Native Americans camped in the area, and wooding stations soon provided fuel for passing steamers. More settlers arrived and Mrs. John E. Fisher gave the quiet hollow surrounded by forests the name of Glen Arbor. The Fishers arrived in 1854, as did John Dorsey. Dorsey set up a cooper shop, making fish barrels for outside markets; and John Fisher speculated on 1,000 acres of land on the north side of Glen Lake. Mrs. Fisher’s brother, C.C. McCarty, built the Sleeping Bear Inn, originally as a residence for lumbermen. George Ray built a dock in 1856 and later was the settlement’s first postmaster. W. D. Burdick established a sawmill and grist mill nearby in 1864 at a location which came to bear his name, Burdickville. In 1878 D. H. Day, a land developer and agent for the Northern Transportation Company, found his way to Glen Arbor. By 1867 Glen Arbor Township had 200 people, three docks, two hotels, four stores, a blacksmith shop, and a cooper shop. Gordon Earle built a water- powered shingle mill in 1890, and J. O. Nessen erected a steam-powered lumber mill nine years later.

Wood products from the surrounding forests became Leelanau County’s first commodity. Logging provided lumber and shingles for the homes, schools, churches, and businesses. As more schooners and steamers traveled Lake Michigan, ports such as Glen Arbor and Glen Haven provided fuel for them from the many wooding stations which marked the shoreside settlements.

The large number of vessels plying the waters of the Manitou Passage brought the establishment of the Coast Guard Station just north of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, in 1901. Schooners had nearly disappeared by that time, but steamers still carried passengers and freight up and down the Big Lake. Large ore boats also traveled down from Lake Superior to the City of Chicago. Men at the lifesaving station made many rescues of seamen in distress, sometimes by rowing the lifesaving boats into the angry waves, and sometimes by shooting a rope from the Lyle Gun to a stranded vessel. Today the restored station is a reminder of human courage in the fury of violent waters. In contrast, beautiful Glen Lake and the communities which border it sit peacefully beside the windswept Sleeping Bear Dune close to D. H. Day Campground and Pierce Stocking Drive.

Miller Hill Overlook

Glen Arbor Historical Photos

courtesy UpNorth Memories