Leelanau on Location: Omena

Omena by Andrew McFarlaneOmena is a small community in Leelanau County located between Suttons Bay and Northport.

Omena began in 1852 when Reverend Peter Daugherty brought a band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians from Old Mission and settled in what is now Omena. In 1858 the Protestant Church was dedicated, and today is the oldest in Leelanau County. As legend has it, services have been held every Sunday since the church was dedicated. The same year the Church was dedicated, a post office was established in the village.

In 1868 Valentine Miller built a dock which was used to fuel passing steamers, and allowed passengers to disembark. By 1884 so many summer tourists came to the area that a group of Cincinnati businessmen purchased what was the mission school and remodeled it. The mission school soon became the Leelanau Hotel, attracting visitors from all over Lake Michigan. In 1903 the Manistee and Northeastern Railroad reached Northport, stopping in Omena which allowed more summer tourists access to the area.

It is said that the name “omena” was an Ojibwe expression that meant “is that so?” or “is that really true.” Local tradition says that Rev. Daugherty responded to most statements made by his flock of Native Americans with the expression “omena.” Another meaning of Omena is “apple” from the Finnish word, although it is not known if many Finns arrived in the area.

Today Omena is perfectly situated on beautiful Grand Traverse Bay and backed by stunning rolling hills filled with orchards, vineyards, farms, and forests. Many of Leelanau Counties orchards are found near Omena, as are many vineyards. One of The Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association wineries is located in Omena, and many others are just minutes away near Suttons Bay. The Tamarack Gallery is a gallery that must be visited. According to Traverse Magazine, it “has one of the best collections of sculpture to be found anywhere in Northern Michigan.”

Local area links:
Wikipedia’s Omena entry
Omena Historical Society
Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s Omena page

Leelanau on Location