Harbor Springs is a prosperous, attractive and interesting village of over 2000 inhabitants located on one of the finest harbors on the Great Lakes region formed by the projection of Harbor Point across the North part of Little Traverse Bay. Nine miles across the Bay, a little piece of South is Petoskey, and between these two points, along the extreme eastern shores of that beautiful and noble body of water are Bay View, Kegomic, Menonaqua Beach, Roaring Brook, Wequetonsing and other charming resorts which have made the region famous. Harbor Point is southeast of Harbor Springs, and beyond it are Wildmere Springs, Emmet Beach and Idylwild, completing a continuous stretch of picturesque and homelike cottages, park like grounds and splendidly improved tracks of shore lands. The Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad enables the visitor to make a delightful tour of inspection near the sunny shores of Little Traverse Bay. Harbor Springs at one extremity of this noble garland of activity and beauty and Petoskey at the other, share alike the prosperity and the enjoyment which attach to this section of Little Traverse region. It is the small bay formed by Harbor Point that gave the place its Indian name of Wequetonsing, a name afterward appropriated by the resort to the east.

The village was permanently christened with its present name when it was incorporated in 1881. During the earlier periods of its history it was known as Little Traverse.

Harbor Springs takes its name from its Harbor, known as one of the finest on the Great Lakes and from its beautiful springs up your water, boiling and bubbling up in every part of the village. The analysis of this water, was made by Prof. Kedzie, shows it to be even a purer water than the Waukesha or Bethesda waters of Wisconsin. Pipes are driven to a depth of from 175 to 200 feet and by gravitation water raises from 15 to 20 feet above the surface, where it is piped into the houses and cottages, thus giving a never ending supply of purest water at no cost except that of installation. The municipal water supply is obtained from these flowing Wells and is likewise of the same quality.

Owing to its excellent Harbor, the steamship “Northland,” the finest passenger steamer on the Great Lakes, owned by the Great Northern Railroad company, makes Harbor Springs the only port of call on the east side of Lake Michigan, while many others steamers, including the “Manitou,” ply between Chicago and Harbor Springs.

It is this excellent boat and railroad service, together with the pure water and integrating air, it makes Harbor Springs such a leading center of the resort region, and here are found people from nearly every state in the union, who have their summer homes and enjoy the best there is in nature at nominal expense.

The authentic as well as legendary history of the place is full of interest. Pieces of ancient crockery have been found here indicating that it was once a stopping place of the extinct race of Mound Builders on their journeys from Mexico to the Lake Superior mines. It is not known that it was ever in very early times an important Indian village, but it has unquestionably been a camping ground much frequented. It was in this quiet retreat that several of the noted Chiefs of the War of 1812 spent their declining years, and here for years they assembled their people by hundreds to receive their annuities from the general government.

We have already shown in the general history of the county, that about the year 1827 the Catholics removed from Seven Mile Point to Little Traverse, and built a church of cedar logs and covered it with bark. This was built by Rev. Father Peter De Jean who was the first resident priest at this point. Twelve or fifteen years later a more modern house of worship was erected beside the old log church. Among the acts of Father Peter De Jean, worthy of remembrance, may be mentioned his founding of a liquor law which prohibited the use and sale of liquor, which was rigidly enforced until about the year 1854.

The year 1853 is the earliest point of continuous operations related to the present village. Prior to that time Mackinac traders had sent goods to Little Traverse at various times for the purpose of trading with Indians, but none remained any considerable length of time. In the fall of 1853, Richard Cooper, afterward a citizen of Charlevoix, arrived at Little Traverse on the trading schooner “Eliza Caroline” and opened a store for Capt. Kirtland. He had previously been engaged in fishing at Beaver Islands, but had returned to his home in Genesee County, New York.

At the time of Mr. Cooper's settlement at Little Traverse the fishermen had already established themselves at several points on the northern part of Lake Michigan, but there were none at that place. That same fall, however, was marked by the arrival of Charles R. Wright, Albert Cable and James Moore. Wright and Cable at first stopped on the point and the others in the village and for years fishing was one of its leading industries. Some who came in those early days to fish remained to become identified with the permanent growth of the village in the region. Associated with the fishermen were always a number of cooper's who generally had a shop near the fishing shanties; thus cooperage was the first manufacturer of Little Traverse. Small trading establishments, like that of Capt. Kirtland under the management of Mr. Cooper, also sprang up at various points, drawing their custom from both the fishermen and the Indians. A few small vessels or “hookers,” found a lucrative trade in going from place to place, selling supplies and whiskey and purchasing fish. It is said that the Captain never indulged in the sale of liquor, at least that he never sold it to the Indians; which is to his credit. Joseph Pyant was one of the best-known early traders, who often “made” Little Traverse. He was of the noted Mackinac class, finally located at Little Traverse in 1855, was Sheriff of Emmet County in 1858-64 and 1868-70, and served two terms as register of deeds.

A post office was established at Little Traverse in 1861, but the great tide of immigration came in 1875-6 when all the lands of the county were thrown open to settlement. Real estate and professional men located, the fish dealers commenced to build new docks, a sawmill was erected by W. E. Parker on the bay shore, the Harbor Springs “Republican” was born and the Methodists organized their first regular society.

The progress of the place was continuous and normal; other newspapers came into the field and helped the village along; Mr. Parker extended his interest both as to lumber manufacturing and general merchandising; business houses carrying special lines of goods joined the procession, in 1880 connection was secured with Petoskey, and by 1881 the people were ready and entitled to be incorporated under a village form of government. And more, visitors to the Little Traverse region had discovered the advantages of the village as a resort center. The movement had started at Harbor Point, several years before, in the form of what was known as the Lansing Resort, and referred to in the incorporating act of Harbor Springs as the Harbor Point Association. Its grounds were excluded from the village site.

The act incorporating Harbor Springs was passed by legislature in the winter of 1881, and the first charter election in April of that year resulted in the choice of C. D. Hampton for President of the Board; E. Bemett clerk; E. J. Palmer Treas.; W. H. Miller assessor; Merritt Scott constable; W. W. Bowen, W. E. Parker, N. Hinman, J. M. Burbeck, I. Canby and E. H. Martindale, trustees.

Ten years after its incorporation, Harbor Springs had reached a population of more than 1000 and it had since about doubled. It is an up-to-date village, with good water, electric light, clean well paved streets, and a thorough system of public schools. A community of noticeably intelligent people it has naturally given much attention to its educational institutions, and its schools are of the best.

Harbor Springs supports two good weekly newspapers and Methodists, Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Episcopalian churches. Both Catholics and German Lutherans have large parochial Schools, and the former have long maintained the Covenant of the Sisters of Notre Dame.

As to the status of the village from a trade in and an industrial point of view -- it has in operation manufactories of lumber, hoops, staves, iron, furniture and boats, and is quite a point of shipment for produce, grain, maple sugar and fish. Banking accommodations are furnished by the Emmet County State Bank, organized in 1905 of which William J. Clarke is President and James T. Clarke cashier.

William J. Clarke

As stated, Wequetonsing and Harbor Point, are small resorts and virtual suburbs of Harbor Springs -- the former on the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad adjoining the village on the East and the latter on the peninsula to the southeast.

Wequetonsing, as originally laid out in 1877 comprised 80 acres of land donated by the citizens of Harbor Springs. The enterprise originated and was founded in this wise. In the summer of 1877 reverence McCord of Allegan and Essex, of Elkhart, visited all the points along Grand Traverse and Little Traverse days, with the idea of selecting a location for the settlement of a resort where worn-out and sweltering humanity could repair to recover health and enjoyed rational recreations.

After an impartial survey of all points, they decided that Little Traverse possessed greater advantages than any other place and so reported to the synod which met that fall. In accordance with this report it was decided at a meeting in Elkhart in the fall of 1877 to accept the gift of the citizens of Harbor Springs of the 80 acres of land situated on the Harbor shore. An association was then and there formed for the purpose of improving the grounds and selling or leasing lots to parties desiring to put up cottages.

In the spring of 1878 work began on the grounds, numerous lots were sold and a large boarding-house erected. On July 17, 1878, the grounds were formally dedicated, Honorable Schuyler Colfax delivering his famous address on Abraham Lincoln. The organization was not fully completed until the summer of 1879. August 6, a business meeting was held and L. H. Trask elected president; H. H. Pope, Sec.; H. H. Dennis, Treas. Streets have been laid out and a number of cottages erected in that year. The original site has since been increased, and the erection of cottages and beautifying of grounds have been constant.

The Indian name of this place was “Wa-ba-bi-kang,” meaning a white gravelly shore, but the association evidently did not consider this as musical as the one adopted and the founders of Wequetonsing were right.

Harbor Point was at first called the Lansing Resort from the circumstances which brought it into existence. In August, 1878, a party of Lansing people visited the spot and camped out. They were so delighted with the location and the many advantages it possessed, that before they left they began making arrangements for the purchase of the Point of Rev. Father Weicamp of Cross Village, the owner of the land. They were successful in their negotiations and proceeded with the necessary steps of establishing a permanent resort. On August 28, 1878, a stock company was organized under the statute for park associations and the first officers were as follows: Pres., B. F. Simon; Sec., N. B. Jones; Treas., Eugene Angell. The original stockholders numbered nineteen and the capital stock was $2500, but so popular did not resort become that the capital stock was subsequently increased to $10,000. The grounds were laid out with winding walks and drives, the underbrush cleared away. A hotel, dock, boat and bath houses were built, and each year improvements have been added and new cottages erected until now everybody who delights in restful scenery and invigorating recreation is a friend to Harbor Point.

Places of Entertainment at Harbor Springs, Michigan

Written by Perry F. Powers in 1912 in the book "A History of Northern Michigan".