America has many beautiful and interesting places, but few can rival Michigan's historic and beautiful Manitou Passage. Found in the Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan's "little finger", vistas commonly encountered along the lakeshore are no less than phenomenal! Having once been heavily traveled as the most direct course for ships sailing between Buffalo and Chicago, the history and cultural traditions that evolved here are unsurpassed as fodder for tales of adventure and enchantment.
In the midst of it all are the Manitou Islands. Often thought of as mysterious in earlier times, the Islands became key to Great Lakes shipping. From the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, they saw the development of bustling little communities of wood merchants, life saving crews, lightkeepers and even farmers. While the old islanders have all left, the bluffs and forests of North and South Manitou, clearly visible from the mainland, beckon new visitors with a promise of adventure and discovery.
The islands were mostly vacated by the mid-1950's. With the coming of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 1970, private holdings reverted to public property, thus finally ending their homesteading and settlement history. For many years thereafter, members and descendants of original island families met each year in Empire to keep up acquaintances and memories. Now, those people have mostly all passed on. But they leave their record here — their collections of documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, genealogies, anecdotes, and oral histories — with the hope that it will prove a valuable resource for our younger generations, genealogical researchers, and others interested in learning about North and South Manitou Islands and the area known as Michigan's Manitou Passage.
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