The town of Harbor Springs, nestled in the harbor of Little Traverse Bay, has a history rooted in tradition and culture. Prior to the late 1600s, the area was called Waganikisi and was inhabited by the migratory Odawa tribes. After wintering in a more hospitable climate in southern Michigan, they'd return north every spring to plant crops, fish, and collect maple syrup. The early European settlers were French Catholic Jesuits who called the area "L'Arbre Croche," which means The Crooked Tree. The area was largely wilderness, but with the establishment of the fur trade and a small village, the Odawa began to stay year round. In the mid 1800s, French traders renamed the area Petite Traverse, or Little Traverse. The town of Harbor Springs was incorporated in 1880. The area was abuzz with homesteaders, loggers, and farmers.
The town is well known for its summer resorts such as the associations of Harbor Point, Wequetonsing, and Menonaqua. At the turn of the last century, vacationers began to escape downstate and midwest cities by train and came to Harbor Springs to sail, fish, and socialize. Generations of families have returned every summer to Victorian cottages along the shoreline, boosting the town's population and economy.
Harbor Springs offers many activities to its residents and visitors year round: golf courses, beaches, bike trails, hiking trails, and multiple marinas in the summertime, and downhill and cross country skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and snow shoeing in the winter. Currently the year round population is around 1,200.
Local History Links:
Local Business History:
For more information about the history of Harbor Springs, take a look through the following books in the Harbor Springs Library:
In All the World, No Place Like This
Wequetonsing on the Little Bay