About beaver island
While the average person probably has never heard of it, Beaver Island is a truly unique place with an eclectic, wild history. Known lovingly as "America's Emerald Isle," Beaver Island has a rich history full of surprises.
At 55.8 square miles (around 3-6 miles wide and 13 miles long) it is the largest island in Lake Michigan and the third largest island in Michigan after Isle Royale and Drummond Island. It is the most remote inhabited island in the Great Lakes.
The history of Beaver Island can be roughly divided into three periods: Native American, Mormon, and Irish. These three ancestries remain, and have intermixed, on the island today - enriching the lives of the 600 year-round residents and thousands of tourists.
James Jesse Strang, leader of what would be known as the Strangite Mormons, reigned king from 1850 to 1856, making Beaver Island the only kingdom ever to be established in the United States. He was a member of the Michigan legislature, held progressive views on voting rights and conservation, married five women, and was assassinated in 1856.
Before his death, the Mormon King published Northern Michigan's first newspaper, The Northern Islander, which became the only daily paper north of Grand Rapids at the time.
Irish immigrants rapidly replaced the Strangites. U.S. Census reports for 1870, 1880, and 1890 reveal that nearly 95 percent of the families on the island were of Irish descent. At the time, it was dubbed the “most Irish community in the Midwest.” Church services were even given in the Gaelic language.
The island was the largest supplier of fresh-water fish in the U.S. in the mid-1880s. Once overfishing depleted the waters, logging efforts increased. The island even had its own insular railroad to transport lumber from one part of the island to the other, operated by the Beaver Island Logging Company.
Due to the distance from the mainland, the island was largely self-sufficient with food, electricity, resources, and economic activity until the mid-1900s.
Tara's Meadow executive director, Seamus, is a seasoned tour guide of the island and will gladly elaborate on all this history and much more during your visit to Tara's Meadow.
Before you book your stay, feel free to check out these sources on Beaver Island history:
Beaver Island Historical Society
Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce
"How a Mormon King Shaped a Sleepy Island in Lake Michigan" (Michigan Radio, NPR)
"Beaver Island has strong Gaelic roots" (Traverse City Record-Eagle)