Leland's History

A brief history of Leland...

Modern Leland is the site of the oldest and largest Ottawa village on the Leelanau Peninsula. Not far from the river which flowed into Lake Michigan, bark-covered shelters, gardens and fishing sites marked the settlement of Mishi-me-go-bing, "the place where canoes run up into the river to land, because they have no harbor". Some called it Che-ma-go-bing. European settlement began when the Antoine Manseau family came from North Manitou Island in 1853. Antoine Manseau, his son Antoine Jr., and John Miller built a dam near the outlet of what was called the Carp River. Next to the dam they erected a water-powered sawmill, a necessity for the building of a new community. The families of Cook, Porter, Bryant, Buckman, Pickard, Cordes and Thies soon arrived, and docks were constructed as wooding stations. Steamers and schooners tied up at these docks, bringing more and more settlers, and Leland had 200 people by 1867.

Fish Tug "Morning Dip," Fishtown
This photograph of Fishtown, and the fish tug named "Morning Dip" was used as a postcard image. Ranging from 1890-1930




Antoine Manseau's route between Leland and the Manitou Islands has been travelled thousands of times, by residents of and visitors to North and South Manitou. The Grosvenor family, whose genealogy traces to the islands, has operated mail and passenger boats between Leland and the Manitous for many years, departing from Leland's historic Fishtown. Other island families carrying maritime traditions into the 20th Century are the Telgards and the Carlsons. Martin Telgard built boats in Northport before coming to Leland to establish with his wife, Leone (Carlson), the Blue Bird restaurant in 1927. Maritime photos are displayed on the inside walls of the establishment, reminding us of the heritage of the area. Carlson's Fisheries supplies whitefish and other fish to local restaurants and to the public. Racks of fish are removed from the smokers and offered for sale in Fishtown, where the family bases its historic fishing tradition. 

The Passenger Ship Missouri, circa 1912
The steamer Missouri, in service from 1904 to 1917, brought many settlers, resorters and tourists to Leland and other villages in Leelanau county. This 255-foot-long and 40-foot-wide vessel had luxurious accomodations for 250 passengers. She was heartily welcomed by villagers standing at the docks.


The steamers Buffalo, Lawrence, Champlain, City of Traverse City, Illinois, Rising Sun, Manitou, Puritan, Spirit, Michigan, Alleghany, Fountain City, and Idaho; schooners Hiram Merrill, Cora A., Lucky; the sloop Defiance and many other vessels brought passengers and their homesteading supplies. They came from Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago and other ports to take their place among the Leelanau Peninsula citizens. As comforts increased, by way of lodges and mercantile, resorters also arrived on the Lake Michigan vessels. Some returned, summer after summer, and others made Leland their permanent home. By 1900 the county population registered over 10,500, and Leland became the county seat.

To learn more about Leland and Leelanau County history visit the Leelanau Historical Society Museum and Store in Leland.