Telling the Story of Middle Village/Good Hart
Through the Voices of the People Who Were There
- Archaeologists have found evidence of small groups of people moving seasonally through Michigan and the Great Lakes area, hunting, fishing, and cultivating native and domestic plants more than 6,000 years ago.
- Their descendants included the Algonquin-speaking Odawa, allied with the Ojibwa and Potawatomi as the Anishinabek (“The Real People” or “The People of the Three Fires”).
- By the time of European contact, the Anishinabek had spread west from their home base along the eastern shore of Lake Huron and developed extensive camps and trading networks throughout the northern Great Lakes, warring with local tribes for control.
1600’s: The Odawa move to northern Michigan
- The Odawa began trading relationships with early French explorers to NE Canada in 1615. The Odawa relocated their home bases further west to the Straits area during the Iroquois Wars of the 1640’s.
- In 1680 the French built Fort Michilimackinac on the southern shore of the Straits to facilitate the booming fur trade and the Odawa created settlements and farms nearby to supply the Fort.
- French Jesuits established a mission close to the Fort in Cross Village in 1690.
- By the late 1600’s, Odawa settlements around Fort Michilimackinac had spread south along the western shoreline to Little Traverse Bay in an area called L’Arbre Croche (‘Land of the Crooked Tree”).
- These semi-permanent settlements included several longhouses, each sheltering 3-4 families, surrounded by gardens and fisheries providing reliable sources of food for the inhabitants and produce for trade.
1700’s: The Golden Age of the Fur Trade
- The L’Arbre Croche Odawa acted as middlemen for the fur trade and then provisioners – especially fresh produce, fish, game, and birchbark canoes — for Fort Michilimackinac and beyond.
- By 1765 more than 1,000 Odawa lived in the L’Arbre Croche area, spread out in small settlements “every few rods” over “a full twenty miles”.
- The principal Odawa settlement at Ahpitahwaing (“in the middle”) or Wa-ga-nak-sa (“the half way place”), one mile south of present day Middle Village, was marked on early maritime maps. Ahpitahwaing thrived as a fishing, farming, and trading village and was known for its discipline and civility.
- In recognition of the importance of the settlement, Father Pierre Du Jaunay established a mission to the Ahpitahwaing Odawa in 1741.
- Over the previous 100 years, Anishinabek leaders had developed accommodations (known as “the middle ground”) with the French and then the British that protected their cultural heritage while adapting to European religious, education, and trading practices.
- These relationships were disrupted by an outbreak of smallpox (circa 1755) and growing conflicts over trade and land. The Odawa supported the French in the French and Indian War (1754-63) and the British in the American Revolution (1775-83) and the War of 1812.
- In 1815, the United States finally established firm control over the upper Great Lakes in the Treaty of Ghent, bringing a 200-year era of French-British-Anishinabek “middle ground” to an end. The goal of the US was domination, not accommodation.
- The ascension of the US threatened the L’Arbre Croche Odawa whose lifestyle and prosperity had largely rested on their mutually profitable association with the great fur-trading center on Mackinaw Island.
- The Michigan Territory was created in 1805 and became a State in 1837.
- Henry Schoolcraft, the first Indian Agent to the region in 1822, encouraged the Anishinabek to give up their wide hunting lands, create permanent settlements, and become farmers.
- The Odawa of L’Abre Croche participated in an Anishinabek Council Fire in 1824 pledging never to cede their lands and to use education and religion to adapt to new political realities.
- Middle Village Odawa ogema (leaders) petitioned the US government for a priest in 1823; Father Baden arrived to find an active local chapel on the bluff above (old) Middle Village in 1825; Father Baraga dedicated a birchbark chapel as mission to St. Ignatius in 1833 . (Oral tradition puts the mission at old Middle Village; the archaeological record suggests it was at the site of the present church building.)
- Under threat of removal, Middle Village Odawa helped elect negotiators in talks that led to the Treaty of 1836 which ceded Odawa control of most of northern Michigan to the United States in exchange for preservation of hunting and fishing rights and per person allotments and gifts.
- In 1842, local ogema (including Peter Onaasson) signed a petition to the United States for redress from the negative impacts of the 1836 Treaty. Representatives signed a new Treaty in 1856 which reserved certain lands for Native American purchase.
- Beginning in 1844 Middle Village ogema worked with Fr. Pierz to buy land and build permanent houses in the area as part of a strategy to avoid removal to a western reservation.
- Gradually the population shifted one mile north and present day Middle Village was formally platted as “Wa-Gau-Muck-A-See” in 1850 in County of Mackinac (now Emmet County).
- In 1849-54, a Bureau of Indian Affairs map showed the church and 26 structures in Middle Village with about the same number scattered north for 2.5 miles.
- The Odawa settlement just north of Middle Village was named “Good Hart” for the principal man Kaw-mino-dee (“he is good-hearted”) and was the site for a Presbyterian mission and school in 1855 and a Bureau of Indian Affairs school in 1860.
- The 1860 census recorded 164 Odawa, 34 households and 6 farms in Middle Village/Good Hart area. The only whites in the area at that time were missionaries or teachers.
- In 1861 the mission dedicated to St. Ignatius in Middle Village was replaced by a larger building located at its present site in modern-day Middle Village. The Church was rebuilt in 1889 after a fire.
- In 1866, Peter Onaasanon (translated King) bought Lot 8 of the Wa-Gau-Muck-A-See Plat from William and Julia Bwanishing. The King House was probably built the next year.
- Homesteaders settled on farms along the bluff road above Middle Village/Good Hart after the Homestead Act of 1872. Farming and logging dominated the economy for the Odawa and the incoming white settlers during the latter part of the century.
- G. Noel opened first the general store and post office in Good Hart in 1884; L. Lamkin bought out the store and became postmaster in 1890, moving into the old Good Hart government school after a fire in 1894.
1900’s: Resorts to Residences
- A 1902 plat map shows the Lamkin Store & Post Office at the base of the hill down from Lake Shore Drive.
- Lamkin Store expanded and took its first paying guests in 1909.
- About 1910, the Lamkin’s opened an Indian Art Store on Lake Shore drive to appeal to the tourist trade.
- Middle Village Odawa become well known for the quality of baskets, quilts, rush mats, and quill boxes they produced for sale.
- Other resorts opened in the area: Old Trail Inn (1913); Chippewa Cove Woods (1916); Blisswood and Krude Kraft Lodge (1924); new Lamkin Lodge (1934) and Sunset Lodge (1939).
- In 1935, C. Powers built the current Good Hart General Store on M-119.
- M. Bliss developed a signature arts and crafts style design as resort cabins became cottages in the 1930’s and homes in the 1940’s.
- N. Lamkin Road (Readmond Township) was recognized on State certification maps in 1932; S. Lamkin (Friendship Township), in 1940.
- Electricity came to Emmet County in 1937 and to Middle Village in late 1940.
- A 1939 survey identified 22 Odawa families left in Middle Village/Good Hart area, 11 of whom live in Middle Village. Alec King, last of the Kings to live in the King House, died in 1940.
- Over the next three decades Middle Village was abandoned as Odawa families relocated to Harbor Springs, Petoskey, and beyond and the old log and timber houses fell into disrepair. Rose King, the last Odawa resident of Middle Village and member of the King family, died in 1969.
- St. Ignatius Church and Cemetery were named a national historic site in 1976
- In 1979, Mathilda Ramage (King) Allison, a well-known California quill artist who had learned her craft from her grandmother in Middle Village, repurchased the family house which was falling into ruin and financed a significant reconstruction.
- Over the next decades Middle/Village Good Hart was renewed as a thriving seasonal community, this time dominated by summer cottages, private homes, and public parks.
- In 2015, the King House Association (KHA) was organized to “purchase, restore, and maintain” and purchased the King House from Mathilda’s grandson as a historic site for telling the story of the area.
- The KHA launched a significant restoration of the House in 2018.