From the shores of Leelanau County, North Manitou Island's wilderness doesn't reveal the vibrant community that once lived there.

Through photographs, artifacts and personal stories, visitors to the Leelanau Historical Society Museum will get a better look at the island community when the exhibit "Life on North Manitou Island: 1895-1930" opens Friday.

"Most people don't realize the island's diverse culture included logging operations, farms, a resort colony and commercial fishermen and maritimers," said Julie Rhodes, business manager of the museum.

Rhodes worked with volunteers and board members to put together the exhibit that complements their "Shipwrecks of the Manitou Passage: Loss and Legacy" exhibit.

Photos of summer residents strolling on the boardwalk or sitting on the Monte Carlo Cottage steps where young college men were known to play poker are a vast contrast to the images of loggers and farmers who did backbreaking work to support their families.

The North Manitou U.S. Life Saving Station and the Dimmick's Point Lighthouse provided government jobs with reliable incomes for island residents, even employing women for chores, including washing, sewing, cleaning and canning.

"One thing that I found very surprising was that North Manitou was the first stop for many immigrants coming from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Poland," said Rhodes. "They only moved over to the mainland as it became more developed."

She noted that Ottawa and Chippewa American Indian populations also played a vital role as workers on the island.

Francie Gits, president of the board of directors of the Leelanau County Historical Society and Museum, said that while creating new exhibits can be a lot of work, it is exciting and educational as there is always something new to learn by delving into the past.

The island, which was settled in the late 1840s as a wool-cutting station, became part of Leelanau County along with South Manitou and Fox islands in 1895. The 1910 U.S. Census reported a population of 215, not including summer residents and 40 Russian immigrants working in logging camps. The 22-square- mile island became part of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore in 1984.

The Leelanau Historical Society Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, beginning June 24. It is located at 203 E. Cedar in Leland, behind the Old Art Building, adjacent to the library. For more information, call 256-7475.

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