Beaver Island (Lake Michigan)

From Academic Kids

Beaver Island is the largest island in Lake Michigan and part of the Beaver Island archipelago. Beaver Island is 14 miles long, three-to-six miles wide, and is mostly flat and sandy. According to U.S. census data, the island has 72.5 mi˛ (188 km˛) of land. It is part of Charlevoix County, Michigan. The more densely settled area (which is still not very dense) is in St. James Township on the northern end of the island. Peaine Township, Michigan in the southern part of the island contains large areas of state-owned land and is mostly undeveloped. In 2000, the island had a year-round population of 551 with 244 of those in Peaine Township, the rest in St. James. The island is about a 30-mile ferry ride or airplane flight from the city of Charlevoix on the mainland.

Beaver Island is at Template:Coor dm. The ZIP code is 49782. Beaver Island is also the name of an unincorporated community comprising the settled areas of the island.

Traditionally, the island's main industries have been fishing, logging, tourism and farming. These days tourism and home and cottage construction are at the top. Only a few hundred people live on the island year round. Recreational offerings revolve around its harbor, beaches, inland lakes and the state forest, which makes up a large portion of the land.

Beaver Island bills itself as America's "Emerald Isle", partly reflecting the fact that many of its residents are of Irish descent.

The Kingdom of Beaver Island

Known mostly these days for its beaches, forests, recreational harbor and seclusion, at one time Beaver Island was the only kingdom in the United States.

It started with the death of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons. Most Mormons considered Brigham Young to be Smith's successor but others followed the charismatic and intelligent James Jesse Strang.

Facing persecution where they originally settled, Strang moved his followers to Beaver Island in 1848. The Mormons flourished under Strang's leadership and became a political power in the region. Strang was elected to the state legislature. He also founded the first newspaper in Northern Michigan. During Strang's time in the legislature, he succeeded in getting a new county organized. Manitou County included the Beaver Islands, Fox Islands, and the Manitou Islands, with the county seat at St. James.

Eventually Strang proclaimed himself king and the power apparently went to his head. One edict dictated the type of clothing that women would wear. Two women refused and Strang had their husbands flogged.

While recovering from their injuries, the husbands began plotting against Strang. On June 20, 1856 the United States gunboat USS Michigan pulled into the harbor at St. James and invited Strang aboard. As Strang walked down the dock the two men shot him and then ran to the gunboat. The gunboat pulled out and dropped the men off at a nearby island without arresting them.

After Strang died from his wounds on July 8, 1856 mobs came from Mackinac Island and drove the Mormons off Beaver Island, confiscating the Mormons' property. In 1895, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill which repealed the bill creating Manitou County (the first attempt at this in 1877 was not successful), and the Beaver Islands became part of Charlevoix County and the Fox and Manitou Islands became part of Leelanau County.

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