#TBT: Apple Island in Orchard Lake

Apple Island

Apple Island Aerial, photo via MSU Michigan History Student Publication

I was fascinated with the Farmer’s Almanac weather history tool this morning, so I went looking for notable Michigan happenings on June 18th…

Wikipedia’s Apple Island entry says that this 35-acre island was formed during the region’s last ice age (10,000 to 12,000 years ago) and lies in the middle of Orchard Lake. The West Bloomfield Historical Society has a nice article on Apple Island that says (in part):

Apple Island’s first admirers were Stone-Age Indians, who may have discovered it as early as 2,000 years ago. They were probably drawn to the site for its unique combination of land- and water-based resources, and the fact that their personal security was also enhanced on an island. It is not known exactly which Native Americans frequented Apple Island over the centuries before white settlement, but each group left clues to its way of life, including those which were raising crops at the time of Carpenter’s 1817 survey. In fact, the entire West Bloomfield lakes area has yielded many beautiful hammerstones, chert spearheads and birdstones – finely polished pieces of slate resembling stylized birds – left by their Native American owners long ago.

The treaty of November 17, 1807, negotiated with the Odawa, Ojibwe, Wyandot, and Potawatomi, ceded a tract of land comprising roughly the southeast quarter of the lower peninsula of Michigan and a small section of Ohio to the United States government. In time this land was surveyed, subdivided and offered for sale. Early settlers in what would become West Bloomfield Township noted that Native Americans visited the island often. In their language they reportedly referred to the area as “apple place” – a name which evidently stuck.

Read on for much more including the possibility that Chief Okemos was born on the island, its first purchase on June 18, 1827 by James Galloway and its current status as the Marjorie Ward Strong Woodland Sanctuary. Definitely check out Michigan History at MSU’s West Bloomfield – Apple Island feature for more photos & info and some really cool hand-drawn maps from the early 1900s.

The source of the “apple place” name is from Dr. Samuel M. Leggett’s epic poem The Legend of Me-nah-sa-gor-ning first circulated in 1909.

More Throwback Thursdays on Michigan in Pictures!

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