Beaver Island is the biggest island in Lake Michigan, at about 13 miles long and six miles wide. To get to this picturesque TDS Telecom community, you can take a ferry or a short flight from the city of Charlevoix, about 32 miles away. It’s a tourism hot spot, especially in the summer. Visitors come from all over to explore the island’s beaches and natural beauty.
Of course, modern visitors are not the first to want to visit the picturesque Beaver Island. The Odawa Native American tribe lived on the island for many years before traders, trappers, and fisherman moved in from the east coast. However, one of the most unique stories about Beaver Island has to do with a king who lived there.
In 1848, James Jesse Strang, and the followers of his Mormon church, moved to the island. Strang created his own religious “kingdom” and even had himself crowned king (complete with crown, scepter, breastplate, shield, and velvet robe) in 1850. Although he wasn’t universally beloved, he became a political power in the region. Strang was a talented statesman. He was elected to the state legislature, and even considered running for President.
Over the years, many people have moved to Beaver Island, attracted by the plentiful fishing grounds and natural surroundings. In fact, the island was the largest supplier of fresh-water fish in the United States until the early 1900s. Many who came during the height of the fishing boom emigrated from County Donegal in Ireland. They came to call Beaver Island, “America’s Emerald Isle.” Gaelic was frequently spoken, not only in church, but also in ordinary conversations.
Today, about 550 people call Beaver Island their home. Nearly half of Beaver Island is state forest land and conserved in its pristine natural state. If you visit, you can enjoy just about any kind of water recreation, including scuba diving and snorkeling, jet skiing, and sail and power boating. And, given the island’s strong Irish history, they host a big Saint Patrick’s Day event so consider celebrating on America’s Emerald Isle.