A map dating to 1717 and the first 19 private land claims shown on an 1828 land survey are just two of more than 220 photographs and sketches in a new pictorial history book, "St. Ignace," that is available this week.
The book will be introduced at an open house at the St. Ignace Public Library Wednesday, October 29, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The open house was originally scheduled for Thursday evening, October 30.
Spanning more than 100 years, the photographs were collected by a group of local volunteers with the aid of the Michilimackinac Historical Society. The photographs, many of which have not been published before, came from local families and organizations, including Mackinac State Historic Parks, the City of St. Ignace, Mackinac Bridge Authority, Michilimackinac Historical Society, Mackinac County, U.S. Coast Guard, and the library.
"It was great to see all these people step up not only to offer all these photos to us, but also to provide such valuable information on the history of St. Ignace," said Ryan Schlehuber, who worked on collecting, scanning, and identifying the pictures. Also working on the sixmonth project were Cindy Patten, Ollie Boynton, Judy Gross, Hart Plumstead, Margaret Peacock, and Linda and John Monville. They were assisted by Judi Engle, Barbara Mullins-Zimmerman, and Patti Boynton.
The softcover, 127-page book offers a view of the history of this area that began with a large Native American settlement, became a fur trading center for the French, and was later a booming town with commercial fishing, railroads, sawmills, and tourism.
The 1915 cover photograph offers a rare glimpse inside one of the town's former establishments, the Snyder House, a 25-room hotel, bar, and restaurant.
The publisher, Arcadia Publishing of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, contacted librarian Ms. Patten with the idea to print the book and she found volunteers to help gather information and photographs, which were scanned at The St. Ignace News.
Volunteers on the project say the work took longer than expected, although they learned a great deal about the town.
Gathering information for the book, said Ms. Gross, gave her a good feel for how the town was set up, where everything was located, and that it was all within walking distance for people.
"I knew this," said Ms. Patten, "but it did not hit me hard until this project, on what a boom town St. Ignace was. Seeing all the pictures made me realize what a booming place this was."
After getting a survey of the first land claims from the Mackinac County Equalization Department, she also learned that St. Ignace is one of the few communities where the original private claim number still appears on abstracts and legal descriptions.
"It was just a very interesting project," agreed volunteer Ollie Boynton, who found articles in old newspapers a helpful resource.
The most difficult part of the work was identifying photographs, he said. Some photographs were so old no one was available to identify the people pictured. Often, he said, residents would give the volunteers leads and ideas so the research could continue.
Mr. Schlehuber agreed.
"Each photograph seemed like its own little book," he said, "which was loaded with a bunch of history."
The book will be available to purchase at the open house at a cost of $19.99. Those interested also can purchase a copy of the book in St. Ignace at Book World, The Gold Mine, and St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce. It also will be available for purchase at First Edition Books in Brevort and on the Internet at Amazon.
Royalties from the book, about 8% of each sale, will be donated to the St. Ignace Public Library.