Munising Township is located in east central Alger County, along the southern shore of Lake Superior. The Township’s 217 square miles is inhabited by about 2,983 people. Within the township borders are Miners Castle, within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Hiawatha National Forest, beautiful waterfalls, and many inland lakes.
Munising Township Office Complex
The Munising Township Office Complex, located at E9630 Prospect Street in Wetmore, was constructed in 1997-1998. The complex houses the offices of the Township Supervisor, Assessor, Clerk, Treasurer and Zoning Administrator. It is the meeting place for the Township Board, Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and other municipal bodies. The complex in Wetmore serves as the polling place for elections and is the home of the Munising Township Fire Department.
The complex in Wetmore and the Township Hall in Shingleton both serve as community centers for Munising Township. Both buildings are ADA compliant and barrier free. The meeting rooms are available for rent for events.
Parks and Recreation
Park facilities owned by the Township include:
- The Robert McQuisten Munising Township Recreational Area in Wetmore. The Recreational Area currently has a Little League Field, two (2) full basketball courts, playground, boardwalk, sand volleyball court, pavilion and a parking lot.
- The Wetmore Community Park is located in Wetmore adjacent to the Munising Township Office Complex. The park contains two tennis courts.
- The Shingleton Community Park is located in Shingleton. The park contains a softball diamond, tot lot, basketball court, community building and parking area.
Munising Township Historical Background
The name “Munising” is derived from an Ojibwa Native American word, “Minissing” or “Place of the Great Island,” for the nearby Grand Island, located on the southern shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This area served as a home to the indigenous Ojibwa and later to early fur trading Europeans who arrived to the area as early as 1834. The first settlement occurred in 1860. Early travelers have described their visual impressions of the area’s majestic sites. Four separate sites have been called Munising over the years including: Grand Island City, the Schoolcraft/Munising Furnace site, Wetmore and the Village/City of Munising.
Munising Township came into being with the establishment of the Schoolcraft Furnace. The Upper Peninsula wilderness went through many divisions in the early days and Munising Township was organized on March 23, 1867. Further division of the Township added sections to the townships of Manistique, Seney, Thompson and Hiawatha in Schoolcraft County and Onota and Burt in Alger County. The last boundary change, in 1905, was the second formation of Grand Island Township.
Munising Township was attached to Marquette County until Schoolcraft County was organized in 1871. It has been noted that townships were often established but not organized until the region had been settled to a degree that required a local government. Roads had not yet been established in the dense forest and all supplies had to be shipped in. Transportation was very uncertain for residents at the time and they remained depended on boat traffic, the company and the company store for contact with the outside world. Alger County was not established until March 17, 1885, through an act of the state legislature. The new county was named after Russell A. Alger, the governor of Michigan, who later became Secretary of War under President McKinley, and then a United States Senator.
The Schoolcraft Iron Company began construction of a smelting furnace in 1867. William Cox was appointed as the first postmaster in 1868 as homes and businesses were established in the village of Munising. Smelting furnaces operated in the area for over a decade. Sometime around 1900, the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company purchased the holdings of the former Munising Iron Company. The area was served by two railroads during this time, and was experiencing development of other industries such as lumber mills, tanneries, quarries, a brickyard, and woodenware manufacturing. Paper manufacturing followed shortly thereafter in 1902.
French-Canadians dominated the early work force, but the area was made up of an international scene, including Scotch-Irish, Swedish, Welsh, Germans, English, Dutch, Swiss, Finnish and Americans. Shortly before the Schoolcraft Furnace was founded, a band of fifty to sixty Chippewa Indians from Bay Mills and Sault Ste. Marie settled south of the Washington School, building small homes. Fishing, hunting and trapping provided their livelihood and some worked at the furnace as well.
Large scale lumbering began in Alger County in 1876 and overlapped with the last days of the Schoolcraft Furnace. Lumbering continued beyond the construction of the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette Railroad. The first huge pines were felled along Lake Superior, which provided the only means possible for shipping the logs.
Wetmore was established due to its proximity to the new Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette Railroad and it was the nearest point to the only settlement in the area-Munising. A railroad outlet was necessary even for lumber companies that sent their timber downstream to Lake Michigan. The building of Munising Station (Wetmore) began with the survey of the railroad, but it was more than 15 years before the community received a permanent name. The railroad stop was named Munising Station because of its immediacy to Munising. In 1881, the depot was built and existed for 35 years. There was little commercial activity in the area until the mid-1880s. The business district built up along the railroad, essentially Railroad Street and its intersection, Island Street. The settlement of Wetmore reached its peak in the 1890s; in addition to the lumber industry, a set of charcoal kilns was added, as well as several more small businesses. The Wetmore Cemetery was started sometime in the early 1890s as well. In 1896, logging companies began logging south of town and the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company began extensive cutting as well along the east branch of the Munising Railway. Business at the railroad station increased, but the boom years were passing for the community. The town finally received its permanent name of Wetmore around this time.
Timber was also the main reason for the existence of several other communities in Munising Township, including Shingleton, Van Meer and Melstrand. There was a great mix of nationalities including: Swedes, Finns, English, Scots, Irish, Poles, Croatians, Slovenians, French, German, Dutch and Danes that arrived to cut the forests, mill them and ship them. Present day generations carry on many of their names.
In 1882, the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette Railroad established a depot and named it Jeromeville. Shingleton originated as Jeromeville, in honor of David H. Jerome, Michigan’s first native-born Governor. The name was changed several years later when the first shingle mill was founded. Van Meer was likely named for James Van Meer, a camp foreman, and was established around 1917-a time when there was only a rough one lane road to Shingleton. Before highway construction, travelers had to drive to Shingleton by way of Van Meer. Shingleton was prosperous compared to its satellite communities (Melstrand and Van Meer) due to its location at a crossroads and at a junction point of the South Shore and Manistique and Lake Superior railroads. The other communities disappeared when the timber was gone.
Although some of the early natural resources-based industries have ceased operations, Neenah Paper remains the area’s largest employer and has been a stable economic force for many decades. Moreover, the Alger Maximum Correctional Facility, the expanded Kewadin Casino, Munising Memorial Hospital, Timber Products and the emergence of many new service related businesses have helped to strengthen the overall local economy.
The area’s natural resources have become a predominant force in the local economy through the expansion of tourism services and high-quality recreational opportunities. Jobs and customers created by a booming tourist industry have improved local economic conditions. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Hiawatha National Forest, Alger Underwater Preserve, and Grand Island are among the major attractions and offer a wide variety of active and passive four-season recreational choices that compare with the best in the United States.