History of Homestead Township
Michigan, originally part of “The Northwest Territory” became a state in 1837. Benzie County was formed from a portion of what had been Grand Traverse County by the act entitled “An Act to Organize the County of Benzie” passed by the State Legislature on March 30th, 1869.
Prior to the creation of Benzie County, the Board of Supervisors of Grand Traverse County set aside the eastern section of Benzonia Township to establish Homestead Township on October 12th, 1864 and the Township of North Climax on April 10th, 1867. The name was later changed to Inland Township in 1869.
Around this time northern Michigan was opened for homesteading. Early pioneers came from “out east” to stake their claim. To stake a claim, the government required $1.25 per acre as well as five years of homesteading on the land.
The first homesteaders toiled endlessly to make a home here. The land consisted of unbroken and heavily forested wilderness disturbed only by local Native Americans in the pursuit of game. The settlers lived in dwellings that ranged from rudely constructed hovels which were covered with bark stripped from trees to cabins made from inch-thick, two-foot wide pine boards sawn at local mills. The roof would be covered with cedar shakes. The water supply consisted of having a cistern and using rain water as well as drawing water from rivers, lakes and standing water.
Homesteaders survived by raising gardens that generally consisted of potatoes and root crops, fishing the local streams and rivers, and hunting game. It is said that the rivers were full of rainbow, brook and grayling trout that everyone from small children to visiting grandfathers would fish. One story from Inland Township tells of a local pioneer catching a 62 pound sturgeon using his pitchfork in the Platte River.
The timber industry was in full swing with virgin stands of white pine and dense hardwood. The Village of Honor in Homestead Township and the Village of Bendon in Inland Township sprang up as logging towns. The villages filled rapidly with people, houses and stores with no real roads to get to or from them. For the most part, travel was primarily along the Old Benzonia Trail that followed along quite closely on the same route as the ancient Indian trail that went from Mackinaw southward along Lake Michigan to Manistee and beyond, keeping inland far enough to maintain a fairly direct line. Passing through Benzie County, it naturally skirted the Deadstream Swamp and crossed the Platte River where the banks were low and firm enough.
These trails were developed by the railroads and lumber companies and soon became main thoroughfares. The now developed roadways allowed for newer types of commerce including “resorters” or people who would come up from the cities for summers on the lake. As the stands of pine and hardwood began to dwindle, the mills switched over their machinery for sawing cedar and making shingles. Timbering and agriculture had been the economic base of the townships for the fifty years. After the collapse of the timber industry, many of the offspring of the early settlers were forced to leave the area to find employment.
Today, tourism, small business and fruit farming provide the local income in this area which lies in the heart of Michigan’s cherry growing region. The majority of Homestead and Inland Township residents commute to industrially and commercially developed neighboring communities for employment.
The Platte River runs through both townships and hosts the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fish Hatchery located about 5 miles east of Honor. It produces Coho and Chinook Salmon and Steelhead in abundance. The Platte River furnishes some of the Midwest’s greatest Trout fishing as well. Canoeing and kayaking are also popular pastimes on the beautiful Platte River.
Fall and winter pastimes include ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Hikers and skiers enjoy many miles of marked and unmarked trails throughout the area. Homestead and Inland Township are a blaze of color in the fall and attract many color enthusiasts. Waterfowl and deer hunting seasons also draw in many sports hunters.