The Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of our new Voices from the Vault recording space inside the Harbor Springs History Museum. Once this metal and brick vault on the east side of our building kept important records safe for the City of Harbor Springs; now the space has been turned into a recording area to capture and safeguard our community’s stories. (The building's east vault is visible in the photograph below, taken around 1910).

2012.016.108 web

The Voices from the Vault recording space will officially open on Friday, May 26, 2017 during the museum’s regular exhibit hours of 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. The community is encouraged to stop by to view the new space, which will remain a permanent part of our exhibits after its opening. 

The idea for the recording space came to Historical Society staff members after interactions with museum visitors kept uncovering great stories; stories that unfortunately vanished as soon as the visitors left. 

“We feel that it’s an important part of our mission to find a way to chronicle and preserve these treasured memories and stories from our visitors,” said Mary Cummings, Executive Director of the Historical Society. “Reclaiming the unused vault area inside the temporary exhibit gallery seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.”  

The Voices from the Vault space will provide a dedicated area for both impromptu recordings from museum visitors as well as traditional oral history interviews. We hope the community will take advantage of this unique space and are happy to answer questions or provide more information to interested individuals. Call (231) 526-9771 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more. 


Voices from the Vault was made possible in part through the generous support of the
Ayrshire Foundation and the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. 

Last modified on Continue reading

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about restaurateur Myrtle “Myrt” Johnston.johnston myrt

Myrtle Johnston was born in Cross Village in 1917 to Edna and George Kruzel and was raised there. Later she attented Harbor Springs High School before marrying Samuel Johnston in 1934.

Known for her hardworking nature and generous spirit, "Myrt" took on the chores that face the wife of a would-be dairy farmer while earning extra money by working at the Old Trail Inn. Her summer routine was to arrive at 7:00 am to bake pies, cook breakfast, then lunch and dinner, returning home at 9:00 pm.

Myrt is best known for her years running Johnston’s Restaurant at State and Bay streets. She took over the restaurant from her brother-in-law Roy and ran the store for 17 years. The restaurant and especially her presence there made Johnston’s a fixture in downtown. Generations of Harbor Springs residents, both year-round and summer, will long remember Myrt for her hospitality and homemade cooking as well as for her fiesty temper and generous heart.

Myrt passed away in 2012 at age 94.

Last modified on Continue reading

Welcome to the fourth installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about Josephine Darling Ford. 

2015.007.1 inside 2 cropped

The 1960s and early 1970s were a difficult time in Harbor Springs despite its distinction as a summer resort town. In the mid-1970s the charming yet sleepy town was reborn, and Josephine Darling Ford helped foster that rebirth.

Born in Harbor Springs in 1911 to Willard S. and Bertha (Stutsman) Darling, Josephine Darling Ford loved her home town and the people in it. She showed that love through service to the community on the school board for eight years, city council for four, and a term as mayor in 1975-76. During her tenure as mayor, the City of Harbor Springs was recognized as an “All American City” by the National Municipal League. Harbor Springs was one of ten cities and the smallest among the honorees. 

“I feel Harbor Springs has a lot to look forward to,” Ford was quoted in a 1976 interview about the award. “We aren’t stopping, we want to continue to make this a better place to live.” Cited in the city’s application for the designation were revitalization of the downtown business district, creation of the Kiwanis Sports Park, community school programs and a new senior center. Also listed were projects Ford championed including the creation of a public boat launch. Today that boat launch bears her name.

Following her unexpected death in 1977, city manager Robert S. Anderson, Jr. delivered Ford’s eulogy: “Josephine Ford was in a very real sense a mother to all of Harbor Springs. Sitting in the window of Rosenthal’s watching Main Street as a mother watches her children at play, seeking a chance to solve citizens’ problems as a mother waits to bandage a scraped knee, Jo tackled her community responsibilities as a mother guards her brood.”

This short feature is a part of the fourth volume of the Essence of Emmet magazine. A digital version of this magazine can be found here and hardcopies are available throughout Emmet County. 

Last modified on Continue reading

Welcome to the third installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about teacher and Odawa leader Margaret Boyd.boyd margaret

Margaret Blackbird Boyd (pictured at right as portrayed by local artist Jane Cardinal) was born in Harbor Springs around 1817. She is best known for her role as an educator and for defending Odawa land rights during the 1870s and 1880s. Margaret grew up in Harbor Springs with her family, including her brother Andrew J. Blackbird, but in her life also ventured away from the Little Traverse Bay. 

Around 1825, missionaries and local Catholic Odawa, realizing the growing importance of a Western education in a rapidly changing time, began choosing promising young Odawa to send to school. Margaret was chosen along with her brother William and their cousin Augustin Hamlin Jr. to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio. Their elders hoped that an education at the large convent school in Cincinnati would mold the young students into adults who could then help their community.  

Margaret completed her schooling and fulfilled that wish, first teaching in Detroit and later returning to the Harbor Springs area where she took up a position as a schoolteacher. She worked as a teacher off and on before marrying Joseph Boyd and establishing a farm and family of her own. 

In later years, Margaret faced harsh discrimination along with the rest of the Odawa community as a result of the flood of white settlers to the area. Hundreds of Odawa lost their land and homes, often due to illegal seizures, unethical tax hikes and intimidation. Margaret was outspoken in fighting against these forces, writing numerous letters to government officials in Michigan and working with her brother, Andrew, to help Odawa families. In 1876 she took it upon herself to intervene by traveling, alone, to Washington D.C. to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant. 

An accomplished beadworker and basket maker, Margaret sold her art along the way to pay for train fare and food and eventually arrived at the White House. She was allowed to see the President but barely had time to state her case before Grant excused himself. Devastated but not beaten, she returned to Harbor Springs are continued to lobby and fight for the rights of Odawa people for the rest of her life. 

- Gah-Baeh-Jhagwah-Buk: The Way it Happened- A Visual Culture History of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa      by James McClurken.
- Blackbird's Song: Andrew J. Blackbird and the Odawa People by Theodore J. Karamanski

Last modified on Continue reading
erwin alice c

Welcome back to the second installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about conservationist and author Alice C. Erwin (pictured at right). 

Alice Clementina Erwin was born in 1880 in Athens County, Ohio to Albert and Ellen Young. Later in life she married Charles Fayette "Fay" Erwin and lived in Harbor Springs, where she was adopted by the local Odawa tribe in honor of her efforts to protect wildlife, forests and wetlands. Alice passed away at the Petoskey hospital in 1938 and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Harbor Springs. 

Alice is best remembered for her writing and her conservationist spirit. She wrote about her observations of nature and all things natural in a series of conversations, “Nature Talks,” carried in a number of Michigan newspapers in the 1920s and 1930s. These included Harbor Springs’ own Emmet County Graphic, the Grand Rapids Press and the Detroit News. Through her writing, Alice became a recognized leaded in the conservation movement in Northern Michigan. Her editor said, “Alice Erwin loved and felt kinship with every living thing.” After her death, Alice's husband Fay published her writings in a book in 1939.

“Nature Talks” in book form is a collection of Alice Erwin's writings throughout the course of one year (see an excerpt at the end of this blog).  It covers topics from native berries and spruce trees to meteorites and porcupines. One memorable passage deals with the installation of nets over the fish-rearing ponds at the Oden State Fish Hatchery. Alice was a firm believer that "bird life need not be destroyed in order to have fish" and was saddened by the killing of egrets and herons at the hatchery to protect the young fish. She suggested a simple method for protecting the ponds stating that “clever uses of wires and poultry netting do the trick more efficiently and cheaply in the long run than patrolling with fire-arms.” 

In his acknowledgments at the beginning of “Nature Talks,” Fay Erwin notes with "greatest happiness" that the plan hatched by Alice to protect water birds was being enacted. The superintendent of the hatchery wrote to Fay that "five of our ponds are already covered with screens and a new project is underway to cover the remaining ponds with the aid of CCC labor." 

Alice encouraged curiosity with her friendly, commonplace writing style that appealed to all ages in her short, daily journals of the world around her. Harbor Springs' history and natural resources are immeasurably enriched by her life and work. 


Nature Talks excerpt

Above: An excerpt of Alice C. Erwin's writings, published by her husband in a book called "Nature Talks" shortly after her death. Click the image for an enlarged view. 

Last modified on Continue reading

Exhibit Hours

Tuesday - Saturday
11:00 am to 3:00 pm

Office Hours

Tuesday - Friday
9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Museum Address

349 E. Main Street
    Harbor Springs, MI 49740

(231) 526-9771

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Newsletter Sign-up

To stay informed of upcoming events and exhibits, sign up for our HSAHS eNewsletter here. It's free!

Follow Us

google  facebook  twitter  youtube


See what We've pinned on Historypin