March 9, 2023 – BENZONIA ACADEMY LECTURE – “Smelt – the Fish that Made Beulah Famous”

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“Smelt – The Fish that Made Beulah Famous”

Presented by:  Jerry Heiman

Thursday, March 9, 4:00 p.m.

The Mills Community House and On Zoom

It may be hard to believe, but one of the main reasons for the fame of Beulah as a tourist destination in the 1920’s-1930’s was a six-inch silvery fish, the Atlantic Rainbow Smelt. The springtime spawning migration of these tasty miniatures into Cold Creek brought massive crowds of determined harvesters to downtown Beulah and the shoreline of Crystal Lake to scoop netfuls. Up to 1300 cars were counted nightly parked along US 31. This program will explore how this phenomenon came about and what made Beulah “Smelt Capital USA.”


PHOTO ABOVE:  Local resident Harold Case (left) began smelting as a young boy.

PHOTO TO LEFT:  Check out the critter lurking above the woman leading this group of smelters!


Jerry Heiman was first elected to the Benzie Area Historical Society Board of Directors in 2007; he served as Secretary from 2014-2021  He is a member of the Buildings & Grounds, Programs, Executive, and Programs and Community Outreach committees.  Jerry is a tour director for Museum and historical walking, bicycle and bus tours. He also penned “One Hundred Years Ago,” a column in our local newspaper, for more than a decade, and writes articles for our newsletter.

Heiman is a graduate of Albion College, University of Michigan Dental School, and University of Michigan Hospital Residency program. He served in the US Army Dental Corps 1966-1969 and practiced Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Midland, Michigan from 1972-1998. He has been a Big Platte Lake property owner since 1977 and became a full-time Benzie County resident in 1998.

Heiman, 78, serves on the Platte Lake Improvement Association Board of Directors, on the advisory committees for Benzie EMS and Benzie Bus, and River Care Committee of Conservation Resource Alliance. He also delivers meals for Benzie Senior Resources.