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Our Mission: The Benzie Area Historical Society will connect people to the past through the vibrant story of our region. By collecting, preserving, and interpreting the history of the Benzie area, we will link past with present and inspire future generations.
Our most prized artifact is our Museum home. The Benzie Area Historical Museum, owned and operated by the Society, collects and preserves artifacts, photos, and stories about our past. The Museum is housed in an 1887 Congregational Church building and is on the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites.
Benzie County Archives
The Benzie County Archives, housed in the Benzie Area Historical Museum, include photographs, letters, manuscripts, documents and other ephemera organized and available to researchers, schools, writers, and the general public. Our archivists have catalogued over 29,000 objects in PastPerfect (museum collection management software), and our research, genealogy, and archive team uses this space to provide research opportunities for the public and primary source research training to local students.
Junior Historians Program and Education Support
More than 650 students participated in our Junior Historians program, visited the Museum or Drake School for tours, or received primary source research training during 2019.
Learning about local history helps people realize the grand scheme of historical change is made up of countless individuals like them who in their own ways contributed to the ongoing story of our community. The first issue of the Society’s newsletter, The Benzie Quarterly (now the Benzie Heritage) was published in 1981. “The Benzie County Story” contains fascinating people and information, and the newsletter’s goal is to share these stories in an interesting, entertaining, and engaging manner.
Weekly Newspaper Column and Publications
A weekly column in our local newspaper “100 Years Ago” features historical articles from yesteryear. BAHS has published three books recently; namely, The Royal Frontenac Hotel, Aux Becs Scies: Frankfort Harbor 1860-1920, and Landmarks of Betsie Bay. Two of our researchers are compiling photographs and research for an upcoming publication celebrating the early history of Thompsonville.
The Benzonia Academy Lecture Series, held in conjunction with the Mills Community House, continues the tradition of the Benzonia Academy (1863-1918), which was founded to bring modern education to Northwest Michigan. Through this series the Society offers lectures to the general public on national, international, and local history on the second Thursday of each month. A $5 donation is suggested.
Walking Tours, Bus Tours, Programs and Events
Over the past 50 years, BAHS has offered walking and bus tours, programs, and events throughout our county and collaborated with other historical societies, libraries, and civic organizations. During the past two years, those offerings included historical cycling tours, bus tours that included visits to other local historical museums, a special exhibit at a local art center, and a presentation on Michigan’s impact on boat building which featured antique wooden boats.
Bruce Catton Essay Contest
An annual Bruce Catton essay contest for Frankfort-Elberta middle school students is hosted at our Museum each year. Following Catton’s descriptive writing style in his childhood memoir Waiting for the Morning Train, students share and describe an experience they’ve had growing up in Benzie County and its impact on them. The students’ essays are read by members of the community, and a plaque honoring the top essay resides in the Museum’s Bruce Catton exhibit.
Our Researchers are a Community Resource
BAHS researchers are a community resource providing articles, presentations, research, photographs, and other support to local schools, civic organizations, researchers, the media, and community members. We offer research and genealogy services to the public focused on Benzie County history.
The BAHS is a Michigan non-profit and IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization. The Society employs a full time executive director and an administrative assistant. All other functions are performed by volunteers. The Museum depends solely on donations for its operation.