Alpena County, Michigan

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Alpena County administrative offices are located at 720 West Chisolm Street, Alpena, MI 49707; phone: 989-354-9500.

Beginnings [1]

The first European-American settlers were attracted to the Alpena area in the mid-1830's. Their initial interest was commercial fishing. In 1857 the State legislature organized Alpena County, which included what was later to become the counties of Montmorency, Oscoda and part of Presque Isle, as well as the modern day Alpena County. The area started to grow in 1860's due to extensive logging activities. The Thunder Bay River was the basic transportation from logging sites to sawmills located in the City of Alpena and its port on Lake Huron. Because the harbor is protected by Thunder Bay it became a commercial fishing center. The great wildfire of 1871 damaged a large area in the northern half of Alpena County and areas in Presque Isle County. Several people died when the settlements of Cathro, Metz, and Posen were destroyed along with thousands of acres of forestlands.

With the Thunder Bay River, Lake Huron and the extension of rail lines, Alpena became a hub of transportation. Logging and milling activities flourished. In the early 1900's companies were formed with activities related to paper production and uses of limestone, which is quarried in the area. The population in 1900 was 18,254.

The Fletcher family built their first dam on the Thunder Bay River in 1908, to generate electricity to support their new paper mill. They later built three more hydro dams and also dammed Hubbard Lake and Fletcher's pond to hold water for power generation. They created Alpena Power which still serves the area. These dams were sold in 1990 and are presently operated by the Thunder Bay Power Company under FERC permits.

  1. Alpena County Michigan, Master Plan, 2013,, accessed August, 2015.

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