Suttons Bay Township

Leelanau County, Michigan

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Suttons Bay Town Hall is located at 95 West 4th Street, Suttons Bay, MI 49682.
Phone: 231‑271‑2722.


Beginnings [1]

The Suttons Bay area is named after Harry Chittenden Sutton who established a camp on the bay in the 1850's. His camp supplied fuel to the wood burning steamboats of the Great Lakes. Prior to being named Suttons Bay, the Village was known as Pleasant City and Suttonsburg. Incorporating Bay into the name reflected the community's strong tie with Leelanau Peninsula's signature harbor. During the early European settlement days, commercial and residential development concentrated in the Village. As stated in the Suttons Bay Sesquicentennial Celebration booklet:

According to an early record, "by 1880 the village had grown to be a lively place of about 250 inhabitants and contained four stores, three docks, two hotels, a brick schoolhouse, a sawmill, printing office and a new Catholic church." It was doing an extensive trade in shipping wood and bark. By this time the town had become known as Suttons Bay. The town was incorporated in 1895.

Meanwhile, land in the township was mostly being used for timber operations, field crops and orchards. In connection with timbering, sawmills were key businesses in the area. One of the first sawmills was established in the 1870's by Carr and Fox and later owned by the Greilick Brothers. This sawmill was on the site where the Inland Seas Education Association is now located. During the early years of European settlement, farmers did not specialize. However, over the years, agriculture focused on potato production. One local resident recalls "School Potato Vacations during the 1930s and 40s" and states "If you remember, you know it was no vacation! It meant two diligent weeks of picking potatoes for your family or neighbors in an effort to get the crop harvested" (Suttons Bay Sesquicentennial Celebration). Following the potato boom, cherries and other fruit became the agricultural focus and remain a strong part of the local agricultural economy today. The growing of wine grapes began in earnest toward the end the 20th century.

As a waterside community, shipping and sailing have also played a strong role in the history of Suttons Bay. In the 1800s schooners were common in the bay. These ships carried lumber, cordwood and tanbark. Later, steamships provided passenger service between Suttons Bay and nearby ports in addition to freight. However, as roads and rail lines were developed and lumbering waned, fewer ships were used to move people and cargo.

In the late 1800s, people started accessing Suttons Bay by the Manistee and Northeastern Railroads, established in southern Leelanau County during 1892. In 1903 the Manistee and Northeastern began daily service through Suttons Bay and Northport. The earliest cut road in the community was a state road that ran from Newaygo to Northport, which passed through Suttons Bay on what is now St. Mary's Street. M‐22, the current state highway and the community's main corridor, was once a two‐track and is reported to have had a large tree in its center, giving drivers an option on which side to pass.

  1. Suttons Bay Community, Suttons Bay Community Joint Master Plan, 2011,, accessed January, 2014.

Nearby Towns: Leland Twp •

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