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Washington Island 1836-1876

The most popular island history book in our shop, this book is part of  a set of 4 written by a professional historian who retired to the island. The island archives keeps these books in print and we are thrilled to offer the entire set as works which are both great captures of island history as well as books by an author with descendants still living here.

From the Foreword: "The focus of this book is upon the eventful forty year period between 1836 and 1876 when the Town of Washington was formed. This was the era when permanent settlers replaced transient visitors, when a handful of Yankee and Irish fishermen gave way to a growing migration of Scandinavians, first Norwegians and Danes, and later Icelanders and Swedes. Agriculture joined commercial fishing and lumbering as viable ways of earning a living.

This is the story of the town's beginning and of the struggles men and women faced in establishing homes in the wilderness for themselves and their families. Surrounded throughout the year by water and ice, the Island was at times a remote outpost on the fringe of civilization. And at other times, it was a busy haven for fishermen and a port-of-call for re-fueling lake vessels. Situated upon a major avenue of commerce in Lake Michigan, Islanders were often better informed of developments elsewhere than those in similar-sized communities inland.

Initially, Island life centered upon its harbors, with Washington Harbor being first settled. Residents survived on a diet of fresh and salted fish, and on home-grown potatoes and other vegetables. Homesteaders, forever short of money, built their own cabins. Few could afford costly goods brought in from elsewhere. Yet they survived and ultimately prospered."

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