2016 Essence of Emmet award winners announced!

The caretakers of Emmet County’s history were celebrated Sept. 28, 2016 during the third annual Essence of Emmet history awards ceremony in Petoskey.

In total, eight individuals were recognized for their contributions to protecting, preserving and sharing the county’s history by the Essence collaborative, a local group of organizations and individuals sharing an interest in history.

“This is a very special night for our group because we are able to bring to light the many people working hard to preserve and protect this area’s one-of-a-kind history,” said Beth Anne Eckerle, Emmet County Communications Director. “We’ve learned through the Essence group that it takes many committed people in our area working together to make sure the stories of our past are preserved for future generations. Often these people take on these tasks on a volunteer basis and through the giving of their time and resources. This year’s award winners are exactly those types of individuals.”

Receiving the third annual Essence history awards are:

Lifetime Achievement Award: Stafford and Janice Smith, of Stafford’s Hospitality. Most everyone in this area knows the Smith name and the Stafford’s Hospitality network. The Smiths own and operate some of the most beautiful and hospitable restaurants and hotels in Emmet County including the Perry Hotel, the Bay View Inn, the Crooked River Lodge in Alanson and the Pier Restaurant in Harbor Springs, as well as the Weathervane in next-door Charlevoix County.

Smiths essence

Stafford and Janice Smith (center) are pictured with Essence members Mary Stewart Adams (left) and Bill Marvin (right).

But what some in the public may not know is the Smiths’ decades-long commitment to historic preservation. The Smiths share a steadfast dedication to restoring and operating their historic properties and ensuring they will persevere. As Mike Federspiel, former director of the Little Traverse Historical Society Museum phrased it, “The Smiths have allowed thousands of us to slide ‘somewhere in time’ in their perfectly restored properties, complete with plenty of historical images and text telling the structure’s story.”

At the Little Traverse Historical Society, Stafford and Janice have been generous in their time as volunteers and with financial resources.  They spearheaded research on the history of Petoskey’s hotels and coordinated volunteers who went through old papers looking for hotel references, gathered images, and then presented countless programs on the findings.

The two were married when Janice finished college in 1961. Their first property was the Bay View Inn. Over the last 55 years, they have rebuilt the Inn from the inside out. Their holdings continued to grow with the purchase of the Pier Restaurant in 1970, the Weathervane in 1986, the Perry Hotel in 1989, the Gallery in 2007 and most recently Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge in 2011.

The Perry Hotel was built in 1899 and is the last remaining hotel from the early 1900s era. Thanks to extensive interior and exterior renovations by the Smiths, the Perry is now listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Stafford remains Chairman of Stafford’s Hospitality. He spends his summers in Petoskey with Janice, his wife of 55 years. Together they have three children: Stafford Reginald, Mary Kathryn and Dean. They also have three grandchildren.

– Distinguished Volunteer Award: Dennis Mikus, of Mackinaw City, for his many volunteer efforts with the Mackinaw Area Historical Society and Heritage Village.

Mikus is the lead gardener for the Children’s Community Garden, teaching children how to plant, take care of and harvest a garden while having a lot of fun.

dennis mikus essence

Dennis Mikus

He is a key person in working on and planning the Plowing of the Fields event, when Mackinaw area kids plow the Heritage Village fields with Scott Ward and his horses. Mikus helps them plant squash, onions, potatoes and corn.

Mikus was also one of the creators of the Stimpson homestead presence at Heritage Village and the principal planner and facilitator or the building and decorating.

Among his many activities, Dennis has also created historical trivia games and comes up with fun door prizes for the annual Cabin Fever event. He hosts an annual MAHS fundraiser knife show at Coffman Hardware and he participates every year on Fright Night and at the Historic Festival.

– Distinguished Professional Award: Amber Cook White, of Pellston, for her efforts to re-energize the Pellston History Museum.

The Pellston History Museum has had repeated openings over the years for a curator and a staff member to keep it open to the public. White volunteered to help get the museum rearranged and reopened. It had been challenging for the village to find someone to commit to five or six hours a day at the museum on a sporadic basis, but White has proven her commitment since 2013, when she became the curator.

Since then, she has documented every artifact in the museum and given them all numbers. She promotes the museum on Facebook and is always sharing interesting information about what is in the museum.

Amber white essence

Amber White pictured with Randy Bricker Sr. and Marty Krupa, Emmet County Administrator.

White is responsible for the whole layout of the museum, the decorations and the exhibits and how they are displayed. She sets up the booths and has created some great displays, including a logging exhibit and a fire department room.

In nominating her for this award, Randy Bricker Sr., the Museum’s Director, noted:

“She has a knack for making the set-ups interesting and informative. It’s much more enjoyable to go in there now. Because of her efforts, there has been a considerable increase in the awareness about the museum in the public and our numbers of visitors have also increased since we opened 10 years ago.I’m very proud of her. She is a great curator.”

Restoration/Preservation Award: One of two 2016 Essence of Emmet Restoration / Preservation Awards was given to St. Ignatius Church in Good Hart. Receiving the award on behalf of the restoration work that has been completed at this historic church are Dick and Stephanie Guyor.

The rehabilitation of St. Ignatius Church took place over a 15-year period and has included both interior and exterior restorations to this important and sacred site. French Catholic missionaries came to this area to minister to local tribes in the 1700s. Bishop Frederic Baraga dedicated a church on this site in 1833. On Easter Sunday in 1889, the church was destroyed by fire but was rebuilt the same year. The 1889 wooden Gothic Revival structure is the one we see now. The Native American cemetery next to the church is marked by white crosses.

The Guyors as a volunteer team headed up much of the fundraising and restoration efforts. Those efforts have included repairs of interior floors, pews, walls and balcony, plus the acquisition of furnishings.

Dick Guyor essence

In addition, the church received a Michigan Historical Marker on Sept. 6, 2015 – signifying the importance of the work done to preserve this Emmet County landmark. Those attending included the Most Reverend Stephen Raica, Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord; Susan Safford of the Michigan Historical Commission; representatives from the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians; along with about 50 other attendees. The state marker on the site includes a brief history on one side in English and the other in Anishnaabe, the Odawa language.

Today, thanks to the efforts of the Guyors and others in the community, the site is listed on the State Register of Historic Places, has a Michigan Historical Marker and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Throughout the summer season, the church is open to the public during the day at no charge.
Restoration/Preservation Award: A second 2016 Essence of Emmet Restoration / Preservation recognition was awarded to the late Leroy Gregory, who passed away in July 2016 at age 80.

Gregory was a former Emmet County Commissioner who served in the district which includes the Pellston area, Pleasantview, Friendship and West Traverse Townships for more than 30 years.

Among his most significant contributions during his service to Emmet County was his vision for McGulpin Point Lighthouse.

angela thompson essence

Leroy Gregory’s daughter, Angela Thompson (left).

In the early 2000s, the lighthouse and its acreage had been in private ownership for almost 100 years, after its light was extinguished in 1906. When the lighthouse came up for sale, Gregory took a great interest in it. He worked to convince his fellow Commissioners that Emmet County should purchase the property, work to restore the historic structure and create a county park on the land. The board discussed the option and agreed that it would make an exceptional county park property. In 2008 the county purchased the site, with Gregory taking a keen interest in its progress during that time and the years that followed.

Since 2008, the county has worked to restore the lighthouse and the grounds to period décor inside and out. Gregory was among the commissioners who ensured sufficient funding and staff would be dedicated each year to bring the lighthouse back up to its prior standards.

In addition, Gregory served on the first Historical Commission that was formed by Emmet County in 2008, initially to oversee restoration work at McGulpin Point and now with a broader mission to preserve all of Emmet County’s history.

Because of Gregory’s vision and his interest in saving this historic site, McGulpin Point is now enjoyed by over 30,000 visitors each season who take a step back in time to what life was like in Emmet County in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised toward further restoration and improvements at the site as well.

In his obituary, his family noted, “Some of his proudest accomplishments in his political career include the purchase and restoration of the McGulpin Point Lighthouse.”

Accepting the award on behalf of Leroy’s family ws his daughter, Angela Thompson.

Special Program: To the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians for its 25th anniversary of the Homecoming Pow Wow.

This annual August event has its roots in very important tribal history. It grew from the first “Indian Naming Ceremony” which served to honor those who helped Native people and their causes that was held in Harbor Springs in 1934.

Tribal Chair Regina Gasco Bentley

At these ceremonies, non-Indian individuals were adopted into the tribe and given Indian names as a way to offer gratitude. These ceremonies continued for eight years with one person adopted each year. No ceremonies were held during the war from 1942 to 1945. They resumed in 1946.

On Nov. 9, 1947, the Michigan Indian Foundation was founded to preserve Native culture and to help local Native communities. With continued increase in visitors to the naming ceremonies, a new outdoor theater was constructed at the Harbor Springs Ottawa Indian Stadium.  The ceremonies ended about 10 years later and changed to a production of the “Hiawatha Pageant,” which was performed in the stadium until the 1960s.

In 1992, the First Annual Odawa Homecoming Pow Wow was held at the Ottawa Stadium. It was hosted by the Andrew J. Blackbird Museum and its purpose was to bring the Odawa people back to the stadium for singing and dancing and to educate the local community about who the tribal citizens are. The Homecoming Pow Wows were held there through 2001.

The Pow Wow moved from the Ottawa Stadium to the current Pleasantview Road location in 2002. The current location brought the Pow Wow to tribal property and to the center of the tribal community, sitting adjacent to the LTBB Governmental Center and the Natural Resources Department.

As hosts of the Annual Odawa Homecoming Pow Wow, the LTBB community continues its tradition of celebrating their heritage through song and dance. Accepting the award on behalf of the tribe was Tribal Chair Regina Gasco Bentley.
– Exhibits: To Barry Cole, for his efforts to preserve the story of Farragutt’s cannon in downtown Petoskey.

Until this past summer, visitors to the cannon in Pennsylvania Park downtown Petoskey may not have been aware of its history, but now new signage explaining the significance of the Civil War artifact is available to all.

Barry Cole (center)

The signage is thanks to Barry Cole, a retired Petoskey High School teacher who took it upon himself to raise the necessary funds to bring the project to fruition.

The cannon has been located in Petoskey since 1905 and has served as a memorial to the Civil War. The cannon was among those used aboard the USS Hartford during the Battle of Mobile Bay in Alabama in 1864. The Hartford was the flagship of the fleet led by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral David G. Farragutt that helped the Union gain control of Mobile Bay. A directive by Farragutt during the battle would become a lasting rallying cry for the Navy when he said, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Barry raised about $2,000 from private individuals and another $900 through a grant from the Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. About half of the funds were used for a bronze plate installed at the cannon and another portion of the funds will be used for minor restoration work.

Key people in the effort with Barry have been City of Petoskey Director of Parks and Recreation Al Hansen, News-Review reporter Ryan Bentley, Superintendent of Greenwood Cemetery Karl Crawford, PHS grad and Archaeology PhD candidate at Wayne State University Katherine Slocum, and local Titanic historian David Kaplan.

The new interpretive sign was mounted in the park near the cannon prior to July 4th this summer. Barry continues to look into how to put the proper recommended cleaning protocol into place for the cannon’s tarnished elements.


The Essence of Emmet extends its appreciation to all who work to preserve this area’s history and to the more than 100 people who attended the Sept. 28 program! The program’s speaker Terry Pepper, of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, gave an outstanding program about the Bombing of Waugoshance Point Lighthouse during WWII, which can be read about in the third installment of the Essence of Emmet historical magazine series.


To learn more about the Essence of Emmet group, visit the Emmet County web site at www.emmetcounty.org or call Beth Anne Eckerle at (231) 348-1704, or email her at beckerle@emmetcounty.org











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