About the Essence of Emmet collaborative

The Essence of Emmet group works to promote this region’s rich history. Members of the Essence of Emmet include:  the Emmet County Historical Commission, Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, Harbor Springs Area Historical Society, Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Inland Water Route Historical Society, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Little Traverse Historical Society, Mackinac State Historic Parks, Mackinaw Area Historical Society and Pellston Historical Society.

For more information about the group, call (231) 348-1704 or email [email protected]

essence group photo

Essence of Emmet Historical Magazine series

Essence of Emmet programs

Essence of Emmet in the News

Essence of Emmet Annual Awards

Essence of Emmet History Magazine Series


esse part I cover web

Cover of Part I

The history of Emmet County is one of the richest, most intriguing in the state of Michigan. Here, cultures and countries gathered to change the face of Michigan, from the Natives who were our first inhabitants, to the French soldiers who arrived and ultimately the British who came to rule. Here, these stories from history are more than dates on a timeline; the people who impacted these vast changes at this “gathering place” at the top of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula set this region apart.

The Essence of Emmet, which is a group of area historical organizations plus Emmet County and its Historical Commission, is developing a four-part historical magazine series that tell the stories of the people and events that shaped this region.  The magazines are formatted to fit four different time periods: pre-contact through the 1812 (published in Jan. 2014); the War of 1812 through 1917 (published in Jan. 2015); the 20th Century, 1918-60 (published in Jan. 2016); and modern times 1961-present (published in Jan. 2017)


Part 1 Essence of Emmet

Part 2 Essence of Emmet

Part 3 Essence of Emmet

Part 4 Essence of Emmet

Funding support for this history project was provided by the Local Revenue Sharing Board, the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation; and the Baiardi Family Foundation, plus numerous private donors. Editorial direction is by Beth Anne Eckerle, Emmet County Communications Director, and Dr. Sandra Planisek, Emmet County Historical Commissioner and Mackinaw City historian.

Essence of Emmet Programs

Twice annually, the Essence of Emmet collaborative hosts free monthly programs at the Fairgrounds in Petoskey. They are usually held in April and September.

APRIL 26, 2017 – Shaping Emmet County: A history of land use and conservation

Do you ever wonder how today’s Emmet County took shape? How modern pressures of development also influenced conservation efforts in the county? To learn about the modern history of land use in Emmet County, please join the Essence of Emmet Historical Collaborative for its first 2017 history program Wednesday, April 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Community Building at the Fairgrounds, 1129 Charlevoix Ave. (U.S. 31) in Petoskey. The program is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

The evening’s program includes three presenters, each involved in the early years of planning, zoning and conservation in Emmet County: Tom Bailey, Gail Gruenwald and Max Putters. Max Putters served as the director of Emmet County’s Planning and Zoning department from 1976 until his retirement in 2005. Putters worked for a private planning firm in the late 1960s developing Emmet County’s first planning and zoning regulations. At that time, only the cities of Petoskey and Harbor Springs had their own zoning ordinances leaving the rest of the county without a plan for future development.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, development pressures throughout the county led a group of concerned Harbor Springs citizens to start what would become the Little Traverse Conservancy in 1972. Tom Bailey has led that organization as its executive director since 1984. In its history, the conservancy has complemented the growth of the area by protecting our area’s most scenic, sensitive and fragile natural areas.

In her own 33-year career at the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, executive director Gail Gruenwald has helped shape an organization that keeps the protection and preservation of our water resources at the forefront. The Watershed Council’s mission is to utilize sound science and policy to effect change, a mission that has continued since the organization’s founding in 1984.

Join these three community leaders for a unique look at the growth and shaping of Emmet County through planning and zoning as well as preservation and conservation.


Essence logo FINAL image

Essence of Emmet History Awards

Each year, the Essence of Emmet Collaborative awards people and organizations in our communities who are working hard to preserve and promote our region’s history. Below are details about the 2016 awards:


Do you know a local historian deserving of recognition?

Nominations sought for third annual Essence of Emmet History Awards

Regional history group announces 2016 recognition program for area achievers in historical preservation, promotion

Throughout Northwest Michigan, individuals, volunteers and organizations are protecting and preserving this region’s rich history in ways not often recognized by the public. But without these caretakers of our past, many stories that have defined this area of Michigan would be lost to the passage of time and memory.

To recognize these extraordinary efforts in protecting, preserving and sharing our history, the Essence of Emmet – a local collaborative of organizations and individuals sharing an interest in our history – has announced its third annual Essence of Emmet History Awards program.

To be eligible for the awards, the recipient(s) must be individuals and organizations dedicated to the preservation, presentation and promotion of the history and culture of Emmet County. (Individuals serving on the Essence of Emmet group are not eligible.)  Work or programs must have taken place in the last 18 months within Emmet County, though the nominated party does not need to be a resident of Emmet County.

“The Essence of Emmet group has been discovering a really vast network of people, organizations and groups in our communities who are doing fascinating, important work preserving the stories from the past,” said Phil Porter, Director of Mackinac State Historic Parks and an Essence of Emmet member.  “It was a real tribute to see the number of individuals nominated during the past two years. Each year, we recognize these achievements during our fall history program in September.”

The public is invited and encouraged to nominate individuals and organizations for these awards, which have several categories: Lifetime achievement award; distinguished volunteer award; distinguished professional award; Publications (articles, books, newsletters and print media, websites); restoration and preservation projects; special programs; and exhibits.   No more than one award per category will be awarded each year.

Nominations will be reviewed by the Essence of Emmet Awards Committee. Winners will be announced during the annual fall twice-yearly program hosted by the Essence of Emmet group. Nominations are due by Sept. 1, 2016.

The Fall Essence of Emmet history program will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Petoskey Fairgrounds. The topic is the “Bombing of Waugoshance Point,” by local lighthouse expert Terry Pepper, of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association in Mackinaw City. More details about the program will be forthcoming. The event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be provided.


Past winners and awards

Below are the articles about past recipients of the Essence of Emmet History Awards.
2015 award winners
2014 award winners


Pictured from left: Patrick Dowd, Petoskey Brewing; Ceal Waskiewicz, volunteer; Denise Evans, Petoskey Area Antiques Club; Pellston Elementary School teachers Emily Wolford, Katie Reinhardt, Sandy deCastro and Kim Wagenschutz; and writer/historian Rick Wiles. Not pictured is Dick Moehl, Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

2015 Award Winners

Oct. 1, 2015A lifetime committed to preserving and sharing Emmet County’s history. A group of Pellston teachers who encourage their kids to learn and write about history.  A brewery that restored an historic building and brought its past back to life for the current generation. A prolific writer who has spent countless hours researching the mysteries, myths and people of Emmet County. These descriptions represent the winners of the Second Annual Essence of Emmet History Awards. The Essence of Emmet is a collaborative of a dozen Emmet County historical organizations who work together on projects that preserve, promote and share our one-of-a-kind history in Northwest Michigan. The winners were presented with their awards during the next Essence of Emmet program on Sept. 30, 2015, at the Petoskey Fairgrounds, during the program “Emmet Underground: The Prohibition Era Up North.” Speakers were Rick Wiles, a retired Petoskey teachers and historian, and Chris Struble, a Petoskey historian and Hemingway expert.


Lifetime Achievement Award

Richard Moehl, Mackinaw City, whose dedicated focus on Northern Michigan’s assets, its tourism industry, maritime heritage and economic development has led to significant contributions to the quality of life in Northwest Michigan and preservation of the past. Dick and his wife, Margaret, have been Mackinaw City seasonal residents for many years. His passion for the past is rooted deeply in the Straits of Mackinac region…read full article

Distinguished Professional Award

Presented to Pellston Elementary School, for encouraging third- and fourth-grade students to participate each year in the Emmet County Historical Commission Historical Essay Contest. Recognized during the ceremony were Pellston third- and fourth-grade teachers Sandy deCastro, Kim Wagenschutz, Emily Wolford and Boyne City Elementary Teacher Katie Reinhardt…read full article

Special Program

To the Petoskey Area Antiques Club and its recent Hiawatha Program and Hiawatha Pageant Historical Marker This award is presented in recognition of the club’s work to apply for and fund a state historical marker at the site of the Hiawatha Pageant (1905-­1915) on Round Lake in Bear Creek Township. The Petoskey Area Antiques Club is a local organization dedicated to exploring and learning about antiques, collectibles and local history. It began 51 years ago…read full article

Publications Award, for articles

Presented to Rick Wiles, after nomination by Henry and Naomi Singer of Petoskey. Wiles’ name may be familiar from the many presentations he gives throughout Emmet County on historical topics of interest that are based on his decades and decades of research into this region’s past. Wiles is a retired educator who taught at Petoskey High School and Spring Arbor University in the areas of history, language arts and research. These experiences led to the foundation for his love of history…read full article

Restoration/Preservation Award

Presented to the Petoskey Brewing Company, for the restoration of the original Petoskey Brewery building on M-119. The building known as the “Old Brewery” was first completed in 1898 and was used to brew Petoskey Sparkle beer until 1915. The building owes its unique stature to the brewing practices of the late 19th century. With a total of four stories, it is over 70 feet tall, yet only 20 feet deep. The breweries of the past relied on gravity to move water, wort and beer through the production process…read full article

Distinguished Volunteer Award

Presented to Ceal Waskiewicz, for her dedication to the Mackinaw Area Historical Society. In nominating Waskiewicz, Susie Safford, Michigan State Historical Commissioner from Mackinaw City, noted: “Ceal is most deserving of being awarded for her sage advice, wonderful skills and hours and hours of volunteering. While Ceal is First Vice President of the MAHS, her job description does not come close to entailing the extra time and efforts Ceal devotes to preserving the history of the Mackinaw Area…read full article

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Essence of Emmet in the News

Summer 2015:

Essence member receives Gov. Swainson award for historic preservation efforts

Emmet County Communications Director Beth Anne Eckerle was notified that she is the recipient of the Gov. John B. Swainson Award for 2015. The Swainson award is presented by the Michigan Historical Commission to state, county, municipal or township employees who have contributed to the preservation of Michigan history even though such activities are not part of their primary job responsibility. The ????????????????????????????????????Commission selects the recipients from among nominated individuals, who then are recognized at a ceremony in Lansing at the State Capitol.
 Eckerle has been the County’s Communications and Web Development Director since March of 2010.   Since that time, she has become very involved in the activities of the Emmet County Historical Commission and  is a founding member of the Essence of Emmet Historical Collaborative, which works to preserve and promote the rich history of the Emmet County and Straits of Mackinac region. As part of the Essence of Emmet group, Eckerle launched the successful Essence of Emmet historical magazine series, which is currently in two parts, with a total of four planned through 2017. She has handled the fund-raising and grant writing to raise the funds necessary to cover the publication costs for these magazines, as well as serves as its editor and graphic designer. She is involved in a number of projects that unite the historical entities in Emmet County, including her launch of the Emmet County Historical Tour Map and coordinating an historic geocache tour each year with the Straits Area Geocachers club. In addition, she helps to coordinate twice annual Essence of Emmet historical programs…read full article

Emmet County, Michigan
200 Division Street, Petoskey MI 49770
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