What's in a name?

Onekama Michigan is affectionately known as "1," because very often, tourists and newcomers alike pronounce the name of the town as such.

Onekama, Michigan

The Story of Onekama Michigan

Onekama may not have been fit for cultivation or sheep farming in the mid 1830s, but little did they know back then the potential for this "two-lake" town. 

A survey in what is now Onekama Township was completed in 1839. The area was included in Manistee Township at the time of Manistee County’s organization in 1855, but Onekama Township became a separate entity in 1867, eventually containing approximately 22 square miles with around 6 miles of frontage on Lake Michigan.

Around this time,  the surveyors noted that “little can be said in favor of this township. It is almost entirely composed of high and steep hills, unfit for the purposes of cultivation. They will scarcely answer for sheep farms. The lake in this Township is supplied by springbrooks running out of the hills surrounding it.”

Click a section below for more information.

In Appreciation

This album owes its existence to those who assisted with the Land Information System Historical Series, “Our Onekama Township Heritage,” in 1995 and the Portage Point Centennial Exhibit in 2002.

Additional Photographs and information are available at:

Onekama Township Hall
5435 Main Street, P. O. Box 458
Onekama, MI 49675
(231) 889-3308

Manistee County Historical Museum
425 River Street
Manistee, MI 49660
(231) 723-5531

Click here for more information on Onekama.


Did you know? Portage Lake and Lake Michigan were not originally connected...

Portage Lake and Lake Michigan weren’t always connected by a channel – it was a man-made accident that made the channel as we know it today. How did it happen? Well, that is a story…

Once the small Portage Creek drained into Portage Lake. An enterprising mill owner, Mr. Stronach, placed a dam on this creek to help his lumber mill operation. Future mill owners would periodically raise the water level on the lake and flood the property of early homesteaders along the shores.

Since these homesteaders were improving their land, they weren’t very happy when lake levels were raised. Push came to shove and by 1871, a small ditch was dug to prevent the water level from being artificially raised. When the water finally let loose through the ditch, you can imagine what happened. Portage Lake dropped almost 14 ft and the small “ditch” became 500 ft. wide and 12 ft deep.

Gallery of Onekama Area

All photos are used with permission from involved parties. Please do not use or duplicate without written consent from owner.

About Us


Making our community a more enjoyable place to live, work and play is our purpose. We are non-political and concentrate on smaller, achievable projects to build our momentum...

Onekama, MI






Sign Up for Our Newsletter


President's Letters, events, news and information about  the Onekama area.

  • Facebook Social Icon

Photos within this website are used with permission from involved parties. Please do not use or duplicate without written consent from owner.

onekama pier