First in Antrim County

Before the French and British came here in the 1600s and 1700s, Michigan was home to several tribes. Michigan’s three largest tribes are the Ojibwe (also called Chippewa), the Odawa (also called Ottowa) and the Potawatomi (also called the Bode’wadmi). They share common language, customs and beliefs.

“Fisherman’s Paradise” was the first resort in the area.  Built by H.D. Smith, he brought resorters from all over the Midwest. Fisherman’s Paradise hired two Native Americans from Elk Rapids to make canoes all summer.

Early Bellaire Success

Robert Richardi and Frederick Bechtold, originally of Germany and Belgium,  invented the celebrated Richardi wooden scoop, and machinery for manufacturing wooden trays. In the spring of 1881 they moved to Bellaire, Antrim County, Michigan, where they bought lands and built a dam over Intermediate River, and erected a factory for the manufacture of wooden ware.  It was a highly successful business but the reality and threat of fire eventually led the partners to dissolve the business.

Blacksmith or Cobbler?

The village blacksmith was a very important member of the community. There was a time when horses were the means of transportation in Bellaire. They were used for riding and for pulling everything: wagons, sleighs, plows, logging sleds, rollers and stagecoaches. Whatever needed to be moved on land was most likely moved by horsepower. Every one of those horses had custom-made shoes.
If the shoes being made were for humans, the job title was cobbler. A local blacksmith/cobbler/inventor helped to explore Antartica. Come on in and find out more …

Acclaimed Area Artists

Max Ellison (1914-1985) was an American poet who was born in Bellaire, Michigan. Ellison attended Bellaire High School for two years. During the Second World War, he served in the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division in the Philippines and was awarded the Purple Heart. After the war he became a hog farmer in Plymouth, Michigan. In 1967, he left farming and returned to Bellaire to write poetry.  

Bellaire artist Charles B. Culver (1908-1967)  He loved jazz music, and for a short time in the late 20s and early 30s went on the road as a musician to earn extra money, playing tenor sax and clarinet. In addition to music, Culver had worked as a cartoonist for the Royal Oak Tribune in the 1920s. Culver’s love of music, his work on children’s books and cartoons were only hobbies, and to make money he worked several years at the Chevrolet Studios in the General Motors Building in Detroit as a commercial artist.

There’s so much more …

School Stories

The first school in the Village of Bellaire was built in 1880.  It’s hard to believe, but in those days having an education was a privilege, not a right.  There were no buses and the school might be a mile or two away.   That’s why there were so many one-roomed schoolhouses.  They tried to build enough of them so no child had to walk more than three miles – one way!  Children were very lucky to get an 8th Grade education as it was often necessary for them to go to work.  Bellaire High School, had its first graduating class in 1894 and Senior Class composites from that year through 1980 are some of the things in our school display.


In 1973, the museum and the historical society were just getting organized.  Like all of the United States, they needed a project for our Bicentennial Celebration in 1976.  They decided on making two(2) identical quilts: one to raffle off to earn money for the museum, and one for the museum to keep.  To our surprise, Chris Golday (who joined the society in 2019) donated back the very same quilt that was raffled off in that summer of 1976. Her grandfather Harry Hovermale, a long-time Lake Bellaire summer resident, had won the quilt. In 1976, he had spent $50 in the process of winning.  The quilters of 1976: Lorraine Anderson, Carol Boros, Sally Corner, Nellye Dunson, Neva Flaugher, Sirie Friend, Carol Gregory, Sarah Houk, Laura Jane Larson, Marjory Lessard, Mary K. McDuffie, Tricia McDuffie, Frances Openo, Alice Robinson, Marion Robinson, Janet Rocker, Maybelle Thomas.