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History of Grand Haven, Michigan

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The city dates it’s founding to French settlers and a fur-trading outpost called Gabagouache, which was first established by Madeline La Framboise and her husband. The outpost took the name from the Pottawattamie Indians name for the area, Gabagouache. The trading post was later taken over by business tycoon and first millionaire in the United States, John Jacob Astor and the American Fur Company and became a hub of economic activity in the area.

The Pottawattamie and Ottawa Indians lived in the area much earlier as the river was a major Native American trade route into the interior of Michigan. The impact of the Ottawa tribe on the area continues to be seen with the discovery of new artifacts.

The city was first called "Grand Haven" in 1835 and the community was incorporated as a city in 1867. The first permanent resident was a Presbyterian minister named William Ferry, who founded the first area church and neighboring town of Ferrysburg. The second church opened 16 years later in 1850. In 1851, Ferry created the cities first bank in the old Ferry & Son building on Harbor Drive. Ferry also started a school Ferry Elementary which is still operating to this day.

In the mid to late 1800's, Grand Haven developed into a logging, lumber mill and shipping area. During the early 1900's Grand Haven was as a manufacturing hub for the area building everything from automobiles to car parts to furniture to lighting and pianos.

The former Grand Trunk Railway on the waterfront near the river is now a historical museum. The Story and Clark Piano Company built pianos in the city from 1900-1984. The smokestack at the piano factory collapsed during the Southern Great Lakes Derecho of 1998. In August 2006, Eagle-Ottawa Leather Co. which traces its origin back to the Sheldon Tannery.  The city dates its founding to French settlers and a fur-trading outpost called Gabagouache, which was first established by Madeline La Framboise and her husband. The outpost took the name from the Pottawattamie Indians name for the area, Gabagouache. The trading post was later taken over by business tycoon and first millionaire in the United States, John Jacob Astor and the American Fur Company and became a hub of economic activity in the area.

The Pottawattamie and Ottawa Indians lived in the area much earlier as the river was a major Native American trade route into the interior of Michigan. The impact of the Ottawa tribe on the area continues to be seen with the discovery of new artifacts.

The Grand Haven Lighthouses were first built in 1839 on the south pier marking the channel into the river. The current lighthouses, painted red, were built in 1875 (outer light) and 1905 (inner). They are connected by a lighted catwalk which runs along the pier to the shore.