Munising Matters: The history of the city

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MUNISING, MI — You’ve probably seen our special series the U.P.s Tiny Towns. There are a few communities in Upper Michigan that aren’t small by U.P. standards, but they still have interesting stories to tell.

Munising is a Native American word meaning near the island. At one time the city wasn’t even the Alger County seat.

One of the more famous people born and raised in Munising is Michigan’s former Lieutenant Governor Connie Binsfield.

Mary Jo Cook with the Alger County Historical Society says,”She always kept Munising in her heart, and she promoted Munising a lot.”

It probably comes as no surprise that logging was one of the original industries.

Duane Hargis with the Alger County Historical Society says, “You look at early pictures of Alger County in the 1880’s and 1890’s and it’s bare. You can see for miles without there being any trees.”

But, logging wasn’t the only industry. Munising was home to the Schoolcraft Furnace.

Hargis says, “They made pig iron and shipped it out by boat.” There were also kilns near the Schoolcraft Furnace.

Hargis says, “They would take hardwood and make charcoal in those kilns. The charcoal was placed into the furnace to heat it up to make the molten iron.”

The only building left from the old tannery that used to be in Munising is said to be one of the oldest buildings left still standing in the city.

Cook says, “A tannery actually takes in raw hides from animals and actually converts them into a useable product.”

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