Presque Isle Harbor is an unincorporated community on the western shores of Lake Huron in Michigan. In French, Presque Isle means "almost an island" or "peninsula." Much of Presque Isle Harbor is located on the peninsula separating Lake Huron from Grand Lake to the west.
Presque Isle Harbor is about 50 nautical miles (83 kilometers or 52 miles by air) southeast of the Port of Cheboygan. It is over 213 nautical miles (344 kilometers or 214 miles by air) north-northwest of the Port of Detroit. In 2010, almost 1400 people lived in Presque Isle Harbor.
The first contacts between the Ojibwe and Europeans were in trade for guns with French traders. During the French and Indian Wars, they fought with the French. After the British victory, the Ojibwe allied with England against the United States during the War of 1812.
The United States soon began to move the Ojibwe from the Presque Isle Harbor area. When US soldiers killed hundreds of Ojibwe in the Sandy Lake Tragedy, Americans began to oppose removal of the indigenous people. Many Ojibwe could return to their homelands and live on reservations. Today, over 56 thousand Ojibwe live in the United States in an area stretching from Michigan to Montana.
In 1836, Ojibwe lands were ceded to the United States by treaty. The next year, Michigan became a state. In 1871, Presque Isle County was formed. Isolated and with few roads, most of the early settlers made their homes on Lake Huron's shoreline.
Presque Isle Harbor, however, gave mariners a safe place to go during Lake Huron storms, and the surrounding forests provided wood to fuel steamboats. By the time Burnham's Landing was established in the southern part of Presque Isle Harbor in 1954, the port was thriving.
Lighthouses were critical for navigation on the Great Lakes and for early settlers. Presque Isle Harbor was home to two lighthouses. The Old Presque Isle Light was constructed in 1840 and then rebuilt in 1870. The new Presque Isle Harbor Light is Lake Huron's tallest.
Presque Isle Harbor's early industries were based on natural resources like mining, lumber, and fishing. Until harvesting white pine became a busy industry in the late 19th Century, little development took place in Presque Isle Harbor. Lumbering pine continued to be the mainstay of Presque Isle Harbor's economy until the supply of white pine was exhausted around the end of the 1800s. Harvesting of hardwood and swamp timbering continued into the late 1920s. The 1930 US Census reported a population of 77 people living in Presque Isle Harbor.
In the late 19th Century, Presque Isle Harbor's Grand Lake area was the first part of the county to actively seek tourism. Resort hotels were built on the Lake shores. Before good roads were brought to the Presque Isle Harbor area, steamboats brought most tourists to the area. Today's Presque Isle Lodge and Fireside Inn survive from the era when lake resort development was beginning.