Neebish Island: Discover a Hidden Gem in the Great Lakes

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I’ve always had a knack for meeting interesting people, and I must say, the residents of the Great Lakes islands hold a special place in my heart. It’s incredible how their unique personalities develop in the absence of societal constraints. As I had the pleasure of discovering, Neebish Island is no exception. This charming community of 63-89 year-round residents is a testament to the passion, dedication, and strong family ties that define island life.

Embracing the Neebish Culture

Before setting foot on Neebish Island, I joined their local Facebook groups. It was there that I first connected with Lori Miller, a board member of the Neebish Island Historical Society. Her warm and welcoming message immediately caught my attention. Her love for the island and its rich heritage was evident, and I knew I had to meet her. Luckily, Lori was more than happy to share her insights with me.

The Ferry Workers: A Lifeline to the Island

As I made my way to Neebish Island, I couldn’t help but notice the dedicated ferry workers who tirelessly shuttle people and goods back and forth. Their two-hour scheduled trips, except during the limited schedule in January and April, keep them constantly on the move. Yet, their cheerful demeanor and patience never wavered as they helped us load and unload our belongings.

A Momentary Detour and Freighter Traffic

While en route to the Neebish Island Resort and Campground, we took a wrong turn. It was a brief detour, for the island is only seven miles long and three miles wide. As we resumed our journey, we were greeted by the majestic sight of a passing freighter. These mighty vessels navigate the narrow channels around Neebish Island, their route altered after a historic collision many years ago.

A Warm Welcome by Connie, the Camp Owner

Upon our arrival at the campground, Lori introduced us to Connie, the owner of the Neebish Island Resort and Campground. Connie’s warmth and generosity were immediately apparent. “You can pick any site and make yourselves at home,” she casually offered. Connie’s dedication to maintaining the cozy cabins and pristine campsites was evident. Even in the midst of her tasks, she never failed to serve ice cream to waiting customers at the store.

Island Life at Connie’s Store

Connie’s store, the only one on Neebish Island, became a gathering place for both guests and islanders. I witnessed Connie’s generosity firsthand as she accommodated a customer’s request for a salad, despite having just a head of lettuce and two tomatoes. She always went above and beyond to make everyone feel welcome and appreciated.

The Lemonade Stand and a Community United

During our stay, Connie’s grandkids set up a lemonade stand near our camp. It was heartwarming to see how Connie encouraged their entrepreneurial spirit. As customers deposited funds into the makeshift “Coca Cola” cup, the kids took breaks to play in the sand. Their carefree nature and the sense of community on the island were truly special to witness.

The Legacy of Love and Dedication

Connie’s husband passed away, leaving behind a lasting impact on her and the community. In his memory, Connie and her two boys purchased the campground, carrying on his legacy with unwavering dedication. Despite facing personal tragedy when one of her sons passed away, Connie continues to serve others, inspiring everyone around her.

Exploring the Island’s History with Lori Miller

Lori, our gracious guide, took us on a tour that unveiled the island’s rich history. We started at Little Neebish, where Lori shared stories of the settlement and the sawmill that once thrived there. From there, we learned about the Coast Guard’s involvement in the island’s development and the dedicated members of the Little Neebish Pioneer Association who work tirelessly to keep history alive.

Changes and Community

Over the years, Neebish Island has undergone changes. Farming, once a way of life on the island, gradually became a thing of the past. The island’s infrastructure, such as its schools and stores, has dwindled, with only Connie’s store and one church remaining. However, the islanders’ sense of community and dedication to preserving their way of life remain as strong as ever.

Connection and Communication on the Island

Islanders have found ways to stay connected despite the challenges of living on an island. While some still live off the grid, others rely on specific spots on the island for internet and cell service. It’s heartening to see how they look out for one another, as Lori did when she checked on a man parked on the island to ensure his well-being.

Stories and Connections

During our tour, we had the privilege of meeting various islanders, each with their own unique stories. We visited Anne and Steve Earle, who shared tales of their family history and the island’s resilience in the face of fire hazards. We also learned about the island’s educational system, the vibrant Neebish Island Presbyterian Church, and the cherished gathering spot known as Sid’s Corner.

Cherishing the Island’s Treasures

Our tour concluded at Lori’s home, where she shared more island treasures, stories, and historical photos. The care and dedication displayed by Lori, alongside her fellow islanders, in preserving the island’s heritage is truly remarkable.

A Community Built on Love and Support

The love and support that permeates Neebish Island left an indelible mark on me. The residents’ unwavering commitment to one another and their fully developed personalities create a strong sense of community. As new members join the island, it is exciting to see how they will absorb the culture and contribute to the ever-evolving story of Neebish Island.

So, if you’re looking for a hidden gem in the Great Lakes, consider exploring Neebish Island. Experience the warmth of its people, the rich history, and the extraordinary sense of community that sets it apart. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

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