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Click here for Walking Tour brochure of downtown Gaylord


Brief History of Otsego County:

The county was originally called Okkuddo, which is an Indian word meaning sickly or stomach pains.  The name was changed in 1843 to Otsego, meaning "clear water".

Most Indian activity was probably limited to excursions by the tribes of the Great Lake shores into Otsego County areas for blueberries and fishing.

The first white people moved into the county in 1868 for the purpose of lumbering.  White Pine and hardwoods lured people into the area.  Farming also has been important to Otsego County, potatoes being one of the leading crops.

A. Red School House
This one room school was built in 1884 and operated until 1951.  Originally located at Old 27 North and Parmater Road, later moved by the airport.  In 1988, the school was moved to the fair grounds and is open during fair week.
B. Alpine Center
Opened in 1937 as a tuberculosis sanatorium an was converted to a mental institution in the 1960s.  Now is used for county and educational
offices.  Renamed the J. Richard Yuill Alpine Center in 1993.
C. Irontone Springs
Named for the iron in the spring water which gives the rocks a rust red color.  In 1936, the area was made into a park and named in honor of long-time Road Commission employee, Frank Wilkinson.
D. Vanderbilt
The village was established in 1875 when the Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw Railroad decided to go north from Gaylord instead of northwest through Berryville.  Named for Cornelius Vanderbilt, an executive of the railroad. 

E. Elmira
Began in 1877 as the village of Windsor, the name was later changed to Elmira.  Farming and lumbering were prevalent in the area.  The former Buell Bank is pictured to the right.

F. Otsego Lake State Park
In 1942, Dr. Arthur H. Compton and Dr. Robert Oppenheimer met at the present beach to discuss the atomic bomb they were developing.

G. Otsego Lake Village
The village was established in 1872 by the Smith, Kelly, and Dwight Lumber Company.  It was the first village and county seat.

H. Waters
Established in 1872 as Bradford Lake.  Renamed Waters in 1855.  A number of lumbering mills were located there.  Historic photos are located in the township hall lobby.

I. Centennial Farm
Albert Kassuba has the first designated centennial farm in Otsego County.
(drive by only) 
J. Johannesburg
Established in 1901 when the Johannesburg Manufacturing Company was organized.  Named after Johanna Hanson Bay, sister of the company's president.  The original company store still stands at the town's four corners.

K. Sparr
About 1913, the Boyne City, Gaylord and Alpena Railroad reached the Sparr area.  Named for Mr. Philip Sparr who came to the area as a minister.

Otsego County
Historical Society

320 W. Main St.
Gaylord, Michigan

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1223
Gaylord, MI  49734

(989) 732-4568


2000-2009 Otsego County Historical Society, Inc.

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