2017-10-19 / Life in Leelanau

Northport to salute area vets with memorial at Haserot Park

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


THE 252 FOOT-LONG steamer Globe takes center stage among a dozen boats in this 1859 photograph of Northport Harbor. THE 252 FOOT-LONG steamer Globe takes center stage among a dozen boats in this 1859 photograph of Northport Harbor. For many local men who served in the Civil War the last soil to touch their boots was that of Northport. That’s where they boarded ships at what is now the G. Marsten Dame Marina to take them to the front lines.

Some of those men never returned home.

That’s according to Civil War buff John C. Mitchell, who was recently named vice-chair of a committee to develop and implement a memorial honoring Northport area veterans and first responders.

Northport Village Council member Tim Kehl is chair of the committee.

The memorial will be installed at Haserot Park.

And while Mitchell has already done the research on local Civil War vets for his 2011 book “Grand Traverse: The Civil War Era,” he envisions the memorial as an ode to vets from all conflicts.


JOHN KELLY of Fife Lake prepares a stencil he uses to sandblast more names onto the Wall of Honor at the Leelanau County Veterans Memorial Plaza. Kelly shows up a couple of times a year to add to the monument as donors come forward with the names of Leelanau County friends and family members who have served in the Armed Forces. Anyone wishing to learn more about adding names to the monument may phone the county administrator’s office at 256-9711. JOHN KELLY of Fife Lake prepares a stencil he uses to sandblast more names onto the Wall of Honor at the Leelanau County Veterans Memorial Plaza. Kelly shows up a couple of times a year to add to the monument as donors come forward with the names of Leelanau County friends and family members who have served in the Armed Forces. Anyone wishing to learn more about adding names to the monument may phone the county administrator’s office at 256-9711. “In my mind it’s really a heroes’ park,” Mitchell said.

Plans for the park are only in concept form thus far, but Mitchell is hoping to start fundraising for the park by the end of this year. His goal is to break ground by summer of 2019.

He envisions the memorial as a sort of garden with stations or sitting areas for visitors loosely modeled after a series of story boards on the history of Mackinac Island that are located along a bike trial there.

And he’d like it to be a historical account not of the various wars, but one that is told through the local people who served.

“The big story was the story back home,” he said, adding that the highest percentage of Northport and Leelanau Township residents served — and died — in the Civil War compared to those from the area who served in other conflicts.

“The memorial will have a humanistic approach to what defines Northport people as heroes,” Mitchell said.

But the unsung star of the show is the harbor, he said, which is the historical soul and heritage of Northport, he said.

“We have the most heroic harbor on the Great Lakes and we don’t have a single sign down there,” Mitchell said.

The harbor was very important during the Civil War — an era before train tracks and roads opened the area up to other forms of transportation.

The harbor was an expressway between two important points — Detroit and Chicago — and because of the availability of cord wood in Leelanau County, became a significant fueling station.

Mitchell said he’d like the memorial to be something that would help people understand the value of the harbor and the role it played in the Civil War.

The idea to honor local vets started last year with an idea for a plaque at the Mill Pond and soon grew into a plan that included a curving wall with bricks imprinted with the names of veterans, grills, picnic tables and a bench.

After hearing complaints that the pond was too small, had little parking space, no toilets and was sometimes stinky, it was decided that Haserot Park may be a better place for the memorial.

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