Thomas Kelderhouse was born in 1821 in Albany, NY. He was a successful business man, who owned ships that carried cargo on Lake Michigan. During one of his trips, Kelderhouse landed on South Manitou Island and reportedly admired the mainland, undoubtedly sensing the economic opportunities provided by the dense forests. Striking a deal with Carsten Burfiend, Kelderhouse agreed to build a dock if Burfiend provided the land, and by 1862 the dock was completed. The community of Port Oneida was named after the SS Oneida, one of the first steamships to stop at the dock. The dock was a popular wooding station because it had a deep water approach.
With the completion of the dock, the mainland’s extensive hardwood forest was harvested. Kelderhouse continued buying land and began to process cordwood for sale to passing ships by building a sawmill near what is now the John Burfiend farm. Over the next 30 years, Port Oneida grew to include a blacksmith shop, a boarding house, general store and post office, two barns, and the Kelderhouse residence. Kelderhouse owned most of these buildings as well as nearly half of the land on Pyramid Point. In 1866, he bought a gristmill on the Crystal River from John Fisher.
Lumbering drastically altered the appearance of the landscape. By the 1890’s, most of the land had been logged off and most Great Lakes steamships were burning coal. Unable to compete with larger operations such as that of D.H. Day in Glen Haven, the dock and mill were sold. The loss of this industry and the death of Thomas Kelderhouse in 1884 led to the demise of the Kelderhouse fortune.
Did You Know?
The lighthouse on South Manitou Island (Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore) was commissioned in 1872 and served Lake Michigan Shipping for over 100 years. You can take a tour of the lighthouse and climb its 117 step circular stairway to a great view of the Manitou Passage. More...