County Genealogical Society Link
In 1840, shortly after Michigan Became a state, the Kalkaska area was part of Wabassee County. In 1853 it became a part of Grand Traverse County, and later, Antrim County, The first settlers arrived in 1855 and in 1871 the area was finally organized under the name of Kalkaska. The name Kalkaska is a native American word sometimes said to mean a flat of table land. Others maintain that the word means burned over territory.
When the native Americans inhabited the area the land was covered with tall white pine trees. After the lumbermen came the land was cleared of its forests, the tops and branches burnt where they lay. As the lumberman moved north in search of more forest, they left behind small communities which evolved into farming-based towns.
Tourism in the Kalkaska area began around the turn of the century as people in the midwestern cities discovered the county as a place to vacation in the great outdoors. The forests had sprouted young trees and bushes which provided food and cover for deer and other animals. The county soon became known for its hunting and fishing.
In the 1930's when the great depression hit the country, much of the privately-owned land in the area reverted to the state. Today, almost half of the land is owned by the State of Michigan. DNR developed snowmobile, horse and hiking trails criss-cross the area, connecting many camping and natural areas.
Oil and gas was discovered over 30 years ago. Major drilling began in the 1970's, resulting in more than 100 producing wells. Industry too has grown in the area, with 12 manufacturing plants recently beginning operations. Kalkaska has had the greatest percentage of population growth of any county in Michigan, increasing 100%. Per capita income has also increased dramatically.
Combining its strong base of community values, its heritage of hard working people, and the natural beauty of the surrounding area, Kalkaska will continue to provide a bit of paradise for residents and visitors alike.