There really is an Ann in Lake Ann’s history.
The small village situated 12 miles west of Traverse City was founded by Addison Wheelock in 1862. Arriving in the region from Vermont with his wife and two children, Wheelock acquired a large piece of property along the lakeshore and inland.
This parcel, which covered what is now most of the current village, as well as the lake were named after his wife, Ann McBride Wheelock.
This year’s Lake Ann Homecoming celebrated the 150th anniversary of these first white settlers.
The 19th annual homecoming, held Saturday at Burnett Park in the village’s center, included numerous descendants of Addison and Ann. The event was hosted by the Almira Historical Society and is the nonprofit organization’s major annual fundraiser.
The Wheelock siblings and cousins were featured in the parade, the homecoming’s annual showcase of classic cars and tractors.
Afterward, many descendants stayed at the Almira Township Museum to chew over the few tales that survive.
“Addison was the first sheriff of Benzie County and he disappeared, leaving behind seven children,” said Eleanor Leary, an Illinois resident whose grandmother was a Wheelock descendant; she and her husband spend summers in the area. “We don’t really have that many stories but we’ve done lots of research.”
Karen Rosa recalls her own childhood growing up immersed in relatives of the prolific — and rooted — clan. The family featured a string of homes along North Long Lake Road, many attending the nearby one-room school together.
Rosa also said that a trip to Traverse City was not a casual excursion for a farmer.
“My grandfather, John Wheelock, would take potatoes to town and it would take 3½ hours to get there and 3½ hours to get back,” she said, of the horse-and-wagon trip.
Tracing the Wheelock family tree back to England in late 1595, research shows that relatives came first to Massachusetts in 1637.
“They really were tough,” said Val (Wheelock) Sheffer, of the family’s pioneering relatives. “The brothers came from New England and they split up. One came this way, another towards Cheboygan.”
Even when it’s not celebrating a founding family, the Lake Ann Homecoming is about family: a small town celebration of summer. Pony rides, arts and crafts, kids games, antique car rides, a bounce house and old-time music packed the park, while the nearby museum was open for tours. Across from the park, the township hall featured a country store, lunch and bake sale.
“Everybody loves this and everybody just has so much fun,” said Vera Carmien, president of the Almira Historical Society. “Everybody helping here is a volunteer.”
Most of the town is either involved or attends — often both. Megan Uithol served in both capacities, not only enjoying the festivities with her boyfriend, Shane Rosa, but taking a turn in the dunk tank.
“I’ve been smiling the entire day,” said Uithol, an Interlochen resident. “Lake Ann just seems like one happy family to me, everyone is always willing to help someone else out.”
Carol Bishop appreciated the community’s enthusiastic support for both Lake Ann Homecoming and the museum.
“I’ve never seen such a small town have such a wonderful museum,” she said. “I took my grandkids and it’s wonderful in there, there’s a lot to learn.”
New displays this summer in the museum’s main building feature wedding gowns and a toy barn display.
“We have expanded our museum and it’s jam-packed,” Carmien said. “We have so much in storage, we hope to build an annex.”
The Almira Historical Society’s Museum is at 19440 Maple St. in Lake Ann. Hours are Tuesdays and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. through Labor Day. Admission is free; donations accepted.
For more information, see www.almirahistoricalsociety.org.
There really is an Ann in Lake Ann’s history.
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