History of Bellaire

Back in the early 1800s, the original post office in the area was called Keno. In 1879, one of the area’s first settlers, Ambrose G. Palmer, suggested the name be changed to Bellaire, due to the clearness and purity of the air.

The population of Bellaire quickly climbed to a total of about 1000 residents and remained at that level for three decades.

The 1920’s and 30’s were lean years in Bellaire with the population dropping to 300 by 1930. In 1921, on July 14 at 2:30 p.m., a cyclonic windstorm caused wires to short circuit, setting fire to a barn. The fire spread rapidly engulfing twelve other buildings, including a hotel, a restaurant, a carpenter shop, a bakery, and the Catholic church. The total loss was said to be more than $300,000.

Soon after, following a lengthy contentious debate, the county seat of Antrim County was moved from Elk Rapids to Bellaire. A slim majority of the 1070 voters approved the move. The argument for moving the county seat was a simple one. Early settlement of Antrim County had taken place along the Lake Michigan shoreline near Elk Rapids, but the population growth began to move inward, so many felt the seat of county government and the courts should relocate to a more centralized location. The popularity of the area for cottage owners and other visiting tourists resulted in a resumption of growth for Bellaire in the 1940s and growth really took off after the end of World War II.

Today, Bellaire’s population exceeds 1500 people, has several fine restaurants, boasts three award-winning, nationally acclaimed Bed and Breakfast Inns, and is home to Shanty Creek Resort and seven golf courses.

Check out the Bellaire Area Historical Museum

Additional Historical Facts:

The first known settler to venture into this county was Abram S. Wadsworth, a native of Connecticut, who reached the Grand Traverse Region in 1846 A year later, he brought his wife and family and eventually settled near the present site of the Elk Rapids Town Hall. 

The unorganized county of Meguzee was laid off in 1840 and the name was changed to Antrim in 1843.  In 1863 the legislature organized Antrim County, attaching the unorganized counties of Kalkaska Crawford and Ostego.  At the same time, the name of the town of Meguzee was changed to Elk Rapids, the county seat

The Court House was built in 1905.  The present county building was occupied in 1978.

In 1990, the voters approved a 2.2-million-dollar bond proposal to renovate the 1905 Courthouse for use by the courts and Prosecuting Attorney occupied the 1905 Courthouse in the summer of 1992

Torch Lake, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, was called Was-Wah-gonink or “Lake of the Torches” by the Native Americans, reference being made to the use of torches in the spearing of whitefish and trout.

The first birth, death, and marriage records on file in the County Clerk’s office are dated 1867. The minutes of the first meeting of the Board of Supervisors were recorded on October 12, 1863. The first election was held on April 6, 1863, when a total of 66 votes were polled.