Origin of Name
The name "Manistee" is from an Ojibwa word first applied to the principal river of the county. The derivation is not certain, but it may be from ministigweyaa, "river with islands at its mouth." Other sources claim that it was an Ojibwe term meaning "spirit of the woods."
In 1841, the John Stronach family constructed a sawmill on Manistee Lake and later another on the Manistee River. By 1849, more settlers were arriving and the reservation was dismantled, with land given to settlers. The city was set back in 1871 when a fire swept through and destroyed over one-half of the city’s buildings. Much was rebuilt, this time of brick.
In 1881, salt was discovered beneath Manistee and another industry was born. By 1885, there were forty sawmills operating and by the end of the century the population reached 14,260. Manistee claimed to have more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States. They also had city-provided fire protection, a parks department, water, sewer and street lighting.
After 150 years Manistee County has both changed and remained the same. The early boom years of lumbering and exhaustive agriculture have evolved into a stable, diversified industrial base and a top fruit-producing agricultural center. It is the beauty and natural wonder that abounds in the region’s forests, lakes and rivers that remain a constant factor and will always make Manistee County a special place to live and visit.