Dinner to benefit 160-year-old church

NEWAYGO CO. — A traditional fur trader supper will be offered next week to raise funds for the preservation of a historic church in Newaygo County.

The Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center will host the dinner starting at 5 p.m. on Sept. 7 at the 160-year-old Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, located on the corner of Locust Avenue and 48th Street in Croton Township.

Following the dinner will be a performance by a professional historical reenactor portraying Etienne Brule’, French fur trader of the Great Lakes.

The first church of any denomination in Newaygo County, the historic church was built in 1853 in Croton Township and was originally attended by about 15 families of Irish descent and a few Native American families. Newaygo County came into existence only two years earlier in 1851.

The church was tended by a priest who traveled on horseback through the wilderness over an area that covered a vast area from Yankee Springs to Manistee, and from Ionia to Lake Michigan. There was no set schedule; services were held whenever the priest arrived.

The Native Americans who attended the church wove berry-dyed materials into a mat and donated it to the church. The mat graced the interior aisle of the church as late as 2005 until the mat was put in storage to preserve it until it could be properly displayed.

As a tangible piece of Newaygo County history, the museum and heritage center is hoping to generate interest in its care and to provide funds for new paint. The cost of the dinner will be $10 per adult, and $5 for children younger than 12 years old.

For more information, contact the Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center at (231) 652-5003.