The Historical Society was organized on June 30, 1964, by a group of people interested in the preservation of county history. Interest in a museum followed later.
Kalkaska County was organized on January 22, 1871. The county seat was located in Kalkaska on July 14, 1873, and the Village of Kalkaska was incorporated on March 10, 1887. Woodenware factories such as the Freeman Factory, organized in 1878, and later the Kalkaska Handle Factory, produced all kinds of wooden handles, butter bowls, molds, paddles, towel hangers, clothes pins, toys and many other items, some of which are on display at the museum.
Logging camps employed many men, such as the Smith Lumber Company (1895) which employed 180. There were livery stables, blacksmith shops, a bicycle shop and ice cutting services in winter time. Early export products were lumber and wood products, bark, ferns, potatoes, mint, dairy products, apples, huckleberries, and later, horseradish. Other industries included newspaper printing (1874), a cigar factory (1892), numerous hotels and boarding houses.
Social events were sponsored mainly by schools, churches, lodges and clubs. Some early events included Oyster Suppers, Box Socials, Ice Cream Socials and concerts. The Opera House brought musicians, plays and concerts to the community. The Chautauqua held Tent Meetings and Variety Shows. Lyseum provided winter entertainment.
The Kalkaska County Museum is located in the Train Depot building in downtown Kalkaska. The original building was built about 1873, but burned down in July 1910. The present building was built immediately following and opened for business in June 1911. It became a museum on June 29, 1970. The building was first rented from the village, then leased in perpetuity. It is maintained by contributions, memberships and memorials. The original structure has been preserved and kept in much the same design as when it was used as a depot. (Only the occasional freight train goes past now.) Artifacts at the museum are all a part of Kalkaska history. Much information is available regarding people, places, dates, businesses, schools, churches, clubs, local government, industries, early exports and pioneer days. It is open to the public in June, July & August from 1:00pm to 4:00pm Wednesday through Saturday. Call Don Bellinger at 231-258-9719 for more information or to make an appointment to see the museum during off season times.