Ocqueoc Township


Township Hall

In July of 1883, residents of the area of the Ocqueoc River requested permission from the Presque Isle County Board of Supervisors to be allowed to form their own township, to be known as Gordon. It was to be created by splitting off a part of Allis Township. Their request was rejected. A second petition by residents was presented to the Supervisors in 1885, asking to form the township of Ocqueoc. That, too, was rejected. Finally, in 1887, a third petition from the residents was approved and Ocqueoc Township was formed. The township’s first elected official included Supervisor James Kerr, Highway Commissioner Larric Godin, Sr., and Clerk Mike Fitch. The name Ocqueoc is supposedly the English translation of the Native American name for the river, recorded by surveyor George Cannon in 1855 as “Wau-Wa-Auk.” The word means something akin to “crooked river.”
It is completely appropriate that the township would be named after the river that runs through it. The Ocqueoc River is steeped in history and it has been an important locale for two cultures. A Native American village was located at the mouth of the River, at least seasonally, for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The Indians were attracted to the area by the bountiful supply of fish in the river, wild berries that were plentiful during the summer months, and maple trees that produced sap that could be boiled down into maple syrup in the spring of the year.
Early European explorers and immigrants who visited the area reported seeing as many as 150 Indians camped at the river’s mouth. The size of the Indian burial grounds in the area seems to support the deduction that the Indians had been coming to the area for many years. It is also claimed that Indians would visit the area once a year to honor their ancestors who were buried there.

*This painting shows a temporary Indian encampment of Mackinac Island in 1842. They were living in "tipis" covered with sheets of bark. In the foreground are birch bark canoes. The Indian encampment at the mouth of the Ocqueoc River would have been virtually identical to this one.

The first Europeans to inhabit the area around the river were primarily involved in commercial fishing or lumbering. Numerous fish shacks used by fishermen during the fishing season were located at the mouth of the river. Quite a number of lumber camps were located in the Ocqueoc area between the 1870’s and about 1920. The river itself was used extensively to move logs from inland lumbering grounds to Lake Huron. Rafts of the logs would then be towed to mills, mainly in Cheboygan or Rogers City. A number of sawmills also operated in the Ocqueoc wastershed.
While the fishermen and most of the lumbermen were transients, just visiting the area to harvest its resources, they were soon followed by farmers who planned to stay. They built roads, schools, and churches and soon a variety of businesses were attracted to the area. Many of the families of early settlers are still here today, joined now by many residents attracted by the scenic beauty of the region.