The Arcadia Township Master Plan was adopted on September 3, 2014.
A sneak peek from the Introduction to the Lakes to Land Community Master Plan…
Arcadia Township has been a sought-after place to live for generations. The earliest report of settlement is an Odawa family farm of 50 acres noted in the 1850s. Little else is known about these first inhabitants of Arcadia. In 1866, Dr. W.L. Dempster of Chicago, G.W. Boss of Pennsylvania, and H. Huntington of Indiana settled near Bar Lake, so named for the sand bar which crossed the channel opening into Lake Michigan. Henry Starke arrived that year as well; the 2000 acres he would eventually purchase in Manistee County included much of what is now Arcadia.
Arcadia Township was officially organized in 1870 with W.H. Cotton as its first supervisor. The Village of Arcadia was originally named Starkeville after lumberman Henry Starke, but was changed to match the township in 1870. Postmaster Anne M. Dempster opened the post office in 1870, but it closed two years later until May 18, 1881, when citizens successfully petitioned to have it reopened.
The Arcadia & Betsie River Railroad had connected with the Chicago and West Michigan Railway by 1895, maintaining an influx of goods and allowing crop transportation from the fertile fields of the township to the markets of Chicago. There was also a good market for ice, which was cut from Bear Lake and hauled by wagon to A&BRR’s Sorenson Station east of Pleasanton Township. The station operated from about 1890 until 1937 when it was finally abandoned.
The township’s one steam-powered sawmill had produced over 3 million feet of cut lumber before 1880. The Arcadia Furniture Factory on the north end of Bar Lake manufactured furniture and fine veneers to be sold in such upscale establishments as Macy’s in New York City. Just north of town was a notable “fancy house,” which soared in popularity when proprietors struck upon the novel idea of sending a wagon to Arcadia’s pier to greet incoming sailors. The gentlemen no doubt appreciated the free transportation.
Arcadia Township’s population grew steadily until the outbreak of World War I, when many people began seeking work in cities. In 2000, the number of residents was 621, just half the number it was in 1880. Many who remain today are the descendents of Arcadia Township’s earliest families. Others have followed in the settlers’ footsteps and migrated from other places, seeking a fresh start, a better quality of life, or an unhurried retirement in the midst of Michigan’s natural wonders.