The Village of Elberta updated its master plan in 2011.
And now, a sneak peek from the Introduction to the Lakes to Land Community Master Plan…
The first inhabitants of Elberta, the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, traveled in and farmed the area for many years. They called Lake Betsie Un-Zig-A-Zee-Bee, which meant, “The River of the Saw Mill or Merganser Duck.” Periodic logging activities were conducted here, probably giving rise to the translation of the Indian term for locations of a saw mill on the river. French settlers later renamed the Lake “Au Bec Scies,” which was modified to “Lake Betsie” by English-speaking settlers.
In 1855 Joseph Robar and Frank Martin moved to the Elberta area to take advantage of the access to water and the channel for commercial shipping and transportation. By 1859 they had developed the first saw mill; in 1867, with the aid of George Cartwright, they founded the Village. The community was called South Frankfort until 1911, when it was renamed after the Elberta Peach, which was common in the area at the time.
All of the initial development in the Village took place along the water to provide for transportation of wood and iron products. The lake and the harbor channel, built in 1866 as part of the federal system for commercial navigation, were the economic center of the Village. The Coast Guard Lifesaving Station was built in 1887 and moved in 1934-35 upon sale to the railroad and construction of a new facility in the City of Frankfort. After 1936, the Lifesaving Station was used as the marine office of the railroad.
Frankfort Iron Works was a major contributor to the development of the Village. Built in 1867, the foundry contained a blast furnace for iron smelting and had 10 kilns for the preparation of charcoal. The need to move wood for the foundry’s blast furnace led to the development of a rail line to Elberta in 1870.
The Frankfort Iron Foundry ceased operations in 1883. The Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Northern Michigan Railway – later known as the Ann Arbor Railroad Company – took ownership of the foundry property in 1892 and converted the buildings and grounds for railroad use, including a roundhouse, tracks and switches, and a depot. Over the years, a variety of uses and structures were developed on the property, including coal storage, coaling plant, and the first cross-lake car ferry service. The railroad and car ferry system continued to serve the community until 1982, when the Michigan Department of Transportation – the owners and operators of the Ann Arbor Railroad – terminated all operations in the Village of Elberta.