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Journey through history on Apple Island

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published May 11, 2016

 Apple Island is a 35-acre island that lies in the middle of Orchard Lake. Tourists can venture to the island on annual guided tours by the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society.

Apple Island is a 35-acre island that lies in the middle of Orchard Lake. Tourists can venture to the island on annual guided tours by the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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ORCHARD LAKE — Just in time to see the trilliums in bloom, residents are invited to join the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society for a three-hour tour of Apple Island May 21-22. 

The island’s deep roots date back to the Potawatomi Indians, and the historical society has offered the tours since 1968. 

Excursions start every 15 minutes, weather and boats permitting. The entire trip — which includes an escort to a boat that will take tourists to the island — lasts two to three hours. 

This year, the historical society is running semi-guided tours so people can journey across the island at their own pace, Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society President Gina Gregory said. 

“We thought that would be attractive to guests so they have a variety of presenters, as well as some time to walk alone on the island,” Gregory said. Island presentations include Native American storytelling and games, as well as a demonstration of Native American living skills. 

While on the mainland, tourists can enjoy the free museum. Gregory said the historical society decided to expand the land-based activities so children of all ages can enjoy the day. People can try their hand at farm chores, including a shoulder yoke that holds two buckets, a sharpening wheel, a crosscut saw and a juicer. Tourists will also be able to take photos in period attire. 

“Presenters (at the museum) will share a wide range of topics, including spinning, early outdoor motors and archaeology,” Gregory said. 

The Oakland County Historical Commission will display an agricultural exhibit. James Craft, a member of the historical commission, said they will be discussing how Oakland County was the largest agricultural county in the state throughout the 19th century, and about how technology impacted agriculture during that time period.

“Initially, when people came here, the money in farming would have been in producing grain. That only lasted for relatively a few years, and grain production moved west. … Oakland County (became) a leading producer in dairy products, sheep raising and orchards,” Craft said. Oakland County was the leading county for sheep raising in the state during this time, he added.  

This year, the historical society is looking for sponsors for the Apple Island tours, which will help offset the amount of money the historical society absorbs to run the trips each year. An Apple sponsorship is available for $25, a Booth sponsorship costs $60 and a Main Event sponsorship costs $250. 

“We’re looking to gain community support for the event,” Gregory said. 

To become a sponsor, visit www.gwbhs.org/sponsorships. 

The Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society’s Apple Island tours will run every 15-20 minutes from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 21-22 starting at the Orchard Lake Museum, 3951 Orchard Lake Road in Orchard Lake. The last tour of the day will leave at 3:30 p.m. Registration at the museum is on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Admission costs $15 per person, or $10 for kids 5-12 years old. Tickets for Time Travelers and Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society members cost $5 per person. The island is not wheelchair-accessible. Tourists should dress in warmer clothes, as the island is roughly 10 degrees colder than the mainland. Sturdy shoes are also recommended.

For more information, visit www.gwbhs.org.

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