The area was first inhabited by Ojibwa Indians. European occupation began in the 1790s with English fur traders. Miners were then drawn to the area. Ontonagon did not become a flourishing town until the economic upswing in the 1880s with the construction of lumber mills soon followed by shingle mills.
The fire of 1896 destroyed the town. It was not until 1921 and the arrival of a big paper mill that the town was fully revitalized. Ontonagon was home to the Upper Peninsula’s first newspaper and pioneered the inter-city phone.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.