Along the Little Traverse Wheelway, overlooking the bay in Petoskey, stands the St. Francis Solanus Indian Mission. A small wooden building surrounded by a plain painted wood fence, this is the oldest and first Catholic church in Petoskey.
Older structures and architecture always interests me so when I saw this building, I knew I needed to learn more. I wish I could have gotten a peek inside, but that just gives me an excuse to visit this charming area in the future.
In 1855, the town of Petoskey was known as Bear River and the first white residents were primarily missionaries and fur traders. In 1859, at the request of Bishop Fredrick Baraga, construction began on the church. The builder, Jean Baptiste Trotochard, had also donated the one acre of land on which he built the mission. Today the property is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places. It was named after an Indian missionary, St. Francis Solanus.
White crosses mark several rows of grave sites in the yard of the church. The grave markers have long been removed but it is believed that Trotochard and his wife Sophie are buried in the churchyard. Looking towards the bay from the fence, one can see a statue of what may be St. Francis Solanus preaching to an attentive audience.
The original church was restored in the mid-2000’s and is now open for tours in season on Sunday from 9:30 to 1:00. Mass is celebrated once a year on July 14th during the feast of St. Francis Solanus.
A marker that details the history of the church has been approved for this location and should be installed sometime during the summer.
Visiting St. Francis Solanus Indian Mission
You’ll find St. Francis Solanus Indian Mission on West Lake Street in Petoskey. Call 231-347-4133 for more information.
Thursday 2nd of July 2015
The new historic marker will be dedicated 14 July 2015 at 11 am, most likely at the church. The white crosses do not mark any specific graves at all. They are place markers to indicate the church yard is actually a cemetery. Written records of who specifically is buried here, if they exist, have not been discovered.
Friday 5th of June 2015
It is so much fun finding these hidden gems. Thanks for sharing the story of this little church.