The Manistee and Northeastern Railroad came to southern Leelanau County in 1892, and with additional companies and rails over the next several years, transportation of people and products was greatly improved. The Traverse City, Leelanau, and Manistique Railroad began operating between Traverse City and Northport in 1903, stopping at Hatch's Crossing, Fountain Point, Bingham, Keswick, Suttons Bay, and Omena. The trains ran in all seasons, making snow removal by village citizens a necessity.
Running through Suttons Bay, the train passed near the previous site of Harry T. Sutton's wooding station, established 1854, and the community's next enterprise, a sawmill built by Sutton's son-in-law, George Carr. Near the center of town, the railroad ran behind Lars Bahle's Drygoods & Clothing, begun in 1876. It remains today as one of the few businesses in Michigan established and operated by the same family for over 100 years. Just north of the community, the tracks went through the property of Joseph Cassimer Deerwood and his wife Harriette, who had arrived to live on their homestead in 1856, when Mrs. Deerwood was but a teenager. The train crossed a small trestle farther up the track, at the site of Antoine Manseau, Jr.'s, gristmill, built in 1859. The Sutton name first caused the village to be called Suttonsburg. Pleasant City was another title, but Suttons Bay was adopted for this growing community with its deep, safe harbor.
By 1880 there were 250 people living in the village, centered around four stores, two hotels, a sawmill, print shop, and school. The families of Anderson, Deuster, Steimel, Gronseth, Rufli, Herman, Groesser, Palmer, Sogge, Mork, and others were added to the population. Just before 1900 the number of churches had increased to four. With the arrival of the railroad, the stagecoach era of transporting the mail came to an end, just as Native American mail runners had earlier been replaced by the coaches.
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