What's in a Name - Wenona #1437 chapter, Bay City

The Wenona #1437 chapter of Bay City was formed in January 2005. 

The name Wenona has long been associated with Bay City’s history. In 1864 Messers Sage and McGraw from Ithaca, N.Y., purchased 116 acres of the west side of the Saginaw River to erect a saw mill. The village was called Wenona, named for the Indian Princess in Longfellow’s poem “Hiawatha.” Wenona means first born. Lumbering, milling, and shipbuilding caused the town to grow quickly and expand to the east side of the river. In just four years the village had 1200 inhabitants and all the conveniences of city life.

The Wenonah Hotel and Park, on the east side river front, was famous in its day (1908-1978) and considered the most luxurious hotel north of Detroit. President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon stayed there on their campaign route and considered it a mandatory stop. Sadly, the Wenonah Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1978, but a treasured artwork, a large mosaic panel of Princess Wenona was salvaged from the hotel lobby. This mosaic panel in now on display at the Bay County Historical Museum.  Wenonah Park still thrives on our river front. Also very popular in its day was the casino at Wenonah Beach Amusement park on the beach of the Saginaw Bay. Note both spellings Wenona and Wenonah are correct.

Early in Wenona chapter’s 17-year history we hosted the 2005 Michigan Questers Fall State Days convention. Since then the chapter has continued to be an active part of our Bay City community and the Michigan Questers. P & R projects have included donating funds to the Bay County Historical Museum, obtaining State Questers grants for historical plaques placed in front of homes in the historic Center Avenue district, purchasing medallions to complete wrought iron railings in Bay City’s historic City Hall, a historical marker in the Pine Ridge Cemetery honoring Civil War soldiers, and a bench in historic Battery Park. 


We have earned chapter P & R funds through a booth at an antique show, also bus trips to Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery, Eastern Market, and Indian Village.  In 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017, we hosted an educational seminar called “Appetite for Antiques? Come lunch & learn.”  In 2021, the Wenona and Mackinaw Trail chapters hosted Fall State Days in Bay City; the event generated 168 registrations and made a profit for the State P&R Fund.


We continue to enjoy our monthly meetings covering a variety of subjects as we continually learn about antiques and history. Our friendships are strong and our interests alive.