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Situated on a peninsula, bordered by Lake Michigan to the east, Betsie Lake to the east, and by Betsie Lake and the Betsie River connecting the two lakes in the north, the Village of Elberta is in eastern Gilmore Township, eastern Benzie County, in the northwestern Lower Peninsula. Elberta is separated from Frankfort to the north, by Betsie Lake.

The Betsie River is a 54-mile waterway that begins in southwestern Grand Traverse County, and flows briefly through northern Manistee County, although it is mostly within Benzie County. Before emptying into Lake Michigan, between Elberta and Frankfort, the river widens to form Betsie Lake.

Most of the inhabited area of the village is in the southeast, and along the shore of Betsie Lake. The chief routes through the village are M-22 (Scenic Highway) and M-168. M-22 enters the village in the south, running north through the downtown district, turning east at its junction with M-168, exiting the village over a bridge that spans a narrow portion of Betsie Lake, then turning north to connect the village with Frankfort. Although still labeled M-168 on most maps, M-168 was transferred to village control in 2010. M-168 was one of the shortest state highways in Michigan, extending under a mile from its junction with M-22 to the former Ann Arbor Railroad ferry docks.

Besides Frankfort, the nearest villages are Benzonia (7.1 miles east), Beulah (8.4 miles east), and Honor (13.5 miles northeast).

With its proximity to Lake Michigan, Betsie Lake, and the Betsie River, the village is a popular destination for fishing and boating enthusiasts. Two public access points on Lake Betsie provide locations for people to fish from, both with access to deeper water. Managed by the city of Frankfort, the 289-acre lake facilitates fishing from shore, pier, or boat.

The first European-American settler in the area that was to become Elberta was John Greenwood, who came around 1855, although George M. Cartwright is acknowledged as the founder of the village. Born in Grand Blanc, in Genessee County, Cartwright was engaged in the lumber, shipping, and real estate industries. Learning that the United States government was planning a new harbor installation, he acquired land for a village and engaged a civil engineer, George H. Steele, to plat the village in 1866. He recorded the first plat as Frankfort City.

On April 10, 1872, a post office was established as South Frankfort, with George Douglass as its first postmaster. At that time, the name Frankfort was applied to the general harbor area. Later, the current city of Frankfort occupied the northern portion, while the southern portion was incorporated as the Village of South Frankfort in 1894. On June 1, 1911, the village's name was changed to Elberta, in homage to the locally plentiful Elberta peach.

From the 1890s until July 1950, the Ann Arbor Railroad operated launch ferries from docks on the Lake Michigan side in Elberta. The ferries crossed Lake Michigan to two points in Wisconsin, while another went north to Gladstone, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. During this period, the Ann Arbor Railroad operated a train to and from Cadillac, Owosso, Durand, and Ann Arbor, then south to its terminus in Toledo, Ohio.

Other than a slight increase in the 1970s, Elberta's population has declined each decade since 1950 when it had reached its peak population of 850. Its current population is under 400.

The focus of this guide is on the incorporated village of Elberta, Michigan. Online resources representing the village itself, or any individuals, businesses, schools, churches, organizations, attractions, or events within the village are appropriate for this category.

 

 

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