The township of Bingham was organized and created from a part of the township of Centerville in Leelanau County on October 13, 1864. It was reduced to its present boundaries on December 20, 1864 by the County Board of Supervisors. The original township encompassed what are now Bingham and Suttons Bay townships. Bingham's original officers were Robert Lee, L.D. Quackenbush, James Lee, and James Mebert.
This was a relatively quiet area, the rare disagreements being over fence lines and loose cattle. In 1864, the call went out for 500 men from the northern part of the state to fight in the Civil War. The township issued bonds to pay the yearly inducement of $200. From a census of about 50 families, four men volunteered.
In 1866, a $10 allotment of a 2 mill tax was set aside for the purchase of a library in the school, located just south of Suttons Bay. In April of 1871, $200 of levied taxes was appropriated for the bridge across the narrows of Carp Lake at Provemont (Lake Leelanau). Also out of the 1871 taxes, $100 was raised to buy a township cemetery from the adjoining farms of Jacob Groesser and John Strome.
In 1881, the demand for lumber had reached Bingham. The hardwood required for building created business for the original sawmill on the east shore of Carp Lake (Lake Leelanau), about a mile from the lake's south end. To facilitate the movement of dressed lumber from the mill to the dock on Grand Traverse Bay, a plank road was laid along what is now Bingham Road.
After the mill was built, a saloon was constructed across the road. Here the lumberjacks and area farmers could refresh themselves, play cards, and spend their hard earned money on the first slot machine in the entire county. Above the saloon was a dance hall. Every Saturday night the floor resounded with the steps of lumberjacks' spiked boots, farmers' Sunday shoes, and the ladies' dainty slippers.
The general store across the street supplied everything the inhabitants needed. The following prices of these few products were taken from the MORNING RECORD of May 17, 1898: pork, 6 cents lb; butter, 20 cents lb; cheese, 13 cents lb; 75 cents for 25 lbs of flour.
The first post office was opened in 1900 with William Dalzell as Postal Carrier. Before the formation of the post office, Indians ran regular mail routes from Northport to Traverse City.
Through improper forestry practices, the virgin hardwood forests were depleted and in 1909 the sawmill closed. After that, the lumberjacks moved to Greilickville and Traverse City to work in the mills there. With this movement the decline of Bingham began. The saloon closed in 1910 and was moved to the Heimforth resort where it eventually burned. The general store managed to remain operative for several more years before it closed and eventually was torn down.
About 1905 the railroad was introduced to the area, transporting passengers and produce between Traverse City and Northport. The first school building in the area was a log cabin just south of what is now the Bingham Town Hall. The Bingham Schoolhouse was built in the late 1880s or early 1890s on the southeast corner of what is now Bingham Road and County Road 633/Center Hwy. The schoolhouse doubled as the Sunday school until 1898 when the Evangelical Association Church was constructed on the northeast corner. The school and the church are still standing in their original locations. The school is now the Township Hall and the Church is a private residence.
Around 1920, cherry processing plants were constructed and cherry orchards began to provide the backbone of the economy. Until the mid-thirties, local labor picked the fruit. After the thirties, a steady trickle of migrant workers began to provide harvest labor. The migrant labor continued to appear every summer until about the end of the 1960s when mechanical pickers were introduced into the area.
They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We still have our town hall, beautiful cherry farms, a few migrant families every summer, a lumber mill and familiar historic family names. Bingham Township continues its historic traditions, maintains a rural atmosphere, and is still part of a beautiful peninsula. With any luck it will remain so for another hundred years.