The Town of Jacksonport stretches from the sand dunes of Lake Michigan to rolling fields where Holsteins and Angus cattle graze. Its boundaries encompass Hibbard and Logan creeks and parts of Clark and Kangaroo lakes. Two spectacular parks lie a few miles to the south of Jacksonport — Whitefish Dunes State Park and Cave Point County Park.
Like most of Door County, portions of the township rest atop glacial bedrock formed millions of years ago, but deeper soil found inland supports dairy farms, orchards and field crops.
A blend of agriculture and tourism comprises the town’s economic base. The community values both enterprises.
The town core along Wisconsin 57 includes private residences scattered among a bakery, gift shop, restaurants, a grocery store, motels and antique vendors. The town’s centerpiece is Lakeside Park, site of Maifest and other special events.
West from the town’s core, the landscape opens and silos, fields of grain and red-stained barns stand out. Up and down Lake Michigan, seasonal cottages and residences crowd the shore. Throughout the township, visitors can fish, bike, kayak, hike, picnic, paint landscapes and snap photographs. It is a place to appreciate nature and soak up solitude.
Jacksonport Land Use Plan, adopted in 2007, established seven goals to guide the community into the future.
- Preserve the rural, agricultural character
- Encourage residential and commercial growth to village core
- Protect quiet residential neighborhoods
- Preserve wetlands, natural areas and scenic views
- Protect safe drinking water
- Promote safe transportation
- Improve and expand parks and recreational facilities
The land use plan reflects Jacksonport’s commitment to environmental stewardship, responsible growth and respect for the town’s heritage
Jacksonport treasures its history. At the forefront of efforts to preserve the past has been the Jacksonport Historical Society, founded in 1994. The society publishes a series of books (Jacksonport Through the Generations), collects oral histories, gathers memorabilia, commemorates historic events and sponsors monthly programs celebrating Jacksonport’s heritage. Its most ambitious project is establishing a museum, now under development on Wisconsin 57, just south of town.
Before white settlers established roots in Jacksonport, the Potawatomi, according to historical accounts, built a fortified village, called Mechingan, where present-day Hibbard’s Creek meets Lake Michigan. The village population swelled to more than 4,000 in 1653, as allied tribes of the Potawatomi sought refuge from an 800-man army of marauding Iroquois. After a siege failed, the Iroquois withdrew, and, in time, the villagers moved south and west, seeking more fertile land to farm. Today, visitors who wade in Hibbard’s Creek will find no evidence of Jacksonport’s first inhabitants.
More than 200 years later, Jacksonport’s namesake, Andrew Jackson, and two partners acquired homesteading rights to what then was a nameless lakeside wilderness. The partners brought in loggers who literally chopped a path to reach town. Over the next 20 years, ships moored at long piers took on tons of lumber and cordwood destined for Milwaukee and Chicago. The lake also attracted commercial fishermen who shipped smoked, salted and fresh fish to cities along the west shore of Lake Michigan.
General stores, blacksmith shops, churches, several hotels and taverns sprouted as workers constructed homes in town. When logging and commercial fishing faded in economic viability, agriculture became the township’s mainstay.
With improved roads and automobile travel, Jacksonport attracted vacationers who stayed in guest cottages and seasonal residents who built getaway homes, usually on the lakefront.
Architectural reminders of Jacksonport’s past include the Town Hall Bakery, the Erskine Root Cellar and Episcopal Church of the Holy Nativity.
If brought together, the people of Jacksonport would fall well short of filling Lakeside Park — the 2010 census put our population at 705. Jacksonport may be small, but by heritage, household composition and occupation it is fairly diverse. Those who live and work in town generally do so at small, family-owned and –run businesses. A population anchor remains our family farms, passed down over the generations. Newcomers include young married couples returning to the secure place of their childhoods, and retirees drawn by Jacksonport’s reputation as the “quiet side.”
The most common surnames in Jacksonport are those of the town’s forebears — Halstead, Bley, LeClair, Reynolds, Cote and Bagnall, among others. Multigenerational residents, along with those with roots less deep, find common ground through widespread involvement in community-building organizations and traditional events, such as Maifest and Cherry Fest. Our close-knit churches and schools further unite Jacksonport’s residents.
Beginning in spring each year, seasonal residents boost the population. Some stay for six months or longer; others visit on weekends or for annual vacations.
“Locals,” tourists and part-time residents get to know each other at our gathering spots, such as Mr. G’s Logan Creek Grille, Mike’s Port Pub, Town Hall Bakery, JJ’s of Jacksonport and Bley’s Grocery.