Newaygo County was named after Chippewa Indian Chief :
Naw-wa-goo, one of the signers of the Treaty of Saginaw in 1812. Settlement of
the area began in 1836 when Michel Charleau took a group of businessmen from
Chicago up the Muskegon River and observed the great expanse of white pine
there. The first sawmill was built by the Pennoyer Brothers a few years later at
the junction of the Muskegon River, and a creek bears their name a few miles
northeast of what is now the city of Newaygo.
The lumber boom in the last half of the 1800ís was very good to this area, and
put the county on the map. The Muskegon River, Michiganís largest, became the
lifeblood of the area, first for transporting lumber, and later for
hydroelectric power. Three huge dams were built after the turn of the century:
Croton, Hardy and Newaygo.
Croton and Hardy Dams remain today, with Hardy the largest earthen dam east of
Newaygo County today relies on tourism as its main economic support, with
agriculture and small manufacturing secondary. The Muskegon River continues to
be the main attraction for summer cottage residents and fishermen, who find it
nearly the best source for steelhead in the spring and salmon in the fall
anywhere in Michigan. Hunting, camping and RVíing are also excellent, as over
half the county is contained in the Manistee National Forest.