Exploring Newaygo’s Past

Exploring Newaygo’s Past

Growing up, in an area, we often become familiar with local history. It is taught in schools, on field trips, family members talk about “back when…”, and traditions are born in recognition of the history.


When you’re raised in a community, you often become tired of hearing, the same old stories, we become numb to our local culture, and become envious of other locations. However, when you relocate to a new area, this gives you the opportunity to discover the rich history, the local stories and to discover traditions.


Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.” And this year, with my goal being, to “Get Up, Get Out, Go Adventuring, Go Exploring,” I hope to learn more about my new hometown.


Driving home, from work, I pass the Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center. Located at the intersection of M-37, State Street, and Quarterline Street, is this charming community museum. I rarely have the time to visit this location due to my work schedule. However today, I was driving past. The open signs were blowing in the wind, and I knew that this was my opportunity to discover something new. I set aside my evening plans and entered the Museum.


The outdoor murals depict many pivotal times in both national and local history. From Native American history, to modern day, you are sure to find a display that captivates you. As I entered the museum, I was greeted by the friendliest welcome. I talked to the staff working the front desk, and explained how I had never been in the museum, and was interested in learning more about local history. Being new to the community, I love learning about local history.

I soon discovered, one of the people I was speaking with was, Steven Radtke, the Executive Director. He was also new to the area, and I asked him to tell me about his favorite part of the Museum. Steven mentioned the variety of displays throughout the museum, with the logging display being his favorite. We talked about the work they have done recently, to revitalize the museum museum including refreshing displays and hosting events. After our conversation, I began to wander throughout the installations. Walking between the displays, I felt as if I were transported through different time periods.


I found it very interesting to see our community origins depicted in dioramas, pictures and artifacts. The Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center has quite the collection of items with displays covering many topics such as railroads, farming, manufacturing, and military history. I always love seeing old photographs of people in their everyday lives.


The most fascinating display, to me, was that of the history of Gerber Baby Food. Living so close to where they manufacture one of the worlds most recognizable product, has been very exciting. Everything from the Baby Food Festival, held the 3rd week in July, to meeting people who have work for and alongside the growing company. From the Fremont Canning Company, to what we know today as Nestlé version of Gerber, the factory has grown along with the community.

Gerber Baby Display in Museum

Walking through this section on the Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center, you experience a sort of nostalgia, to younger days, and suddenly, you realize that throughout your life, you have had a connection to Newaygo County.


If you are looking to “Get Up, Get Out, Go Adventuring, Go Exploring”, like me, be sure to stop by the Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center. This place is worth visiting, even if you have been here in the past, consider returning, you might see a new artifact or learn a new fact or two.

by Whitney Barnes

Get Your Art On!

This not so summery weather seemed to call for something fun inside today.  Newaygo County, known for its outdoor activities, has plenty of hidden treasures for these occasions.  However, this morning, I was really in for a special treat as I ventured into an...

Fresh From the Farm

Agriculture has long been a staple of the NewayGo County economy. One reason why Gerber Baby Food put the area on the map was because of its relationship with local farmers.  You’ll see the same focus on agriculture and locally produced fruits and vegetables at...


I recently heard the term Agricultural Tourism or Agritourism for short, and was immediately intrigued by the idea, that individuals go out of their way to visit areas because of the agriculture. After a little bit of research, I realized that the idea of visiting an...

Newaygo: A Truly Magical Place

This truly is a magical place.Nestled on the banks of the Muskegon River in Newaygo County rests the nostalgic town ofNewaygo, MI. The historic district of this town still features all of the old world charm and design;restored vintage buildings, bustling...

Freedom Fest

          When I grew up, it was a seemingly simple affair. We were a small family, myself an only child, and our extended family didn’t visit often. During the cold-weather holidays, we would always venture their way, with some dish wrapped tightly in towels and hot...

Guiso What?

Guiso What?  The joy of cooking – over a fire! Campers, holiday-makers, hostesses and hosts: what is your favorite table to sit around? Is it one that you decorate during the holidays with special napkins, plates, crystal or glass? Is it the one you congregate on...

Take a Walk – Art Gems in Fremont

When the weather and schedule permits, I walk to pick up my children from school. This gives us a chance to talk about their day without having to navigate after school traffic and attitudes. If we drive home, the ride is filled with complaints about car-sickness and...

Indoor and Outdoor Art

Indoor and Outdoor Art Every season provides a chance to enjoy all those things we love about living in Newaygo County.  The beauty of seeing the “best sunset ever” every night of the summer, the sound of loons echoing over the lake, feeling your kayak glide along...

About The Author