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Petosegay or Pet-O-Sega (Ottawa: Rising Sun, Rays of the Morning Dawn and Sunbeams of Promise) (c. 1787 – June 15, 1885) was a 19th-century French-Ottawa Métis merchant and fur trader. Both present-day Petoskey, Michigan, Petoskey State Park, and nearby Emmet County park Camp Petosega are named in his honor. The official state stone of Michigan, the Petoskey stone, were found in abundance on his former lands and named after him.

Neyas Petosega (Rising Sun), later Ignatius Petoskey

c. 1787
DiedJune 15, 1885[1] (aged 97-98)
Other namesPetosegay, Pet-O-Sega
OccupationChieftain, fur trader
SuccessorIgnatius Petoskey
Spouse(s)Kewaykabawikwa, wife
ChildrenIgnatius Petoskey, son
Francis Petoskey, son
Mitchell Petoskey, son
Parent(s)Antoine Carre (Neaatooshing), father
Unnamed Ottawa, mother
RelativesPokozeegun, father-in-law
William Petoskey, grandson
Paul Petoskey, grandson


Early lifeEdit

The son of Antoine Carre (Neaatooshing), he was born along the northern banks of the Kalamazoo River near the mouth of Manistee. According to popular lore his father held him up to the rising sun and said "his name shall be Petosegay and he shall become an important person".[2]

He grew up in the lodge of his father roughly seven miles northwest of Harbor Springs, nearby the site of the town of Middle Village. At the age of 21, Petosegay married the daughter of Pokozeegun, an Ottawa chieftain from the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. He and his new bride, Kewaykabawikwa, planted apple trees to celebrate their marriage and, at the time of his death, they could still be seen by local residents.

Experiences with the JesuitsEdit

With the arrival of Jesuits in the area during the early 19th century, he was befriended by the missionaries who would have a great influence on him throughout his life. He was called Neyas Petosega by the Jesuits who later interpreted Neyas as an abbreviation of Ignatius, the given name of Saint Ignatius Loyola, and the young chieftain would eventually adopt the Christian name Ignatius Petosega.

During the 1840s, when the US government began establishing the first Indian Schools for the purposes of educating Native American children, Petosegay sent his two oldest sons to Twinsburg Institute in Twinsburg, Ohio also attended by Native American writers Andrew Jackson Blackbird and Simon Pokagon.[3] However, when the Jesuits were informed that the school was run by Protestant auspices, he was requested to remove them under threat of excommunication. Although he eventually agreed due in part to his wife, who recognized the power and influence held by the Jesuits among the Chippewas, Ottawas and Ojibwas of Northern Michigan, this incident would eventually lead to the break between him and the Jesuits.

Founding of Petoskey and later yearsEdit

Moving his family to the southern shore of Little Traverse Bay, he and his elder sons soon acquired much of the land of what is now Petoskey, Michigan and became a prominent merchant and landowner. In 1852, a Presbyterian Mission was established on the land of Nathan Jarman, a local farmer living west of Petoskey's village. Choosing to declare independence of the Jesuits, he became actively involved with the Presbyterians as he and his children became regular attendants at the services. His grandson William Petoskey, the son of Francis, was a later Presbyterian reverend.

The Jesuits, who had lost some support from the local tribes south of the Bay, attempted to regain control although their attempt to establish a rival mission failed as a direct result of Petosegay's support of the Presbyterian church. His wife, upset at her husband's decision to leave their home of 43 years, left him to live with her relatives across the bay. He lived with another woman during this time, however he agreed to take her back when she returned several years later. The woman who had been living with Petosegay received a dower and left the village.[4]

In 1873, the local residents living along the bay of Bear Creek named their settlement Petoskey in his honor. Although the name was a corruption of Petosegay, he changed the spelling of his name as a gesture to them. After his wife died in 1881, he lived with his daughter and her husband Moses Waukazoo although he suffered from poor health thereafter and eventually died on June 27, 1885.[5] Of his ten children, his son Ignatius Petoskey was rumoured to have been become the last chieftain and head of the Bear River Ottawas, this was a non-tribal viewpoint that tribal members found amusing because it was untrue.[6]

The Petoskey stones, a type of fossil colonial coral dating back to the Devonian period, was later discovered on his land.[7] The stones were later declared the official state stone by Governor George Romney who officially signed a bill to that effect. A granddaughter of his, Ella Jane Petoskey, was present at the signing.[8][9]

In 2005 a bronze statue of Petosegay was erected in Petoskey on a prominent hill overlooking the town and Little Traverse Bay.[10]

Further readingEdit

  • Michigan History. Lansing: Michigan Historical Commission, 1917.
  • Wargin, Kathy-jo. Legend of the Petoskey Stone. Chelsea, Michigan: Sleeping Bear Press, 2004. ISBN 1-58536-217-4


  1. ^ Family History Library, Film 0965313, Locale: U.S.A., Michigan, Title: Deaths, 1868-1913, Michigan, Charlevoix County. Vol. 1, p. 37, #613, date of death June 15, 1885
  2. ^ Royce, Julie. Traveling Michigan's Thumb. Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2006. (pg. 211) ISBN 1-59858-144-9
  3. ^ Vogel, Virgil J. Indian Names in Michigan. Lansing: University of Michigan Press, 1986. (pg. 46) ISBN 0-472-06365-0
  4. ^ Grand Traverse Historical Society. The Traverse Region, Historical and Descriptive, with Illustrations of Scenery and Portraits of Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Chicago: H.R. Page & Co., 1884. (pg. 153-154)
  5. ^ Nettleton, Rosa (1885). "June 27, 1885: Ignatius Petoskey (Neyas Petosega)". Historical Collections: Highlights of Charlevoix History. Charlevoix Public Library. Archived from the original on September 7, 2008.
  6. ^ Royce, Julie. Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast. Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2007. (pg. 287) ISBN 1-59858-321-2
  7. ^ Godfrey, Linda S. Weird Michigan: Your Travel Guide to Michigan's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. New York: Sterling Publishing Company, 2006. (pg. 27) ISBN 1-4027-3907-9
  8. ^ Mueller, Bruce and William H. Wilde. The Complete Guide to Petoskey Stones. Lansing: University of Michigan Press, 2004. (pg. 8-9) ISBN 0-472-03028-0
  9. ^ Wilson, Steven E. (2002-02-13). "The Petoskey Stone Some history, lore and facts about the "Petoskey Stone"" (.pdf). Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Geological Survey Division.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^