In 1851, William Stafford, while living in Lexington, bought the first parcel of land in what is now Port Hope, with Reuben Dimond. Later, Stafford and William Southard invested in buying up forty-acre parcels from the government. These parcels had been set aside as pensions for veterans of the War of 1812.
Traveling to the area by schooner, Southard was let off at some distance from shore, due to a pending storm. Rowing in a skiff in the wind, he vowed that if he made it to shore, he would name the spot Port Hope. Stafford, along with others, opened up the area to lumbering and by 1858 his company dock was constructed and mills were in operation. The chimney from one of those mills can be seen and is the last standing chimney in Michigan from the lumbering era.
Port Hope survived the 1871 fire and was able to return to lumbering, but after the second fire in 1881 the trees were gone, and farming became the focus. Stafford adjusted and built a flour mill, elevator and a new dock.
Port Hope was incorporated in 1887, with the railroad coming in 1903. A walking tour brochure, with some of the 11 historic sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is available for visitors at Port Hope Mercantile.
The history of Port Hope and its people is well documented in “Portrait of a Village: Port Hope, Huron County, Michigan” by local authors Dean Smith and Jim Hunter. It is available at the Port Hope Mercantile and The Store for $20.00.