Town of


Sugar Island Township

Chippewa County Michigan

    Holy Angels Church

A remote fishing village 12 miles northeast of Sault Ste. Marie, Payment is on Sugar Island, barely a hundred yards from Canada and a short ferry boat ride across the St. Mary’s River. A British and American dispute over the islands ownership lasted sixty years until 1840 when a treaty placed Sugar Island in American hands. It had been called St. George’s Island by the British Sisibatakwatominiss (Maple Sugar Island) by the Chippewas for its abundant maple trees. The year of the treaty brought the first settlers when the Payment family came across the east channel of the river from Canada, built the first log house and started a trading post. Later the Payments were followed by the Brassar, Church, Corbiere, Mastaw, McFarlane, McKerchie, McCoy and LeCoy, Menard, Myott, Sayer, and Sebastian families. A fishing village developed along the east channel of the river across from Canada. The Sugar Island Post Office was established on January 13, 1857 with Michael G. Payment as its first postmaster. That year, the village’s Holy Angels Church was built and just down the road the first little log schoolhouse. Bishop Baraga is said to have performed several baptisms in the church in 1862. Philetus Church built a saw mill, store, and a dock called Church’s Landing from where his maple syrup and raspberry jam was shipped. He succeeded Micheal G. Payment as postmaster on June 8, 1858. The Sugar Island Postoffice discontinued operation on November 9, 1861. Mr. Church was also the township supervisor.

Payment never prospered as a lumber town in its early days. The entire 21 mile long island had barely more than 200 residents before 1870. Canoe and horseback were the oniy means of transport. The island never had a railroad and there was no ferry service of any kind from the mainland for the first 40 years. The first crude rafts to get people and supplies across the river came with the missionaries in the 1880’s and this led to Payment’s brief period of progress. By 1890 the population had tripled and the village had several stores, a larger schoolhouse and several commercial fishing operations. Alter 1915 Payment, a long rough ride on a rutted dirt road from the dock, began to decline. The few cars that got across the river were often stuck on the island in the mud. Little by little, other sections of the island were developed, especially after 1925 when regular Sugar Island Ferry service began.

The island and the village began to enjoy better days again after World War II when the first real roads were built and eventually (by 1965) paved. Payment then had nearly 250 people, including many descendants of the early families who had returned. Today, only half of the number remains and many of Payment’s 75 homes are summer-only residences. The oldest home in Payment is the one built by Philetus Church in 1862. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Virtually everything else from Payment’s early days is gone. The post office closed in 1942. There is only the church, which is starting to deteriorate. The rest of the island, now with more than 600 year round residents, has two stores, a restaurant and bar and a community center.

Although the ferry service which takes everything from pets to big trucks runs every half hour, Payment and Sugar Island remain among the more remote places in Michigan. Both are hanging on, primarily because it is a great summer retreat and the fishing is superb.

Story above contributed by Paul Petosky - Taken from "Michigan Shadow Towns"
A study of vanishing and vibrant villages by Gene Scott

The Payment, MI Post Office (Sugar Island Township) was established on December 19, 1892 with James S. Shields as its first postmaster.

Contributed by Paul Petosky - Payment, MI last day of use postmark dated September 30, 1942

James S. Shields..............December 19, 1892
Angus McCoy....................February 10, 1904
George Adams..................October 29, 1937
Mrs. Veronica E. Edwards..December 22, 1938
Angus McCoy.....................October 6, 1941 to September 30, 1942 The last day of operation; with mail service to Baie De Wasai.

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