Eriez Nation: The first users of the inland waters of the peninsula were the Eriez Nation. Also known as the "Cat Nation," the Eriez inhabited the Lake Erie shoreline giving Lake Erie and them city of Erie its name. The Eriez were defeated by the Iroquois in 1654. The Legend of the Sheltering Arm of the Great Spirit tells the story of how the Eriez planted their roots on the peninsula. As the legend goes, the Great Spirit led the tribe to the peninsula because of the abundance of game that would feed and clothe, the pure water, and the cool, health-giving breezes "coming from the land of snow and ice:" "This is the place, my children, which your father, the Great Spirit has chosen for the site of your villages."
Misery Bay and the Perry Monument: Misery Bay was the temporary home of the fleet of ships commanded by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the War of 1812. Six of his nine vessels, including two brigs - the Niagara and the Lawrence - were constructed in Erie Bay using trees from the local vicinity, most likely from the peninsula. The shores and waters of Presque Isle protected Commodore Perry's fleet during construction. Commodore Perry and his men engaged the British in battle on September 10, 1813 at Put-in-Bay(near Sandusky Ohio).
After the battle, Perry and his men remained in Misery Bay and Erie Harbor because of threats of another British uprising. During the winter of 1813-1814, many of Perry's men suffered from smallpox and were quarantined in Misery Bay. Many of them died and their bodies were buried in the adjacent pond known as Grave Yard Pond. The hulls of the Lawrence and the Niagara were sunk in Misery Bay to preserve and protect them from the weather. They were later raised, and the Niagara has been rebuilt and is docked at the foot of Holland Street. The Perry Monument on Crystal Point was built in 1926 to commemorate this significant battle during the War of 1812. Misery Bay received its name in remembrance of the hardships of that winter following the Battle of Lake Erie.
Presque Isle Lighthouse: The Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1872 and first lit on July 12, 1873. It is the second American lighthouse built on Lake Erie (the first is the Pierhead Light, built in 1818). The 74-foot tower has a red-brick dwelling at the base and is currently used as a park residence. It flashes a white light which is still maintained by the US Coast Guard.
Waterworks Park: The city of Erie developed this area in search of a cleaner water source. In 1908, workers began placing a pipe from the lake to the settling basins. In 1917, the pumphouse was built. At that time it contained a steam boiler and engine. Water was drawn from the lake to the first settling basin, then from there it was pumped to the second settling basin then pumped across the bay to the city of Erie. This pumphouse and water supply system operated from 1917 until 1949. Currently the pumphouse is used as a zebra mussel control facility for Erie's water supply.
The Life of the Peninsula: A Migrating Peninsula
Presque Isle is a recurving sand spit. Geologists believe it formed more than 11,000 years ago. Over time the coastline "floated" as the forces of wind and water carried sand from the neck of the peninsula eastward, depositing it at Gull Point and causing the Gull Point area to grow. This growth and migration of the peninsula occurred rapidly, at least in geologic time. Scientists believe that the peninsula has moved eastward one-half mile per century, although they see smaller changes every year. These changes created an extremely diverse and fragile environment. Because of its diversity, Presque Isle is a natural laboratory for viewing the geologic past and watching geologic forces in motion.
Presque Isle's location relates to a ridge of sediment called a moraine that crosses Lake Erie. Huge slowly moving glaciers carry moraines, consisting of clay, sand and gravel. The glacier that formed the moraine across Lake Erie was a late, minor advance of the last major ice sheet that covered much of northern Pennsylvania. About 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, the small glacier moved southward into the valley now occupied by Lake Erie. The moraine marks the location where the glacier stopped, and was left behind as the ice melted away.
Although the French name Presque Isle means "almost an island", the area has actually been a real island several times. Storm waves have broken through the neck to isolate the main section of the spit at least four times since 1819. One gap remained open for 32 years.
As westerly waves wash upon the beaches in a diagonal direction, sand and pebbles carried with them are left on the shore as the waves recede. Upon each wave's rush, they are deposited a little farther east, adding to Presque Isle's eastward growth. Gull Point has been growing for most of the 1900s and continues to do so today.