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The Legend of the Petoskey Stone

According to legend, a descendant of French nobility named Antoine Carre visited what is now the Petoskey Michigan area and became a fur trader with the John Jacob Astor Fur Company. In time, he met and married an Ottawa (or Odawa). Carre became known to the Indians as Neaatooshing. Carre was eventually adopted by the tribe and made chief. In the spring of 1787, after having spent the winter near what is now Chicago, Chief Neaatooshing and his family started home. On the way, the party camped on the banks of the Kalamazoo River. During the night, a son was born to the Chief. As the sun rose, its rays fell on the face of the new baby. Seeing the sunshine on his son’s face, the Chief proclaimed, “His name shall be Petosegay. He shall become an important person.” The translation of the name is “rising sun,” “rays of dawn,” or “sunbeams of promise”.

The City of Petoskey

In the summer of 1873, just a few years before the death of Petosegay, a city came into being on his land along the bay at Bear Creek. The site was a field overgrown with June grass. Only a few non-descript buildings existed. The population was no more than 50 or 60. The city was named Petoskey, an English adaptation of Petosegay. Thus they honored someone who gave his land, name, and the heritage of “sunbeams of promise”.

Today, Petoskey Michigan is a growing city with all of the comforts of modern life and an appreciation of the past. Here is where Petoskey Stones are most commonly found. For those who look, you can find Petoskey Stones are along beaches, inland in gravel deposits, bike paths, back yards, and sold in gift shops. Finding a “rocky” shore line instead of sandy areas are best, especially after a storm when the waves have crashed new stones onto shore, or in the spring after the ice flows that have pushed up on shore have melted to reveal the spring’s treasures. Dry, they will look grey and chalky so be care not to walk past one. Getting them wet, or finding them in the the water is what brings out the qualities of the stone. How was the Petoskey stone formed?

What is a Petoskey stone?

Petoskey Stone in a handIt is a fossil colonial coral that lived in the warm Michigan seas during the Devonian time around 350 million years ago. The name Hexagonaria (meaning six sides) percarinata was designated by Dr. Edwin Stumm in 1969 because of his extensive knowledge of fossils. This type of fossil is found only in the rock strata called the Gravel Point Formation. This formation is part of the Traverse Group of the Devonian Age.

During the Devonian time, Michigan was quite different. Geo-graphically, what is now Michigan was near the equator, at a time when all of the continents were still together. A warm tropical sea covered the state. This warm, sunny sea was an ideal habitat for marine life.

A Devonian reef had sheltered clams, cephalopods, other corals, crinoids, trilobites, fish, and many other life forms. The soft living tissue of the “Hex” coral was called a polyp. At the center of this was the area where food was taken in, or the mouth. This dark spot, or eye, has been filled with mud or silt that petrified after falling into the openings. Surrounding the openings were tentacles that were used for gathering food and drawing it into the mouth which can be seen by the lines in the stone itself. The living coral that turned into the Petoskey stone thrived on plankton that lived in the warm sea. Calcite, silica and other minerals have replaced the first elements of each cell. Each separate chamber, then, on each Petoskey stone, was a member of a thriving colony of living corals. For that reason the Petoskey stone is called a colony coral.

The “Eyes” of the Petoskey stone

Petoskey StoneJust about on every Petoskey Stone is sparkly crystals that can be seen in the mouths, sometimes in a group which can resemble an “eye”, and even lines running through, although sometimes it can look like a crack in the stone if the crystal is missing. The crystal is actually Quartz. Quartz is a natural filter which is why sometimes you can find other minerals including gold. You will also find Petoskey Stones in different colors like white, brown, etc. It’s been said that stones that have a caramel color when polished are stones that when alive were from around the Little Traverse Bay and surrounding area.

Is Petoskey Michigan the only place to find stones? The answer is no. Again, as time went by and the continents separated, the water receded and we ended up with fossilized coral. Our area has also had several ice ages which created the Great Lakes and pushed these stones all over, so stones can be found at times on the east side of the state, southern part and even into Indiana, Illinois.

Pink Pet

Last but certainly not least is the “Pink” Petoskey Stone or “Pink Pet”. At times, you’ll find a Petoskey Stone and part or all of it has a pink hue or is very pronounced throughout. People will go look specifically for these or ask at gift stores for the Pink Pet. Again, as quartz and other minerals ended up inside the stone, the cause of the pink coloration is Iron that permeated into the Hexagonaria Coral as it Calcified.