In 1839, the Reverend Peter Dougherty was sent to the Grand Traverse Region by the Presbyterian Board of Missions to establish a church and school for the Native Americans who inhabited the area. In May of that year, Chief Ahgosa of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, living on the Old Mission Peninsula, asked Dougherty to move his mission from the mouth of the Elk River in Elk Rapids to the present day site of Old Mission, Michigan, 18 miles north of Traverse City.
In 1842, needing a larger and more permanent residence, Dougherty built his home, now part of the Dougherty Historic Home Site, in a settlement which consisted of a church, schoolhouse, wigwams and cabins. The home is believed to be the first post and beam house in the lower peninsula north of Grand Rapids. Dougherty stayed here for more than a decade, teaching and farming. He planted the first cherry tree in the area in 1852. Cherry farming replaced the lumber industry when it died in the late 19th century.
When the federal government opened Leelanau County, the Reverend Dougherty and his followers decided it would be better to move their homes to this more secure location, where there was land available for Native Americans to purchase. In 1852 they moved across the bay and established their “New Mission” in what later became the town of Omena. The village and peninsula they left then became known as the “Old Mission”.
In 1861, Dougherty sold his home at Old Mission to Solon Rushmore. It remained in the Rushmore family for approximately 100 years. The Rushmores farmed the land and later turned the home into an inn which, with its ten guest rooms, catered to resorters arriving by steamship. In 1956, the home was placed on the Michigan Historic Sites Register. In 1961 it was sold to Virginia Larson and after her death, her heirs, David and Dan Larson, granted an option to purchase the home and its 15 surrounding acres to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. In 2006, it was acquired by Peninsula Township and today it is administered by the Peter Dougherty Society.
In 2008, an ice house matching the foundation dimensions and appearance of the original Rushmore ice house was discovered and moved from a nearby home site (Keenan), restored and erected on the old ice house foundation.
In 2009, an outhouse, originally built by Durante Rushmore in the 1880’s, when the house began functioning as an inn for summer visitors, was restored using wood from a collapsed 1870’s barn near Bowers Harbor on Old Mission Peninsula.
In 2010, work began on restoring the adjacent Rushmore era summer kitchen/carriage house.
The Peter Dougherty House, later known as the Rushmore Inn, and today known as the Old Mission House, was placed on the National Historic Register in 2011, securing its proper place as a significant part of Michigan and Native American history.