The Colony of Palestine


Baron Moritz de HirschDuring the late 1800’s there was a movement by wealthy barons in Europe to establish Jewish colonies all over the world. One of the barons was Moritz de Hirsch, who made his fortune in Russia’s railroads under the Czar. Hirsch’s solution was to establish colonies for Jewish agriculture. He established them all over the world except Israel. He purchased land in South America, North America, and Africa and attempted to recruit thousands of Russian Jews to move to and populate those far flung locations. In the United States, he established agricultural communities in the Dakotas, Tennessee, and, New Jersey, among other places. In 1883 the Hebrew Relief Society of Detroit, assisted by the Baron de Hirsch Committee, settled a colony of Russian Jews in the Thumb Jewish colony located about five miles northeast of Bad Axe. (2) They called their settlement the Palestine Colony.

Jewish_refugees_1882All the business arrangements were overseen by Detroit Rabbi William Martin, a veteran stock broker and the agent for Frank W. Hubbard & Co., who sold the 1200 acres of land to the colony. Four partners founded the Farmer’s Bank of Frank W. Hubbard as a private bank. Today this institution is still in existence as the Thumb National Bank & Trust Company. (6)

After the business arrangements had been completed, the members journeyed from Detroit by covered wagon and lived in the wagons and tents, until their homes were built. Part of the land was swampy, there was considerable rainfall and the colonists had the same taste of pioneer hardships that the Ora Labora colony had twenty years prior.

The land purchase from the F. W. Hubbard & Co. was divided into small farms of 40 and 60 acres. The ownership of the farms, after there had been considerable dispute, was settled by lottery. Each farm was numbered and its number written on a ticket which was placed in a hat. A child then drew out one number for each family, which represented their farm.

Mr. Martin recalled a peculiar incident relating to the drawing of the farms. Two old patriarchs, Human Lewinbergh and Samuel Eckstein, desired corner farms. They got down on their knees and prayed to God that corner farms located opposite each other, be granted to them. The men were content to accept the last two numbers in the hat. These corner farms, opposite each other. It was a fine example of what a little faith will do.

The amount paid down on each farm was $50. Each member was also given a cow which was purchased with money from the Hirsch fund. Larry Molloy earned his first half dollar by returning a cow that strayed from the colony.

Despite the hardships, the community founded a school, where the Farmingcurriculum included Yiddish, and a synagogue. “A schochet came from Saginaw, and for a few months during the summer and autumn of 1892 Rev. Charles Goodwin of Bay City was spiritual leader, cantor and religious teacher, acting in these various capacities without pay. Praiseworthy was the ardent desire to give the children a thorough Jewish bringing up. Hard as it must have been to get together the little money required, a modest Talmud Torah building was erected.” At the Palestine Colony’s height, there were 21 families on 1200 acres. When the colony disbanded, Verona School No. 3 was established on the site of the former synagogue.

When the colony started to fail, Martin Butzel of Detroit, a Jewish philanthropist sent them a farm expert, Emanuel Woodic, a veteran of the civil war. “ Woodic, an experienced farmer who had twenty-five years of successful farming. Woodic was then living in the village of Utica, near Detroit, on a small farm whither he had retired when his advancing years and his wife’s illness compelled him to give up more active farming operations.” (5) It was an unfortunate coincidence that there was a national economic panic and recession that lasted for over five years. (3) Like Ora Labora, the national economy doomed the Palestine Colony.

Within five years about half of the original colonist had left. The Russian Jews lacked the agricultural skills required to establish a homestead farm. Some sought out and established retail businesses. Some sold door-to-door. Their wagons were familiar sights on the roads in this section of the county for many years. One after another the members of the colony gave the up the struggle. Some of them sold their partly cleared land; others let it revert to the original owners. By 1906 only one of the original families remained.

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Three Michigan Movies to Stream


For a short time Michigan gave tax credits to film makers to entice productions to locate here. Those days are long gone. However the films that were produced gives us the opportunity to see recognizable locations in our own backyard. We noted that in 2011 Sean Penn chose the Thumb to be a location for the film This Must be the Place. Here are three more notables among 140 films that located sets in Michigan for all or part of production.   


Continental Divide – This 1981 film starring John Belushi and Blair Brown is cast in Chicago. However, one memorable scene takes place at a train station in Niles Michigan. The historic Michigan Central Railroad station was built in 1892 of brownstone. The depot is still in operation by Amtrak. The depot appeared in other movies such as Midnight Run, and Only the Lonely.


Into the Storm – Filmed in 2014, this disaster film was shot in several Michigan locations including Pontiac and on the campus of nearby Oakland University. The school shots were filmed at the Oakview Middle School in Oakland Township. The film starred Richard Armitage and Sarah Wayne Callies.


Red Dawn – This 2012 remake was shot in Detroit, Harper Woods and Mt. Clemens. The closed Notre Dame High School was a primary filming location and its cafeteria was the catering hall for the cast. The film starred Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. While not credited, the shot below from the trailer was taken in Pontiac.

Red Dawn

Media from YouTube

 

Caseville Shanty Days 2018


The Caseville Chamber of Commerce has announced the weekend of February 16-18, 2018 for this winter’s Shanty Days. This is the event’s 26th year of mid-winter fun on the ice. It’s the largest winter carnival in Michigan’s Upper Thumb.

Click this link to find neat stories of past Shanty Day Weekend Shenanigans.Caseville Shanty Days
Photo courtesy of af.mil


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Great Getaways in Michigan’s Upper Thumb


This 15 minute video is a great review of some of the highlights of Michigan’s Thumb.  With 150 miles of shoreline the contrast between the rocky, rugged Lake Huron side is toured to the sugar sand and calm waters of Saginaw Bay. The thumb region is a great area to explore.

This video is from Great Getaways, a television travel series that spotlights active getaway adventures across the Midwest and Canada with an emphasis on the outdoors.


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Fun in Michigan's Upper Thumb

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