Railway at the Bottom of the Bay


Pontiac_Oxford and Northern_TRANS


On October 20th 1881 construction of Pontiac, Oxford & Port Austin Railroad began at Caseville to bring rail service to the Thumb area. Just before construction began a huge fire devastated the thumb area. The result was that the former lumbering area was now ripe for agricultural development. The fire opened up the land to farming.


Crawford-Mill-Caseville


Caseville’s first railroad engines were delivered by the ship C.R. Dumford from Cleveland. The track out of Caseville was laid out about a mile before heavy snow stopped the work. Francis Crawford financed the railway project and the rails were shipped in from Cleveland.


Pigeon-River-Salt-Iron-Works


On one shipment from Cleveland the ship ran aground on the rocky shoals near Oak Point. During the salvage operation, 23 rails slipped into Saginaw Bay and were lost. It’s assumed that those rails are still at the bottom of the lake today.


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Experience a Haunted House


If there is one area in Michigan’s Upper Thumb where the paranormal might reside it would have to be Bay Port. The area was the site of the vanished Ora Labora German Colony that existed from 1861-1867, the spooky and unattended Old Bay Port Cemetery the famous but now vanished and presumed haunted Bay Port Hotel and the address of the Sweet Dreams Inn where many claim to have experienced paranormal activity.


wallace


The Inn was built in 1890 at the end of the lumber era in the Upper Thumb. Contracted by William H. Wallace, the Victorian style home was designed with the tastes and style common at that time by those with means. Wallace was active in politics and was a delegate in the Republican National Convention in 1908, 1916, and 1924. He was president of Michigan Sugar Company and Bay Port State Bank.  He owned the Wallace Stone Quarry which is just south of town and still in operation today.  His first wife, Elizabeth died in 1893 and local lore tells that she passed away in the home. There also a bit of a mystery in that despite the prominence of this individual there is no record of his or his son’s grave sites. Thus it’s no coincidence that visitors say Wallace and his first wife still roam the inn with his heavy footsteps, as well as whispering in the ears of the guests.


“Me and my best friend live in Bay Port We have seen ghosts and heard screams countless times walking on the street in front of the Sweet Dreams Inn. Also have heard stories of the ghosts and have seen the little girl looking out of the left window on the third floor. So I believe it is haunted!!!”


The Sweet Dreams Inn is a specialized bed-and-breakfast where guests hope to experience the proximity of these friendly ghosts. Guest have reported that doors open and close, beds and chairs are moved. Some report that they feel being touched and hear voices and footfalls where nobody has been. One event that was caught on a cell phone video was that of an “orb” flying through one of the guest bedrooms. At times guests are unnerved by the experience and leave in the middle of the night.


“Been there several times and have experienced activity first hand: footsteps, voices. Just because one person doesn’t have an experience doesn’t mean it never happens.”


The original family owned the large mansion for over 100 years. The family lived on the first two floors. They entertained in a large ballroom on the third floor. Local historians noted that the Wallaces would host parties on Saturday night that would last well into the morning hours. Guests say that most of the paranormal activity occurs on the third floor.


 “Most guests don’t know (about the unexplained occurrences) but they usually find out by the end of the night. Some guests leave at 3 or 4 a.m.”


The inn has been featured in two Haunted Michigan travel books and appeared in a paranormal documentary and movie. It’s also found in the famous Pure Michigan website. The Inn registers guests by appointment you can actually stay overnight.


Quotes from - hauntedhovel.com, michigansthumb.com

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Michigan Roadside: Jenks Park


When I was growing up we would road trip all over the Great Lakes. Mom would pack a picnic basket and around noon Dad would pull off and have a break and a bite to eat. As poor college students we continued in this fashion. We would pack cold chicken, a salad, chips, some beer and pop and have a picnic feast. I realized that we have not tailgated while on a road trip in many years. It’s gotten too easy to find quick food at a carry out place.

Michigan led the nation with the development of roadside parks. In 1918 the Iron County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of land to establish Michigan’s first roadside park and picnic tables on US-2. This was quite likely America’s first such facility. 

This past weekend I was traveling up to the hardware in Port Austin and spied an official State of Michigan roadside park. I pulled into Jenks Park just outside Port Austin.  



It’s charming. Picnic tables and grills overlook commanding views of Saginaw Bay. It’s not a bathing beach so the water laps right up to un groomed sea grass and poplar trees that grow wild on the waterfront.  


 


There is bathroom facilities and an honest-to-God hand water pump.  


 


It’s worth a stop if only to take in the sites and think of times gone by. Jenks Park is one of four MDOT roadside parks in Huron County.  The others are:

  • Brown – South of Bay Port. It has an historical Marker for “The Great Fire of 1881.” A million acres were devastated in Sanilac and Huron counties. 
  • Thompson Scenic Turnout – Features 2 large grindstones and access to sandy beach on Saginaw Bay, picnic tables
    and benches.
  •  White Rock – Great views of Lake Huron and White Rock. Steps to beach, observation deck, walking trails connecting to non-motorized path on M-25. White Rock is a large, white, off-shore boulder used as a boundary marker to define the territory released by the Native American tribes of Michigan to the United States under the Treaty of Detroit in 1807. 

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Hollywood Found Michigan’s Thumb


This Must Be the Place is a 2011 drama film directed by Paolo Sorrentino, written by Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello and released in the U.S. in 2012.It stars Sean Penn and Frances McDormand. The film deals with a middle-aged wealthy rock star who becomes bored in his retirement and takes on the quest of finding his father’s tormentor, a Nazi war criminal who is a refugee in the United States.


This Must Be The Place

The film was an Italian-majority production with co-producers in France and Ireland. Principal photography began in August 2010. Filming took place in Ireland and Italy, as well as the Thumb area of  Michigan, New Mexico and New York. The film was in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.


This Must Be The Place


In September 2012 the production moved to Michigan where filming took place in Bad Axe, Ubly, Kinde and Sterling Heights. Some of what are thought to be shots from the Thumb area have been captured here from the YouTube Trailers. Anyone know where exactly these shots are from?


ThisMustBeThePlace2 ThisMustBeThePlace3

Material quoted from various web sources.

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Fun in Michigan's Upper Thumb

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