The Road to Kilmanagh
So the situation is this… it’s a typical Michigan road trip. You’re hurling along Colwood Road north of Caro toward the Saginaw Bay shore and you start seeing signs to slow down. First, it’s Bach. A nondescript place on a map with no stop sign, no light but you notice a huge Pepsi-Cola/ General Store painted on one side of a building. This is the first of your ghost town road stops. Bach is a place where unknown, but talented, photographers go to hone their craft. Many come to places like Bach and end up with a few shots that end up on Etsy with the hopes of selling a Canvas shot online for $9.99. I stop and snap a few myself.
Bach General Store Now an Abandoned Museum
It’s a disheartening sight. The sign on the front beckons potential customers to call a phone number or knock on the door on the main house for a peek inside. I lean on the glass and
see relics from times gone by, someone’s extensive beer can collection is neatly stacked on circa 1930’s mercantile shelves. I spot some vintage metal and wooden toys. I see an old school desk stacked neatly near the door. You can tell that someone was trying to make a good effort for this antique store. Now it sits silent and unvisited. Someone later tells me that the owner picked up and moved to California. I move on.
A Four Corner Country Village of the Past
Kilmanagh is a place stuck in lore and time. In the Spring of 1891, then this western Huron County village hosted a grist mill or two general stores, a blacksmith shop, and two or three saloons. When these shots were taken only a couple relics of the village remain. The aging general store, a 1940’s service station, and a closed liquor store. It is an interesting stop on your way to north to Bay Port or Caseville. If you stop treat it respectfully as it’s literally a museum exposed to the elements.
Walk among its ruins. Snapshots and hopefully write a few words on your find. The general store is what takes your attention first. There is beauty in the decay.
I’m lucky to have been given a set of pictures of Kilmanagh from my mother. In the late 1980s, my parents had a small business called Thumb Impressions. They had the opportunity to travel around the Thumb in a 1990 LeBaron GT convertible to capture the Thumb has it had been. The area was changing and many of the WWII generations was passing on. With it were some of the landmarks of the area.
Kelly’s Bar 30 Years Ago in Kilmanagh
This set of photos was taken around 1990 in Kilmanagh. The lovely lady tending bar that day was Bernice Kelly. From the comments from those who remember those times, she had a great sense of humor. Someone asked her for a dark beer. She replied, “All my beer is in brown bottles…”
By 2016 the bar and shop are closed. When last I drove by the building, it was still neat and tidy and it looked like it could be opened in short order. Like many small Michigan villages, there is no vibrant business other than the spectacle of decaying past glory. This is depressing. I wonder if these beautiful four corner villages will ever rebound.
Kilmanagh: An Artist Delight and Hopeful Restoration
Kilmanagh is a gold mine for still life artists. There is a modeling artist in Germany that did a scale model of the general store. (If anyone knows who that is please pass it along) The best example of someone who really invested himself into this is John Nagridge who in several seasons painted Kilmanagh Fall, Winter, and Spring themes. You can visit John’s website to view more knife renderings of Kalmanagh’s general store.
In 2017 the owners of the Kilmanagh General Store began restoration work. Which is a hopeful sign. Visit our Save the Store page for more information on how you can help save the Kilamanagh General Store. You can also visit the Kilmanagh General Store Facebook Page and check out the progress of the restoration efforts.
Michigan Small Town Getaways
- Michigan’s Bean Town and Polka Capital – Kinde
- Pinnebog – Center of the Known Universe
- The Pinnebog General Store – Gone But Not Forgotten
- The 1881 Fire that Almost Wiped out Parisville