Where in the Heck is Kilmanagh?

The restoration efforts of the Kilmanagh are showing great signs of progress. When this post was first published many feared that the iconic general store was going to fall in. The store and the little town surrounding it were still life subjects for artists. One model maker from Germany made a scale model of the store based on photographs found on the web. (Which I wish I would have saved!)

Kilmanagh
Rummel & Woldt General Store 2016

The Rummel and Woldt General Store is being transformed. The owner, Tim Voss is literally doing a labor of love to restore one of the last general stores in Michigan. He has made great progress.

Rummel & Woldt General Store 2020
Rummel & Woldt General Store 2020

You can keep track of the restoration progress and even donate to the effort at the Kilmanagh Store page on Facebook.

The Road to Kilmanagh

Bach
Bach General Store

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 Michigan
Bach General Store

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

Bach General Store
The cobwebs tell you it hasn’t been open in a long time
Antique-Store-Bach-Michigan

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.


Kilmanagh Gas Pump
The Famous Kilmanagh Gas Pump

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.

Kilmanagh General Store
Kilmanagh General Store Before the Start of Renovation

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 Party Store
Kilmanagh – Kelly’s Liquor in 2016

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 – Many want to keep this place a secret. It’s a slice of a true American farming community in the Thumb of Michigan. John Kinde founded the village in the 1880’s during the regions transition from lumbering to agriculture. A lumber yard, general store, grain elevator and post office were established followed by a train station in 1882 for the Port Huron and Northwestern Railroad.
  • The Pinnebog General Store – Gone But Not Forgotten – Walter Hume, “the Daniel Boone of Hume Township,” became the first settler in the area in 1844. This little four corner settlement was first called Pinnepog, (Chippewa for partridge drum). However, there was another Pinnepog five miles north on Saginaw Bay, so this one changed to Pinnebog (“a high sounding and dignified way of saying pine bog”).
  • The 1881 Fire that Almost Wiped out Parisville – The Great Michigan Fire of 1881 devastated one town above all others; Parisville. Parisville Michigan was Founded by Polish immigrants escaping the oppression of the Prussian Empire, this community claims to be the first Polish settlement in North America.
  • The Corner Drug & Jewelry Store Harbor Beach, Michigan – The Corner Drug and Jewelry Store in Harbor Beach is estimated to be from about 1910. It shows a steam tractor towing a wagon and another team following behind. Originally I wanted to focus on the tractor. I still don’t know what the make is but I suspect it may have been a Case.
  • Marlette Railway Depot – The railroad was key to the economic growth of the Thumb’s agricultural business. By 1910 Marlette Railway depot was twice a day stop for passengers and freight between Port Huron and Saginaw.

Kalmanagha - Michigan's Small Towns
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3 thoughts on “Where in the Heck is Kilmanagh?”

  1. I just saw this article. Thanks so much for mentioning me and my paintings (which anyone can view at johnnagridge.com). I’ve been in love with this building for almost 2 decades! I pass it on my way to my in-law’s cabin and always stop for a minute or so to admire it.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to do a plain air painting of it on the spot a few years ago. The owner and the neighbors were very friendly when they approached me and told me great stories. I was told the Henry Ford Museum might be interested in that awesome gas pump. I hope they get it before it gets vandalized any more. Why would anyone want to wreck it?

    As for the General Store in Bach, my wife and I did get to peruse inside there a couple years ago when it was open as an antique store. The owner said he wanted to close it and move to California. From the sounds of your article, it sounds like he made it.

    Reply
    • I should get you acquainted with my friends at White Church Gallery in Grindstone City. I think Mike and Carrie would find your work an awesome edition. Local Thumb content is wanting here. Will you find your way back up here this summer?

      Reply
  2. Definitely head up a few times every spring/summer. I love painting in the Thumb. And being married to a family of great ice-cream lovers, we always find our way to Grindstone!

    Reply

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