The History of Caseville Harbor Compares to Leland’s Fishtown

In the last 60 yearsin the history of , Caseville harbor to be known as a sport fishing and pleasure boat vacation spot. Before any marinas were created, it was a series of industrial buildings along the Pigeon River. Buildings from the iron foundryCaseville’sand salt block still stood from Caseville’s Days as an industrial powerhouse.

Caseville’s Last Days Lumbering

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Caseville Mill c1900

Like most villages in the upper thumb, Caseville was built on a river, an ideal spot to place a sawmill. This is a rare shot from the railway bridge, showing the sawmill still in place on the Pigeon River.

Caseville Fisheries

Caseville Fishery's

This sort of depressing shot shows that Caseville’s sawmill is now torn down. It was common practice to repurpose building materials for other projects. The transformation from industry to fishery to tourism has already begun.

Caseville Harbor 1930s

Caseville Harbor c1930s
Postcard of Caseville Harbor c1930s

This shot taken from the train trestle bridge over the river from the 1930s shows the remains of the salt block on the left bank of the Pigeon River. The white building beyond was owned by J.G. Gillingham, which the plat map show as owned in 1904. In 1931 Bob Gillingham rebuilt the fishery. This is, I expect, why it looks relatively new. This fishery closed operations in 1955.


Caseville Harbor from the State of Michigan archives

This picture shows the rapid transformation of Casevilles harbor. The shot looked out to Saginaw Bay from the interior dock on the Pigeon River in 1941. The chimney remained from the old sawmill. The Huron Yacht Club is on the left. The Bay Post Fish Company dock on the far right was torn down in 2017 to make way for updates to the Saginaw Bay Marina.

This picture postcard from 1943 shows that the chimney from the sawmill was taken down, and Saginaw Bay Marina was in operation.

Caseville Harbor 1943
Caseville Harbor in 1943

The shot has remarkable similarities to the famous Fishtown in Leland County in Northwest Michigan. Caseville Harbor was home to a lumber mill, salt block, an iron foundry, and several fishing companies.

Village of Caseville

The Caseville Harbor featured image photo was likely taken from the railroad bridge that once crossed the Pigeon River. The plat map below was from a 1935 WPA project that shows the village and railroad lines leading into the area known today as Caseville Beach. In 1964 the Caseville Harbor break wall was built. It was made with huge boulders and rubble fill an extended 1,780 feet into Saginaw Bay. The break wall protects the harbor from Lake Huron’s prevailing north-east wave action.

Caseville Harbor History
Village of Caseville from Michigan Archives

Caseville’s path to the present day is not unlike many of the beach towns along the Great Lakes. However very little is left of the original waterfront of Caseville in the 1800s. In fact, only the Huron Yacht Club remains.

Caseville Helping Hands Thrift Store – Some time ago, we posted a picture of Caseville Mi. Mercantile. The shHarbor’srom the late 1800s, and we had a hard time placing it until someone mentioned that the general store was now the Helping Hands Thrift Shop on Main Street in Caseville. ThIt’ss a mission of the Caseville United Methodist Church and is one of the most highly rated thrift shops in the region, according to ratings on Yelp and Google. 

A Harbor’s Late Season in Caseville – The Fall in Michigan seems incredibly short this year. Boats are Austin’s the water as November rolls in. Will we be the last one out of the water? It’s sad and a bit lonely to be one of the last ones out of your slip in the Fall in Caseville harbor. Last year we were one of the diehards it’s ice beginning to form a weekend or two after we got our sailboat out and winterized for the season water.

Port Austin’s Farm Market Mornings – Each Saturday morning during the summer, the Port Austin farm market offers locally grown produce, crafts, and flea market items from all over the thumb. The weekly event is not hard to miss as it’s only a block away from the harbor. You can park just about anywhere in town and figure out wBay’sto go.

Michigan Day Trip Around the Thumb – Part Two – In Part One of our Michigan Day Trip Around the Thumb, we traveled from Port Huron up the eastern shore of Lake Huron to the tip of the Thumb. Our starting point for the second half of our fun day trips in Michigan adventure is in Grindstone City. Then, we will begin heading west along Saginaw Bay’s shore of sugar sand beaches and interesting coastal towns and villages.

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9 thoughts on “The History of Caseville Harbor Compares to Leland’s Fishtown”

  1. I remember two fish places,,,, the one we use to go to was Giliahams or something…. use to love walking thru the place wiht all kinds of fish on ice… we use to get Herring .. and take them home and clean them and freeze them……. caught our own perch of course. as a kid in scouts we fished off the dock or channel there and got a mess of fish,,,,,,, never knew what happened to all the ones we caught, I bet our den mother kept them for themselves lol.


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