Tag Archives: Bad Axe

The Northern Michigan Jewish Colony of Palestine


During 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. 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. 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 This new colony was located about five miles northeast of Bad Axe. (1) They called their settlement the Palestine Colony.


Jewish_refugees_1882


All the business arrangements for acquiring the property were overseen by Detroit Rabbi William Martin, a veteran stockbroker and the agent for Frank W. Hubbard & Co., who sold the 1200 acres of land to the colony.  It’s interesting to note that bank that sold and funded the colony was the Farmer’s Bank of Frank W. Hubbard. This bank was the fore bearer of the Thumb National Bank & Trust Company. (2)


Farming-Family


After the business arrangements had been completed, the members journeyed from Bay City and 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 Farming Colony Begins in Upper Michigan

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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.


Yiddish was Taught in Michigan’s Upper Thumb

Farming With Horse Team


Despite the hardships, the community founded a school, where the curriculum 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.” (3) At the Palestine Colony’s height, there were 21 families on 1200 acres. Years later, after 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.”  It was an unfortunate coincidence that there was a national economic panic and recession that lasted for over five years. (4) Like Ora Labora, the national economy doomed the struggling Palestine Colony.


The Northern Michigan Jewish Colony Disbands

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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.


Sources:

(1) Article from the Huron Daily Tribune. Found in the Caseville Historical Musuem. Estimated to be from the 1940’s.
(2) History Page of https://thumbnational.com/ab_history.asp
(3) Glimpses Into American Jewish History (Part –), Jewish Agricultural Colonies in America III, Dr. Yitzchok Levine
(4) http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/michigan-jewish-history
(5) Images from the web and wikipedia. They are not attributable to the colony.

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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 PlaceThe 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?


ThisMustBeThePlace2ThisMustBeThePlace3Material quoted from various web sources.

Huron’s Drive-In Theaters


It’s widely recognized that the first drive in was Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey June 6, 1933. It offered viewing for up to 400 vehicles and a 40 by 50 foot screen. The owner advertised his drive-in theater with the slogan, “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.” The facility only operated three years, but during that time the concept caught on in other states.

Blue Sky Drive In Caseville Michigan


The drive-in’s peak popularity came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly in rural areas, with some 4,000 drive-ins spread across the United States. Huron County is recorded in having two drive-in’s, the Blue Sky between Caseville and Pinnebog and the M-53 near Bad Axe.


blue-sky-drive-in-caseville


The Blue Sky operated from 1950 – 1977. Surrounded by farmland it offered summer nighttime movies for 300. Faced with decline in attendance the drive in showed “blue films” in the 1970’s. Remains of this theater were evident until about 2010 when land owners removed the last of the speaker stands and cement footings.


m53-drive-in-bad-axe-top.PNG


M-53 opened in 1953 and ran until 1988. Located just west of town, its 400 spaces drew folks from all over the county.

Today there are no drive-ins in the Upper Thumb. The nearest one is the Hi-Way Drive In in Sandusky. The Hi-Way is considered the oldest continuous running drive-in in Michigan.

Wind Saved the Family Farm


“The more than $100 billion that companies have invested in wind power in low-income counties—where about 70 percent of wind farms are located—has helped double assessed land values in some of the poorest parts of rural America.”

In a recent report by Bloomberg Businessweek it noted that “Wind energy, the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., is transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the federal government gave land to homesteaders 150 years ago.”

For some farmers, turbines spin off six-figure incomes that have allowed them to retire from farming altogether. However, this windfall his highly dependent wind conditions,  location, local zoning, setback requirements and a bit of luck. In Huron County Michigan, turbine projects and placement has pitted neighbor vs. neighbor and nasty exchanges in the township halls have ensued. While each lease is confidential, Bloomberg noted that landowners who sign lease agreements with wind companies typically get between $7,000 and $10,000 per turbine each year.


“Before, I raised corn and soybeans and cattle. Now I don’t. I’m a wind farmer.”


In an analysis of the article by Tina Casey she noted, “The full impact of new wind turbines on local communities is a bit more mixed than the article represents, but it does underscore how the wind industry is playing a critical role rural economic development — without the high risks and impacts of fossil fuel extraction.”

Sources

Wind Turbines To The Rescue, Family Farm Edition

Wind Is the New Corn for Struggling Farmers


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