Tag Archives: Grindstone City

A Vanished Company Town – New River Michigan


Loggers-two-man-saw


All signs of this once thriving town have been erased by time and nature. It was located about a mile from Huron City and eight miles from Port Austin. From initial land grants in 1845 to J. Spikerman and Walter Hume this fishing village developed quickly. A sawmill was built in 1853 over New River Creek so sawdust was carried out into the lake. (Note…this contrasts to operations at Port Crescent which used sawdust and lumbering waste as a source of fuel) This ventured ended in failure in 1865. A grist mill came in 1856. By 1858 industrialists Howe & Clark employed up to 100 men and built docks for shipment of lumber.

In the creek at New River, fish were so plentiful that it was a common practice for early settlers to catch them in the Spring in huge nets. Often a year’s worth of fish could be put away in barrels and cured. Sturgeon was common and frequently caught.


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By 1870, Cooper, Creevy and Noble came and operated mills, established two salt wells; one was 1040 feet deep and the other was 1003 feet deep. These wells produced on an average of 150 barrels of salt a day. The salt was shipped to Detroit, Toledo and St. Louis. Near the mouth of the New River Creek there are still the foundation pilings driven in the ground where the salt blocks were located.


new-river


The company owned almost the whole village. They owned the cooper shop and made their own barrels for transporting salt, the houses in which the workers lived, their own lumber mills, and blacksmith shop. The company built and maintained a boarding house. This town had a long dock where steamers regularly stopped for freight and passengers.

The salt block was discontinued in 1886 due to economic downturn of the late 1800’s, the low price of salt and the increasing costs of fuel, (likely coal as lumbering operations waned). Per Mr. James Kilpratrick a state Geologist who visited in 1937, New River had the finest grade of salt found in Michigan. One of the final acts of New River took place in 1895 at the Michigan Supreme Court. The case Noble vs. Thompson involved the debts and mortgage and taxes of the salt block at New River.

Today all that remains of New River is the cemetery.


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Ice Cream Wars in Grindstone City


It isn’t often that two shop’s offering the same fare open in a small town at the same time. But that is what is happening in Grindstone City. The Grindstone General Store is one of the oldest Grindstone General Storeproprietorship’s in the Thumb. Its well known for its huge ice cream cones served up for kids of all ages. The store also offers items produced by local artists.  What is less known is a relative new comer; Rybak’s Ice Cream and Candy Shop just down the street operating in a historic building, built by Aaron Peer in 1881. Rybak’s offers high end ice cream, homemade candy and assorted gifts from local artists.The shop once Bybak's Ice Creamheadquartered the Grindstone operations which the town is famous. The building has been beautifully restored.

A Great Lakes shipper, Captain Aaron Peer, sought shelter in the area’s natural harbor in 1834. As his crew explored the dense forest and rocky beach for shelter and firewood, the men came across huge flat rocks lying about the shore and forests. Taking samples south to Detroit, they found the stone (part of the Marshall Sandstone Formation) to Rybak's Candy Counterbe impeccably suited for paving streets, replacing Ohio flagstone as the preferred medium. Within a couple years, Captain Peer and his crew took advantage of the stone to sharpen their tools, and began shaping them into grindstones shortly thereafter. A small port grew here as industry took hold in the forest.

In 1836,  Peer purchased 400 acres of land to establish a grindstone Rybak's Ice Cream Shopquarrying and manufacturing operation. The outcropping of Marshall Sandstone that Peer discovered was an abrasive stone with a very fine grit unique to Grindstone City and perfect for grindstones, scythe stones and hones. Worldwide demand soon earned the town the nickname of Grindstone Capital of the World.

RybecsThe town became largely a company-built town, with homes, a grist mill, wharfs, and a booming industry with two quarries. A salt mining operation produced 125 barrels of salt each day during the 1870s, and the first railroad built into Grindstone City.

So next time you get a taste for ice cream, or are sick of Cheeseburgers in Caseville  make the effort to get to Grindstone City. The choices are awesome.


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Shocker – The Best Cheeseburger is NOT in Caseville!


shellysA couple of years ago our ThumbWind blog made a post that rattled the establishment in Caseville by stating that the best cheeseburger came from the Hitching Post in Elkton. At that that time the locally famous burger chef,  “Jewels” made a cheeseburger so famous that local golfers defected from golfing at Century Oaks (which was close to Hitching Post) to Scenic Golf Club when she started cooking and tending bar at Scenic. Those were gentler and tender times. We miss Jewels and wish her well.

This morning, after hitting the Farmers Market in Port Austin and White Church Gallery in IMG_0308[1]Grindstone we stopped by Shelley’s Bar. What a cool stop. Okay… I admit that the outside needs a bit more curb appeal. But stepping in to this roadside tavern you can tell the that the locals love this place. They had just finished a breakfast run and were shifting to lunch when we came in.

Clean, comfortable and friendly, are the first thoughts that came to mind as we settled in. Our sever came in within a minute and we ordered a ice cold Molson drafts. “So cold your teeth ached.”, one of us said. The highlights of the lunch was their wonderful “Turkey Reuben, while the sage diner among us ordered a cheeseburger medium with mustard and pickles.

IMG_0309[1]As we were leaving, our cheeseburger orderer flagged down our our server and asked to speak to the manger. Jackie came over and with a quized look ask if everything was OK. Our seasoned cheeseburger snob stated….”this is the best I’ve had all week, it’s excellent!” No small feat has this guy is a known as a regular at the world famous “Councils” in Bradenton, Florida.  Jackie was gracious and explained that they get a special grind from  McDonalds in Bad Axe. And that they searched several times before they settled in with this well known local grocer. She credited the team in the kitchen has were al the magic happens.

So we have a new Best Cheeseburger in Huron County tagged as coming from Shelley’s Bar.IMG_0311[1] in Grindstone City. Their ice cold beer and fresh cut fries round out a great experience. Its also evident that Shelly’s support local charities and sports teams around the Upper Thumb. ThumbWind will be back from time to time to ensure that they are the Best of the Upper Thumb.


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14 Things to Do Around Caseville if Your Bored with the Cheeseburger Festival


The Cheeseburger in Caseville festival is a summer time fun filled family event with plenty to do and see. However there is only so much grass skirt, trinket stands and cheeseburgers that one can handle for the multi-weekend event. What else is there to do in the Upper Thumb? Here are some suggestions if you, or more likely the kids, have had enough fun with the parrot head life.

Caseville Giant Slide1. Giant Slide – Refurbished in 2015, Key North offers classic fun and great photo and video opportunities The whole family or group of friends can race down a huge multi-lane slide. Great for working off that extra cheeseburger and fries. Located on the south side of Caseville toward Bay Port.

2. Go Karts – The Upper Thumb now has two a full featured go-kart tracks. In  Port Austin. The track is large and its ideal for a tasting of real racing. As an adult you can take the little ones on a full throttle ride around a great winding track. Check out Family Go Karts in Port Austin south of town off of M-53. In Caseville, Key North Mini Golf and Family Fun Center sports the largest track in mid-Michigan. With 15 new karts and some two-seaters so mom or dad can drive the youngsters around that are too small to do it themselves.

3. Miniature Golf – There are numerous classic Putt-Putt and other family friendly courses in Port Austin, Caseville and Kinde. While the adults think of these as trite and insignificant, the kids will remember these little family jaunts for a lifetime. Take advantage of these roadside attractions before they disappear to X Box video games. The biggest of the miniture golf circuit is Sandy Dunes Adventure Golf. It’s short drive east of Caseville this modern course sports Huron County’s largest, (and only), waterfall in the Thumb.


Do you love Michigan’s Thumb? So do we. However we were frustrated on not seeing cool T-shirts that reflect our favorite spots. So we created ThumbWind-Mercantile. This on-line shop offers T’s unique to Michigan’s Thumb and can’t be found anywhere else. Check it out.


4. Giant Water Slide and Climbing Rock – Cool off going down a huge water jet slide or try your hand at climbing and repelling down a 25 foot alpine rock. Open seven Kinde Water Slidedays a week noon to 6pm. This adventure is located in Kinde. Kinde is south of Port Austin on M-53.

Bayport Fish Company5. Bayport Fish Company – Visit one of the few remaining operational commercial fish operations on the Great Lakes. Purchase fresh fish on-site and watch the operations. (Hope you like the smell of fish). If your in Caseville you can see their vessel Osprey tied up south of the break wall. Open seven days a week.

6. Port Austin Farmers Market – Open Saturday mornings during the summer season. Crafts, fresh locally produced fruits, fresh and smoked fish,vegetables, craft foods and flea market items.  Considered the largest open-air market in the Thumb. Port Austin

octagon barn7. Octagon Barn – The Thumb Octagon Barn Agricultural Museum is located in Tuscola County approximately 1 mile east of the Village of Gagetown along Bay City Forestville Road 1 mile north on Richie Road, just south of the Huron County border.

8. Huron City Museum –  See Huron County has it thrived in the late 1800’s. The House of House of seven gablesSeven Gables, a beautifully preserved Victorian home, sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Huron. The General Store, a Methodist church, an inn and barns were built during the 1880’s. With a post office, general store, a rooming house and mills, Huron City was well equipped to serve the northern county farmer. Huron City.

Huron County Nature Center9. Huron County Nature Center & Wilderness Arboretum – A 280 acre Nature Center established on a tract of untouched land in Hume Township, Michigan, the Huron County Nature Center and Wilderness Arboretum  has been under the tender care of the Huron County Women’s Clubs since 1941. Located halfway between Caseville and Port Austin across from Oak Beach.

10. Hit the Beach – There are numerous public beaches throughout Huron County in which to cool off, enjoy a picnic while the kids play iHuron County Beachesn the playground. Most beaches offer ample parking with some with picnic tables, restroom and changing areas and grills for making your own cheeseburger.

Caseville Musuem11. Caseville Museum – Located just one block from Main Street in Caseville you can see artifacts and local treasures from yesteryear. Special events are often held weekly and it offers a quick diversion from the crowds.

12. Rush Lake and Sand Road ORV – Located just south of Sleeper State Park this unimproved road runs from Caseville to Port Austin by way of various roads and trails. If you have a 4×4  and want to try your hand at light off-roading this is worth an hour of looking around the woods. Sand RoaRush lake caseilled is found about a mile south of the cross streets of M-23 and State Park Road. Be prepared. The road is sometimes impassable after rain and the sand can get deep. Only the most adventurous find the ancient and reedy Rush Lake. There are numerous hiking and biking paths. As most of this is on state land its best to have your State Park Passport and ORV sticker in case the DNR stops you.

13. Get Some Ice Cream – Escape the crazy crowds  for an hour and Bybak's Ice Creamexplore other side of the Thumb. In Grindstone Grindstone General StoreCity there are two renowned ice cream shops. The Grindstone General Store and Rybak’s Ice Cream Store. Grindstone General Store is known for its insanely large ice cream cones while Rybak’s is the place for high-end ice cream and homemade candy. Both are located in historic buildings from the 1800’s Rybak’s large front porch is an ideal place to chat with friends and reminisce about your Cheeseburger day.

14. Get Artsy – The  Upper Thumb now has two gallery’s, in Bad Axe the Lofty Roots Gallery white church galleryand Studio opened in 2015 with six local artists exhibiting. While in Grindstone City the White Church Gallery draws in artists from all over Michigan and Florida. Founded by Mike and Carrie Zaitz in a renovated 1800’s church.  Both gallery’s are excellent diversions from the Cheeseburger hangover.