Tag Archives: History

1940 Huron County Scenic Travel


In the months prior to WWII the major topic was the US’s stance on with our stated isolationist policy. Yet the war had not yet been declared and rationing was not even thought of. Large portions of M-25 were now paved and this Michigan Scenic Highway was viewed as tourist destination. Here is an interesting piece from the Huron Times in April 1940 highlighting the travel opportunity’s in the Thumb.Except for some spelling corrections the article is how it appeared in the Harbor Beach Times.

 

1940-huron-county-map
Climb aboard, everybody for a sightseeing jaunt on the 90 mile Scenic Highway of Huron County, Michigan. We’ll start at White Rock on the lower right of the map on U. S. 25. White Rock was an Indian altar or shrine.  All land north of it was allotted to the Indians for hunting grounds in a treaty made in Detroit in. 1807. The land south of this early-day boundary line become the property of the ‘White people’.

Next is Wagener Park, named to honor P. O. Wagener, pioneer physician of Harbor Beach.  It contains the most beautiful stand of cedars in the Thumb district. That bathing beach flashes invitingly.

Step on the gas. We’re now in Harbor Beach, home of Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy. That industry, on the short front is owned, by the Jenks family and is the largest specialty starch plant in the world.

Those lake breezes’ the ships on .the, distant horizon this is the life. We follow the shore line tothe thriving and beautiful village of Port Hope. We’ll relax, a few minutes in the W. R. Stafford Park, named to honor the founder of the village.

Whiskey Harbor — in the early days, to escape duty, whiskey was smuggled here from Canada, Several Kegs are said to be buried in the harbor. Keep your seats, at Huron City, summer home of Prof. Wm . Lyon Phelps is Lighthouse Park, a Federal gift to Huron County. There, goes a. deer. This park is a refuge for these beautiful creatures;

We pass Grindstone City, scene of the first industry of the county, and the beautiful summer resort Pointe Aux Barques, Thumb Nail of Michigan.

A long the rugged shore line we see. Turnip Rock, Kimball Point, Twin Rocks, Broken Rocks, Sandstone caves and  the site of an Indian pottery,  factory and village. “Poems from the hand of God” the natural scenery of Huron County is of the finest in the world.

Kimball Rock has an interesting Indian legend connected with it. Click’s Click’ — Hope those snapshots turn out okeh.

After getting an eye full of those, bathing beauties, look at those long strings of bass brought in by the lucky fishermen or women. Perch and Wall-eyed pike are also plentiful in Huron County.

All aboard, we’re on our way through country made famous by David Orr’s novel; “White Gold.’’

Those two parks, with a fine bathing beach are the Murray Van Wagoner and W, L. Jenks and the A.C. McGraw parks.

That 125. Ft. chimney stands as a lone sentinel guarding the ghost village of Port Crescent, a thriving port which vanished in 1884, with the lumber industry.

With 500 acres of parks, “in a natural paradise,” Huron County is the playground and recreational center of Michigan. We spin on, past the pot of gold buried somewhere on Loosemoore’s Point, to Oak Beach Park and summer resort colony.

Did you notice that everywhere along Scenic Highway 25 are found good hotels, restaurants, cottages, cabins, free camping grounds and every accommodation for the tourist.

We roll over the smooth pavement to the State park. Those sand dunes overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Huron are a favorite haunt of the American eagle. Every tree native to Michigan is found in this beautiful playground, planned for by V. V. Philp former FERA administrator

More, than 120,000 persons in 1939 signed this register in the county, park at Caseville, where, we have just written our names. This is the largest of the Huron county park units. The Pres. McKinley family lived in Caseville four years.

Gen.  George M. Meade placed that, U.S. survey, marker near the tip of Sand Point. The “Hero, of Gettysburg*’ was called to the colors from here.

Those ruins of log buildings mark the site of Ora Labora colony, a religious-socialistic experiment of the Civil War days. The marshes of Wild Fowl Bay are the best duck hunting grounds in Michigan.

We pass the Bay Port Stone Quarry and Bay Port, with its summer colony and “sportsman’s paradise.”

We see from the highway an Indian Tree, famous in Indian legend. A white man, “who discovered the secret lead mines of the Indians,” was said to have been tied to this tree and burned to death.’

That land m ark at the mouth of the Shebeyon, “W here the lead ore is hidden,” creek was the first church of Huron county. It was built by Rev. J.  Auch, Lutheran missionary, in 1850.

Now we enter the thriving village of Sebewaing. The name is Chippewa and translates “near the winding creek,” An ancient battle was fought here between two large Indian tribes. ‘Skeletons o f warriors were unearthed on main street in recent years. Sebewaing has a fine park and many Industries including a large sugar factory.

One more park, near the Tuscola county line. Want to see a-little of the beautiful farming country, of

Huron County?’ Okeh !’ We turn east at Sebewaing, motor through Owendale, north to Pigeon and then east to Elkton and Bad Axe, county seat of Huron county. At Ubly we find the largest REA plant in the world.

Yes! Kinde is the bean center of the world for pea beans. You’re right! Huron county is a garden spot, almost everything we eat is grown on the half million acres of its fertile land;. The county also leads in daily products, in thoroughbred horses and purebred cattle. The population! About 32,000. Now introduced to this county of Huron, come enjoy, in full with us “the most pleasant spot in the world.”

From the Harbor Beach Times April 16, 1940
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Indian Trail of the Upper Thumb


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If you live or are in the Upper Thumb long enough you will encounter unimproved roads and trails. One such trail was a well known and established by Native Americans for over a 1000 years. It’s called several names; Sand Road, Trail Road, and Old Sand Road. While it’s said that M-25 took the place of much of the trail, the area between Bay Port and Port Austin has miles of the old trail still intact. It’s not considered a major trial. It likely was a hunting and fishing path into the Upper Thumb and part of a waterway trail that crossed Saginaw Bay from Pointe Aux Chenes (Oak Point) stopping midway at the Charity Islands  the on to Tawas and the Shore Line Trail that hugged Lake Huron’s shore to Alpena. On the eastern side of Huron County the trail picks up again at Pointe Aux Barques and hugs the eastern shore to St. Claire.

What follows are excerpts from research on the history of the Michigan tribes and the trail system.


Traveling on land the Indians followed a number of established trails. One led along the banks of the St. Clair River, up the lake shore, around the semicircular boundary of present Huron County, and then to the mouth of the Saginaw River. From there the trail continued to follow the shore to Mackinaw by way of the present cities of Tawas, Oscoda and Alpena. In the Thumb region Highway No. 25 now pursues the course of this trail. Another trail ran from the mouth of the Clinton River on Lake St. Clair and thence across the present counties of Macomb, Oakland, Lapeer, Tuscola and Bay to the mouth of the Saginaw River. This trail crossed the Cass River at Tuscola. Two other trails followed the Belle and the Black Rivers into the interior. Pointe Lookout juts into Saginaw Bay from its western shore. Between Oak Point and Pointe Lookout the Indians operated a ferry line by way of Charity and Little Charity

Indian’s recognize a supernatural power referred to as the Great Spirit. White Rock, standing in Lake Huron nine miles south of Harbor Beach, was a place, or an altar, where the Indians communicated with the Great Spirit by means of offerings. From the summit of the rock the smoke of burning tobacco carried their prayers heavenward. In his Summary Narrative of an Exploratory Expedition to the Sources of the Mississippi River in 1820 Henry Rowe Schoolcraft refers to White Rock as a”celebrated place of offerings by the Indians.” – The New History of Michigan’s Thumb, Gerald Schultz, c 1969, p 18-19.


HURON COUNTY Huron County has a straight-line boundary upon the south side, which is about forty-five miles long. Upon the shore line of eighty-five miles were numerous img_1384villages and camps, as is attested by the debris left by the dwellers. There is a village site every few miles along the shore of Saginaw Bay. A few small islands in the bay also have remains of villages and mounds. The remnants of mounds that have been mutilated by relic hunters are visible within a mile east of Port Austin and upon New River, near its mouth. A mound group was situated in the southeastern part of Sheridan Township, near the southern boundary of the county, but the section upon which it stood could not be ascertained. Mr. Harlan I. Smith, of Victoria Memorial Museum, Ottawa, Canada, who made a survey of the Thumb district, reported in 1901 that a number of small mounds stood upon Katechay Island, Fair Haven Township. There is an old record of a circular inclosure where the courthouse at Bad Axe stands. Traces of workshops and camps,Are still to be found along the Lake Huron shore. A trail followed the shore from Oak Point, and a “ferry line” crossed the bay for Point Lookout with a stopping-place at Charity Island. – Archaeological atlas of Michigan [by] Wilbert B. Hinsdale…Hinsdale, W. B. (Wilbert B.), 1851-1944., McCartney, Eugene Stock, 1883-, Stevens, Edward J.


The settlers who followed them came up the shore by the way of Point Aux Barques following the Indian trail along the beach. There were a number of Indians about here at this period belonging to the Chippewa tribe. They were generally peaceful and frequently exchanged visits with these early pioneers bringing them gifts of venison, bear meat and in the spring maple sugar. They caught the sap in troughs made of birch bark and boiled it down in large brass kettles. These kettles had been so long in their possession that even the memory of the oldest Indian was taxed in vain when asked to give an account of how they obtained them. – http://genealogytrails.com/mich/huron/huron1800.html


1844 map with trails highlited

 

The Great Lakes Storm of 1913


Great Lakes Storm 1913

Much attention has been paid to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975. The loss of the largest ships in the Laker fleet and 29 lives was a horrific event.  However the most savage storm in the history of the Great Lakes swept the inland waters November 7-12, 1913 resulting in much greater loss of life. Combined of the forces of two storm fronts colliding with hurricane force bringing monstrous waves and driving snow and ice that doomed anyone caught out on the big lake. The greatest losses in lives and ships occurred on Lake Huron where 24 vessels were lost or severely damaged. 10 ships went to the bottom of the lake.

On November 8, 1913, the Weather Bureau reported a severe storm centered over the entire lake region. The forecast was that “the wind will shift to northwest on Huron sometime this afternoon or early to-night, and will attain about 50 mile speed on the open lake, especially on the northern half.”

The storm swept down and fastened its grip on the Thumb area on Sunday afternoon, November 9. Towards evening the wind grew in velocity and street cars in Port Huron were stopped in their tracks by huge snow drifts. The lightship, believed to be so securely moored as to be proof against all storms, was torn away from its fastenings and lifted over to the Canadian side, where it was stranded.

On Lake Huron big freighters were tossed about by winds blowing from seventy-five to eighty miles an hour. One of these steamers was the Charles S. Price which received 

more space on the front pages of newspapers than any other ship. On Saturday morning, the Price, laden with soft coal, left Ashtabula, Ohio. When the freighter passed the town of St. Clair before dawn on Sunday morning, November 9, Second Mate Howard Mackley gave a short blast of the whistle as a signal to his young bride that he was passing and in reply she turned on an upstairs light in their home. By dawn the Price was making its way up Lake Huron. About noon Sunday the Price was seen north of Harbor Beach by Capt. A. C. May of the Steamer H. B. Hawgood. On Monday afternoon a big steel freighter was seen floating upside down in the lake about eight miles north and east of the mouth of Lake Huron. Many people were anxious to learn the name of the steamer, although it was generally believed to be jan1922the Regina. On Wednesday morning an attempt was made to find out the identity of the vessel, however, owing to the high sea the diver did not make his descent. Lake Huron kept its awful secret for almost a week. It was not until Saturday morning, November 15, that William H. Baker, a diver from Detroit, solved the mystery. When he went down he read the name of the steamer twice and the letters spelled out Charles S. Price. The forward part of the bottom of the ship was buoyed up by air that was held in her when she turned turtle, but two streams of bubbles were coming out of the bow which meant that she would settle gradually. On Monday morning, November 17, the Price disappeared from view.

The Charles S Price was built in 1910 at Lorain, Ohio. A steel bulk freighter, measuring 524 x 54 by Mahoning Steamship Co. 6,322 tons gross. Officially the Price was listed as lost in Lake Huron, approximately 8 miles north of Port Huron, with all hands, 27 men and 1 woman. Capt. W. M Black, Chief Eng. John Groundwader. Its cargo was listed as coal. (2)

Three years later salvage operations were attempted on the Price by two companies. Both abandoned the attempt.

wexford_victims_ashore_1913While the mystery of the identity of the ship floating upside down was solved, another mystery remains unsolved until this day. How did it happen that several bodies found along the Canadian shore were identified as from the crew of the Price, but they were wearing life belts bearing the name Regina?

Other ships that went down in Lake Huron during the massive storm were Argus, James Carruthers, Howard M. Hanna, Jr., Hydrus, Matoa, John A. McGean, Isaac M. Scott, and the Wexford. One-hundred-and-eighty-eight lives were lost on Lake Huron. For days after the storm relatives of the men who lost their lives patrolled the shore in the hope of finding their bodies.(3)

Sources

  • Information taken from Telescope Magazine, November 1963, pages 247-253.
  • Based on thesis written by Robert A. Dongler, Michigan State University, East Lansing.
  • The New History of Michigan’s Thumb by Gerald Schultz, 1969 pp 105-107

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Great Lakes Ice at Near-Record Lows


Reposting this excellent update on the conditions of the Great Lakes ice coverage that will impact water levels.

Great Lakes Ice at near-record lows « Michigan in Pictures.