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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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Big Industry in Little Caseville


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On the site of what is now the Saginaw Bay Marina and along Riverside Drive sat the Pigeon River Salt and Iron Works which was built in 1873. The investors were S. O. Edison, uncle of Thomas Edison, Sanford, and Francis Crawford. The furnace was moved there from Black River, (now Lorain), Ohio. The iron ore was mined from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and shipped from Marquette and Escanaba. The blast furnace had a capacity of producing 30 tons of pig iron daily. The brick chimney must have been an impressive slight over the harbor basin and Pigeon River at 45 feet high with a 9 ½ foot base it was the tallest structure in town.


Crawford-francis


The father of a future president, William McKinley Sr. also invested in the operation and according to local lore acted has superintendent of the operations until his retirement in 1876. McKinley was notable for being a pioneer of the iron industry in eastern Ohio. The iron works were run about a year, and then due to the Long Depression (1873-1879), depressed iron prices and high fuel prices the operation ceased. The furnace stood vacant and idle for years. The red brick kiln was torn down and each brick was cleaned for reuse. Today some of these bricks can be seen in several buildings in Caseville. The Blue Water Inn is one of the most notable businesses where the original chimney bricks were used.


Crawford-Mansion-Caseville


As an early founder of Caseville, Francis Crawford was one of the wealthiest men in the Upper Thumb. In 1856 he built a large Italianate mansion on the top of the bluff overlooking the harbor and town. Francis Crawford died in 1885 and the mansion was turned into the DeFord Hotel. The 150 ton house was moved in 2001 next to St Roch Catholic Church, refurbished, and now used as a funeral home.


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M25 Introduced as Michigan’s First Scenic Highway in 1940


In the months prior to World War II 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 M25 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 opportunities in the Thumb. Except for some spelling corrections the article is how it appeared in the Harbor Beach Times.

1940-huron-county-mapMichigan’s 90 Miles of Scenic Highway

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.

Harbor Beach – Starch and Bootlegging 

Harbor Beach Light

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 shoreline to the 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, the 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;

Gateway to the Upper Thumb: Grindstone City

Beach At Grindstone City
Scene At Grindstone City Port Austin

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

Along the rugged shoreline 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.


The Ghost Town of Port Crescent

Port Crescent Plat Map

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.

Caseville The Campground and Playground of the Thumb

Caseville-Pigeon-River-Postcard-1930

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.

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

The Ora Labora Colony Ruins and Bay Port

Bay-Port-Fish-Company

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 landmark at the mouth of the Shebeyon, “Where the lead ore is hidden,” creek was the first church of Huron county. It was built by Rev. J.  Auch, Lutheran missionary, in 1850.

Sebewaing; An Ancient Indian Village

Sebewaing coal mine

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 of warriors were unearthed on the 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, the county seat of Huron County. At Ubly, we find the largest REA plant in the world.

The Bean Capital of the World

Kinde Street Scene

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 dairy 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 shoreline 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 enclosure 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 highlighted


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