Tag Archives: Michigan Coal

Sebewaing History – A Busy Harbor

Lumbering Era in Michigan in Sebewaing Harbor

Sebewaing River Harbor

The lumbering era in Michigan’s Upper Thumb from 1860-1880 resulted in booming towns all along the shoreline. Sebewaing was no exception. While it did not benefit from proximity of being on Lake Huron like Sand Beach, (later named Harbor Beach), or having a deep river outflow like Caseville, it’s historical  spot as a rich hunting area by native Americans and natural outflow to Saginaw Bay by the Sebewaing River predestined it as a natural gathering spot.

While researching another topic. I ran across these rare pictures taken in the Sebewaing river area in the late 1800’s. I was surprised such large ships could enter as the early plat maps show only a narrow river entrance into the town. It turns out that Sebewaing was a bit of a shipbuilding and repair site. It’s yet another bit of history to savor. If only for a moment.


Schooner Viola in Sebewaing harbor. Source: Ralph K. Roberts

Drukee Sebewaing Docs 1887

Schooner  G.R. DURKEE, 1887, attributed to being taken in Sebewaing. (Doubtful) Dowling Collection, University of Detroit – Mercy

JC_Liken_Sebewaing DocksSteambarge J.C. Liken 1873, taken in Sebewaing. Source: Ralph K. Roberts

Michigan History



The Sebewaing Michigan Coal Mines

The discovery of coal in Sebewaing was made by Russell Brothers; well diggers based in Unionville. By the early 1900’s Sebewaing had three coal mines in operation. The Whittier, Sebewaing Coal Company and the Saginaw Bay Coal Company collectively employed about 100 men. Coal was brought to the surface on small mule driven cars on wooden tracks.

Coal mining was successful for only a few years. It seems that initially, the coal was of high quality however as operations continued it seems that the extracted coal contained so much sulfur it was deemed too explosive to be used as a fuel. Thomas Whitter, a chemist from Saginaw inspected the coal vein and found it an excellent source of pyrite and comparable with the pyrite sources then being imported from Spain. Changes were made to the operation that expanded mining capacity to 400 tons per day. Pyrite ore is an excellent material in which to make sulfur.

Below is a sketch map of the location of the mines in and around Sebewaing.

Coal Sites

Sources Consulted

Photo Credit: Historical Society of Caseville Lower Peninsula, 1896-1900, Volume 7, Parts 1-3, By Michigan. Geological Survey