Tag Archives: Michigan

Railway at the Bottom of the Bay


Pontiac_Oxford and Northern_TRANS


On October 20th 1881 construction of Pontiac, Oxford & Port Austin Railroad began at Caseville to bring rail service to the Thumb area. Just before construction began a huge fire devastated the thumb area. The result was that the former lumbering area was now ripe for agricultural development. The fire opened up the land to farming.


Crawford-Mill-Caseville


Caseville’s first railroad engines were delivered by the ship C.R. Dumford from Cleveland. The track out of Caseville was laid out about a mile before heavy snow stopped the work. Francis Crawford financed the railway project and the rails were shipped in from Cleveland.


Pigeon-River-Salt-Iron-Works


On one shipment from Cleveland the ship ran aground on the rocky shoals near Oak Point. During the salvage operation, 23 rails slipped into Saginaw Bay and were lost. It’s assumed that those rails are still at the bottom of the lake today.


ThumbWind-Mercantile-banner

Advertisements

Experience a Haunted House


If there is one area in Michigan’s Upper Thumb where the paranormal might reside it would have to be Bay Port. The area was the site of the vanished Ora Labora German Colony that existed from 1861-1867, the spooky and unattended Old Bay Port Cemetery the famous but now vanished and presumed haunted Bay Port Hotel and the address of the Sweet Dreams Inn where many claim to have experienced paranormal activity.


wallace


The Inn was built in 1890 at the end of the lumber era in the Upper Thumb. Contracted by William H. Wallace, the Victorian style home was designed with the tastes and style common at that time by those with means. Wallace was active in politics and was a delegate in the Republican National Convention in 1908, 1916, and 1924. He was president of Michigan Sugar Company and Bay Port State Bank.  He owned the Wallace Stone Quarry which is just south of town and still in operation today.  His first wife, Elizabeth died in 1893 and local lore tells that she passed away in the home. There also a bit of a mystery in that despite the prominence of this individual there is no record of his or his son’s grave sites. Thus it’s no coincidence that visitors say Wallace and his first wife still roam the inn with his heavy footsteps, as well as whispering in the ears of the guests.


“Me and my best friend live in Bay Port We have seen ghosts and heard screams countless times walking on the street in front of the Sweet Dreams Inn. Also have heard stories of the ghosts and have seen the little girl looking out of the left window on the third floor. So I believe it is haunted!!!”


The Sweet Dreams Inn is a specialized bed-and-breakfast where guests hope to experience the proximity of these friendly ghosts. Guest have reported that doors open and close, beds and chairs are moved. Some report that they feel being touched and hear voices and footfalls where nobody has been. One event that was caught on a cell phone video was that of an “orb” flying through one of the guest bedrooms. At times guests are unnerved by the experience and leave in the middle of the night.


“Been there several times and have experienced activity first hand: footsteps, voices. Just because one person doesn’t have an experience doesn’t mean it never happens.”


The original family owned the large mansion for over 100 years. The family lived on the first two floors. They entertained in a large ballroom on the third floor. Local historians noted that the Wallaces would host parties on Saturday night that would last well into the morning hours. Guests say that most of the paranormal activity occurs on the third floor.


 “Most guests don’t know (about the unexplained occurrences) but they usually find out by the end of the night. Some guests leave at 3 or 4 a.m.”


The inn has been featured in two Haunted Michigan travel books and appeared in a paranormal documentary and movie. It’s also found in the famous Pure Michigan website. The Inn registers guests by appointment you can actually stay overnight.


Quotes from - hauntedhovel.com, michigansthumb.com

ThumbWind-Mercantile-banner

Michigan Roadside: Jenks Park


When I was growing up we would road trip all over the Great Lakes. Mom would pack a picnic basket and around noon Dad would pull off and have a break and a bite to eat. As poor college students we continued in this fashion. We would pack cold chicken, a salad, chips, some beer and pop and have a picnic feast. I realized that we have not tailgated while on a road trip in many years. It’s gotten too easy to find quick food at a carry out place.

Michigan led the nation with the development of roadside parks. In 1918 the Iron County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of land to establish Michigan’s first roadside park and picnic tables on US-2. This was quite likely America’s first such facility. 

This past weekend I was traveling up to the hardware in Port Austin and spied an official State of Michigan roadside park. I pulled into Jenks Park just outside Port Austin.  



It’s charming. Picnic tables and grills overlook commanding views of Saginaw Bay. It’s not a bathing beach so the water laps right up to un groomed sea grass and poplar trees that grow wild on the waterfront.  


 


There is bathroom facilities and an honest-to-God hand water pump.  


 


It’s worth a stop if only to take in the sites and think of times gone by. Jenks Park is one of four MDOT roadside parks in Huron County.  The others are:

  • Brown – South of Bay Port. It has an historical Marker for “The Great Fire of 1881.” A million acres were devastated in Sanilac and Huron counties. 
  • Thompson Scenic Turnout – Features 2 large grindstones and access to sandy beach on Saginaw Bay, picnic tables
    and benches.
  •  White Rock – Great views of Lake Huron and White Rock. Steps to beach, observation deck, walking trails connecting to non-motorized path on M-25. White Rock is a large, white, off-shore boulder used as a boundary marker to define the territory released by the Native American tribes of Michigan to the United States under the Treaty of Detroit in 1807. 

ThumbWind-Mercantile-banner

Michigan M-25 Fall Color Tour


Port Huron – Our Fall color tour starts at the gateway to the thumb. In the 1800’s, stage coaches plied their way north to lumber camps along ancient trails on the Lake Huron shoreline. Schooners and steamships passed on their way to the upper Great Lakes. Today you will travel north along M-25. This is considered one of Michigan’s earliest scenic highways as most of it closely hugs the shore all the way around the thumb. Our first stop is to see if we can catch a glimpse of one of the big freighters moving up the St. Clair River.


A1 - Maritime
Maritime Center at Vantage Point – This venue is a great place to watch the freighter and boat traffic on the St. Clair River. It’s free to visit with indoor and outdoor seating available. The Maritime Center holds artifacts from the history of shipping in the river. There is also a snack bar and food vendors outside seasonally. Talk a walk along the mile long boardwalk and natural pathway. On Sundays shipping history presentations are conducted. The farmers market is open from 8am until 2 pm on Tuesday and Saturday in season. Plenty of parking and free Wi-Fi is available.


Lexington – Our first stop is only a little over a ½ hour from Port Huron. This town was first settled in the 1830’s supporting lumbering and early farmers with blacksmith, shoemaker and fishing. Today it’s considered “on the edge” of suburbia for Metro Detroit.


A1- Lexington store


Lexington General Store – This store was built in the late 1800’s and is a great example of what was in just about every country village and town in Michigan. Known for their large candy selection including the old fashioned penny candy. Walk along old squeaky wood floors, and browse gifts, lake signs, candles, kitchenware, jellies and souvenirs. Listen for the “cha-ching” from their pull handle register from every sale. This is a neat step back in time.


Port Hope – This is our long jaunt north. We pass by the historic site of White Rock. A scared native site and a treaty marker that ceded all land south of it to the early European settlers. Past Harbor Beach with this large harbor and lighthouse. We continue to head just north of Port Hope to get to Lighthouse Park.


Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse


Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse -The original Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse was constructed of stone taken from the shore of Lake Huron in 1848. The keeper’s house and separate tower were located on a three acre clearing hacked out of the dense wilderness.
By 1857, the ravages of shoreline weather and a fire in the interior of the house created the need for a new structure. The new keeper’s house and attached 89-foot tower were built of the finest brick available. The light is still an active aid to navigation, making Pointe aux Barques one of the oldest continuously operating Lights on the Great Lakes.


Grindstone City is only 10 minutes away from the lighthouse. But unless you’re a local it could be tough to find. If you are looking for a treat head to Grindstone General Store for a large ice cream cone. 


White Church Gallery


White Church Gallery – Shows over 25 fine artists from all over Michigan in a renovated 1880’s Methodist Church. They carry fine art, wood, glass, ceramics, jewelry, fiber, and more. White Church Gallery is the first true dedicated art gallery in the Thumb. The uniqueness of the restored church and remoteness of location makes it an amazing place. The center piece of this renovated church is a beautifully restored qua-trefoil stained glass window at the front of the gallery crafted by Tom Newton. You can sit on the pews of the old church at across the street at Rybak’s Ice Cream on the front porch.


Shelly's Bar & Grill


Shelly’s Bar & Grill – Its lunch time. Shelly’s is one of those hidden gems that no one talks about. They don’t advertise much because they don’t need to. A favorite with the locals and bike clubs touring the shoreline. It’s one of our go-to places when we want to get away from the crowds and tourists of Port Austin. Make no mistake, its tavern food. But they have large portions, and if you’re lucky enough to find they have walleye available – get it. Don’t let the exterior put you off. It’s super clean and they have the coldest beer at the tip of the Thumb.


Port Austin – After lunch you can keep hugging the shoreline or cut through the back roads through Port Austin. Keep heading east out of town.


Port Crescent State Park
Port Crescent State Park – This state park is one of the largest state parks in southern Michigan. Located at the tip of Michigan’s “thumb” along three miles of sandy shoreline of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, the park offers excellent fishing, canoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, birding, and hunting opportunities. However a little known aspect of this park is that it sits on the location of a ghost town. Port Crescent prospered as a lumber town from about 1864 to 1881. One sawmill became so busy salvaging thousands of trees felled in one of the infamous fires experienced by the Midwest in 1871 that it added a 120-foot brick chimney to help power the plant. The remains of this chimney can be seen in the camp ground area.


Bay Port – From Port Crescent State Park continue to head west on M-25 through Caseville. You will pass Sand Point. This spike of land extends over a mile into Saginaw Bay and has some of the neatest cottages in the area. Continue west along Wild Fowl Bay until you reach the town of Bay Port. Watch for the big fish sign and turn right toward the docks.


bay-port-fish


Bay Port Fish Company – Bay Port Fish Company has been a commercial fishery in Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay since 1895. The company operates between spring and fall, depending upon the weather and has four boats: the Osprey, the Argo, the Patsy, and the Sunflower. You can see the Osprey and the Argo tied up in Caseville harbor at the fish house just south of the break wall. They are open seven days a week. Be aware “it smells like fish”.


Sebewaing – This is one of the oldest settlements in the Thumb. First established as a mission among the Native Americans who lived in the area for generations. Headquarters of Michigan Sugar, you will be able to see large mounds of locally grown sugar beets that are being prepared for processing. Here the tour concluded. You have a choice of continuing on M-25 toward Bay City and I-75 or heading East on Owendale Road until you head on M-53 south toward Utica and Detroit.


ThumbWind-Mercantile-banner