The question was simple enough. “Does anyone offer a Tour of the Michigan Wind Farms in the Upper Thumb?” We had been to a wind farm tour during the Cheeseburger in Caseville festival in August but we were unsure about getting a tour the rest of the year. So we were pleased to discover that DTE Energy has a Discovery Center in Michigan’s Upper Thumb. Touring a Wind Farm can be another thing to do if you’re visiting Caseville, Port Austin or Harbor Beach this summer.
Wind Farm Tours Available from Harbor Beach 4th of July Weekend
We also found that tours are going to be available from Harbor Beach’s Maritime Festival on July 6 and 7th. DTE will offer free guided tours leaving Friday and Saturday at 10 am-Noon and 2 pm. You will tour the Sigle Wind farm in the eastern Upper Thumb. Sigel is one of three DTE Energy’s first wholly-owned and constructed wind parks and was energized on Dec. 21, 2012.
The facility is located on 15,000 acres spread over roughly 600 square miles in Huron and Sanilac Counties in Michigan. The total generation facility includes 69 wind turbines, three electrical substations, and associated electrical collection system. The parks generate 110 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy, capable of powering 25,000 homes in Michigan.
Group Tours of Michigan’s Upper Thumb Wind Farms
If you have a family, a workgroup or a bunch of friends that would like to explore and tour a wind farm, tours can be scheduled by calling Michael Sage at 989.269.5805.
Hands-On Exploration of Michigan’s Renewable Energy
The Discovery Center is equipped with state-of-the-art multi-media capabilities and renewable energy education videos. You can make your own wind turbine and actually create your own electricity with some hands-on interactive displays. You can also view the operations control center that manages all the wind farms that DTE operates in the Thumb. The Discovery Center is located within the Huron Renewable Energy Center, a management and operation center created from a closed retail store that DTE renovated and opened in 2016.
The Discovery Center’s also offers educational videos focus on how renewable energy came to be such a major part of Michigan’s Upper Thumb and how the technology is contributing to Michigan’s economy. The Discovery Center is located at DTE’s Huron Renewable Energy Center at 1000 S Van Dyke Avenue in Bad Axe.
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.
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)
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
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
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
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.
(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
The Caseville Chamber of Commerce has announced the weekend of February 16-18, 2018 for this winter’s Shanty Days. This is the event’s 26th year of mid-winter fun on the ice. It’s the largest winter carnival in Michigan’s Upper Thumb.
Shanty Day Events Friday
The Warm Up to Shanty Days. The city welcomes visitors with special events for the festival.
Starting at 11:00 AM at the Caseville Eagles Club located Behind Caseville True Value. Burgers, fish & additional menu items 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Starting at 6:00 PM Live Music – Mike Shilakes at the Wooded Island Sports Grill
Starting at 9:00 PM. Free Comedy Show at the Caseville Eagles Club
Starting at 9:00 PM. D.J. & Dancing, Jager Girls, Free Give Aways. Drink Specials. Free pool & dartboard Bella Vista Boardwalk – Grill & Lounge. Just East of Caseville
Starting at 9:00 PM. Live Entertainment Dufty’s Blue Water Inn
Saturday Caseville Shanty Days Schedule
Starting at 11:00 AM *Broom Ball – Sponsored by Caseville Area Chamber of Commerce & Caseville Township Park & Recreation Committee Harbor St. (near the breakwall)
Starting at 11:00 AM * Human Bowling – *NEW Shanty Days Winter Games – * Polar Bear Dip Plaques awarded. Caseville Resort & Marina
From 11:00 to 4:00 PM 6th Annual Antique and Vintage Snowmobile Show Starting at 1:00 PM NEW Corn Hole Tournament – Harbor St. (near the breakwall)
From 1:00 to 3:00 PM * Chili Cook-Off Contest – Registration 12:30 p.m. Sample & be a judge with a Shanty Day Button – Chili Available for purchase – Caseville Class of 2018 NEW LOCATION Caseville Resort & Marina Harbor St.
From 1:00 to 3:00 PM Checkers Tournament -Historical Society of Caseville/ Museum
From 1 to 4:00 PM Kids Cookie & Craft Fun – Kids come decorate your own Shanty Day cookie & make a handmade craft to take home with you. * Plus warm up with Free Hot Cocoa. Wooded Island Sports Grill
From 1:30 PM – Doubles Pool & Dart Board Tournament – Dufty’s Blue Water Inn
From 2 to 4:00 PM NEW “Polar Bear Pong” – Bay Wash Coin Laundey, 6966 Main St.
From 3 to 5:00 PM – Family Bingo – Lefty’s Dinnr 6937 Main St.
From 7 PM Live Music – Kuuze Kontrol – Wooded Island Sports Grill
From 7:00 PM *Crazy Cap Contest -Come enjoy the fun and show off that crazy cap or hat. Sponsored by Wooded Island Sports Grill Entertainment & Beer Tent Harbor St. (near breakwall)
This 15 minute video is a great review of some of the highlights of Michigan’s Thumb. With 150 miles of shoreline the contrast between the rocky, rugged Lake Huron side is toured to the sugar sand and calm waters of Saginaw Bay. The thumb region is a great area to explore.
This video is from Great Getaways, a television travel series that spotlights active getaway adventures across the Midwest and Canada with an emphasis on the outdoors.
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 haunted house Sweet Dreams Inn where many claim to have experienced paranormal activity.
Tragic History of Wallace’s Life in Bay Port
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 s he passed away in the home. William was tragically killed after an automobile accident in 1933. Wallace was buried in nearby Bad Axe. 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 in the haunted house.