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Port Crescent – A Ghost Town in the Thumb

Port Cresent State Park Beach South

Port Crescent 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. 

What’s In a Name – Pinnebog Confusion

Walter Hume established a trading post and hotel near the mouth of the Pinnebog River in 1844. From these humble beginnings, the area took the name of Pinnebog, taking its name from the river of which it was located. However, a post office established some five miles upstream also took its name from the river. To avoid confusion the town changed its name to Port Crescent for the crescent-shaped harbor along which it was built. 


Port-Crescent-Village-Plat-Map-1870s


Port Crescent – Industrial Powerhouse

Port Crescent had two steam-powered sawmills, two salt plants, a cooperage which manufactured barrels for shipping fish and salt, a gristmill, a wagon factory, a boot and shoe factory, a pump factory,  two breweries, several stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, a post office, a depot and telegraph office, and a roller rink. Pinnebog employed hundreds of area residents.

By 1870 a 1,300 foot well struck brine.  This started a salt blockhouse operation where they extracted brine by evaporating the water to produce 65,000 barrels of salt annually. Port Crescent used the “slash” or leftover limbs, bark, and sawdust for fuel to boil the salt water. At one time this 17 block village boasted of a population of more than 500

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. In 1881, another fire swept through the Thumb region, destroying the area’s timber resources.


Port Crescent Grist Mill
Port Crescent Grist Mill


The Town of Port Crescent Declines

When the timber in the Pinnebog River basin was gone, the town began to decline.  The lumber mills closed, as did the firewood-fueled salt plants. Workers dismantled some of the buildings and an 800-foot dock, moving them north to Oscoda, Michigan. Some Port Crescent residents moved their houses to nearby towns. By 1894, all of the buildings in Port Crescent were gone, leaving few traces of the town behind. Nathaniel Bennett Haskell, who owned the sawmill and salt plant on the west side of the river, began to export white sand which was used in the manufacture of glass. This continued until 1936.


Port Crescent State Park

Port Cresent State Park River Bank

After  World War II, the demand for public use areas along shoreline property stimulated interest for an additional state park in the Thumb. Twenty years later, the Michigan Department of Conservation acquired possession of 124 acres of fine woodland at this place for a new state park. Port Crescent State Park was officially established on September 6, 1959.

Today little remains of the former town. Foundations can be seen, in the Organization Area, where a structure stood. The lower 10 feet the old sawmill chimney is a prominent part of the park entrance.


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Five Overlooked Michigan Food Companies

It’s gotten ridiculous.

Go online and look up “Michigan Foods” and the same names pop up over and over; Faygo Pop, Better Made Chips and Vernors Ginger Ale. While these are fine examples of Michigan food that we love that list is far from complete. 

In our effort to be eclectic we offer these five outstanding, yet typically overlooked, Michigan food companies each with their specialties that are not to be missed.


Brede Foods – Detroit

Brede Foods HorseradishIf you use horseradish, there is a fair chance that you have one of Brede Foods products in your refrigerator right now. Known first for their horseradish, Brede Foods also has an award-winning cocktail sauce. They also have mustard, grilling and tartar sauces. They offer a private label service for those who wish to market their own special recipe. Brede’s also offers Orthodox Union Kosher Certification.

Brede Foods is family owned and operated and has been since its founding in 1923. In 1923 Edwin Brede began distributing sauces and condiments for a major food manufacturer. As the Great Depression of the 30’s took its toll on the economy, he turned to food manufacturing to supplement his income. Brede, Inc. originally sat on the site that Cobo Hall presently occupies in downtown Detroit, Michigan.


Sea Fare Foods – Detroit

Ma Cohen's Creamed Herring

Sea Fare Foods was established in 1959 by Solomon Abraham Lincoln Sack, known affectionately to his friends and family as Linc. Lincoln’s father, William, had worked as a ‘jobber’ in the herring industry through all of Lincoln’s childhood and adolescence. A jobber was basically slang for a distributor. Willy would spend part of the year in Scotland with suppliers, and the other part in New York, working with buyers. He would eventually lose his business when several buyers did not repay the credit lent to them.

Sea Fare Foods was born in Detroit Michigan. The original plant was at Fort and Green streets, in front of the railroad tracks, which was how the fish was delivered at that time. They are known for their creamed herring, smoked trout and lox under the Ma Cohen’s brand.


Sanders & Morley Candy Makers – Clinton Township

Morley's Candy Sanders Cakes

Morley Candy Company or Morley Candy Makers is a confectioner based in Clinton Township, Michigan. The company, founded in 1919, is famous for its peanut butter blocks and assorted chocolates. Morley Candy owns and markets the Sanders Confectionery line, which is famous for its Bumpy Cakes, sundae topping and ice cream, particularly in and around Detroit, Michigan. Michigan school children often sell Morley Candy for school fundraisers.

One story of note tells that President Bush stopped by the candy factory on his way to a fundraiser to purchase their famous fudge sundae topping.


Downey’s Original Potato Chips – Waterford

Downey's Potato ChipsThis is a hometown favorite for me. Since 1984 this little potato chip company has been producing its famous kettle chips in Waterford. Unlike most kettle chips this unique chip is light and has a great flavor from its peanut oil blend. They use locally grown Michigan potatoes and are cooked and hand seasoned daily. Hard to find. Look for them in gourmet groceries.

If your near Waterford you can stop in their retail store and purchase their slightly burned chips in bulk.


County Smoke House – Almont

Country Smoke House buffalo-mild-salami

The Country Smoke House started in 1988 with processing deer from their garage in the tiny town of Almont, Michigan. The hobby turned into a viable business in 1991 when a “deer shop” was constructed north of Almont on M-53 were the company resides today.

In the new facility, deer processing, along with homemade venison sausage and jerky, was offered to our customers. Today, Country Smoke House is the largest deer processor in Michigan, attributing it to the popularity of homemade smoked sausages and jerky.
Today, Country Smoke House continues to grow and has become a Michigan destination. Tourists from around the world stop by for a picture with their giant 20 foot tall steer, smoking BBQ cabin, and rustic log cabin store.

 


 

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Transom Charm – What’s In a Name

“The name selected for a boat may not seem like an important thing. But, considering the strong feelings many of us have for our boats; the fact that we put so much work, and sweat and money into them; the fact they are a big part of our memories of so many good times, with family, with friends; the fact that sometimes our very lives are in the safekeeping of our boat; most of us feel that selecting the right name for our boat is important.”- The Frugal Mariner