…continuing with our late summer road trip to Michigan and beyond.
Driving north along US Hwy 23, I turned onto side roads at Lakewood Michigan, following them for about 35 miles through the towns of Bell and Presque Isle before returning to the highway. Along the way, we enjoyed the lack of traffic and the scenery in this semi-‘lost’ area of Michigan.
While it may be lost or ignored by the majority of people, the upper eastern portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan represents a vacation tradition to many with plenty of cabins and small resorts along the way.
The Fireside Inn is a good example of the relaxing rustic resort possibilities in the Grand Lake-Presque Isle area. The main lodge, 2-stories high, 24 feet wide and 40 feet long, was built by the then owners in 1908 for $350.00. It still stands and is the core of the resort. The resort is just 18 miles north of Alpena and it is situated on 5,660 acre Grand Lake. The lake contains several islands and it is narrowly separated from Lake Huron. For more about the Fireside Inn, go to http://www.firesideinngrandlake.com/.
A bit further along the way, we stopped to take a photo of the John Kauffman homestead. John Kauffman swam ashore near here after the vessel he was traveling on broke up on the shoals near Presque Isle during a fierce storm on Lake Huron. He applied for a homestead in 1862 and then he built this log cabin… Originally located on Grand Lake, harsh winters and snow drifts off the lake caused Mr. Kauffman to dismantle his home, reconstructing it at its current location in 1876.
Sometime after John passed on, the Kauffman family deeded the home to The Grand Lake Association. That organization maintains the home and operates a gift and handicrafts shop here from Memorial Day thru the Labor Day weekend. I suspect that I’m safe in saying that John Kauffman was related to the Kauffman family that built and operated the Fireside Inn (previous photo) for many years.
We continued north on US Hwy 23 to Rogers City Michigan. Before heading west toward Lake Michigan and the state’s west coast, we stopped and took a couple more photos of Lake Huron. It was kind of a nasty rainy day and even the sea gulls were hunkered down on the beach waiting for better weather.
The last time I was in Rogers City was in the summer of 1962 when I worked as a counselor at a nearby summer camp. The camp didn’t even have a phone and to call someone, we had to go to town. Rogers City, population 2,850, is the county seat for Presque Isle County. The number of residents in the city peaked in 1960 at 4,722.
The world’s largest open-pit limestone quarry, the port of Calcite, is located within the city limits. It has the best harbor or port along the east coast of Michigan from the tip of the Lower Peninsula south to the city of Port Huron with an average of almost 7,000,000 tons loaded each year. Is it a coincidence that the largest cement plant in the USA is located just a little south in Alpena?
From Rogers City, we headed west on MI Hwy 68 across the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. We were still in Presque Isle County when we came to the village of Millersburg. (Population 169) Back in 1910, when the lumber industry drove the economy, the town had 519 residents. Millersburg was founded in 1897 and by 1899, the village had an operating sawmill. The Detroit and Mackinac Railway Depot shown above was reportedly built in 1916 to replace an earlier one.
The next town along our route was Onaway Michigan, population 890 in 2020. (2,789 in 1920) This is the Presque Isle County Courthouse, aka the Onaway Courthouse. We were still in Presque Isle County and I was a bit confused since the county seat is located in Rogers City.
A businessman named Merritt Chandler made a fortune in lumbering and then road building and then in 1886, he platted the village of Onaway, and by 1903, about 3,000 people lived here. In 1980, Chandler had this building constructed. Then he donated it to the county in an effort to move the county seat from Rogers City to Onaway. His effort failed but a compromise was reached with county court sessions being alternated between Rogers City and Onaway. This arrangement lasted until the 1940s.
Onaway is considered the Sturgeon Capital of Michigan with a nearby river serving as this fish’s breeding area. Also of note is that the beginning of the 20th Century, Onaway was the home for one of the world’s largest bicycle wheel manufacturing…producing about 65% of the world’s wooden bicycle wheels.
The former Grand Rapids and Indiana Railway depot in Alanson Michigan survives today, having most recently serving as the Alanson Depot Restaurant. I’m happier if these early depots are saved as community centers or local museums but a second use like this is far better than demolition. My concern now is, what will this property’s new owner do with the old building?
Alanson was settled in Emmett County Michigan ca. 1875. Originally it was called Hinnman. With 778 residents, Alanson is about as populous as it ever was… At one point Alanson was the northern terminus of the Petosky region resort commuter train service. Several rail operations have persisted or started and restarted involving the depot or adjacent trackage. Initially, about 135 years ago, this depot was primarily used by the logging industry. Eventually it became a train-themed tourist attraction, an antique shop, a snowmobile dealership, a pizza shop, a BBQ restaurant and, most recently as the Alanson Restaurant.
Talk about survivors! W.W. Fairbairn and Sons Hardware in Alanson, celebrated their 125 anniversary in 2020. The business was founded by Walter Wayne Fairbairn in 1895. He came to Alanson in 1888 as a government surveyor. Settling in Alanson in 1892, Fairbairn established a hardware and plumbing business in this building in 1895. The building also housed the local post office.
Now in its fifth generation, W.W. Fairbairn and Sons Hardware is still a family-owned and operated business. The location in the big building on the corner in downtown Alanson hasn’t changed… In 2004, the State of Michigan listed the building as a State Historic Site. It is a handsome grouping of related structures!
Of course it was too late in the day and in the season to visit this structure and its adjoining facilities. The Michigan Fisheries Visitor’s Center is also known as the Oden State Fish Hatchery. The original fish hatchery was established in 1920 and it continued to operate until 2002. The main hatchery was located track-side on the Pennsylvania Railroad. During the 1920s and 1930s, fish were loaded on ‘fish cars’ for distribution throughout the state.
When the new hatchery complex was completed in 2002, the old hatchery was transformed into the Michigan Fisheries Visitor Center. This facility includes a Great Lakes watershed interpretation area and interactive displays as well as a gift shop. Weekly nature programs are available and there are self-guided hiking/nature trails. Admission and programs are free…but to feed the fish, you’ll need a pocket full of quarters.
This re-created 1914 – 1935 Wolverine train car is located at one side of the front of the Michigan Fisheries Visitor Center. This exhibit shows how employees of the old Michigan Department of Conservation lived on the train while transporting and stocking fish across the state. Displays included the sleeping berths and a kitchen. My dad, Ronald Myers worked for the Michigan Department of Conservation prior to World War II.
The Michigan Historic marker caught my attention as we prepared to continue our drive. Michigan was a favorite nesting ground for passenger pigeons. Back in 1878, at nearby Crooked Lake, a passenger pigeon nesting site covered 90 square miles…that’s more than 57,000 acres. It is estimated that at one point in the 1800s, there were as many as 3 to 5 Billion Passenger Pigeons in North America. Like the buffalo, they were hunted and killed. Packed in barrels and shipped to major cities they were a low cost source of meat. The last confirmed ‘kill’ of a passenger pigeon in the USA took place in 1901. The last of these birds in captivity died in 1914.
Just click on any of the photo to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Care, Big Daddy Dave
So many interesting place in Michigan. The last photo of pigeons look impressive.ReplyDelete
I looked at the limestone pit on Google earth and it does look huge. Hard to believe we wiped out the pigeons.ReplyDelete
Hi Dave...today I had to just skim your post rather than a complete read. Loved that Mr. Kauffman moved his whole cabin where the weather was better.ReplyDelete
Merry Christmas dear David, I miss you all!, have a nice Christmas timeReplyDelete