March 10, 2012
“Grindstone City received its name in 1870. It happened in this way. Mr. James Wallace, one of the owners of the quarry at that time was talking to Mrs. Sam Kinch Sr., when she remarked that the village was growing so fast that it ought to have a name. They were discussing Stonington as a name when Mrs. Kinch suggested Grindstone and Mr. Wallace added City and from then on the village has been known as Grindstone City.”
from Mabel Cook’s “History of Grindstone City, New River and Eagle Bay” (1977).
The excellent history of Grindstone City from the Michigan State University, Department of Geography tells the fascinating story of the Huron County town that was once where the world turned for grindstones. This was due to the particular qualities of “Grindstone”, a special rock formation from Marshall Sandstone that made the finest sharpening stones. It all began:
In the year 1834, Capt. Aaron G. Peer, with his Schooner, the Rip Van Winkle, was forced to take haven in this natural harbor, during a storm. Capt. Peer is known as the “father” of Grindstone City, and located the first land in what is now Huron County. The sloop took anchorage here in a storm, and that Capt. Peer, his crew and his father came ashore to what was then a wilderness of pine, cedar, ash, beech, and maple, the cedar being so thick that snow remained in places although it was midsummer. In their exploring they found some big flat stone along the beach and on further examination, found evidence that these strata of rock was underlying the area to a lesser or greater extent . Samples were taken to Detroit where they were found superior to the Ohio flagstone which city officials were planning to use to pave some of the streets.
…On one trip, the sailors rigged up in a crude fashion a stone slab and used it to sharpen their tools. That year (1838) Capt. Peer, getting the idea from the sailors began shaping the grindstones at the place later known as Grindstone City.
Definitely read on to learn about the process that produced the grindstones from quarry to turning the stones shown above and ultimately to market.
One of the most commented posts on Michigan in Pictures is Not much remains of Grindstone City which featured a photo of one of the few remaining grindstones by Marty Hogan on a beach that was once covered in them. Here’s the Google Earth of Grindstone City, and there’s also a Grindstone City Facebook page with some photos and folks sharing memories and photos.
May 29, 2009
June 18, 2008
This photo of the McClellan School in Mason County (near Custer, Michigan) is on of two photos (so far) in Marty’s Mason County set. The other one is a cool old photo of the Pere Marquette Station in Freesoil that I probably would have featured if I didn’t need to see some color so badly!
Summer is a good time to tune into Marty’s photostream as there are a lot of new photos of farms, old homesteads and other forgotten and abandoned structures popping in every week. buckshot.jones writes:
“It is what us folks in Michigan, at least us Detroiters call, “Going Up North.” Most people in MIchigan have a special affinity for the countryside in Northern Michigan. If you you’ve never been, well then you may never know. Here’s my solution. Take a tour of Smartee Martee’s photostream. Click on the sets and read the descriptions of the places he’s been. Then find a set you really like, mine is Osceola County, and watch the slide show. It isn’t quite the same as being there, but damn close. This is the heart and soul of rural Michigan captured on film.”
November 21, 2007
In addition to taking some great pictures, Marty does a wonderful job of digging up and presenting background information. Fiborn Quarry was one of the largest early 20th century quarry operations in the Upper Peninsula, and Marty’s Fiborn Quarry set (slideshow) begins:
Fiborn Quarry was created by a partnership of the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railroad in 1904. This small company town was built to house the workers (homes and a boarding house), offer a school and a general store. The operations consisted of the quarry plant, crusher house and steam engine shop.
Marty goes on to tell you about the role of limestone in the history of the UP, and he also links over to the Michigan Karst Conservancy. In addition to extensive information on the history of Fiborn (be sure to click the little photos at the bottom of the pages too), the MKC tells you about karst:
Karst is a term that was first applied to a plateau region of the Dinaric Alps in Yugoslavia. It is now used to describe similar regions throughout the world that have features formed largely by underground drainage. Karst terrains are characterized by caves, steep valleys, sinkholes, and a general lack of surface streams because drainage is underground…
What does this have to do with Michigan, a land literally scoured by glaciers, a land covered with glacial clay, sand and gravel? Surprisingly, Michigan contains some areas of true karst. They are limited in extent, but this rarity increases their interest and importance. There is also considerable variety in Michigan karst areas: gypsum karst is found in Kent and Iosco counties; a significant amount of surface drainage goes underground in Monroe County, and reappears at “blue holes” in Lake Erie; spectacular sinkholes and earth cracks are found in Alpena and Presque Isle counties; and the broad band of outcrops of the Niagara Escarpment in the Upper Peninsula hosts a number of karst sinks, springs and caves.
September 19, 2007
Marty Hogan writes:
One of the few remaining grindstones on the beach. This one is about 3.5 feet in diameter. The beach used to be covered in the old Grindstones; from 1.5 feet to six feet in diameter. Bad, bad thieves plundered them all away.
I went looking for a photo and details on Grindstone City so I could feature a site I found the other day, but there was little to be found from Michigan.org’s page on Grindstone City or the Port Austin Chamber.
UPDATE: March 2012: The best resource I found at the time of this post was willett.org, which featured piles and piles of photos and information about Michigan and its history. Among their were some postcards and old photos from Grindstone City, from which I learned that Grindstone City had a quarry and stone mill and made and shipped a whole lot of grindstones. Nothing at willett.org seemed to have been updated, and it felt like going up to an attic in an abandoned farm and poking through partially labeled boxes. Sadly the digital room has since fallen in, leaving nothing.
Fortunately, there are other resources, so check out today’s post Truing up a 3 ton stone in Grindstone City.
If you have anything to share about Grindstone City, post it in the comments!
Dietrich writes that the cement is stained from iron ore dust that came out from the shaft.