USS Edson at the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum


USS Edson frozen in the Saginaw river, photo by Tom Clark

The USS Edson is located at the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum in Bay City. The say (in part):

The keel for the Forrest Sherman class destroyer USS EDSON (DD-946) was laid at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, on 3 December 1956. EDSON is one of the relatively few ships of the U.S. Navy named for a United States Marine, in this case Major General Merritt Austin Edson.

Edson was launched on 4 January 1958 by General Edson’s widow, Ethel Robbins Edson, who broke the traditional bottle of champagne over the ship’s bow. EDSON’S final fitting out and sea trials occupied the next ten months, and on 7 November 1958, EDSON was commissioned under the command of CDR Thomas J. Moriarty, USN. She then sailed in early 1959 to the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal to reach her original homeport of Long Beach, California, on 2 March 1959.

For the next two decades, EDSON served as a valuable member of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, earning a reputation as a Top Gun ship and the nickname, “The Destroyer.” Her ship’s crest included a skull copied from the shoulder patch worn by then Colonel Edson’s First Marine Raider Battalion.

Note that the Museum itself is closed for the winter until March!

View Tom’s photo bigger and see more in his Ships & Boats slideshow.

More ships & boats on Michigan in Pictures!


Harry Houdini put the rabbit in Jack Rabbit Beans

Fall in Saginaw

Fall in Saginaw, photo by Urban Gurl

March 24 is Harry Houdini’s birthday and a great time to share the story of Harry Houdini and Jack Rabbit Beans via

We showed up at 9:00 am, after a two hour drive, to take a little tour of a few neon gems in Saginaw, MI. Our tour guide was local historian Thomas Mudd. This was the first one on our tour. After our tour, we spent the day looking around until it was time to go back for the night shots. According to Mr. Mudd, you can thank Harry Houdini for this sign.

Houdini performed the “Rabbit-in-the-hat-act” at the Jeffers-Strand Theater in Saginaw in the late 1920’s. He needed a volunteer and whoever helped him would get to keep the rabbit. A young girl named Phyllis R. Symons volunteered, and when the act was over she waited for her rabbit.

Houdini tried to get her off stage and told her he would give her something else afterwards. But she would not leave the stage until she received the rabbit. Houdini eventually gave her the rabbit, which in 1937 would become the symbol of Jack Rabbit Beans. Phyllis’ father, Albert L. Reidel, co-founded Port Huron-based Producers Elevator Co. It later became Michigan Bean Co., the maker of Jack Rabbit Beans.

Sadly, Phyllis could not keep the rabbit in town, so it got sent to her grandparents in Minden City. They too were unable to put up with the rambunctious bunny, and one day Phyllis and her parents paid a visit and found the rabbit on the menu. Phyllis was in shock that they could eat the rabbit. Albert Reidel thought it was funny.

Check Kimberly’s photo out big as a building and see more in her Michigan slideshow.

There’s more history and more Saginaw on Michigan in Pictures!

Kawkawlin River: the Place of the Pike Fish

Kawkawlin River

Kawkawlin River, photo by conradthedog

A Brief History of the Kawkawlin River from the Kawkawlin Watershed Property Owner Association says that the native name for Kawkawlin was U GUH KON NING or ‘place of pike fish’. They add that the Saginaw Treaty of 1819 was negotiated by Lewis Cass with the Chippewa Indians and opened the lands of Saginaw Valley to settlers for $1.25 per acre and have lots more history & information at the link above.

Check out Jon’s photo background big and see more in his Michigan slideshow.

Many more rivers on Michigan in Pictures.

Hill of Beans: The Michigan Bean Elevator in Saginaw

Michigan Bean Elevator - Saginaw, Mi

Michigan Bean Elevator – Saginaw, Mi, photo by jhoweaa

I know that many of you have been losing sleep because you don’t know the location of the world’s biggest bean elevator. You can rest easy now, because explains that the largest bean elevator in the world is in Saginaw MI:

As a young man, (Albert L.) Riedel was one of the organizers of the Producers Elevator Company of Port Huron which later grew into the Michigan Bean Company. He was elected secretary of Michigan Bean when it moved its headquarters to Saginaw’s Bearinger Building and he was only 27 when he was named general manager of the company.

…In 1937, Riedel became president of the company as well as general manager and served in that capacity until the firm was sold to the Wickes Corporation in 1955. As president of Michigan Bean, Al Riedel pushed the idea of selling packaged, trademarked beans to the retail market instead of relying on bulk sales.

He was instrumental in making the Jack Rabbit brand of beans known all over the world. And it was while Riedel was president that the famous Bean Bunny neon sign was erected at the top of “the world’s largest bean elevator”.

The Bean Bunny, now proudly relit, has become one of Saginaw’s most beloved symbols. During World War II, too old for active service, Riedel volunteered as a dollar-a-year-man and served as a consultant attached to the Quartermaster Corp. He revamped purchasing and shipping programs and designed and developed waterproof bags for shipping food overseas.

You can learn a lot more about the Bean Bunny sign and see photos at mLive. The Michigan Bean Commission has tons of information about Michigan beans.

James also has some information about the bean bunny on his blog as well. You can also buy a print or a card there. View his photo on black and see more in his Interesting slideshow.

More from Saginaw on Michigan in Pictures.

Lumber Day in Saginaw … make that Chesaning!

(Apr 27, 2015) Brett Russell shares: Not to correct your article, but I actually believe the bottom black and white photo was taken in Chesaning, MI. The building in the background looks like the Nason Block, which still stands today. The building far left where the brick color changes I believe to be the Chesaning State Bank. This photo would have been taken on Broad St. just before the intersection of Saginaw St.

Saginaw – Winter street scene, photographer unknown

This black and white photo shows winter carts loaded with lumber on an unidentified street in Saginaw. It’s from Seeking Michigan .

Chesaning and the Chesaning Rock

Chesaning Rock, photo by George B. Send (Courtesy Seeking Michigan)

The Wikipedia page for Chesaning, Michigan says that:

The first mention of Chesaning in the written pages of history is the Saginaw Treaty, signed in 1819. This treaty was between members of the Saginaw Tribe, Chippewa Indians and the government of the United States. They established a number of reservations, including 10,000 acres (40 km2) along the banks of the Shiawassee River known as “Big Rock Reserve.” Chesaning is a Chippewa word meaning “big rock place”. The treaty continued in effect until 1837 when a second treaty led to the reserve being surveyed and offered for sale in 1841. The first land was sold at $5 per acre to brothers Wellington and George W. Chapman, and Rufus Mason. After making their land purchase, they traveled back to Massachusetts and moved their families to their new wilderness home by late summer of 1842.

During the months they had been away from their land, several settlers had moved into the area, building a dam and a sawmill. A few years later, a grinding mill was added. The new settlers named their community “Northampton” in honor of the home they had left in Massachusetts. In 1853, the legislature changed the name to Chesaning, the traditional name for the village and township. The first township elections, held in 1847, are considered to be the official birthday of the community.

The Chesaning Historical Society has some more old photos of Chesaning, and Michigan GenWeb has a lot more Chesaning history.

I found this photo from the early 1900s at Seeking Michigan when I was looking for a photo for a feature on Saginaw’s coal mines. I think you’re agree it was simply too awesome not to share. ;)

They explain that The rock was one of the features of the area since Chesaning was settled. Located in woods to the east of Chesaning, the large rock inspired the name of the area. See it bigger at Seeking Michigan and check out more funny photos on Michigan in Pictures.

Auto trail coming to Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, photo by Wigwam Jones.

The Great Lakes Echo has a feature by Emma Ogutu about a 7.5-mile auto trail through Saginaw County’s Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge that opens in May (assuming the eagles cooperate).

“Everything will depend on a pair of eagles which built a nest just 50 feet off the road. It all depends if they start nesting early or late– it’s critical that we do not disturb them,” DeVries said (Ed DeVries, assistant manager of the refuge).

The gravel trail, which was completed in November, will be the second of its kind in the state, after one in the Upper Peninsula’s Seney National Wildlife Refuge.

Along the trail are two new observation decks with spotting scopes to assist visitors in viewing more birds, DeVries said. The refuge has also constructed a parking area to accommodate the anticipated larger amount of traffic and a new fishing and canoe access site along the Spaulding Drain.

“Previously we had only one day in September where tourists were allowed to drive in the refuge,” DeVries said. “With the new trail, it’s going to be possible for more people to view a wider variety of birds and other wildlife throughout spring and summer seasons.”

The Shiawassee refuge was established in 1953 to protect and increase the breeding of migratory birds and other wildlife. The refuge includes marsh areas, swamps, bogs, grasslands and forests and has one of largest and most productive wetland ecosystems in the state, according to the service.

Learn more about the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.

Check Wigwam Jones’ photo out background big and in his Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge slideshow.

Saginaw, Michigan … and Happy Birthday to Johnny Cash

Saginaw Bay-Michigan

Saginaw Bay-Michigan, photo by mark5032001.

The song Saginaw, Michigan was written by Bill Anderson and Don Wayne and famously covered by Johnny Cash, who was born on February 26, 1932.

I was born in Saginaw, Michigan.
I grew up in a house on Saginaw Bay.
My dad was a poor hard working Saginaw fisherman:
Too many times he came home with too little pay.

I loved a girl in Saginaw, Michigan.
The daughter of a wealthy, wealthy man.
But he called me: “That son of a Saginaw fisherman.”
And not good enough to claim his daughter’s hand.

Now I’m up here in Alaska looking around for gold.
Like a crazy fool I’m a digging in this frozen ground, so cold.
But with each new day I pray I’ll strike it rich and then,
I’ll go back home and claim my love in Saginaw, Michigan.

I wrote my love in Saginaw, Michigan.
I said: “Honey, I’m a coming home, please wait for me.
“And you can tell your dad, I’m coming back a richer man
“I’ve hit the biggest strike in Klondyke history.”

Her dad met me in Saginaw, Michigan.
He gave me a great big party with champagne.
Then he said: “Son, you’re wise, young ambitious man.
“Will you sell your father-in-law your Klondyke claim?”

Now he’s up there in Alaska digging in the cold, cold ground.
The greedy fool is a looking for the gold I never found.
It serves him right and no-one here is missing him.
Least of all the newly-weds of Saginaw, Michigan.

We’re the happiest man and wife in Saginaw, Michigan.
He’s ashamed to show his face in Saginaw, Michigan.

Much more in Wikipedia’s Johnny Cash entry and on the official Johnny Cash web site.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Johnny playing Saginaw, Michigan, but here’s Lefty Frizzell (who had the original hit) and one of my favorites, Leo Kottke singing the song.

Check this photo out bigger in Mark’s slideshow.

Creating Cities in Michigan

Lansing, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Traverse City, Marquette and Kalamazoo are by no means all of Michigan’s cities (or even the largest). Each, however, seems to be an anchor for its region – a center to which people look to for culture, entertainment and commerce.

October 13-15, 2008, lovers of cities large & small from Michigan and all over the country will head to Detroit for the Creative Cities Summit 2.0 (CCS2), an exploration of what our cities could become and how we can work to make them. Organizers have chosen Detroit, a city so deeply forged in America’s industrial fires that it’s been devastated by the flickering of that flame. I’m headed down there and will try to bring some of the ideas back to you through Absolute Michigan – I hope that some of you can join me there.

The Photos (left to right)

Creative Cities Summit 2.0 in Detroit on Oct. 13-15, 2008

CCS2 will present a dynamic and engaging conversation about how communities around the world are integrating innovation, social entrepreneurship, sustainability, arts & culture and business to create vibrant economies. Full conference registration is $300 for the two and half day event, and there’s also a “no frills” registration that is only $100. There’s also a free “Unconference” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) on the 12th for designers, urban planners, civic leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, students, community leaders to explore and discuss what’s possible for Detroit.
Keynote speakers include:

  • Bill Strickland, MCG-Bidwell Corp.
  • Richard Florida, Author Who’s Your City
  • Charles Landry, Author The Art of City Making
  • John Howkins, Author The Creative Economy
  • Dean Kamen, Inventor, DEKA
  • Majora Carter, Sustainable South Bronx
  • Doug Farr, Architect and Author Sustainable Urbanism
  • Ben Hecht, Pres. & CEO Living Cities
  • Tom Wujec, Fellow, Autodesk
  • Carol Coletta, CEOs for Cities
  • Giorgio Di Cicco, Poet Laureate, City of Toronto and Author, The Municipal Mind
  • Diana Lind, Editor, Next American City magazine

Breakout sessions on topics such as:

  • Race and the Creative City
  • Cities, Universities & Talent
  • Marketing, Media and the Creative City
  • Measuring New Things – ROI in the Creative Economy
  • Creative (Small) Cities
  • New Ideas in Urban Amenities
  • Community Vitality: The Role of Artists, Gays, Lesbians & Immigrants
  • Midwest Mega-region: How the Midwest Can Compete
  • Transportation Innovation for Cities
  • Making the Scene: Music & Economic Development

Much (much) more at

Saginaw River Rear Range Light

Saginaw River Lighthouse

Saginaw River Lighthouse, photo by SNiedzwiecki.

Stacy says that she took this photo on a boat tour of the Saginaw River and that access is very limited. It’s one of a number of photos in her Michigan Lighthouses set. She has also placed it on a map.

Terry Pepper’s page on the Saginaw River Rear Range Light brings the usual 110% of awesome with historical photos and a complete history of the lighthouse that explains (in part):

Eleventh District Engineer Major Godfrey Weitzel’s design for the combined rear range tower and dwelling was unique. Consisting of a large elevated concrete base supporting a combined brick dwelling and tower, the swampy ground in the chosen site first required the driving of timber piles deep into the ground to provide a solid foundation on which timber forms for the concrete base could be erected and filled. Atop this concrete foundation, a square two-story Cream City brick keeper’s dwelling 26′ 6″ in plan was constructed. Integrated into the northwest corner of the dwelling, a tapered 53′ tall square tower with double walls housed a set of prefabricated cast iron spiral stairs. Winding from the cellar to the lantern, these stairs also serving as the only means of access to the first and second floors by way of landings on each floor, each outfitted with tightly fitting arch-topped iron doors designed to stem the spread of fire between floors. A timber deck supported by timber columns encircled the dwelling at the first floor level, providing easy and dry access to all sides of the structure. The living quarters consisted of a kitchen, parlor and oil storage room on the first floor, and three bedrooms above. The tower was capped with a square iron gallery, supported by five cast iron corbels on each of its four sides. An octagonal cast iron lantern was installed at its center, with a fixed white Fourth Order Fresnel lens placed at a focal plane of 61 feet.

You can also check out some photos of the light and information from the Saginaw River Marine Historical Society and read a bit about the possible haunting of the Saginaw River Lighthouse.