Get your (Michigan) ghost town on!

through-the-never-central-mine-powder-house

through the never, photo by Marty Hogan

mLive’s Emily Bingham has a feature on 11 eerie & intriguing ghost towns in Michigan that is definitely worth checking out. The slide for the Upper Peninsula ghost town of Central says:

This abandoned village on the U.P.’s Keweenaw Peninsula was a company town of nearly 1,300 residents, many of them German and Cornish immigrants who’d come to work in the copper mines. The town had a post office, three-story school, and one of the first telephone services in Copper Country. The mine closed in 1898, only four decades after it had opened, and residents quickly left to find work elsewhere. All that remains are thirteen houses and a Methodist church, maintained by the Keweenaw Historical Society; every year on the last Sunday of July, locals and descendants of the Central Mine villagers attend a special service at the church to honor those who lived there.

If you’re looking to get more ghost town goodness, look no further than Marty Hogan! His photo albums get up close and personal some of Michigan’s coolest forgotten communities. View this photo background bigilicious and see more in his Central slideshow.

Port Crescent in Michigan’s Thumb

The Port Crescent Smokestack

The Port Crescent Smokestack, photo by Joel Dinda

One of the blogs I enjoy reading is ThumbWind, a blog about (you guessed it) Michigan’s Thumb. In A Ghost Town in the Thumb they tell the story of the town of Port Crescent that was within what is now Port Crescent State Park:

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 had two steam-powered sawmills, two salt plants, a cooperage whichPort Cresent manufactured barrels for shipping fish and salt, a gristmill, a wagon factory, a boot and shoe factory, a pump factory, a brewery, 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. Others worked at blockhouses where they extracted brine from evaporated water to produce salt. At one time a this 17 block village boasted of a population of more than 500.

Read on for more and click for more about Port Crescent State Park.

View Joel’s photo background big and see more in his Port Crescent Vacation slideshow.

Fayette State Park

Fayette State Park

Fayette State Park, photo by Mike Boburka

The Michigan Historical Center’s page on the Fayette Historic Townsite says:

The Fayette Historic Townsite includes 20 historic buildings, exhibits, a walking tour and scenic overlooks. Fayette has 20 preserved buildings and structures. Eleven buildings house museum exhibits and are open to the public, including the hotel, machine shop, company office, town hall, and residences.

A massive blast furnace still stands on the site, and is part of the well-preserved history of this former 19th century industrial site. Fayette is a living museum, telling the story of a company town in the 19th century, nestled on the Garden Peninsula in the central Upper Peninsula.

The limestone bluffs on Snail Shell Harbor were mined for use in the blast furnaces.
Exhibit with clothing and toys, part of the children’s exhibit at Fayette Historic Townsite.
Exhibits at Fayette focus on life in a company town, including what it was like to grow up there. At its height, half the population of Fayette was children.

The townsite is part of Fayette Historic State Park and on the second Saturday of August the annual Heritage Day celebrates Fayette with period displays, food, and music. Click through for more.

View Mike’s photo background big and click for more of Mike’s Fayette photos.

More Michigan ghost towns on Michigan in Pictures.

Michigan Ghost Towns: Aral at Otter Creek

Esch Beach

Esch Beach, Otter Creek, photo by Sara Hunt/oni_one_

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore tells the rich tale of the ghost town Aral:

Aral was located on Lake Michigan where Otter Creek empties into the Lake just south of Esch Road, a few miles south of Empire, MI. Today this is one of the most popular swimming beaches in the Lakeshore, but in the 1880s, Aral was a booming lumber town!

When the United States acquired land, it first had to be surveyed before it was made available to individuals. In the summer of 1849, Orange Risdon was one of the surveyors assigned to the area around Grand Traverse Bay. In 1853 soon after he finished the survey, Risdon and his wife, Sally, bought 122 acres where Otter Creek emptied into Lake Michigan.

The US Civil War began in 1861, and to induce able-bodied men to join the Union forces, the US government offered $100 bounty to men who enlisted. By 1863 the bounty was increased to $300, and finally a draft was instituted. An interesting provision of the draft act allowed drafted men to avoid service by hiring a substitute or by paying $300. One of the men receiving draft notice was Robert F. Bancroft, who was married and 30 years old. He chose to take advantage of this provision by hiring a German immigrant to take his place as a soldier, but interestingly he followed his replacement to the battlefield. Instead of carrying a gun, he brought his camera and became one of the first battlefield photographers.

Following the war, the veterans returned home, and Robert Bancroft settled with his wife Julia and daughter Anna in Traverse City. He began buying land in Platte and Lake townships as investments and in late 1864, he bought the 122 acres from Orange and Sally Risdon of Saline, MI.

Bancroft cleared 20 acres and built a log cabin for his family to live in. Then he planted some black locust trees and an apple orchard around the cabin. Lumber speculators soon arrived looking for stands of white pine. Most of the forest in this area was hardwood, but there were some stands of white pine inland from Otter Lake. By the late 1870s Daniel Thomas bought a 5-acre parcel on Lake Michigan south of Otter Creek, but he decided to build a house across the road from the Bancroft’s. Lumber speculators were on their way north as the forests near Grand Haven and Muskegon were harvested.

…By 1883, the lumber business was booming and the town was growing. A post office was required. The community was known as Otter Creek – the “Krik” by locals. When they applied for a post office, their name was rejected because there was already an “Otter Creek” in Michigan. “Bancroft” was the next suggestion, but again the name had already been used. One of the workers suggested the name “Aral” because of the beautiful Aral Sea in Europe. Locals continued to call it Otter Creek though. Dr. Frank Thurber was named the first postmaster. Keep his name in mind, for he too would play a central role in the murder.

Murder you say? Indeed – read on for lots more…

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