At the base of Michigan’s Thumb is Bay City. Ideally suited along the Saginaw river leading into Saginaw Bay it was a lumber and industrial city well before Detroit became the Motor City. This is a series of images of Bay City in 1908.
Bay City Was Becoming the Speed Boat Capital of the World
In 1908 Bay City was becoming a force in the emerging area of motorized boats. About a dozen companies where making knockdown kits of boat patterns. Kits would contain shippable boat patterns, knock-down frames, and complete boats, to all points of the globe. Some companies equipped the kits with a locally made engine.
Bay City’s close proximity to the extensive pine and oak forests supplied the principal woods for small boat manufacturing. Bay City was on its way to becoming one of the leading boat manufacturing cities in the world.
Needless to say where ever there is a collection of boats there has to be racing. Bay City was producing some of the fastest motor boats of the day. Speed boats such as the Arrow, Secret, and General where seeing speeds close to 30 mph with their 15 to 20 horsepower engines.
Bay City’s State Theater
The Bay City State Theater was built in 1908. The stage becomes a local favorite for the entertainment of the day. The State Theatre was known as the Bijou. It offered both vaudeville acts and after-hours burlesque shows in downtown Bay City. In August 1920 the theatre’s name was changed to the Orpheum.
The theater was renovated in 1930 to resemble a Mayan Temple by renowned architect C. Howard Crane. Crain also developed the Fox Theatre in Detroit. The theatre is a grand example of art deco architecture which radiates a warm and intimate character with seating on the main floor as well as a second-floor balcony.
Draken Harald Hårfagre – Bay City Michigan 2016 – The Draken Harald Hårfagre visited the Great Lakes in 2016. The Vikings were accomplished navigators, artisans, traders and storytellers, but their greatest contribution was seafaring and the the ships they built. The ship has a traditional dragon’s head and tail and is richly ornamented with patterns found in excavations.
The Fall in Michigan always seems incredibly short. Sometimes boats are still in the water as November rolls in. Will we the last one out of the water? It is kind of lonely to be one of the last ones out of your slip in the Fall in Caseville harbor. However, Caseville Harbor is one of the great places to stop and visit, especially if your driving on a fall color tour along M-25.
Caseville Harbor During a Michigan Fall
Last year we were one of the diehards with ice beginning to form a weekend or two after we got our sailboat out and winterized for the season. This year with the schedule tight we decided to get on the hard at the end of September.
It was tough. It symbolically ended the opportunity to get out on Saginaw Bay and we knew that the summer was really over.
Here is Caseville Harbor the last weekend in September 2014. Fall in Michigan is the most under-appreciated and utilized times of the year. School is back in session and everyone is back to work. It’s almost like New Years’.
These images are from five years ago. The old fish house from the early 1900s, that used to sit on the canal to unload fish from the Bay Port Fish Company when the lake was low has been torn down.
When Labor Day passes folks have a new mindset. Yet the days are typically warm well into mid-October and the low sun casts long shadows even in mid-day.
Everyone looks for the current fall colors in Michigan. Yet the best color in Michigan’s Thumb typically starts in mid-October.
Bay Port Fish Company typically gets there trap nets ready for one last run of whitefish.
Whitefish come back close to shore and we see net buoys a few hundred yards from the beach.
The sailors at the Huron County Yacht Club are days away from taking out their boats. Its a group effort and everyone participates stepping the masts and swinging the sailboats to their cradles for the winter.
More Reading for Caseville Harbor in the Fall in Michigan’s Thumb
Michigan’s Thumb in Late Summer – My favorite time to be in Michigan’s Thumb. The Caseville Cheeseburger Festival has long since past. The Labor Day weekend has come and gone. Things are quieter. I can now cross M-25 over the beach in silence and without fear. What a great season.
Find Treasure at Port Austin Farm Market – A beautiful Saturday morning at the Port Austin Farmers Market. One of the largest farmers markets outside of Detroit. It’s pure fun. Great produce, unique crafts and artisans, and fun shopping among many vendors.
In 2012 Lake Levels Dropped, Will It Happen Again? – It’s great to step back and take a look at the recent past. Five years ago the entire Great Lakes was witness to low water levels not seen since 1964. Marina’s were dredging, boats were being damaged on shallow reefs not seen a generation, and lake shipping was facing hard times.
Haunted and Spooky Sites to Visit in Michigan’s Thumb – Michigan’s Upper Thumb is full of colorful history—from the boomtowns of the 1800s lumber era to the resorts and vacation homes of today. The area has long been acknowledged as an active paranormal region and has been the subject of books, film, and television.
Michigan’s Upper Thumb is full of colorful history—from the boom towns of the 1800s lumber era to the resorts and vacation homes of today. The area has long been acknowledged as an active paranormal region and has been the subject of books and television. Here are the most active haunted and spooky sites in the area.
#1 Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse
This iconic lighthouse sits near the eastern tip of Michigan’s Thumb and was built in 1857. The light tower overlooks a twelve-foot limestone bluff, while the light itself is 93 feet above lake level and visible for a distance of 16 miles.
The lighthouse and nearby Port Hope Life Saving Station were almost destroyed in the massive 1881 fire that swept across the thumb. The lighthouse keeper, Andrew Shaw, and the crew of the lifesaving station formed a bucket brigade and fought the fire by toting water from the lake.
The light is an active aid to navigation, so climbing to the top of the tower is not allowed. However, tours are conducted during Memorial and Labor Day weekend. Pointe aux Barques light is one of the oldest continuously operating lights on the Great Lakes.
This site is now known for paranormal activity, as tourists have reported seeing a mysterious form pull back curtains on the second story of the empty lighthouse. Some say this story goes back to the 1930s and that a former housekeeper haunts the main house.
In 2010, the South East Michigan Paranormal Society conducted an electronic analysis in the main house. The team recorded furniture moving, scraping, thuds, and giggling sounds in the empty house. After the study, the team leader of the investigators noted, “There is every reason to believe the lighthouse proper is haunted.”
A local radio station suggests that the lighthouse is haunted by the widow of the first lighthouse keeper who drowned on Lake Huron in 1849. It is said that the ghost of Catherine Shook has been seen walking along the cliff looking out on the lake for her long-lost husband.
Visiting the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse and Park
Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse and Park are located 10 miles east of Port Austin. The park features a large, full hook-up campground, picnic areas, and a rock hound’s perfect rocky beach. The lighthouse museum is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day from noon to 4pm.
#2 Old (Colony) Bay Port Cemetery
In the 1860s, German immigrants started a religious colony called Ora Labora on the shores of Wild Fowl Bay. In its first year, 140 settlers established a hamlet in the wilderness. However, the colony was plagued by illness and within months of their arrival, the community suffered its first death of a little girl.
Ora Labora established the cemetery on the extreme southern edge of the colony. It is the final resting place for the pioneers of a town that has disappeared from all the maps. The burial ground still exists and is the only remnant of this long-lost colony. The Old Bay Port cemetery has 241 marked graves resting amongst wild trees and forests that beckon to take it over. The site located at the end of Sand Road off M-25 in McKinley Township. Look for the large rock marking the entrance to the site.
Bay Port’s Sweet Dreams Inn
Local businessman and lumber baron William Wallace built the mansion in 1890. The site of the house is near the once famous Bay Port hotel and along with the stagecoach route Build in the Victorian style, the Inn has five guest rooms in which to stay and overlook the Lake Huron shore. Wallace was active in politics and owned several businesses in the Upper Thumb. He owned the Wallace Stone Quarry which is located south of town and still in operation today.
The Inn is considered one of the most paranormally active residents in Michigan. Local legend states that his first wife, Elizabeth died in 1893 and that she passed away in the home. They’re also a bit of a mystery as to the final resting place of William Wallace. Despite the prominence of this individual, there is no record of his gravesite. Thus it’s no coincidence that visitors say Wallace and his first wife still roam the inn with his heavy footsteps, as well as whispering in the ears of the guests. While they are considered friendly spirits some visitors leave the inn in the middle of the night as the ghost of Wallace wanders the mansion telling the guests to leave.
Port Crescent Cemetery
In the late 1860s, the town of Port Crescent was a booming lumber town. The town was considered one of the largest on Saginaw Bay with two steam-powered sawmills, two salt plants, a barrel-making cooperage for shipping fish and salt, a gristmill, a wagon factory, a boot and shoe factory, a pump factory, a roller rink, two brewers, stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, a post office, a rail depot, and telegraph office. The town employed hundreds of area residents.
However by the 1880s, the lumber era had peaked, and two large fires swept through the Upper Thumb destroying millions of acres of timber. The town was doomed and soon buildings were moved to other nearby towns. The remaining industry was the mining of fine silica sand used to glassmaking, but this too went out of business in the 1930s.
Today, the site of the former town is now comprised of the trails and campground of Michigan’s Port Crescent State Park. A small part of the chimney is still visible near the campground and a steel girder bridge crosses the Pinnebog river for hikers. Nearby, the final bit of the town left is its cemetery. The final resting place for the residents of the ghost town are scattered among rolling, moss-covered sand dunes. It’s an eerie feeling to visit in the evening.
Port Crescent cemetery is located about 1/2 mile east of M-25 on Port Crescent road in Hume Township, Huron County, Michigan. Access is gained by walking past a vehicle gate down a country lane about 100 yards to the northeast corner of the cemetery.
The Bruce Mansion
This large and imposing Victorian home was built in 1876. The three-story mansion has a coal bin and cistern in the cellar. The more striking feature is the home’s tower copula which has the ideal look for a spooky haunted house. Which it is.
The mystery of the home begins a few years after it was built. A huge fire in 1881 covered and destroyed entire towns across the thumb but left the house untouched. In the 1920s, John Walker bought the home. Local legend tells that Walker accidentally killed someone with his car and that he hid and buried the body on the property. Riddled with guilt he fell into despair. Soon his wife had left him and the mansion was facing foreclosure. It was said that he hanged himself in the tower copula, however the official cause of death is not recorded.
The large house has been the focus of paranormal investigators and tourists. There have been two investigations that have denoted numerous apparitions. Amazingly, there have also been reports of a ghost cat running through the rooms and a growling dog in the cellar.
Today, the owners offer tourists interested in seeing the mansion tours on Saturday evenings. The Bruce Mansion is 15 miles north of Imlay City, 6 miles south of Marlette, and 5 miles west of Brown City on M-53.
When the pandemic struck in March, business owner Amy Wisniewski had to close up shop and open her mind to something new. “I went from being in-house… Michigan designer sews 3K custom masks during coronavirus outbreak
By CASEY WARNER Michigan Department of Natural Resources
With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and thousands of miles of rivers and streams, Michigan offers ample opportunity to traverse the state over the water – no matter the size or speed of your vessel.
While designated water trails are a relatively recent development, use of Michigan’s waterways for transportation isn’t new.
Historical Significance of Our Waterways
“Our harbor system along the Great Lakes is the first water trail system we’ve had in this state,” said Jordan Byelich, waterways development program manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “In fact, going back hundreds of years, the Great Lakes served Native Americans and Europeans as a water trail system.”
Native Americans first used Michigan’s waterways for sustenance and trade, early European settlers used them to transport goods and timber, and water resources were the foundation of Michigan’s earliest manufacturing and shipping industries.
By the 1800’s shipping lines were well established on the Great Lakes as the primary mode of transportation. The concept of going up north for the long weekend was born by the ability for workers in Detroit and Chicago to luxuriously cruise north to Michigan’s resort areas. They could spend the weekend with family staying for the summer and return overnight by Monday morning.
These waterways also had a significant impact nationally.
“The Great Lakes and a network of rivers opened the vast American heartland to a nation moving west. Inland waterways are a road map to much of the nation’s history,” explains a passage from the National Museum of American History’s online exhibition “On the Water: Stories from Maritime America.”
“They guided the travels of Native Americans, explorers from Europe, and streams of newcomers who established businesses, towns, and cities. … Inland waterways helped hold together the people and economy of the nation as it grew throughout the 1800s.”
Today, while still important for industrial transport, Michigan’s waters often host more leisurely travelers.
Michigan consistently ranks among the top three states in the nation for watercraft registrations and boat sales.
Recreational boating has an economic impact of more than $7 billion annually in Michigan, according to data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Cruising from Harbor to Harbor Along Michigan’s Shore
As boating became a popular pastime, the state set out to provide safe public access to the Great Lakes and inland waters of Michigan.
In 1947, the state Legislature created the Michigan State Waterways Commission – a seven-member advisory board that works with the DNR on the use of dedicated funds, provided by boaters, for the acquisition, development, and maintenance of public harbors and boating access sites.
So began the state’s Great Lakes Harbors Program. The Waterways Commission was granted authority and supporting funds to create a marine “highway” along the 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline.
From 1947 to 1964, the commission developed the majority of Michigan’s harbors of refuge, providing tens of thousands of boaters safe harbors and hospitality as they circumnavigate the state.
In 1966, the commission became part of Michigan’s Department of Conservation, the precursor to the DNR.
“Today, the number of safe harbors has grown as the Waterways Commission continues its mission to provide safe public access to the Great Lakes and inland waters of this state,” reads the Michigan Harbors Guide. “The program’s goal is to locate harbors so that no boater will ever be more than 15 shoreline miles from safety.”
Boaters have paid for much of this harbor network through taxes on marine fuel purchases and boat registration fees. Under the Waterways Grant-In-Aid Program, local units of government are given grant funds for construction of facilities. Federal funding also supports the development of harbor facilities.
“Of the over 80 public harbors, most are operated by our Grant-in-Aid partners,” said Linnae Dawson, DNR recreational harbor coordinator. “GIA harbors are owned and operated by a local unit of government but have received waterways funding in the past.”
Local communities are responsible for continuing operation and maintenance of harbor facilities. The state only considers assuming these responsibilities where local resources are unable to support them, so the DNR operates only 18 of Michigan’s harbor facilities.
Information about planning a day or overnight trip to one of Michigan’s 83 state-sponsored harbors is available on the DNR’s ‘Boating the Great Lakes’ page. Here boaters can find access to the digital harbor guide, including harbor locations, amenities, reservation information and more.
Michigan also has more than 1,300 public state and local boating access sites, both developed and undeveloped.
Paddle Michigan’s Water Trails
While boating has long been a popular pursuit for Michiganders, participation in paddle sports like kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding has flourished in recent years.
In 2018, to offer paddling travelers more opportunities, the state first designated water trails – eight waterways totaling 540-plus miles that flow through more than a dozen counties.
A water trail is a designated route on a navigable waterway such as a lake, river, canal or bay, which is designed and managed to create a positive outdoor recreation experience for the user.
They feature well-developed access points, often are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest and often have nearby amenities like restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds.
“Water trails naturally are an increasing trend in Michigan and throughout the country, as interest in paddle sports and other water-based recreation continues to grow,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson. “We are pleased to help advance these opportunities by recognizing model public water trails that set the standard for the future of Michigan’s water trails program.”
Paul Yauk, the DNR’s state trails coordinator, said that Michigan is in a great position to work with partners to create a statewide water trails program that complements Michigan’s broader trails system.
“Designating these rivers as official water trails shines an even brighter light on some incredible natural resources,” Yauk said. “We fully expect that offering – and expanding – water trail opportunities in Michigan will encourage more outdoor recreation and healthier lifestyles, and also serve as regional destinations that will give a boost to local economies.”
Whether it’s cruising the Great Lakes or paddling down a quiet stream, there are plenty of opportunities to explore Michigan while traveling by water.
If you’re planning a boating or paddling trip, please be aware that rising water levels on Michigan lakes, rivers and streams can present hazards for boaters, swimmers and others enjoying the outdoors. Find tips on keeping you safe in and around higher water levels, plus ideas for lessening the impacts to fish and wildlife, at Michigan.gov/HighWaterSafety.Learn more about boating at Michigan.gov/Boating and about water trails at Michigan.gov/DNRTrails.
First called Byrd’s Creek, after Jeduthan Byrd, who built a sawmill here in 1839. Selling his firm to Rollin Smith, Alfred Dwight & P.C. Austin, it had been renamed Dwightville for Alfred Dwight in 1854.
Alfred Dwight put a street light on a pole for a lighthouse, the vicinity came known as Austin’s Dock, then Austin Port, and finally Port Austin. Rollin Smith became the primary postmaster in January 1856. The community was incorporated into a village in 1887.
The great Michigan forest fires of 1881 swept over four counties in three days, destroyed nearly two million dollars’ worth of property, and killed one hundred and twenty-five people. Their extent and irresistible power were largely due to atmospheric conditions. The summer of 1881 was excessively dry, and the drought had done its work nowhere more effectively than in the wide, blunt, tongue of land which lies between Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. At the northern end of this tongue is Huron County. It was one of the worst fires in Michigan forest fire history.
Related Michigan Forest Fire Reading
In 1881, 138 years ago, over a series of several days, a devastating fire overtook the Thumb. Here is a synopsis of the days of that horrific event and its aftermath. Great Michigan Thumb Fires of 1881
The summer of 1871 was dreadfully hot and dry in Michigan’s Thumb. Farmers watched their crops wither in the dry heat. In the fall, relief from the drought was no better. Folks began to worry that there were to be some lean winter months ahead. The heat and the lack of rain did not only affect eastern Michigan. The conditions stretched west into Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The whole region was a tinderbox for the great fire of 1871. 1871 Great Fire – The Burning Great Lakes
The Great Michigan Fire of 1881 devastated one town above all others; Parisville. Parisville Michigan was Founded by Polish immigrants escaping the oppression of the Prussian Empire, this community claims to be the first Polish settlement in North America. 1881 Fire: The Devastation of Parisville
From 2012 – All of Minnesota’s electricity generation needs can be met by wind and solar sources combined with improvements to the state’s electric grid system and energy efficiency policies, according to a report released. “Renewable Minnesota: A technical and economic analysis of a 100% renewable-energy based electricity system for Minnesota” was researched and written by Dr. Arjun Makhijani and Christina Mills of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) in Takoma Park, Maryland and Dr. M.V. Ramana of Princeton University.
Researchers reviewed the energy production demands and compared to production potential from Wind and Solar methods and found that Minnesota can meet 100% of its energy needs from renewables. In a study published March 2012 the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research based it model on Minnesota energy usage from 2007.
Major components of their analysis are the use of renewable energy storage technology and smart grid technology. The storage technology that they assumed is compressed air energy storage (CAES), which has been used commercially for decades with coal-fired power plants in two locations: Germany and Alabama. Compressed natural gas storage in caverns and aquifers is also a standard technology. CAES is only one option for commercial scale storage technology, and because it has a proven track record, they used it as the placeholder technology for the storage capacity needed.
Renewables Feasible to Replace Fossil Fuels
A renewable energy-based electricity sector is technically feasible, using available and proven technologies. If this is supplemented with an intelligent grid with two-way communication and more efficient use and integration of distributed generation and storage resources, this can help reduce the costs of implementing a renewable energy-based electricity sector.
There are ample renewable resources in Minnesota. There is more than enough wind and solar energy potential to meet the entire 2007 demand of Xcel Energy’s customers every hour and to accommodate growth in the foreseeable future. These technologies are already commercially available. While we have not examined the subject in detail here, there is evidence that the requisite amount of utility-scale storage technology can also be installed within the state.
An efficient, renewable electricity system can be achieved at an overall cost comparable to the present total cost. The added costs of renewable energy generation, as compared to the current generation from mature and fully-depreciated fossil fuel and nuclear generation facilities, can be offset by increasing the energy efficiency of household and building appliances. The net costs of electricity services – lighting, cooling, running appliances, etc., would be the same as today, but partitioned between generation, storage, efficiency, transmission and distribution.
Energy efficiency lowers the effective cost of electricity services and electricity bills.