1881 Michigan Forest Fires

Michigan Forest Fires
The fires made national news.

Michigan Forest Fires in the 1800s Impact Today

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
  • Michigan’s Forest Fires in the 1800-1900s

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The Great Lakes Oasis Threatened

Great Lakes Water Levels

The Great Lakes Region hosts the largest supply of freshwater on the planet. The entire region enjoys mild seasons due to the mitigation by the lakes of extreme weather. Indeed the entire area surrounding the Great Lakes area may be considered an oasis as the extreme effects of global warming start to take hold. 

The net effects of Climate Change are contributing to wild swings in Great Lakes Water Levels. In 2013 all the lakes were at their lowest levels since 1963. In 2019-2020 four out of the five Great Lakes Water Levels are hitting record highs. High lake levels erode shorelines and damage property and shoreline roads. Some communities are asking for a state of emergency to deal with high water levels.

Yet there are threats to this resource. Foreign companies are pumping millions of gallons of fresh clean water everyday from the Aquifers that are fed and supported by the Great Lakes. They don’t pay for the resource and profit handsomely.  Read about the reaction Michigan citizens are having against the Michigan DEQ and Nestle. 


End of the Road in Michigan

Ora Labora’s Growing Pains

Ora Labora – A Lost Colony in Michigan’s North – Part III

Part III of the Ora Labora story takes place in 1864. The costly building to accommodate the  colonies 140 residents was costly and the community needs cash to grow. It was time for drastic measures. News of the raging war in the south was looking like the demand for more soldiers was looming. Leaders of the colony knew it would be months or weeks before conscription would take their finest young men.

Ora Labora
Wild Fowl Bay – Site of the Colony.

The Michigan land office had refused to do further business with Emil and the society’s leadership board. Any future land acquired would have to be done though individual settlers. To compound his troubles a former member of the colony knew the financial problems. Trouble was coming for Ora Labora. Read more about the third part of the Ora Labora story.

Alexis de Tocqueville on the Saginaw Trail

In 1831, 26 year old Alexis de Tocqueville and his friend Gustave de Beaumont, took the ultimate road trip. The pair of French aristocrats journey from Buffalo New York to the Straights of Detroit with the intent of going to the last overland outpost of civilization; Saginaw.

Their travels predate Michigan’s statehood, the lumber industry and homestead settlement, the story weaves a tale of what early Northwest territory life was like in the early 1800s. We travel with them along the famous Saginaw trail meeting unique individuals hacking their way into virgin forests and the meeting it’s native inhabitants. It’s also a commentary of the environment and how supposedly civilised society will forever impact nature.

This small short story takes place 180 years before today’s concept of climate change. It’s a fascinating short story that is an excerpt of the book A Fortnight in the Wilderness and is now freely available for the first time anywhere as a podcast on Google Podcast and Apple Podcast


Sweet Sebewaing

Sebewaing

Sebewaing Michigan is a town of approximately 1,800 people situated on the shore of Saginaw Bay. Historically this settlement has been in existence for 100’s of years before white settlers as it was a well known fishing and hunting area for the Anishinaabeg group of Indigenous Peoples in North America. 

Today it’s one of the sweetest towns Michigan’s Thumb. Known as the Sugar Beet Capital, due to the Michigan Sugar mill located within the village and the yearly Michigan Sugar Festival. The Sebewaing area, the Thumb, and the state of Michigan overall are major beet sugar growers and producers. 

The town also was home to Sebewaing Brewing Company which operated until 1966. The cans, beer cases and other memorabilia are known for their collectability. The town is one of our last stops for the M-25 Road Trip – Riding the Ribbon Around the Thumb.


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Michigan’s Thumb is Black Bean Headquarters

Michigan Black Beans

Black Beans are medium to small, oval shaped beans with a shiny black coat or skin, a small white eye or spot (called a “keel,”) a creamy white interior, and a pleasant mushroom-like flavor which some cooks have described as “earthy” or “meaty.”

According to the Michigan Bean Commission, Michigan is internationally known as an excellent supplier of high quality dry beans. The climate, with rich, well drained, loamy soil, moderate daytime temperatures, and cool evenings are suited for bean production. Michigan is the top state in production of Black Beans, Cranberry Beans, and Small Red Beans. IN 2019 Michigan ranked third behind Minnesota and North Dakota in overall bean production.

Mexico is Michigan’s largest export market, largely made up of but not limited to high quality, Michigan black beans. In Michigan’s Upper Thumb the town of Kinde was once known has the bean capital of Michigan.

Farmers have found that dry bean crops like black and kidney beans are reliably profitable. However bean growers have a long-term capital investment in specialized harvest equipment. In addition, there is no subsidization by the U.S. farm program, and they are susceptible to damage from wet weather which has been prevalent in Michigan. Thus its considered a higher risk, commodity but can yield high profits. Its considered a good yield at 2,500 pounds per acre


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