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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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