I’m a Slow Reader (of Topography)

I have a bit of property east of Harrison, MI. As some of you may know, I have the remains of a couple of old buildings on my property. I have also found some artifacts while metal detecting around there. They include an axe handle, small railroad spike, broken horseshoes, metal straps for wooden barrels, bent square nails and even a broken piece of plow and what appears to be a broken section of railroad track.

One of the foundations I have I have known about for a couple of years; the second I found earlier this spring. Yesterday, I found one more, maybe two. I just don’t know for sure. Digging into one of them I found several bent wooden nails and some charred wood about a foot down. Maybe it was an outhouse since there is a rather large depression nearby. Maybe there is more to be found (bottles, trash) if I take time to dig there. I just don’t know for sure.

As far as I can tell, the dwellings, whatever they were use for, burned during one of the fires that roared across this property, 60 or even 100 years ago. I just don’t know for sure. I can estimate the time the buildings were constructed to the 1880s to 1900s or so. That’s because no one settled here until after 1880 and round nails came into widespread use around 1900 or so. In addition, there are a number of large trees on the property and in locations that make me believe that they grew after the area was abandoned. However, I just don’t know for sure.

This is a great time of year to be out and about the woods since the spring rains have washed some of last fall’s leaves off some of the higher mounds on my property. What I also noticed yesterday was what may be the outline an old road or railroad bed that cuts across the property near the foundations and parallel to an old stream bed. It’s a couple of hundred yards long.  What it is, I just don’t know for sure.

That’s because I am a slow reader of the land. I see the features but don’t “SEE” them. I don’t know what I am looking at when I am looking at them. That’s alfun but it’s also frustrating. What I need is someone who is good at this kind of thing and can tell me what I’m looking at and maybe where to do. And the clock is ticking because soon the sprouting vegetation will hide many of the features I’ve found for another year. Plus, a few mosquitoes have already started buzzing around and they take some of the fun out of wandering the property.

So if anyone knows how to read the land for signs of roads or foundations or knows of someone who can, please let me know. I want to know for sure.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, logging, metal detecting, Michigan, Travel and tourism | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “I’m a Slow Reader (of Topography)

  1. Launchpad

    I wish I knew more and could help. I just made another visit to your area in search of more clues to my great Grandfather. What I understand thus far is he moved his family to Meredith to operate the rail depot and had a son while there. I was lucky enough to have gotten the birth record while visiting this week. After reading Forest Meeks book about the area I have a difficult time understanding how Willard could take a family to that area in such a rough time but I guess you do what you have to for your family. Sure would enjoy visiting your land with you one day. Thanks for the great posts. I look forward to each of them.

    • Martin Johnson

      Not sure if I ever responded to you. Thanks for your comment. And you are right about why people moved to an area. Just like now it’s all about jobs. And even more so back then since there was no safety net of sorts.

      By the way, have you read Michigan Shadow Towns by Gene Scott? It’s got a section on Meredith. Not a big write up but a couple of pages.

  2. mistyshusbandusingheremail

    where is this property? what section? 517-403-9442

    • Martin Johnson

      I’m over in section 31 of Hamilton Twp, north of Springwood Lake and East of Dodge Lake.

      M

      P.S. I added an update to my blog. Had someone stop by last week who could read the land better. He had some good info for me.

      • mistyshusbandusingheremail

        31? isnt that south east of springwood?Souith of Dodge?

  3. I was referring to the roads. I am off Springwood Lake Rd about a 100 yards east of Dodge Lake Rd. I’m hoping I read the plat map correctly…

    • mistyshusbandusingheremail

      can I have a look?
      also I have a couple more nice lines for your friends map that they would never know about.I think weve met b4 also.

      • mistyshusbandusingheremail

        and I can show you my railroad grades,as in two, and loading area on my property…and some perfect old cut stumps..and some virgin timber.

  4. Cody

    I have an old map showing a road across the back of your property. its from 1943 and labels it as a poor dirt road.Alot of railroad grades later became roads just wanted to throw that out there.It comes from Rogers due east then South East a little then straightens out due east again to Springwood lakes then labeled as Twin lakes.Maybe a quarter mile N of Springwood lake rd.

    • I have a similar map and know the road is there. Not sure it was an old railroad or not. I have not found any spikes or similar artifacts related to the railroad on any part of the road. I did some metal detecting between raindrops this weekend in my almost-dried-up pond and found another old axe head (the third) and another piece of a logging sled rail. I still want to get you out to walk the property with me (and visa versa) once the vegetation is down and IF I’m up there when the weather is decent. Maybe next month. Anyway, thanks for your comment. They are always welcome.

  5. sandi

    I LOVE my metal detector. I just came home from Florida by way of Hwy 65. My husband drove me, but digging I did myself.. I found many treasures. I also have pails full of sand. Rocks, soil. I have yet to go through.. I was lucky enough to Appreciate where I was. I am 51. Sore from digging. But I’m blessed to even be on some of the sights I was on… Thanks… I had to write.. Nobody else understood my plight. Thank you!!

    • Thanks for your comment. I think those of us who metal detect or just like to find rocks, stones and other interesting items appreciate what you are going through. It’s relaxing but it can be heavy. Recently joined the Gold Prospectors Association of America and now will have MORE reasons to pick up buckets of rocks and sand and dirt. Welcome home!

  6. sandi

    Sorry. My posts to you previous to this I didn’t check your notification.. I saw this was a few years old. Hopefully It didn’t fall on deaf ears.

  7. Jim

    If you ever need a hand or someone to metal detect with give me a shout.

  8. Jim

    Yes, I live in the far North West corner of Clare County and when I not out metal detecting I’m looking up history and seeking permission. The books that Angela Kellogg and Cody Beemer published have been of great help.
    I was able to locate two CCC camps that were not on the books. One having what I think was a root cellar and one believed to be a shower sump w/well head.
    Jim Carr and Maggie’s “Dead Mans Hill” is one I would love to hunt and finding out where the trolley car known as the Blue Goose originally came from before Coleman should keep me busy on those cold winter days?
    GL&HH
    Jim.

    • Would be interested in talking to you sometime. Maybe meet at the Harrison library where Angie works. Am interested in those CCC camps. I know there was one near Temple but that is all I know of. And yeah, Dead Man’s Hill would be an intriguing site to dig!

  9. Jim

    I’d like that very much Marty. One of the men that gave me this information worked with the CCC camps out of Roscommon when the Temple camp was just a stone throw from where his family lived.
    The Temple camp was burnt to the ground due to a disease and rumor has it three men were buried there to prevent it from spread? With all the rain we’ve had I don’t think the road is passable to the camp south of Temple but the one north sure is.
    When the state closed down Temple’s Park and blocked the road the only access now is off Cook Rd. next to where the Blue Goose sat. The Blue Goose was an old rail road passenger car brought from Coleman and used for a Café,Booze and Fallen Angles. Now at one time there was a train that left out of Temple, to Loomis or Coleman and headed north to Meredith making stops along the way and returning to Temple by days end. Now I’ve read story’s where the evil twins “Jim Carr and Maggie” would move a train car between Clare and Gladwin county depending on which law agency was after them at the time. It’s my be belief that the Blue Goose could have been one of Carr’s prior to his death.
    I was able to get a picture from 1967 with the RR car in shambles and I think it was in the 1980s my neighbor took what hadn’t dissolved into the soil to the scrap yard.
    I’ve also read where Maggie died in a poor house down state, and the only poor house at that time would have been Eloise which was later known as Eloise Asylum. Meredith bears no head stone of Maggie nor Jim and at Eloise it would be no more then a number etched on a stone.
    As far as Dead Man’s Hill goes, it’s just a pipe dream, with all the development that Harrison has gone through over the years but one never knows what lies just under your coil until you dig it.
    GL&HH
    Jim.

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