Posts Tagged With: Clare County Michigan

1.8 Million Years of Clare History (or 150 feet)

Note: This is the first of two posts dealing with the geologic history of Clare County, Michigan, USA.

Map showing where Clare County is in MichiganEver take a good look at our county?  Its rolling landscape, many bodies of water (20 Lakes in 20 Minutes), numerous gravel and sand pits, the fact that the south end of the county is hundreds of feet lower than the north end.  Ever wonder why it looks the way it does? Why it has so many rocks? So many lakes? And oil?

It’s a fascinating story.

What we now call Clare County has been around for more than 4 billion years and has physically traveled a long way and has seen volcanos and oceans.  Only recently–in the last 11,000 years of so–has it been in the form we now know it.  If you think of time as a yardstick*–a really long yardstick in this example–with every 1,000 years being an inch and us at one end, Clare County has existed in its present form for about 11 inches, while the land far underneath and around has been in existence for about 66 miles or so. As I said, a really long yardstick. But more on that later.

And while the land has been around for more than 4 billion years, you won’t find any dinosaur bones. Now there is always a remote chance you will find the remains of a mastodon and woolly mammoth in the county (a tooth most likely since those tend to survive because they don’t decay as easily, no pun intended), any traces of dinosaurs were scrubbed way by glaciers and/or buried several thousand feet and under tons and tons (and tons) of glacial till, which is debris from a glacier.

Circles indicate where a remain of a mastodon has been found.

Circles indicate where the remains of a mastodon were found. Most discoveries have been where swamps once existed. The theory is that the animals may have fallen through a mat of vegetation trying to feed, were quickly swallowed by mud and were preserved.

If you do find a mastodon or mammoth (and it more likely to be the former since they have been found in Michigan more often), yours will be the first. That’s because while mastodon fossils have been found in most surrounding counties and mammoth fossils in a few counties, neither has been found in this county. And yes, there is a difference between the two herbivores but no, they are not dinosaurs. Real dinosaurs like your t-rex and triceratops have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years (3 miles on our yardstick), while these elephant-sized, mammals (the largest that we know of in our state) last trod our mitten-shaped peninsula 6,000 to 8,000 years ago (6-8 yardstick inches away), according to scientists who study that kind of stuff.

I learned this from a paper by Margaret Anne Skeels of The University of Michigan, entitled The Mastodons and Mammoths of Michigan, presented back in 1961. And if a mammoth or mastodon remain has been found in the last 54 years, I can’t find evidence of the discovery.

Ms Skeels also wrote that we don’t really know why these critters became extinct, but that it was most likely due to a warming climate.  The same warming that caused the glaciers to retreat to the arctic. While there is evidence that Indians of the Southwest hunted mastodons, we have no evidence that Indians in our state hunted them or were at all responsible for their extinction.

However, let me rewind a bit and talk more about glaciers and ice ages.  I will cover our really distant past (oceans, the equator, formation of oil deposits and more) in Part 2.

graphic showing the lobes of a glacier

The retreat of last of the four glaciers that covered Clare County. Each glacier sculpted our county and dropped tons of sediment (glacial till), in its wake.

Scientists believe there were at least four glaciers that covered all of Michigan and much of North America over many hundreds of thousands of years, complete with warm periods in-between when the glaciers receded. These ice ages and resulting glaciers were known as the Nebraskan, Kansan, Illinoisan, and the Wisconsinan. Why the earth cooled enough that glaciers from the arctic region expanded to cover all of Michigan and a good part of North America is unknown but it may have to do with long-term variations in the orbit of the earth (Milankovitch Cycles).

And whether we are currently in one of the those “in-between periods” is also unknown; however, it is known that  starting about 1.8 million years ago (150 feet away on our yardstick), at the start of what is known as the Quaternary period, it got cold and it stayed cold and that ice sheets covered all 83 Michigan counties including ours.  The height of those glaciers has been is estimated to be 10,000 feet or more, and the tremendous weight and pressure of the ice compressed the earth as it gouged and shaped the landscape.

While these  glaciers advanced, they captured and transported with it everything in its path from huge boulders to rocks, stones and gravel. That means many of the rocks you see or that farmers have to contend with when they plow, may have come from hundreds of miles to the north where it was transported by the final glacier.

Map showing glacial moraines.

Black lines show the many moraines in our state. The Saginaw Bay region is without moraines because it was until relatively recently (geologically speaking) under water and its moraines have been eroded by wave action or low areas filled in with sand and debris.

The glaciers’ movements weren’t constant and the advances and retreats occurred over 10s of thousands of years (the last glacial age lasted more than 100,000 years). When the Wisconsinan glacier finally retreat for the last time–which means the glacier was melting faster than it was advancing–all the geologic junk contained in the ice was dropped in irregular piles, creating the landscape we now see. Where the glacier was in one place for a longer period of time (decades perhaps) hilly areas developed called moraines.

There are many moraines in Michigan and one rather large one divides our county roughly in half. Its southernmost boundary is quite visible as one drives on Old-27 near Adams Road with James Hill as one of the landmarks (see photo below).  In this general area the Saginaw lob of that final glacier rubbed up against the Lake Michigan lobe with both dropping glacial till in the form of rocks, sand and gravel, and gushing huge quantities of meltwater. To the south of the moraine and several hundred feet lower in elevation are Clare and Farwell. Atop the moraine are the communities of Harrison, Temple and Leota.  There is more to the story than just a difference in elevation. The soils are different with that to the south being less sandy and more fertile (see Soil story below).

Our lakes were included in the glacial formation, both the Great Lakes and our inland lands.  Many of the inland lakes were the result of great blocks of ice being dropped by the glacier, then being buried under tremendous amount of debris left by ice. Once the glaciers melted, the ice blocks too slowly melted under the glacial till leaving depressions filled with water in their wake.  How big were the ice blocks? Well, think Houghton Lake and closer to home, Budd Lake.

The glacial till is thick. According to S. G.Berquist, in his The Glacial History and Development of Michigan, the average depth of glacial deposits over the bedrock in the state is 300 feet. In other places, like in the western end of the Upper Peninsula, the bedrock remains visible and minerals such as iron and copper can be found because the glacier was not powerful enough to erode them.

Photo taken atop the glacial moraine.

View looking south atop the glacial moraine at James Hill (Adams and Old 27).

Because the till left by the glacier are mixed, the deposits in many areas of our state are unstratified, that is mixed and lacking in layers. However, because the vast amount of meltwater issuing from the retreating glaciers carried sediment with it as it flowed, that water often sorted the till into various sizes such as cobble, gravel, pebble, sand, silt and clay, according to Berquist. That’s why we find sand pits, gravel pits and the like in our county and around our state.

So, the next time you take a drive or a walk, look around you and marvel at what God, nature and time has wrought.  Then pick up a rock and look at it carefully and take time to appreciate it.  After all, it traveled a long way to get to you.

cartoon(Writer’s Note: Please let me know if any of my information is not clear or in error. I like geology and wanted to keep this brief and easy to read but I also want it accurate.)

Want to learn more about Michigan’s glaciers? Here are some resources:

* The yardstick idea comes from Geologic  Time Line Helper on the Dept. of Environmental Quality website. (www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/GIMDL-GTLH-GEN_307780_7.pdf)

MORE ON CLARE COUNTY’S SOIL

The book the Soil Survey of Clare County, Michigan, published by the United States Dept. of Agriculture’s Soil Conservation Service (1978) graphically illustrates the soil types found in the county. Below is a map of the county and accompanying legend.

The approximate location of the glacial moraine (running northeast to southwest) can be discerned in the map below in the soil shown in yellow.  The legend descriptions of the soils in the northern section of the county generally include sandy in their definitions, while the soil to the south (designated by a 4) does not include that term.  Soil to the south of the moraine is generally more fertile.  One reason is that the lower elevations to the south were under water for an extended period of time when the glaciers receded due to the elevated levels of the Great Lakes and the forerunner to Saginaw Bay.

Blog-Soils

Colors show the various soil types found in the county. The soil to the south is more fertile owing to the fact the land below the glacier moraine was underwater following the glacier and gained additional nutrients. The red circle at the center shows the general location of James Hill.

soil survey map with the county's various soil types

 

Categories: Clare County, ecology, History, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Amish in Clare County

Amish3If you were to guess the decade the Amish established a presence in Clare County, what would be your answer?

  • Maybe the 1890s after the lumberjacks had left and farmers moved in?
  • Or the 1930s during the Great Depression when farmers moved to new areas looking for inexpensive farmland and new opportunities?
  • Perhaps after WWII when suburbs began to sprout in rural areas once containing the Amish, hiking the cost of farmlands beyond what young Amish couples could afford? 
  • The 1980s, because it took them that long to travel that far north by horse and buggy?  

The answer IS the 1980s, but not due to any reason related to horses or buggies.

Amish 1Although Amish have been in Michigan since 1895, and there were even Amish settlements in mid-Michigan that did not proper (Coleman, 1911-1913), it wasn’t until 1980 that Amish settlements started in Clare and Gladwin counties.  Although it’s not known exactly what brought the families from Ohio, a local history book called “Amish Society,” by John Hochstettler, a member of the Amish community,  mentions two reasons for the Amish coming to mid-Michigan,  including the fact it was becoming difficult for younger Amish to purchase farms in traditional Amish communities and there were  some unspecified conflicts with church ministers among some congregation members.

 Whatever the reasons, the first Amish resident in Clare County, according to the community’s local history, was Roy J. Yoder from Holmes County, Ohio.  Before coming to Clare, Yoder had investigated Michigan’s thumb area then came to mid-Michigan looking at various properties in Gladwin county before settling on land northeast of Clare.  In the spring of the following year, a second family moved to the immediate area and other families followed, beginning what is now the Clare Settlement.

Growth continued until, by 2010, there were four communities near the City of Clare, each with its own church and school, and led by its own bishop.  The Amish continue to move north with families now located both east and west of Harrison.  Currently, there are about 1,000 Amish living in the county.  (Amish tour and shopping)

About the same time, the first Amish settlement near Clare was being established, another group of Amish from Hardin County, Ohio purchased farms in Gladwin County and a large community developed in the Gladwin and Beaverton areas.Amish map

There are approximately 13,000 Amish in Michigan residing in 38 separate communities and 98 church settlements.  (Michigan’s Amish  population increased 115 percent between 1991 and 2010.) Because the Amish have no churches, instead meeting in homes, an individual community has to be small enough so meetings at homes are practical, yet large enough to be viable.  A church community has approximately 30 families (120-200 people) headed by (usually) a bishop, two preachers and a deacon.  The school has one or two teachers serving the students of that community who attend grades 1-8, which is all the schooling required by the Amish.  Community is paramount in both orders and its members operate under the Orndung, or consensus of the community.

Michigan has two orders of Amish: The Old Order  and New Order. Neither allows the driving of cars but the two orders differ on allowable technology (i.e., cell phones, power lawnmowers) and church discipline, with the New Order being more lenient.  There may also be some differences in the Orndung from community to community but because communities want to be in communion with one another and can risk being shunned by neighboring communities, the Orndung changes slowly and usually in conjunction with other neighboring communities.

Speaking of shunning, in their late teenage years Amish young people make a decision whether to be baptized into the Amish community.  Approximately 25 percent of all Amish either do not join the order or leave it after joining.  Those who choose not to become Amish are not banned or shunned.  They are welcome to visit the community and their family and friends can talk to them.  Shunning is reserved for those Amish who take the vows to be members of the community and then break those vows.  It is this process that helps keep the community strong and single-minded.

The Amish pay property taxes and income taxes.  If self-employed, they do not have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.  However, if they work for an employer, they do have to pay those taxes, even though the Amish do not use either of those social programs.

2010_Feb_Harrison_Amish_buggy

Amish FAQs

The Amish in Michigan, by Gertrude Enders Huntington (2001, Michigan State University Press)

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, Home life, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Jim and Maggie: Disreputable, Despicable and Clare County’s Own

The evil that men do live after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.  Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Jim Carr and Maggie Duncan were evil, but for a few years their evil deeds made them two of the richest individuals in Clare County.  When they died as paupers on straw mattresses on the frigid floor of a rundown shack in March 1892, few people shed tears upon hearing the news.  If Shakespeare was right, the good they did—if any—is buried with them in their unmarked graves.

Here is a brief summary of two of the nastiest people ever to call Clare County home:

Jim Carr was born in Buffalo, NY about 1850 (1).  After knocking around Toledo, Chicago and Eaton Rapids, Carr ended up in Clare County, where, in 1868, he started working for lumberman Winfield Scott Gerrish.  Carr, according to an article in the Gladwin Record, was a well-built man, six-feet tall with a mustache covering a pleasant face and possessing a gentlemanly manner.  At the same time, the writer aid there was an “air of danger” around him.

Not much is known of Duncan (2), but in her, Carr found a kindred spirit and in him, Duncan found a way out of poverty.  So Duncan was with Carr in 1881 when he decided there was more money to be made from lumberjacks than lumbering and struck out and opened a business just outside of Harrison, a town recently hewed out of the forest and the Clare County seat.

One would have said Carr’s odds of success were slight. Although Harrison was growing fast and up to 20 trains a day rolled into town, it already had 20 saloons.  Carr was not highly educated and could read but could not write.  But if the old adage is true that the three most important factors in real estate are location, location, location, then he opened his Devil’s Ranch Stockade in the right place. The stockade was a two- or perhaps three-story saloon, hotel, gambling hall, brothel located on a hill just outside the town’s limits.  When the city fathers had platted Harrison, they had determined the hill to be worthless and so didn’t include it within the town’s boundaries.  That meant Carr were not under the town’s laws but only under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff, an individual Carr apparently came to own, if reports published in local papers were true.  Plus, the hill meant the Carr’s place was visible to everyone coming into town.  The promise of cheap booze, loose women, open gambling and few regulations made Carr’s place popular with lumberjacks who flocked there to do much as they pleased.  For some lumberjack’s, Carr’s stockade was their first stop when they came to Harrison and their last–literally.  The hill on which Carr’s place stood soon became known as Dead Man’s Hill because of the people Carr was reported to have killed and buried there.

This view of Harrison was probably taken about 1880-81 and would have been taken somewhere near the site of Carr's Devil's Ranch Stockade.

This view of Harrison (facing east) was probably taken about 1880-81.  The photographer may have been standing somewhere near where Carr’s Devil’s Ranch Stockade was  or would be.

The term “stockade” used to describe the ranch was literal and not figurative.  The complex had a high fence around it meant to keep prying eyes out and the women that worked in the brothel in.  While some women began prostitutes by choice, others were forced into the business.  There is one story of a prostitute named Jenny Kinney (or King) who fled Carr’s stockade one winter night clad only in her after being beaten.  She ran into town knocking on doors asking for shelter.  When one family took her in, Duncan, a companion and a big dog appeared at the door demanding her return.  The family refused to give her up. No one was ever charged.

While Carr ran the overall business focusing on the saloon, Duncan ran the brothel.  She had experience with brothels (but then so did Carr for that matter, since that’s how the two seemed to have met).  Anyway, it was a love and business partnership that seemed made in heaven–or hell.  Duncan seems to have been Carr’s equal in every way with a love of vices and strong drink and a reputation for cruelty.  Their Harrison business  proved so successful that they even expanded and opened a second establishment in the then growing town of Meredith, some 10 miles to the northeast and in the center of some 50 logging camps.

Carr made a profitable living (or perhaps killing) off lumberjacks.  The ranch was big enough to fit up to 250 – 300 men at a time, most of them at the bar drinking Carr’s beer and rot-gut whiskey.  There was so much money that instead of cash registers, Carr’s place had buckets for the men to throw their money in for their drinks.  When the buckets were full, they were carried to Carr’s office for emptying and counting.  Carr also advanced lumberjacks credit in exchange for their time tickets, which he discounted 25 – 50 percent. (Some lumberjacks were not paid until logs they had cut were delivered to the sawmill in the spring, so to reflect their earnings, the men were given “time tickets.”  These were redeemable by bearer for cash in the full amount.)  Carr was not above adding to his earnings by robbing drunken lumberjacks or those he and his cronies drugged.  This also proved lucrative since the men carried all their earnings–sometimes for an entire logging season–on their person.

Carr’s unsavory and illegal activities were apparently well known and the subject of numerous stories and editorials in the local press (although one paper defended him by saying that men like Carr were “a necessary evil” in growing towns).  And that’s not to say Carr wasn’t arrested.  At one time when asked how many times he had been arrested, he claimed it was so many times he couldn’t remember.  However, being arrested was one thing, being convicted was another.  Witnesses were often too afraid to appear in court, were paid off, disappeared, or Carr simply paid a fine.

However, when Frankie Osborne, a prostitute popular with the lumberjacks died in Carr’s employ in 1885 that Carr’s and Duncan’s life began to start unraveling.  It was also around this time a new sheriff was elected that was not under Carr’s control and a new prosecutor named W.A. Buritt decided to rid the county of Carr.

Osborne’s death was due to a beating and at Carr’s hand.  Initially, Carr wasn’t too worried about being arrested in Osborne’s death.  When he was indicted for her murder, it’s reported he laughed and said, “Is that all?” and prepared to leave the courtroom.  Instead, the judge ordered him to jail to stand trial.  Carr was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to 15 years.

Carr was freed by the Michigan Supreme Court after a year in prison (although the Court stated Carr’s conviction was improper, it did state he was a very depraved individual).  Duncan was also freed  about that time from the Detroit House of Correction after a conviction for running a house of ill repute.  The two began their businesses again, although Buritt was not done with Carr.  Although Carr had beaten the murder rap, Buritt brought Carr up for trial, this time on charges he burned a James Silkworth’s establishment at Frostd in 1884.  Although Carr again beat these charges, the continuing legal costs had taken much of his fortune.  In addition, most of white pine in Clare County had been cut by this time and the lumberjacks had moved on to new territories.  Fewer customers, a population increasingly intolerant of Carr’s activities and increased raids on his establishments meant fewer profits.

Carr and Duncan apparently abandoned their place in Harrison but continued to run a brothel in Meredith.  In a burst of imagination and to try to avoid the law, it is said Carr put the building on skids.  Either that or put it on a railroad car.  Since Meredith was on the Clare/Gladwin County line, Carr would simply move the building between counties whenever things in one county got too hot for him.  Whether one story or the other is true isn’t known but the legend has grown with time.  In any event, the building, wherever it was located, eventually burned to the ground leaving the two without regular income.

Carr and Duncan remained in Clare County.  Why they didn’t move on with the lumberjacks and resurrect their fortunes in a new place isn’t known.  Maybe they were broke.  Maybe their alcoholism had so taken its toll they no longer had the inclination to start over.  In any event, it appears Duncan resorted to her old trade to get the two of them money for liquor.  If nothing else, she remained loyal to the end.

That end came in March 1892, when Carr died next to Duncan in a freezing shack outside Meredith.  According to some accounts published years later, Carr and Duncan died together and were buried by lumberjacks on land outside a cemetery since no minister would officiate and no cemetery would take them.  Other accounts say Carr was buried near the shack, his body dug up sometime later by the county undertaker and buried in a local cemetery.  Duncan who did not die that same night as Carr was sent to the county poorhouse where it is said she died some months later.

When Carr died, he was just 42 (although other records say 37).  Duncan’s age isn’t known but going by jail records, she was about 33.

Carr’s story (and to a lesser extent Duncan’s) is told in three books:

There is also an in-depth article by David McMacken that appeared in the Summer 1971 issue of Michigan Living magazine (Volume 55. No. 2).

Portion of jail record showing Carr's name and some information including what is termed his "social condition."

Portion of jail record showing Carr’s name and some information including what is termed his “social condition.”

(1) Some records indicate Carr was born in 1855, but records from the county jail at the Clare County Historical Museum show that he was born in 1850.  Records at Ancestry.com also show he was born about 1850.   The records show Carr was the second person held in what was then the new jail.  He was held there on the charge of arson (possibly related to the burning rival James Silkworth’s place in 1884).   The jail records state Carr stood 5 feet 10 inches and weighed 175 pounds.   He was fair-haired and had blue eyes.

Maggie 1

Maggie Carr/Duncan’s name appears when she was put in jail in April 1886 on the charge of keeping a house of ill-fame.

(2) County jail records also shows Maggie Carr/Duncan was also arrested and held in the jail on the charge of “running a house of ill-fame.”  The records show Carr/Duncan was 27 at the time of her arrest, which meant she was born about 1859.  She was  5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 130 pounds and could neither read nor write.  The record also shows that she like Carr was born in Rochester, New York so it’s possible that she knew Carr or his family in her youth, or that common thread was one of the things that brought the two together.

Note: No known photographs of Jim Carr or Maggie Duncan/Carr are known to exist. This post originally had photos of two individuals that appeared in “Frankie and the Barons” by Stuart Gross and “Michigan Rogues, Desperadoes and Cut-Throats” by Tom Powers that were identified as Carr and Duncan but no documentation exists. See my blog post on the topic of the photos entitled “Take Old Time Photos with a Grain of Salt.”

 

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, History, logging, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hard Work to Make the Green Pine Lake Pathway Enjoyable

This press release was written on behalf of the Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation and a group called Hiking Michigan.  It concerns a state pathway in western Clare County that was quite overgrown.  In fact, I got lost on the pathway a couple of years ago and blogged about it.  That post caught the attention of Mark Wilson who is the director of the North/Central branch of Hiking Michigan.  He contacted me and put him in touch with Friends and the two groups worked together since Friends was looking for a way to get more people interested in the pathway. And who says good can’t come out of blogging? 

Hard Work to Make the Green Pine Lake Pathway Enjoyable

Beavers may have a different priority

Green Pine Trail MapThe Green Pine Lake Pathway is one of Clare County’s hidden treasures. The Pathway—really three loops and one connector trail—is located in Freeman Township in the western part of the county. Two of the loops are accessible from a parking lot on the south side of M-115, just west of Lake Station Ave., while the connector trail leads to a state forest campground and nature trail on Big Mud Lake (off Brown Road near Garfield).

In the past, the overgrown trails and lack of markings have posed big challenges to those who have ventured to walk either location. Now, thanks to the hard work of numerous volunteers during the last weekend in April, visitors can focus more on the beauty of their surroundings, and less on determining which direction the trails go.

According to Gerry Schmiedicke, president of Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation, a local non-profit that seeks to improve and promote the county’s parks and recreational opportunities, his group wanted to get the word out about the wonderful hiking experience residents and visitors along would find. However, “Friends” did not want to promote the Pathway until the trails looked better and people could use them safely. The group’s small number of members meant it could not accomplish all the tasks by themselves. (While increasing numbers is something the Friends group is working to change, the trail work needed tackling ASAP.)

Enter the North/Central Branch of Hiking Michigan, an organization that encourages and invites people to explore and better the natural environments while enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded outdoor people.  “Their Director, Mark Wilson, contacted us and said the group was interested in re-marking and clearing the trails,” Schmiedicke said. “We were happy to partner with them on this project and much appreciate the hard work of everyone who turned out.”

“The three trails that make up the Pathway have a lot of potential to attract visitors,” Wilson said talking about what attracted his group to the project. “The small 2.5-mile loop off the parking lot that skirts Pike Lake offers a nice little day hike and the trail is now well defined. The same is true for the nature trail at the Mud Lake State Forest Campground. And those looking for more of a challenge should enjoy the hike from the parking lot at M-115 to Mud Lake via the east leg of the trail that loops around Green Pine Lake.”

Green Pine Lake CleaningWhile Wilson credits the volunteers and staff from the DNR for the work done so far, more work remains. A few of the bridges and boardwalks need work; and signage is needed at a few intersections. (The signage, an Eagle Scout project, is currently being restored.) “We hope to complete those tasks at second work project this summer,” said Wilson.  There’s one project he admits might not get done—at least not for a while because of a beaver dam that has flooded a portion of the 5-mile long southern loop.  But Wilson isn’t going to complain, saying that we just need to remember we are visitors here while the beaver call Green Pine Lakes their home. “Plus,” he adds, “There are plenty of other trails for those of us who like terrain that’s a bit on the drier side.”

A parking lot on the south side of M-115 just west of Lake Station Road provides plenty of parking to access to trail with its two lakes. To learn more about Hiking Michigan, go to www.hikingmichigan.com.  For Hiking Michigan’s free downloadable map of the trail, go to www.hikingmichigan.com/PDFinfo/GreenPineLake.pdf.

Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation invites you to their annual Gateway Event on June 1, 2013 to help raise funds to improve recreation in Clare County. Learn more at clarecountyrecreation.org.

Categories: Clare County, ecology, General, Michigan, recreation, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Railroad Kiosk at Mid Michigan Community College

The following is a press release I wrote concerning a new kiosk installed on the grounds of the college’s Harrison campus, near an old railroad bed that is now part of a trail system.

Coming out on a rainy May morning to take part in the dedication of the kiosk were (l-r) Joe Bradley, Carron Nevill, Cindy Mussell and Andy Coulson. Cindy is with the Mid-Michigan College Foundation and the others are part of the Clare County Historical Society.

Coming out on a rainy May morning to take part in the dedication of the kiosk were (l-r) Joe Bradley, Carron Nevill, Cindy Mussell and Andy Coulson. Cindy is with the Mid-Michigan College Foundation and the others are part of the Clare County Historical Society.

A railroad once ran through it–Mid-Michigan Community College, that is. During the latter part of the 19th century, steam locomotives once regularly hauled men and materials from Clare into the then booming town of Dodge and back south carrying lumber destined for Midwest cities. Although the rails were pulled up when the lumber played out, the grade on which the trains ran can still be seen on Mid-Michigan’s Harrison campus and some of it has been incorporated into the college’s walking trails. But many who walk those trails may not know about the history under their feet–until now.

Thanks for a new kiosk on school grounds dedicated on May 10, tourists and residents will now have the opportunity to learn more about Clare’s fascinating past while getting some exercise. The kiosk is a joint project of the college, Clare County Historical Society and Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation.

“We’re always looking for a way to encourage people to take advantage of our trails, so when the Clare Historical Society and Friends approached us about a joint venture, we quickly agreed,” said Matt Miller, VP of Student and Community Relations. “We’ve got beautiful scenery around and above us, now we’re giving people a reason to better appreciate what’s under their feet.”

Map of the college. Green lines represent remnants of old railroad beds on college property.

Map of the college. Green lines represent remnants of old railroad beds on college property.

According to Joe Bradley, CCHS President, Clare County has more than 300 miles of railroad grades, which puts the county near the top in mileage in the state. And while most of the railroads were narrow gauged temporary railroads that existed only to haul trees out of a section of forest, a number of them were standard gauge tracks like these that had full size trains. “Once the trees were all cut the economy tanked so the railroads just pulled up stakes—literally—and rails and moved out. Now only the grades remain.” Bradley added that most of the grades are deep in the woods on state land or on private lands. Only a few are easy to walk with this being one of them. “We’re happy to partner with the college and Friends on this venture. We see it as another way to tell the exciting story of Clare’s history,” Bradley said.

Clare County map

This 1886 map shows some of the major railroad lines in the county. The railroad bed through the college grounds is near the “R” in Clare.

Gerry Schmiedeke said his group got involved because Friends sees this as another way to get residents active and promote the many recreational opportunities the county has available. “Many just think of the Pere Marquette rail-trail [the trail runs through the southern portion of ClareCounty] as only rail-oriented pathway in the county. Now we have two completely different experiences to offer,” Schmedieke said. “And as funding in the public sector dries up, public private partnerships in support of parks and recreation become more important.”

So whether you interest in railroading, history or just a quiet walk in the woods, MMCC is the place for you. And stop by the new kiosk before you head out to see the maps, photos and to read about the history. The Railroad kiosk is located just inside the gate at the south (Mannsiding) entrance to the college.

Mid Michigan Community College provides post-secondary education and services to enable students to succeed in a global society and also seeks to partners with its community for the benefit of its members. Learn more at midmich.edu or on its Facebook page.

The Clare County Historical Society has a museum complex at the corner of Dover and Eberhart roads that is open every Saturday through Oct. from 1 – 4 p.m.  Learn more at clarecountyhistory.org to on its Facebook page.

Friends of ClareCountyParks and Recreation is an independent non-profit agency that works closely with Clare County Parks & Recreation Commission to improve recreational resources throughout the county. Learn more at clarecountyrecreation.org or on its Facebook page.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, logging | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

An Embankment is NOT a Trestle

I have noted a number of impressive railroad beds in Clare County, Michigan that were built in the 1870s and 1880s when logging was a major industry and the economy was booming.   People were streaming into the county and lumber was being transported out and railroads were the travel method of choice. 

 One thing about trains. They don’t like hills or valleys.  The more level the ground, the easier it is for them to run and stop safely. According to a few websites such as railfan.net, most mainline railroads won’t exceed a 2% incline, although some logging railroads can go as much as 5-6%. Whatever the maximum incline allowed, the railroads hired crews–often immigrants–to do the hard work of constructing the beds, filling in low spots and digging out high spots.

cropped-gerrish-railroad11.jpgThere were a couple of methods railroads employed to creat a railroad bed in a valley or across water.  One way was to create a wooden trestle with logs that were simply laid in a criss-cross pattern. This kind of trestle could be quickly constructed and at low cost since the majority of the materals needed in the construction cou were all around them.   The photo at left shows one built by Gerrish for his logging railroad.

A second way was to build a regular trestle of logs and boards. While this type of construction may have been used in Clare County, no evidence remains that I am aware of, although evidence can be found in Gladwin County near House Lake Ste Forest Campground.

Another way and the cheapest, was to simply use fill dirt from  the surrounding countryside to build low areas up to the elevation needed to build the track.  One can still see today evidence of where workers dug the fill they needed to build up the railroad bed.  In the northern section of the county, the work was relatively easy since much of the ground was sandy soil.  Of course, easy is a relative term.  The crews still had to deal with heat, mosquitoes, rocks, roots, accidents, long hours of back-breaking work, little pay and no benefits.

Earthen trestle at MMCCBecause much of Clare County is fairly level, most areas did not require a great deal of fill.  One of those spots that did is in Harrison where the builders had to construct a bed nearly 30 feet above the surrounding countryside.  How exactly this was done is not known, although one would think the fill was brought in by railcar and dumped and then the tracks extended upon the bed as work proceeded.

In other posts, I have called this type of work a “trestle,” since the term fit, to me at least. However, local historian Cody Beemer who also owns Beemer Sand &  Gravel Excavating in Harrison and knows about such things took issue (in a nice way) with my use of the word.  His comments sent me to the dictionary and the Internet, and (sigh) I found he was right. 

According to Wikipedia and other sources, trestles by their very nature contain piers to support whatever is above them.  And that means they need to be built of something other than earth. In the 18th and 19th centuries, wood and iron were the materials of choice.  In the 20th century steel was used and continues to be used today.

So what are these types of railroad beds called? For that answer, I turned to the National Railway Historical Society in Philadelphia. I sent them an email and received a quick response from L. J. Dean, a NRHS Library Volunteer who emailed me.  “If these are earthen structures higher than the surrounding country, the most commonly used term would be embankment,” he wrote.  “The term fill is also often used, but less likely to be familiar to the general public.”

Now embankment isn’t an exciting way to describe what we have in Clare County.  I would have preferred earthen trestle, but I DO try to be factual in what I write, so embankment it will be from now on, especially since embankment beats using the word fill in my book.

One more thing I learned from looking things up: The difference between a trestle and a bridge.

According to a railroader on a Yahoo answer site, (and I quote since I don’t honestly understand it all), “In typical bridge construction, you will have piers or bents that support the longitudinal, moment carrying members which are usually called beams, girders, joists or stringers depending on the layout and material used.  The piers and bents will typically be constructed only in the plane transverse to traffic and will not have connection from one substructure (pier) unit to the next.

“A railroad trestle will be comprised entirely of wood and one bent or pier will be dependent on the next with longitudinal and diagonal bracing to support the longitudinal loads.  There will be no clear spans between piers.  In other words, in a trestle, all of the piers work together while in typical bridge construction, each of the piers will carry load independently.”

So, now you know…well, sorta.

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, History, logging, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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