Posts Tagged With: narrow gauge railroad

Digging and Metal Detecting in Clare County

I have a small parcel west of Harrison back in the woods. When my now ex-wife and I bought it 10 years ago or so, we put a 1/4 mile trail that winds along the edge of a small shallow pond and through the woods that cover much of the property.

Not long after that our neighbor who we let walk the trails mentioned that she could see the outline of a dirt foundation next to the trail and about 100 feet from the pond. The foundation, for lack of a better term, was a a raised sand rectangle measuring about 16×20 feet. Trees up to 6-inches in diameter grew on and in the rectangle showing it had been there for a long time.

However, it was a sign of human habitation (loggers, Indians, hunters) and got me excited so I dug through a couple of sections of the foundation looking for nails, wood or other signs of former walls. Sadly, nothing so I figured it must have just made to channel the rain outside of a large tent and probably made by hunters that might have frequented the site in the past when the pond was a lake and a nearby empty stream bed that runs through my property was once an active stream. Other than a few rusted tin cans I found nothing of value or interest. So I left it well enough alone until this fall.

Some friends were coming up for the weekend so I took a rake and raked the interior of the foundation clean of leaves and debris, took a chain saw and cut out many of the trees and shrubs and dug out my metal detector.I was determined to figure out what the foundation was and whether there was anything of value in there.

The answers: I don’t know and no. That weekend we set to work detecting and digging. Inside we found junk including two broken horseshoes (different styles) a conventional belt buckle, some hardware and broken pieces of tin. That means I still don’t know what it was or what it was used for. Why it showed signs of people AND horses is beyond me. The neatest thing was a railroad spike. It was not a large spike that one associates with the railroad. This one was about 6 inches long and an inch in diameter. I had seen these spikes before and was told they were used to construct narrow gauge railroads. Once the railroad was no longer needed, the tracks were pulled up and the rails, couples, spikes and more were reused in order to save money. Apparently, the spike I found was left behind and might indicate that a logging railroad line DID in fact run across my property at one time.

items dug up in pond on my propertyHowever, those finds were not the end of the story. Much of my pond evaporates by fall and the mucky ground is hard enough to stand on, so we took the metal detector out and set to work. It didn’t take long to find three items of interest: An axe head, a foot-long section of what appears to be a narrow-gauge railroad track and a piece of plow.

Now I am more confused than ever. I know for a fact the property was lumbered–all the county was since it contained huge forests of white pine. The logging explains the axe head (although why someone would pitch a totally good axe into the lake/pond is beyond me. But what about the section of track and the spike found earlier? Was there a narrow-gauge railroad that ran along the creek on my property? I now have some evidence to support that fact. Other evidence includes a line indicating a railroad that appears on a map created by two members of the Clare County Historical Society. (Clare County had more logging railroads then any other county in Michigan, according to historian Roy Dodge who wrote the book, “Ghost Towns in Michigan.” But why the horseshoes and the foundation? And what about the plow? There is no evidence this area was ever farmed.

But the rains came and filled the pond and winter has arrived freezing both the pond and the ground, that means any further explorations must wait until spring.

As for my three major finds from the pond, I donated them to the Clare County Historical Society. They may use them in their displays in their museum at the corner of Surry and Eberhart roads. The museum is closed now but reopens in the spring. And maybe by then I will have found even MORE stuff to donate.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

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