Wednesday, March 4, 2015


January 26, 1837 is the date that Michigan became a state. For anyone living in Europe, that may not seem like long, long ago. But here in Michigan, if you find anything that is from 1850 or before, you've found a treasure. Before statehood, this was a harsh land of few rules or laws. There was an abundance of white pine forest and what seemed like a never ending supply of fur. There was debate as to whether the land belonged to the United States or to Canada. Either way, the Great Lakes made for easy transportation of goods to points West like Chicago. At one point there was an attempt to dig a canal that connected the Clinton River on the East side of the state with the Kalamazoo river on the West side. Such a canal would have made for an express route to Chicago for sure. But it proved to be too much of an undertaking and the idea gave way to the railroad.
Much of the railroad system that criss-crossed the state has now been turned into hiking and biking trails. It seems that the Interstate Highway systems have overtaken the transportation needs of the state.
Just a few miles from my house, one can still find the remains of the now defunct canal that once planned to cut across our state from Lake Michigan to Lake St.Clair. Also right next door to our other home, is the start of one of the many rails-to-trails bike paths. We are very fortunate to be surrounded by so much history. To ride these trails can be a relaxing day in nature as much as a lesson in the history of our great state.

I've written before that Thomas Alva Edison lived his boyhood in Port Huron. Port Huron is one of the great cities that I have the honor of working in a funeral home that was built by a lumber baron in 1850. I love working in the old home with all of it's creaky floors and beautiful windows.

Port Huron sits at the base of Lake Huron and has made a perfect place for centuries to cross the narrow river from Michigan into Ontario, Canada. There is impressive side by side bridges connecting the two as well as a tunnel for train traffic to cross beneath the swift current of the river.

From that train tunnel, one can access Toronto to the East and Detroit and Chicago to the West. When Thomas Edison was only 12 years old, he worked on the train that went from Port Huron to my home town of Mount Clemens, 30 miles away, selling newspapers to the passengers. He was credited for saving the life of another young man when the boy fell and young Tom pulled him to safety from between the moving train cars.

Directly under the bridges that join the two countries in Port Huron is a train station, preserved and commemorating young Tom's boyhood achievements with a statue that was created by a friend and good client of mine, standing outside between the tracks and the shore.

A little more discreet, is a similar train station in Mount Clemens. It is now a registered historic place and houses a museum dedicated to the transportation needs of the state over time.

We decided to go out to lunch at a converted fire house across the street from the train station and were graced with a train to be doing some switching by the station. So we decided to check the place out.

We were surprised at the amount of history that was packed into such a tiny building hidden from view of the daily commuters. We will definitely be back when the weather is more fitting for looking around.

And we look forward to exploring more of the amazing trails that once were hidden from view, only to be seen by rail men and massive train cars. I've heard there are numerous tresses and bridges that decorate the open farm land and wooded forest along the way. Paying homage to the past, respecting nature and reinvigorating the soul to give strength for the future; This is my church.


Jim said...

It is amazing Stew what one can find in our own backyard. And this is proof of that. thanks for sharing the history of your area.....very interesting and so closely connected with Canada. Just think, Michigan could have been our 11th province!!!

Stew Adams said...

Sometimes I wonder if that would have been better. Just imagine Canada being the number one auto maker in the world.