Adventure #7: New Rochester

Awhile back, Issa learned that there might be a ghost town much closer to home than she realized.  Otsego, MI was predated by another town called New Rochester, which set up on the banks of Pine Creek (a tributary of the Kalamazoo River) in the 1830s.  The town’s founders included Hull Sherwood, Giles Scott, Turner Aldrich, and Samuel Foster, and of course their families.  It’s also sometimes called Pine Creek, and was also recorded as the village of Dent after they got their own post office.  They felt that there would be sufficient water power from the creek, so they established a mill and other staples of a community.  However, as the nearby towns of Otsego and Plainwell found, the Kalamazoo River actually provided much better power, and those towns grew while Pine Creek waned.  Eventually, the creek was dammed, and the town abandoned under the water in 1913.

 

A very detailed write-up on the town’s history can be found here.  However, it is a little dated, and some information is no longer accurate.  For example, there aren’t any more buildings remaining from New Rochester that we could find.  The write-up does indicate that you might be able to see the foundations of the mill when the water is low, but we didn’t see anything.

All that’s left now is a small cemetery on the east bank of the creek, indicated on the map below:

2018-08-07_1015

Pine Creek cemetery is difficult to find if you don’t know where to look.  We knew the general location thanks to a website dedicated to it, but when you drive south on 19th Street, all you can see from the road are private residences.  We didn’t want to trespass, but we knew that the cemetery had to be behind the homes on the bluff.  We pulled into one long driveway that we couldn’t see the end of (hoping it was maybe a drive to the cemetery), but ended up next to someone’s pole barn!  The cemetery was visible from there, though.  The man came out and kindly explained how to get to the cemetery directly–on the opposite side of his pole barn is a “driveway” that isn’t even paved or gravel–just grass, so it was easy to mistake it as just more private property.  He also quite generously told us to just drive over his yard to get to the cemetery, so we did!

There’s no entrance sign or anything else that indicates to the outside world that there is, in fact, a cemetery here–just headstones.  This website we found has a list of the interments on record, and we found pretty much all of them–although the stones were quite weathered and damaged in some cases.  Most of the interments date from the New Rochester era, although a few are as recent as the 1960s and 70s.  There are a couple of the town’s founders here, including Hull Sherwood and Giles and Olive Scott.  One of the name, Morter, is the same as one of the reporters who once wrote for the Otsego newspaper, the Union Enterprise (back then called the Otsego Union) and there is a Morter Street nearby.

There really couldn’t be a more beautiful spot for a cemetery, though; visiting in late July on a nice, temperate day, the trees made for a lovely, shady spot.  Unfortunately, reports say that erosion has affected the cemetery, and some of the graves closest to the bank of the creek have been exposed over the last fifty or sixty years (we admit we did examine the bank trepidaciously, looking for anything out of a Stephen King novel).  Many of the older stones are beautifully decorated–particularly the Scotts’.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We aren’t sure who cares for the cemetery, although clearly someone does–the grass is well-kept and everything’s clean.  We hope that someone at least looks into restoring some of the broken and damaged headstones.

It was wonderful to find such an interesting piece of history, right in Issa’s backyard!  In talking to some local friends, it seems very few people know that there was a town that predated Otsego.  Issa plans to raise the topic to the local historical society and perhaps have an exhibit there to honor those who came and worked hard to start a settlement there!

UPDATE:  Issa posted some of our pictures to the Vanished Otsego Facebook group, which devotes itself to historical information about the town of Otsego (many towns have these, so we may have to make a habit of sharing our findings with whatever nearby communities we visit).  Some people knew it existed, while others were surprised to hear about it.  One person commented below on this blog that there is still one structure from New Rochester–the blacksmith shop, which was moved to higher ground prior to the damming of the creek.  Issa went out and snapped a photo of it for everyone to see!  It can now be found on Jefferson Road across from 19th Street, on the right if you’re facing towards the creek.  According to our research, the blacksmith shop was originally established by Herman Jungnitch, whose grave can be found in the cemetery.

blacksmith

The Vanished Otsego group also shared that Otsego Township is currently in charge of maintaining the cemetery, but the local historical society does take time to go in and clean, polish and (when possible) repair the headstones.  They’d always appreciate more help with this, so if you’re in the area, contact them to volunteer!

 

Adventure #6: Plainfield, Kensington, & Rawsonville

You may wonder what took us so long to go on another adventure!  Or, if you’re from Michigan, you’re probably not wondering about that at all.  Obviously, spring and summer are the best times to go rambling around some of the most rural parts of our state, while winter would…challenging.  So now that this particularly malingering winter season is finally behind us, we hopped in the car and went for a ride!

Our first stop was Plainfield, MI, which is northwest of Pinckney.  To find what’s left, travel west on M-36 out of Pinckney, through the small town of Gregory, to the point where Bradley Road heads north.  We found a few old buildings, which were intriguing, and there are still a few families living in the area.

Plainfield, MI was founded in 1835 by three men from New Jersey, who named the town as such after the town of the same name in New Jersey.  It seemed to be a bustling town at one point, with blacksmith shops, saloons, mills, a general store, a post office, and two churches.  Now, only a couple of the buildings remain.

Just a little ways west down M-36 is the Plainfield Village Cemetery.  We were able to find the headstones for some of the town founders, and it was interesting to see that there were more recent burials (2014 was the latest we noticed) with the same family names as had been there for over a century and a half.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s no real explanation available as to why this town didn’t ultimately thrive, while surrounding areas grew.  But we do know it is one of the loveliest cemeteries we’ve seen in regards to funerary symbolism and overall gorgeous headstones.

We then made our way northeast to the ghost town of Kensington, which is outside of Brighton.  It’s a little tricky to find, since there is hardly anything left.  We took Grand River Ave., south of I-96, and headed east.  On the northwest corner of the intersection of Grand River and Kensington Road lies the only remaining piece of the town, the Kensington Baptist Church Cemetery.  The church itself was razed in the 1950s.  We visited the cemetery and while it seems kept from a grass standpoint, many of the stones are damaged and could stand to be repaired or replaced.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Kensington used to be a booming community that rivaled the other major towns in the area.  It was founded in the late 1820s and grew quickly, thanks to the Huron River and surrounding fertile land and abundant forests.  Kristina Austin Scarcelli did an amazing write-up on the town’s growth and ultimate demise, including a fascinating narrative about the development of a “wildcat bank,” which were common in the frontier areas of the country at the time.  Essentially, the Kensington Bank printed more bank notes than they had actual backing for, mismanaged what funds it had, and the notes ended up worthless.  Coupling that with the decision not to dam the Huron River–which caused a power shortage for the Kensington population–and the decision of area’s railroads not to include Kensington as a stop on the line, the town declined and died.

There were actually two cemeteries left behind, although the second one, located just a little bit further down Grand River Ave., is much smaller–only 30 interments listed, but even fewer stones that we could find.  It appears to be more or less abandoned and not well tended, although it’s in a beautiful spot.

Although we were running out of daylight, we decided to make one last stop.  This one we knew we wouldn’t find very much evidence of, as it’s actually underwater.  Rawsonville, MI now exists under Belleville Lake in Belleville, MI.  Founded in the 1830’s and booming during the Civil War era, apparently it fell victim to the failure of the railroad system, and then the state decided to dam the Huron River (as the citizens of Kensington had wanted!) and the city was abandoned to the resultant man-made lake.  All that exists now is a plaque in front of the McDonald’s on Rawsonville Road.

Even though there wasn’t much to photograph, we thought it important not to neglect this piece of Michigan history and honor what was there!

IMG_20180505_193836576_HDR[1]

Although we stayed close to home, it was an excellent adventure in southeast Michigan!

Adventure #5: Glen Haven, Aral, & Jacktown

We survived the night in our seedy motel, which was all that was available in Traverse City on Labor Day weekend, and headed west, deeper into the Leelanau Peninsula.  We had a couple of spots marked on the map that we definitely wanted to see.

Our first stop of the day (after breakfast, of course) was Glen Haven, which is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Glen Haven isn’t the type of ghost town we traditionally visit; while it is an abandoned town, a few of the buildings are now maintained by the State and are on display for the public.  It’s part of the trails that run all through the area and makes a nice stop for hikers, bikers, or people just passing through by car, like us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The place has the old canning factory, which now houses several types of boats and lighthouse paraphernalia; it’s also a good place to get some literature about the area, and/or get a lesson on it from one of the park rangers.  There’s also a general store (which unfortunately was closed when we went) and a working blacksmith’s shop–there was a demonstration going while we were there.  Also, a few old houses, some of which have interesting signs discussing the home’s past.  It was definitely worthwhile to visit, if nothing else to take in that unforgettable view:

IMG_20170903_114806670.jpgWe may be a little biased, but Michigan dunes and lakeshores are honestly among the most beautiful in the world.  From this point, you can get a good look at the Manitou Islands–which we also read had some ghost towns on them, so next year’s trip is already in the making!

From there, we headed towards Aral, which we read about in a pamphlet at Glen Haven.  Unfortunately there isn’t much there.  It’s south of Empire, off of Esch Road…and apparently that’s all it is.  A road.  So nothing worth even taking a picture of, unfortunately.  We moved on.

Finally, we made one last stop in a place called Jacktown.  There is very little left of it here; the research we found is that this is just another one of those little company towns that sprung up with the growth of the lumber industry and the railroad, and died off just as quickly once the area was logged out and the railroad was dismantled.  It’s near Empire, in Leelanau county, although crossing the road takes you right into Benzie county.  To find it, we headed south on state road 677 and then turned left on Oviatt/County Line Road.  According to a few different online sources, there may be some old foundations of buildings still around in the woods, but we thought the better of exploring too much off road, since there appeared to be a relatively active lumbering site there, and there were sounds of gunfire echoing in the woods.  We stuck to locating Bland Cemetery, which is the only real remain of the town.

The cemetery is so tiny–only 18 interments on record, and not all of those appear to have stones.  The cemetery was established in 1868, and the last known burial here was in 1926, although the majority were in the late 1800’s.

IMG_20170903_140010317

As usual, Issa tried to be helpful and take pictures of anything that needed to be added to Findagrave.com, but as previously stated, not all of the headstones were there, and all of those that were there had already been posted to the website.  On Findagrave.com, there appeared to be a lot of work done to really flesh out what we know about these people–death certificates, etc. were all uploaded, so it was interesting to read the entries.  One of the most fascinating ones we read caught our eye, for one thing, because of the name: Idonia Melvina Bolt Van Wormer-Verno.  I mean, how do you even fit that on a headstone?  Apparently you don’t, because it was nowhere to be found.  An elaborate write-up on her family tree is posted on Findagrave, and the last paragraph is the most intriguing:

Four days before her death, Melvina married Paul Verno, Sr.  He buried her in a secret location that remains a mystery to this day.

(This, after having having eight or nine children and then living as a widow for some time).

So, according to record, she is supposed to be in Bland Cemetery, but there is no marker with her name on it.  She was only 42 when she passed away.  None of her children, her first husband, nor her second husband are buried there.  A quick search located Paul Verno’s grave in nearby Empire, in the St. Phillip Neri Catholic Church cemetery.  Of course, he’s also listed there as having three possible wives, some of which were concurrent, so we’re unsure what the real truth is behind this family.  Some real intrigue, though!

Here are some photos of other stones we saw there.  Most were quite simple:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lots of Blands, Ames, and Huff families represented here.

As the sounds of rifles shooting in the woods were getting louder, we thought it was prudent to leave!  We made our way home, stopping in Cadillac at Mr. Foisie’s Pasties, which were excellent and we highly recommend them!  A bit of fudge from Gramma’s Treats in Baldwin might have also been consumed en route *smile*.

Overall, it was an excellent adventure–so much we saw and learned!  We can’t wait for the next one!

Adventure #4b: Idlewild and Marlborough

After our adventure in Nirvana, it seemed like the day was a complete success.  But as we continued west in search of the last small town on our list for the day, we saw a historical marker on the side of the road:

IMG_20170902_134337384

We both looked at each other in complete disbelief.  How did we not know about this?  We’re both lifelong Michigan residents and had never heard of anything like this.  Another sign close to this one pointed the way towards a “cultural center and museum,” so we simply had to go investigate.

The museum there is small, but well-appointed and full of wonderful exhibits.  The ladies working there that day were incredibly friendly and even invited us to sit down and showed us a short film that was made by a Detroit news organization celebrating Idlewild–its founding, its heyday, and its decline.  The film looked to have been shot in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so they still had many people to interview who were still alive and had memories of visiting the resort.  There’s also a good write-up about it here by the Detroit Free Press.

Basically, this resort town was created in the early part of the 20th century as a place for African Americans to vacation (and entertainers to come and perform), as they weren’t welcome at mainstream establishments due to segregation.  Apparently, if you had any means at all, you spent your summers there and it was glorious.  Nearly every major African American entertainer performed there at some point, and there were multiple night clubs, as well as more family-friendly types of establishments, too.  After the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and entertainers were able to go to the more traditional spots–Las Vegas, Atlantic City and the like–the resort went into decline.  Now very few of the original buildings are there, and many are boarded up.  We didn’t venture towards the lake, as there were private homes there that some people do still live in and we didn’t want to intrude, but we did get a few pictures from the road:

IMG_20170902_134549920

We spent a good amount of time chatting with the ladies in the gift shop and viewing all the artifacts they had on display.  It was unbelievable to us that we had never heard of this place that was so important to Michigan history, and that got us into a long conversation about race and privilege.  We thought deeply about how one man in the video we’d watched talked about how his mother would pack the car full of meals for the whole family as they made the trip north from Detroit in their car.  As a child, he’d said, he just thought it was being economical; as an adult, he realized it was because there would not have been any restaurants along the way that would have served them.  They ate in the car because they had no choice.  And at the same time, Detroit was booming largely because of the labor provided by blue-collar workers in automobile factories (many of them African American) and by the growing music industry (again, inspired by and built by African Americans).

The women working at the museum said that there are efforts at present to revitalize the area and build a community center.  It is still a very beautiful place, despite the closed-up buildings; it’s northern Michigan to a tee–beautiful woodlands and a lake.  It’s a place very much worth saving.

After we finished up in Idlewild, we continue west on M-10 to the town of Baldwin (not a ghost town–very much alive!)  As became a habit with us on this trip, we realized we hadn’t eaten lunch and it was 3:00 p.m., so we made a stop and ate.  We’d also been told by the Idlewild ladies to check out Gramma’s Treats, so we walked there from our lunch spot and were NOT disappointed!  Some of the best fudge EVER in so many flavors!  The orange cream was surprisingly delicious, and the more traditional chocolates were also amazing.  Gramma herself is also very kind and even gave us each a free homemade donut for the road (also delicious).  If you’re ever in the area, stopping by there is a must!

She also gave us some information on the next ghost town we were hoping to see, which was Marlborough.  She said the area used to be well open to everyone, and she’d gone there to play and party as a youth.  She thought it was probably all blocked off now, and unfortunately she was right.  We headed south from Baldwin to find whatever we could of the place, and all that we were able to see was the old cement factory, around which the whole town had been built:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Lansing-based radio station did an overview of the town, and also threw in directions to find it, which you can read here.  Here’s the thing, though; the article states that you can go through the woods to find more ruins, beyond what can be seen from the side of the road.  However, if you look at the pictures above, the KEEP OUT signs are clearly visible, as is the barbed wire fencing around the whole thing.  So I’m thinking Gramma knew what she was talking about; she also mentioned that the ground there is considered unstable from all the quarrying and blasting they did, getting materials for the cement plant.  So while we wouldn’t have necessarily been averse to trekking out into the woods in search of old buildings, it looked like it might have been more difficult (and come with legal consequences) than the author of that article imagined.

After all this excitement, we were quite exhausted!  Our plan was to check out some more spots in the Leelanau Peninsula, so we headed north to Traverse City.  We got the timing right and managed to see a Lake Michigan sunset (although unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy and rainy)!

IMG_20170902_200231782.jpg

And then began our saga of finding the seediest, most out-of-date, crappy motel to be had in northern Michigan (let’s put it this way: we got half off the room rate because there was no heat), and putting aside our fears of being captured by a serial killer, we rested up for the next day’s adventure!

Adventure #4a: Brookside, Summitville, & Nirvana

We headed out bright and somewhat early on September 2, 2017 from Big Rapids, hoping to find some interesting spots on Highway 10.  There were several indicated on the map we accessed from http://www.ghosttowns.com, and we found one that wasn’t included on there–Nirvana (which is apparently pronounced by the locals such that the “van” rhymes with “can” rather than “con”–apologies to Kurt Cobain).

Brookside was more or less nonexistent; there was nothing even to photograph.  Summitville was similarly empty, except for a long, winding road that included several sandy hills:

IMG_20170902_114528959

We drove down the road a ways, noting that only a few people were there apparently camping, and there were a couple of residences down a private drive–nothing visible from the road.  So we headed back to M-10 and proceeded west.  That’s when we found Nirvana.  And by “found,” I mean there was a sign that said “Nirvana” (which we missed the first time we passed it) and a boarded-up church.

IMG_20170902_115256264_HDR

We thought there might be a cemetery near the church, so we hunted around on Google Maps and finally found it–Cherry Valley Township Cemetery, off of Knight Rd.

This was one of the odder cemeteries we’ve ever visited; for one, there were lots of missing stones, stones with missing dates (when the person is obviously no longer living), or strange stand-ins for stones, like this cinder block:

IMG_20170902_120718075.jpg

Or a basket of fake flowers with a nametag in it.  Or just a plain wooden cross with no name on it.  That sort of thing.

There were many World War I veterans in this cemetery; we assume that’s when the area was still thriving.  There were some newer interments, but mostly older ones.  Family names like Fray and Avery.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then something really remarkable happened.  As we were getting ready to leave, an older couple came into the cemetery to tend a plot of graves.  They were very friendly, pulling up behind our car (since there’s only one drive, we asked if they needed us to move, but they cheerfully declined).  After a few minutes, they realized we weren’t there for any specific person and asked us, not in any kind of suspicious way, what we were up to.  When we told them, the older man got really excited and asked, “Have you ever heard of Andy Horujko?”  When we said we had not, he led us over to a grave and started to tell us quite the story.

IMG_20170902_124214174.jpg

Andrew (Andy) Horujko was a World War II veteran who died in 2008.  He lived in the area and was known as something of a recluse.  He didn’t own a car, never married or had children, and they weren’t even sure he owned a phone.  He kept to himself, caring for some cattle on his property.  His claim to fame?  Walking from Anchorage, Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America back in the 1960s.

“Do you want to see his homestead?” he asked us.  Of course we did!

So we hopped in the car and followed them as they drove us even deeper into the middle of nowhere (because following random strangers into the mostly deserted wilderness to see an abandoned house is a perfectly rational thing to do).  We pulled up to a property that was lined with very close-planted pine trees, which formed a visually impenetrable wall.  Through the single opening in the driveway (such as it was, quite grown over), we could see a cabin-style house with the windows boarded up, a couple of barns and other outbuildings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Upon a little more research, we found out that his great walk across two continents wasn’t his only achievement.  He finished near the top of his class at Michigan Tech and worked as an aeronautical engineer for one of the Wright brothers, and he was a member of the Michigan chapter of Mensa.  So, a legit genius.  Apparently, his walk was meant to protest the automobile industry and the pollution it causes.  Here’s a press photo we found of him online: https://outlet.historicimages.com/products/dfpy12415

We also read this account from someone who met him later in his life, in what appears to be a rare excursion for Mr. Horujko: http://theportableschool.com/MMMDI/RealWalker.html.

This really gets to the heart of what we’re trying to do when we go on these adventures: we love to hear (and in this case, even see) the stories of our amazing home state–the more personal, the better.  We had never even heard of this man or his achievements, and all of a sudden we were standing in front of his house, learning about him from people who knew him personally (the older couple who led us to him were his neighbors and knew him as much as anyone did, given how much he kept to himself).

You’d think this would be the real feather in our cap and our way to end the day.  But even more was in store!  All this, and we hadn’t even had lunch yet!  We were passing through on M-10 trying to get to Baldwin, MI, in Lake county, so we could head south to another ghost town on our map, but we were quite pleasurably detained at a small place we encountered on the way called Idlewild…

Adventure #3: Delta Mills, Vickeryville, & Butternut

It took a year, but we were finally able to make it out again and travel our great state of Michigan in search of ghost towns (and whatever else of interest we managed to find).

Issa and Sara set out on September 1, 2017 in search of adventure and abandoned things.  Our first stop was Delta Mills, just northwest of Lansing.  Since Issa was born and raised in Lansing, this was a fun stop for her!

Unlike a lot of other places we’d been before, this one is not at all out of the way.  Lansing suburbs have encroached a great deal, and now Delta Mills is almost seamlessly connected.  To find it, take the Creyts Road exit off of highway 496 and head north until Creyts turns into Webster Road–then, make a right at Delta River Drive.  On that corner, you’ll see the closed up mechanic’s shop, and as you proceed down Delta River Drive, you’ll see an abandoned barber shop and general store.  The church, however, is still active and is a beautiful old building.

IMG_20170901_163343140

There’s an historical marker on the corner of Delta River Drive and Ingersoll Road that notes where the old school used to be.  It’s since been torn down, unfortunately.  Just a few yards down Ingersoll Road is the Ingersoll homestead, which is a gorgeous white home.  Erastus Ingersoll was the founder of Delta Mills.

IMG_20170901_163519640

Further down Delta River Drive is Hilltop Cemetery, which has so many familiar names if you’re connected with the Lansing area.  For one, the Creyts family (hence the name of the road) and of course the Ingersolls (note: we learned on this adventure, and the ones that followed that weekend, that “Erastus” was apparently a really common male name in the mid-19th century).  We also saw a lot of graves designated with the names “Throop” and “Jarvis.”  Issa recognized several of these names as teachers and classmates she’d had growing up in the Lansing School District.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We learned a lot on this trip about funerary symbolism.  So many of the older graves had significant depictions on them–willow trees, clasped hands, palm fronds, doves, and also symbols attached to fraternal organizations, like the Odd Fellows.  The Cemetery Club explained a great deal to us!

The Michigan History project has done a wonderful job researching and writing up the history of Delta Mills (also known as Grand River City).  We found this website after visiting, and it shed so much more light on the area!

After we were done at Delta Mills, we headed northwest to Montcalm County to visit Vickeryville and Butternut.  These two are off of M-57, which we accessed by heading north from I-96 on M-66, then heading west on M-57.  Vickeryville is well-marked–there’s a sign from M-57 that points you in the right direction down Vickeryville Road.

The most obvious landmark is the Central Bean and Grain mill and accompanying storage shed, each on its own side of the road.  Both are open to the elements, although we wouldn’t recommend venturing in–for one thing, they’re private property; for another, the mill in particular doesn’t seem too safe to enter.  There was a light breeze as we walked around the perimeter, and even that was enough to cause parts of the mill to squeak and groan.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continuing further down the road, we found the old church, which is still active; there is also an Old Order Amish settlement nearby (which we didn’t photograph, out of respect).

IMG_20170901_190725683

Then, it was on to Butternut!

This was one was tougher to find.  There’s less left, and it’s well off the main road.  We continued east on M-57 just a short ways from Vickeryville and turned left on Main Street.  We missed it the first time.  Doubling back, we turned west on a road that appears to have a few names…Google Maps calls it North Butternut Street, but the street sign disagreed.  It’s a short, dead-end road that actually sort of loops back and connects with North Street (perhaps unofficially, though…it was a moment of off-roading for us in Sara’s Prius!).  We found a large barn-like structure and an old mechanic’s shop, both heavily foliaged by this time.  There might have been more further down, but the road officially ended and was then marked as private property, so we kept out.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By this time, it was getting quite late, so we headed north to Big Rapids and found lodging for the night.  Shout out to Quality Inn–basic, no-frills facility with a really friendly staff!  We did begin to question our thinking of just getting a hotel room wherever we happened to land each night…it being Labor Day weekend and all…but thankfully this place had a room and excellent customer service to boot!

Adventure #2: Star City and Podunk

On our way home from Mackinac Island, Issa, Sara, and Issa’s mom decided it would be great fun to find more ghost towns, since we’d had such success with Pere Cheney.  We used a website we found that helped us identify a couple more that weren’t too far out of our way: Star City and Podunk (yes, Podunk).

Star City is west of Houghton Lake on M-55, about 5 miles.  Turning north on Star City Road, the cemetery is on the left, and the one remaining structure, an old school building, is a bit further down on the right.  The school building is located on private property, so we were only able to photograph it from the road without exploring much:

14291755_10210079527522729_3006874558487153600_n

The cemetery is easily accessible, though, and has both Civil War veterans and more recent burials as well.

14232401_10210079527762735_7064639869996168651_n

It’s hard to find much information about Star City’s origins or its demise, other than it was first set up with a post office in 1872 and called “Roy,” and later “Putnam” when the post office changed hands.  Then, in 1885, it was officially named Star City, and the name continued until 1923, when it was disbanded.  There is a story that the entire area was first known as “Starvation Lake,” after a trapper who was found dead in his cabin from apparent starvation.  Whether this is true or not is unable to be verified.

After this, we made our way south of Houghton Lake to the real, actual Podunk,  MI.  Located on the corner of Ziemer Rd. and Shearer Rd. off of M-18 in Gladwin County.  There’s even a sign!

14291889_10210079526362700_8798281830905290994_n

All that’s left here is an old school house in the middle of a field, and a former church that’s now a private residence (to protect their privacy, we didn’t photograph it–plus, it really doesn’t resemble a church so much anymore).

14344814_10210079526762710_7868264590444965841_n

Almost nothing is known about Podunk–its inception or its end.  The thought is that it may have started as a lumbering community, turned to farming, and then just petered out over time.  Some online commentators have said there used to be a dance hall in town for entertainment, but that’s about all there is to know!  There’s no cemetery attached to the community that we could find.