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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!