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.

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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.


As usual, Issa tried to be helpful and take pictures of anything that needed to be added to, 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, 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:

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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!

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