What’s the Thumb?
If you live in Michigan, then you are familiar with the state’s depiction as a “Mitten”. When you ask a Michigander where they’re heading on vacation, often they’ll raise their right hand and point to some location on one of the fingers. When you do this, the location of the Thumb is quite obvious.
Kara and I joined with one of our Meetup groups, Michigan Photo Adventures, to explore the Michigan “Thumb” area looking for abandoned and historic places. Our group organizer, Thomas Nighswander, did a great job as the trip leader and guide. He had scouted out the area and discovered a number of great locations to lead our little group on this cross-country adventure.
The day started out as a grey, rainy fall day. The inclement weather was a little hard on the photographers, but it added to the dismal setting for the abandoned places we explored
A History of Change in the Thumb area
Some things are constant here in the Thumb – change and wind. Once known as the nation’s powerhouse in wheat production, prosperous farms dotted the countryside. With easy access to transportation, wheat grown here was transported over the lakes and down the Erie canal to the cities of the east.
Now those days are past and the Thumb is transforming itself into a powerhouse of energy production. With the constant winds off of Lake Huron, windmills are able to generate enough energy for 1000’s of homes.
The scene above shows the traditional farms that made up the bulk of this area’s economy early last century have given over to more modern usage.
Further down the road, we came across an abandoned, classic, one-room, schoolhouse.
Schools like this dotted the countryside here serving the farms and rural population until the mid 20th century. This particular one, by evidence of the readers we found, remained in use until the ’70s. In recent years, the school districts have consolidated almost all of these students into their larger districts. Amazingly enough, there are some hold-outs, and seeking out some of those will be a story for another day.
Thomas also lead us to a number of other abandoned farmsteads and buildings.
The final leg of the trip took us up to the Pointe Aux Barques lighthouse at the “Tip of the Thumb”. I’ll follow up on that location in Part II of this post.
For more information on images in this post, visit my Backroads Michigan Smug Mug gallery.
Where is this?
We drove all around the northeast Thumb to get these – Ubly, Bad Axe, Kinde, and Point Hope. Get your drive on and check out the backroads for interesting places.