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From the remarkably preserved 19th-century iron smelting town of Fayette to the port town of Singapore that is now completely buried by sand, there are several unique ghost towns dotting the state of Michigan.
Throughout the nineteenth century, several once-prosperous Michigan towns became abandoned, due to disease, natural disasters, or economic factors. Some of these sites disappeared completely, while others have since been restored so that modern-day visitors can catch a glimpse of life in the past.
Visiting an abandoned ghost town is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which is why the car insurance comparison app Jerry has put together this guide to four of the best ghost towns in Michigan.
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What is the story of Fallasburg?
Fallasburg lies about 30 minutes east of Grand Rapids. This village was first established by pioneer John Wesley Fallas in the 1830s. In order to lure more people to the region, Fallas and his relatives built a covered bridge over the Flat River to allow stagecoaches to reach Grand Rapids more easily from Ionia.
With this addition, Fallasburg quickly grew in size as more and more pioneers settled in the area. Over time, the town also saw the creation of a sawmill, chair factory, distillery, and several other businesses, along with a school, post office, and cemetery.
In 1858, the D&M Railroad line was completed, and it bypassed Fallasburg to go through Lowell instead, to the south. This led to a slow economic decline. Fallasburg was home to about 200 people at its peak, but the population slowly trickled out over the next few decades.
Fallas died in 1896, and the rest of his family left shortly thereafter.
What makes Fallasburg special?
Fallasburg is home to one of the last covered bridges in Michigan that can still support cars, so crossing this picturesque bridge is definitely one of the highlights of visiting.
Besides enjoying the scenery, be sure to visit these sites:
- The one-room schoolhouse, which operated from 1867 to 1961
- The Fallas House, which town founder John Wesley Fallas built in 1842 and lived in with his wife for the rest of his life
- The Fallasburg Inn, built in the 1840s
- The farmhouse and recently restored barn on the Orlin Douglass/Tower Farm
- The David Misner House replica, which currently houses a museum
- The Fallasburg Post Office, which operated until 1901
How to visit Fallasburg
From Grand Rapids, get on I-196 heading east, then head east on M-21. In Forest Hills, turn left on Bennett Street. Turn left on Parnell Avenue and right on Vergennes Street, then turn left on Lincoln Lake Avenue.
Follow this scenic road for about a mile until you can turn right on Fallasburg Park Drive. When you reach Fallasburg Park, keep right on Covered Bridge Road. This road will take you through the covered bridge and into the Fallasburg Historical District.
Pro Tip You’re required to drive quite slowly over the covered bridge—only a couple of miles per hour. If you drive any faster than a typical walking pace, you could be fined.
What is the story of Fayette?
In the 19th century, the Jackson Iron Company built an iron-smelting facility on Michigan’s Garden Peninsula. From 1867 to 1891, the company smelted iron ore from nearby mines, turning it into charcoal pig iron, which was then shipped out of Snail Shell Harbor to steel production plants.
During this time, Jackson Iron Company employees and their families settled in Fayette, creating a town of about 500 residents, many of whom were immigrants.
Charcoal pig iron was all the rage for a while, but depleted resources and a declining market led the company to shut down its facilities in 1891. Most of the population left to look for work elsewhere.
Several decades later, Fayette became a state park, where many of the original abandoned structures still stand.
What makes Fayette special?
Fayette is considered a living history museum because of how well it has been preserved. Here are some of the highlights:
- Guided tours are available during the summer. This is a great opportunity to learn more about life in the 1800s and Michigan’s industrial history.
- There are more than 20 original Jackson Iron Company buildings still standing, including the remains of the company store.
- You can also see the iron-smelting facilities, including blast furnaces and charcoal kilns.
- Fayette Historic State Park has trails for hiking or cross-country skiing.
- You can even scuba dive in Snail Shell Harbor! Keep in mind, though, that this requires a permit, and you’re not allowed to remove any artifacts you may find.
How to visit Fayette
Fayette is located on Michigan’s Upper Penninsula. After crossing the Mackinac Bridge, take US-2 west, then M-183 south through the Garden Peninsula. The turnoff for Fayette State Park will be on your right.
There is a campground in the park, but alternate lodging options are located closer to US-2.
Pro Tip Vehicles must display a Michigan State Parks Recreation Passport in order to visit the site.
MORE: Road trip essentials
What is the story of Singapore?
In the 1830s, land speculators from New York hoped to build a metropolis along the west coast of Michigan that would give Chicago a run for its money.
Singapore was established along the banks of Lake Michigan and became a bustling lumber town. Three different sawmills processed the white pine trees that grew in great numbers throughout the region, and Singapore’s lakeside location allowed for easy trade with both Chicago and Milwaukee.
Over time, the forests surrounding Singapore became depleted, and the demand for lumber lessened. To make things worse, there were a series of devastating fires that swept the Midwest in 1871 and burned down a number of Singapore homes.
Any remaining trees were cut down in order to rebuild homes, but this left Singapore without any kind of defense from the harsh winds that blew sand inland from Lake Michigan’s shores. Over the next four years, the sand eroded the remaining buildings, prompting any straggling residents to move to nearby Saugatuck.
Eventually, the entire city was completely buried in the sand.
What makes Singapore special?
Unlike the other towns on this list, there’s really nothing left of Singapore—nothing visible, that is. You’ll have to use your imagination.
Here are a few ways that you can explore the area:
- Visit Saugatuck Dunes State Park. As you drift towards the southern end of the park, you may be unknowingly strolling over Singapore.
- Board the Star of Saugatuck, and take a guided cruise of the Kalamazoo River atop this sternwheel paddleboat.
- Cross the Kalamazoo aboard the Saugatuck Chain Ferry, which is believed to be the last hand-cranked chain ferry in operation in the United States.
- Visit the Singapore, Michigan Historical Marker located in downtown Saugatuck.
How to visit Singapore
Singapore lies beneath the sand dunes located near the mouth of the Kalamazoo River. To get there from Grand Rapids, take I-196 west to exit 41. Turn right on County Road A-2, then turn right on 135th Avenue. Turn right on 66th Street and follow this road all the way to the dunes.
The historical marker is located in Saugatuck at the intersection of Culver Street and Butler Street.
What is the story of Pere Cheney?
Founded in 1874, Pere Cheney was originally a thriving lumber town that served as a station for the Michigan Central Railroad. At its peak, the population hovered around 1,500 people, but two aggressive waves of diphtheria struck the community in the 1890s, decimating the population.
Those that survived left Pere Cheney for better luck elsewhere, and only 18 people remained by 1917. As the uninhabited land was auctioned off, Pere Cheney became a ghost town.
What makes Pere Cheney special?
Pere Cheney is rumored to be haunted, although accounts differ regarding the identity of the specter.
Some claim that the diphtheria epidemic was caused by a woman who vengefully cursed the town after she was banished for witchcraft and condemned to live out her days alone in the woods. Others believe that Pere Cheney was doomed ever since its founders constructed the town on Native American land.
Whatever the reason, modern-day visitors agree that Pere Cheney will give you the creeps.
Tourists claim to have encountered ghosts, spooky lights, and other eerie sightings in the area. Some have even heard children’s laughter and discovered mysterious handprints on their car windows. So if you’re looking for Blair Witch Project vibes, this is the place for you!
Today, not much remains of Pere Cheney, other than a cemetery, where so many of the diphtheria victims were buried (many of whom were children). If you wander through the rest of the town, you can still see indentations in the ground where former buildings used to stand.
How to visit Pere Cheney
Pere Cheney is located a few miles east of I-75, and about seven miles south of M-72. The closest cities are Grayling in Crawford County and Roscommon in Roscommon County.
If you’re driving from the south, get off of I-75 at exit 244, then take South Johnson Road up to 7 Mile Road and turn right. Turn left on Staley Lake Road, then veer left on East Railroad Trail. Turn left on Hidden Heights and make a quick right on Center Plains Trail. Follow this road until you get to the cemetery.
If you’re coming from northern Michigan, get off of I-75 at exit 251, and head east on 4 Mile Road. Turn right on Staley Lake Road and continue south until you can make a sharp right on East Railroad Trail. Turn left on Hidden Heights and make a quick right on Center Plains Trail. Follow this road until you get to the cemetery.
Finding great car insurance
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