The Real Story of the "Haught Mansion"

Sadly, it's much harder to get rid of a hoax than it is to create one. Everyone loves to hear a crazy story about a haunting at a particular house—far fewer people are interested in reading about how nothing extraordinary in fact ever happened at a particular house. In fact, 90% of you have already probably closed this tab and moved on to other clickier things in your feed. But when those falsehoods are inadvertently repeated over and over again, they tend to bury the truth, and this can reinforce misinformed public perceptions that can be damaging.

A photographer who goes by "Seph Lawless" has reportedly made a rather handsome living off of his photos and books about abandoned places, and from selling images (with phony stories attached to them) to major media outlets, some of which include the Huffington PostSlate, and The Telegraph. One of his popular fakeries concerns this house in Detroit's Brush Park neighborhood, which Lawless calls the "Haught Mansion." He alleged that in 1941 it was an upscale gentleman's brothel, and that years later several corpses were found in its basement marked with a "perfect circle" on their chests.

Lawless's darkened photo and phony story.
Now, I can respect a good hoaxster if in fact the motive was to burn lazy journalists who are notoriously poor at fact-checking before they automatically put something into print, but I'm not sure there is anything at play here except pure profiteering. Questionably-factual ghost stories about creepy old buildings accompanied by moody photos sell newsprint—which is measured in mouse-clicks and ad revenue these days—and Lawless has figured out how to efficiently scam that system to his advantage. Perhaps even the aforementioned media outlets are complicit in Lawless's hoax, caring only that uninformed people will click the stories and generate ad revenue. Furthermore, there's nothing wrong with celebrating an urban legend, but this is not an urban legend. Urban legends by definition have some element of truth to them, and the story of the "Haught Mansion" is a complete fabrication.

Make of Lawless's intentions what you will, but I've chosen to use this post today to debunk the hoax, and restore a house's rightful history that has been effectively obscured in online searches. In the space of about an hour I was able to research and type out about as complete of a history of this house as one could hope for, without actually going to an archive. All of the information presented in this post was researched online using Google, Google Books, Google Maps, saved .pdf copies of the Detroit Sanborn Maps, and the Detroit Public Library's ProQuest online newspaper search engine. My ass didn't even have to part ways with the comfortable dent in my easy-chair during all of this (except for when I drove by to get some photos of my own).

The Glover House, Halloween 2015.
The first—and hardest—step was finding the house's real identity, and in order to do that I had to start off by figuring out its physical address. According to the Sanborn maps of the area, this lot's pre-1921 address was 81 Edmund Place, and after 1921 it was renumbered to 229 Edmund Place. The map also noted the structure as a "Rooming" house, meaning that it was owned by someone who took in-boarders at some point around then, so whoever originally built it had probably moved on by that point. The architecture suggests that it was built in the 1870s or 1880s, but I don't have Sanborns going that far back.

The Luben Apartments, also known as the "Brush Park Castle," used to stand across the alley from this house, which I explored in an older post. In a photo from its roof, you can see the "Haught Mansion" prior to it's rear half turning into a blown-up mess, as well as its now-demolished neighbor.

Ironically, last night my girlfriend and I were just discussing the website which lets you pay to search death records to instantly see if someone died in your house. Since it was going to cost $12 for us to look up our house, we decided not to, and came to the agreement that any house built as long ago as the 1870s (in our case) undoubtedly has had at least one person pass away there in its history, if not several. This goes for any old house—death is a fact of life, and statistically most people die at home of old age.

So in that sense Mr. Lawless wasn't too far off from the mark when he made up his story—according to the July 8th, 1892 Detroit Free Press a Mr. Henry Glover owned this house, and had passed away in it the morning prior.

Today the Glover House is a hazardous mess that I didn't bother approaching.
Glover was a "well-known" and "highly respected" Detroit businessman for "four-score years," the article eulogized. According to Silas Farmer's The History of Detroit and Michigan, Glover was born in New York in 1812, and apprenticed in the tailoring trade before receiving his education and getting into the dry goods business. He came to Detroit as a tailor in 1836, and by 1843 was a partner in the firm Smith, Glover & Dwight, dealing in general merchandise and lumber. Later he got into real estate investment and made himself rather wealthy this way.

Glover also held the office of School Inspector briefly. Among his real estate activities, he was "among the first, if not the first" to see the possibilities of Jefferson Avenue as a wholesale and jobbing street as Farmer put it, and in 1885 bought a vacant lot at Jefferson & Wayne that was infested with birds of "the worst possible character," erecting there a "substantial brick block" after clearing away the vermin. He then built another four-story building across the street from it, and another large brick dwelling at Fort Street & Sixth.

Another Free Press article indicates that in November of 1922, a Mrs. Louisa Lemon died here at the corner of Edmund Place and John R Street, hit by a taxi cab. She was a resident of 227 Edmund Place, which was next-door to the Glover house.

The c.1885 Detroit Blue Book: A Society Directory for the City of Detroit shows one James Henry Glover, a chemist, residing at 81 Edmund Place—the eldest son of Henry Glover. James H. Glover was also shown in the c.1900 Catalogue of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, indicating that he must have remained living in his father's mansion for some years after the latter had passed away.

A c.1906 copy of the Harper Hospital Bulletin lists a Miss Maud Arkell living at 81 Edmund Place, with a telephone number of Grand 190. I wonder if she was a nurse employed at Harper Hospital nearby.

By 1911 a copy of The Cornell Alumni News listed a Fred O. Ebeling living in the house, an employee of the Michigan Central Railroad.

A certain publication of the American Medical Association printed in 1916 and 1920 showed a Mr. I.S. Gellert, a fellow of the AMA, at 81 Edmund Place between those years. Probably another member of the medical profession employed at one of the several hospitals in the neighborhood.

On January 1st, 1921, the City of Detroit renumbered all of its addresses, and the Glover home went from being 81 Edmund Place to 229 Edmund Place. A c.1922 issue of Good Housekeeping contains an ad whose fine print appears to indicate that the "Ebby-Cole Co.," was then located at 229 Edmund Place, though I could not readily turn up much info about such a company on Google.

Here is a fabulous (although small) photo of the house as it looked in 1976:

A c.2007 article in Crain's Detroit Business reported that 229 Edmund Place had been bought by the Brush Park Conservatory of Music and Fine Arts, though this venture seems to have fizzled soon after. According to a post at in 2013, the house was put on the city's demolition list, and the Detroit Historic District Commission apparently had a hearing on the transfer of the parcel in August of 2015.

As if all of this research wasn't enough, the Brush Park Preservation Society has also said on their Facebook page that there were never any "bodies" found in this house, nor any truth to the phony story about the 1940s brothel.

UPDATE: As of June 2017, the Glover house is undergoing renovation!

Sanborn Maps of Detroit, Vol. 3 (1921), Sheet 30
Good Housekeeping, Vol. 75, (1922) p. 138
Early Days in Detroit, by Friend Palmer, p. 393
The History of Detroit and Michigan, Vol. 2, by Silas Farmer, p. 1149
Harper Hospital Bulletin (1906), p. 173
Detroit Blue Book: A Society Directory for the City of Detroit (1885), p. 254
Catalogue of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity (1900), p. 221
The Cornell Alumni News, Vol. 13 (1911), p. 36
Transactions of the Section on Obstetrics, Gynecology and Abdominal Surgery, American Medical Association (1916) p. 349 / (1920), p. 201

A Unique Snow Flake, and the Highway of the Red Arrow

Out of all the abandoned motels in Michigan, the Snow Flake Motel at 3822 Red Arrow Highway in St. Joseph stood apart from the crowd by virtue of the fact that it claimed the pedigree of being a rumored Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structure, which in the architectural world is typically worth its weight in gold. I personally dislike both motels and Frank Lloyd Wright structures—abandoned or otherwise—but something about the Snow Flake was appealing, and it hit me the first time I saw it on Google Maps from above.

I figured this place was definitely worth checking out if I ever made it out that way, but sadly it was torn down long before I got that chance. Its ruined snowflake-shaped outline however is still discernible even after demolition, so I decided to go see what was left. In fact I ended up camping in my truck there one night while on a road trip through southwestern Michigan, and waited for dawn to see the ruins.

The Michigan city of St. Joseph in Berrien County has long served as a weekend-getaway town for FCPs (Fuckin' Chicago People), and the Snow Flake was opened near Lake Michigan in 1962 to cater to that market. According to Buildings of Michigan by Kathryn Bishop Eckert, it was designed in 1960 and cost $1 million to build.

There are some good photos of the Snow Flake Motel in its prime at, which also has a good writeup of its history. Commissioned by Sahag Sarkisian "at the height of Wright’s influence and popularity," the motel "promised to be the most luxurious accommodations in St. Joseph." There was a total of 57 rooms, 17 of which had built-in fixtures. Each room came equipped with color TVs however, and even their own ice makers—perhaps a little pun there on the snowflake theme. There was also a cocktail lounge, called the "Flake." Eckert writes that a rectangular pond with jet fountains connected two hexagonal swimming pools in the courtyard.

An article in The Believer by Suzanne Snider gives some more background on the Snow Flake. It was mainly designed not by Frank Lloyd Wright himself, but by the "shadowy" William Wesley Peters—Wright’s apprentice and son-in-law—about whom comparatively little is known. Peters worked with Wright quite a bit, and he was even the one who made the engineering calculations for Wright’s famous "Fallingwater" house and the Guggenheim Museum.

The Snow Flake was also one of the last commissions that Frank Lloyd Wright ever worked on before his death. According to Snider's article, William Peters was wedded to Wright's adopted daughter, who later died in a car accident. Peters subsequently took a second wife—the daughter of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin, no less.

Motel-register goes on to say that despite its eccentric theme the Snow Flake was functionally the same as any other motel—it had rows of units enclosing a courtyard, all accessible from the outside. "In some sense," it goes on, "motels are the opposite of snowflakes: homogeneity is their defining characteristic." But the Snow Flake was a little extraordinary.
...the 1960s were the height of motel culture in the United States, and the idea that one could create a bonafide destination out of a truly unique bit of architecture wasn’t so far fetched.
This was a time when the road signified not just the American dream of freedom and mobility, but also economic power and technological prowess. If the highway promised opportunity and adventure, the vehicle that propelled such exploration was the product of American ingenuity and determination. That the world’s most architecturally significant motel was built in Michigan is completely fitting given the crucial role the state played in fostering road culture.
But just like a snowflake this unique motel's lifespan was to be fleeting, and it soon melted away. The article says that because it was an unconventional, almost experimental design, its popularity soon faded once the novelty wore off. Message board posts at indicate that the motel's Douglas Fir-plank roof was also literally the ceiling of the rooms, and the heating units were inadequate for the space, so I can only imagine that there were more than a few snowflake-related euphemisms and epithets hurled against the motel's pedigree back in the day because of drafty conditions in wintertime.

According to, the Snow Flake was added to the National Historic Register in 1998, and was bought by a Mr. Patel who had plans to restore its glory but ran into roadblocks and gave up. It was torn down by early 2007. Supposedly the snowflake-themed front gates were sold off, so they are probably still out there somewhere. Some more good photos of the Snow Flake while it was abandoned can be found at, and

From St. Joseph / Benton Harbor I continued along the historic Red Arrow Highway down to New Buffalo. The highway was started in 1911 as part of a strategy to bring auto tourists from Chicago to Michigan, and eventually stretched from New Buffalo to Mackinaw City.

At the end of an older post I showed and talked about the Grand Trunk Railroad coaling tower in Lansing. In New Buffalo there is the still-standing relic of the Pere Marquette Railroad's coaling tower. It was standing next to a railroad museum actually:

According to, this coaling dock was built in 1942 and only used until about 1956 when steam locomotives went out of general use in Michigan. It held 250 tons of coal which was dropped to locomotive tenders on the tracks below, via two chutes. Coal was raised from the storage bin below by an electric conveyor.

Here's a closer view of the vintage signs on it:

The small sign on top simply says "NEW BUFFALO, MICHIGAN," while the one below it with the Chessie System logo on it says, "SAFETY TODAY—YOUR INVESTMENT FOR TOMORROW."

Up on top was another sign indicating that the tower was designed and built by the Roberts-Schaefer Co. of Chicago:

The reason I was passing through New Buffalo is because I wanted to visit Michigan's southwesternmost corner, where the Indiana-Michigan state line hits the shore of Lake Michigan. So here we transition from one incredibly nerdy and eclectic topic to another.

This street in the hoity-toity border town of Michiana follows the state line, as it comes down a hill to the beach:

Well, here it is, Michigan's bottom-left corner:

And now that I've been here, all I have to do is post up my visit to the remote westernmost corner of the state, and I can say "I've been to every corner of Michigan."

Buildings of Michigan, by Kathryn Bishop Eckert
"Motel," The Believer, September 2003, by Suzanne Snider

The Weirdest Hotel in Michigan

You may remember when I wrote about exploring the ruins of the House of David religious colony on High Island in Lake Michigan, back in 2013. Well the House of David's base of operations was in the city of Benton Harbor, in Berrien County, Michigan's southwestern-most county, where they had an extremely popular amusement park and a strange hotel downtown, which is now abandoned.

The city of Benton Harbor is not much different from Detroit or Flint, in that it has suffered greatly from population loss, crime, and poverty, and its downtown is often like a ghost-town. My visit came early on a weekend morning, so there was not a single other soul about on the streets. There weren't even any cars moving through, and I was able to stand in the middle of the road to casually compose a shot:

I've only really experienced this strange deserted downtown ghost-town effect in three Michigan cities--Detroit, Calumet, and Benton Harbor. I guess Gary, Indiana falls into that same category too.

In fact Benton Harbor has the dubious distinction of being known as "Michigan's poorest city," but it is also the hometown of the Whirlpool Corporation since 1911, the largest household appliance manufacturer in the world (as of 2006 when they acquired Maytag).

Most of what I know about the so-called Mary's City of David Hotel I learned thanks to my colleague David Kohrman, a longtime scholar of southwestern Michigan history, and of hotel history in general. He researched and posted much of the following information on one of those impenetrably elite, ultra-underground secret urban exploring forums that you've probably read about in flashy counterculture zines, where heavily vetted members trade war stories anonymously. In fact I'm probably breaking the first and second rule of Fight Club by posting this, but oh well.

Again, this hotel was built by a cult--or, rather, a "religious communal society," called the Israelite House of David founded by Benjamin Purnell and his wife Mary in 1903. They were those guys with the long-bearded baseball team. The House of David actually became pretty successful thanks to their amusement park and bearded baseballers, and they built a large complex on the outskirts of Benton Harbor, which (according to a article) included their own dairy, foundry, cannery, hospital, three vegetarian restaurants, and a resort that "attracted non-adherents who wanted to escape the summer heat of the cities." There was also the aforementioned farm colony on High Island, several miles out into Lake Michigan, which seems to be where "King Ben" (as he was dubbed by the media) allegedly did all of the creepy stuff.

This hotel was to be another expression of the House of David's prosperity in Benton Harbor. In 1919 they planned it to be seven stories tall and occupy the entire block, but it ended up much smaller than that as you can see. David Kohrman tells me that this particular section was always intended to be four stories tall, and the seven-story part was never built. It had 90 rooms according to the book Buildings of Michigan by Kathryn Bishop Eckert, and nonetheless became one of the commune's best revenue streams, one which was designed to bring income year-round, as opposed to seasonal activities like amusement parks and baseball.

The exterior was cast in "Hematite," a special form of concrete made of 17 different minerals that sparkled in the sun, a distinctive feature of the House of David's architecture, Kohrman said. Naturally, it had to be cloudy when I arrived, but I imagine the effect should look something like this. According to author Christopher Siriano, the hotel was designed by George Whiffen and William Wright--the House of David's favored architects, though to be fair Siriano is persona-non grata with the City of David, since his book is half fabrications and he is known for starting rumors about secret tunnels, hidden rooms, and other sensational things about the organization.

Another book by Robert C. Meyers said the hotel was "remarkably modern" for its day, because there were two windows for each room, and two-thirds of the rooms boasted private baths. The House of David also advertised the hotel as fireproof--going as far as to paint the words "FIRE PROOF" on the front windows in big red letters--because of its solid steel and Hematite construction.

By itself, Hematite is a commonly occurring mineral compound of iron, but I don't think I've ever heard of Hematite being used in concrete or architecture before. A quick internet search however yields some interesting results that name it as the material of choice for nuclear reactor chamber shielding, or other barriers required to be resilient to high neutron fluxes.

Strange...I wonder if the House of David architects took any tips from Ivo Shandor, because "FIRE PROOF" is a bit of an understatement given the fact that its outer walls are for some reason built of material that can withstand not just flame, but extreme levels of nuclear radiation. Maybe there was more to this little vegetarian "commune" and their sparkly hotel than meets the eye?

The earliest mention I can find of Hematite concrete is in an article in a c.1918 trade journal, which mentions it among other types of slag that could be used as aggregate to produce unusually heavy concrete for the purpose of making counterweights for bascule bridges, and use as ballast in ships. At the time the use of metal for such purposes was outlawed by the government, because it was needed for war materiel production.

David Kohrman told me that he believed the first use of Hematite concrete was in 1916, when the House of David built their "Diamond House," Purnell's fanciful mansion on the colony grounds, which still stands today and where his coffin still sits on display.

Mr. Kohrman's own impression after exploring this hotel was that it was "very very odd," and that much of its design was cobbled together, with strangely-proportioned hallways, inexplicable stairway placement, things like a closet built out into a hallway, and the rather utilitarian main lobby that looked as if it were added as an afterthought:

"My initial reaction," he said, "was that this building had no architect." It certainly was a bizarre building, but I surmise that the end product was the result of the architects' original plan being taken over and independently completed later, by City of David builders who modified it as they saw fit, perhaps to save on cost after the court case derailed the society. Then again, they may have been out to design a structure for some higher, as yet unforeseen *radiation-proof* purpose, heheh.

Under the stairs was the vault, whose door had already been taken off the hinges for me:

Construction on the hotel started in 1921, with House of David members performing all the work themselves. The job was halted in 1923 however when Brother Benjamin Purnell was faced with multiple allegations of forced sex with minors in his commune, tying up the House of David (and their revenue) in the courts for several years. At that point only a four-story shell of the rear half of the building had been completed. Benjamin Purnell died in 1927 before his abuse case went to trial, and the House of David splintered into two factions. His wife Mary Purnell headed one faction, called "Mary's City of David."

The House of David properties were fought over and divided up between the two factions. Mary's City of David ended up with the hotel (hence the name), and work finally resumed in 1931, though it had to be scaled back from its original conception. Keep in mind the Great Depression was in full effect by that time as well. Another reason why this hotel was scaled back was because the Vincent Hotel was also opening on East Main Street around that time. Mary's City of David followers used this hotel as housing while they built new dwellings for themselves on Britain Avenue.

According to what Mr. Kohrman was able to find out, since the public common areas were intended to go in the unbuilt section on Main Street, the aforementioned "makeshift lobby" was added in what was to be one of the storefronts. I'm not sure if this next shot shows one of the storefronts, or another room open to the hotel guests, but the vintage fluorescent light fixtures hanging from the tin ceiling were pretty snazzy:

The building opened in August of 1931 as "Mary's City of David Hotel," and prospered for 40 years. It was noted for its vegetarian restaurant, according to the book Resorts of Berrien County.

In the next room, yet more bizarreness...a 1969(?) Cadillac just chilling out. There was a pallet leaning up against the back of the car, so I moved it out of the way to get this photo--and when I did the trunklid sprang open suddenly, nearly scaring the f@#$%ing shit out of me.

This bizarre niche in the building was awfully mysterious too...

The stairways gave access to the compartmented basements under the hotel's storefronts, while there also seemed to be some sort of draft-ventilation system at play in this area as well, perhaps? David Kohrman actually took a closer look at the windows up there and wrote that they did not appear to have ever had any glass in them, and that this space was apparently designed to be open to the elements.

I also noticed on my own that the decorative columns on the facade of the building seemed to be hollow with small square vents at the bottom, as if they might've served as free-flow ventilation shafts ala Kirkbride hospital design.

Notice the glass-inset metal grille over the floor's covered in dirt, but it was no doubt meant to help let natural light into the basement from above:

I think some of these windows did indeed belong to guest rooms. What a cheery view!

Mary's City of David continued to shrink over time, and the commune divested itself of the hotel in 1974 in exchange for property on Lake Chapin. The amusement park closed too, in 1975. By that time the baseball team had already faded into the history books, having quit in 1956. The policy of celibacy among followers resulted in a notable lack of new generations of acolytes to keep the commune going--despite the supposed promiscuity of its founder.

David Kohrman said that after the Mary's City of David sold off the hotel it continued as the "Landmark Hotel" for many years, but by the 1990s was mostly used as senior citizen housing. I believe the main floor also housed a tire shop for some time as well.

It was finally closed by the city in 2001 after a newspaper article described a visit by city inspectors who discovered that the residents had cut open one of the boilers in the basement and were using it as a makeshift wood-burning stove, because apparently there was no steam heat anymore. Kohrman said there was frequent talk of renovating the hotel throughout the early 2000s, but it has been little mentioned in the papers since then.

Damage to the structure was evident on my visit, but by no means is this place beyond salvaging.

This room was full of old 1950s refrigerators:

A strange courtyard with a very different appearance than the outer walls of the hotel:

Down below you can see the glass-less windows of that bizarre open-air section where the basement stairs were.

This weird courtyard reminded me somewhat of a 300-year-old hostel I once stayed in in France.

Only the guest rooms on one side of the building had balconies overlooking the courtyard:

The view down the alley from a hallway window shows a row of more apparently vacant buildings:

On the top floor I went into the corner suite to see if it was as sumptuous as one might expect, but it was rather plain:

Last thing to do was check out the roof.

Even though I had been here for about an hour, it still seemed I was the only human being in town today.

The House of David, by Christopher Siriano, p. 44
Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert, p. 237
Resorts of Berrien County, by Elaine Cotsirilos Thomopoulos, p. 124
Millennial Visions and Earthly Pursuits: The Israelite House of David, by Robert C. Meyers, p. 23
"Mary's City of David Hotel," February 2013, by David Kohman
Concrete, Vol. 13 (1918), edited by Harvey Whipple, p. 161

Making the Cut

Presque Isle County (pronounced "presk-EEL") was set off from Mackinac County in 1840, then from Cheboygan in 1853, then one last time from Alpena in 1858. Many of its settlers came from Poland, according to historian Gene Scott. The county was organized from 1870-71. Author Roy L. Dodge notes that there was a feud however between the town of Crawford's Quarry (modern-day Calcite), and Rogers City, both trying to claim county seat status. The strife lasted until 1875, and Rogers City was finally recognized as the seat.

According to David M. Brown the first surveying party in 1839 reported the area was "worthless," and the area was shunned for a long time, other than for logging. However it would soon prove to be one of the largest exploitable limestone deposits on the globe, which would turn out to be extremely desirable when the Great Lakes' concrete and steel industries developed, both of which required large amounts of karst-type gravel. I discussed this in my older posts about the nearby Rockport Quarry in Alpena County, and the Fiborn Quarry in Mackinac County.

The discovery of limestone at Calcite opened a new era in 1910, perfectly timed as the timber was running out. The Rogers City quarry was discovered in 1908 according to Dodge, got started in 1912, and came under ownership of U.S. Steel in 1920. Rogers City became the largest limestone quarry in the world, a title that it still holds to this day.

They even built an elevated "viewing area," as you can see. The scale here is incredible; according to the message spelled out in boulders below, the company had recently celebrated its centennial in 2012. The boulders are each the size of my truck, and yes that's Lake Huron visible on the horizon:

It is a third, and lesser-known such quarry that I will be talking about however, one which didn't make the "cut."

Further down the road I made a quick stop at the Presque Isle Lights. Lake Huron's shore along Presque Isle County is ragged and hazardous to shipping, as I illustrated in my previous post about the shipwreck at 40 Mile Point. To safely guide ships carrying lumber, gravel, and iron ore, many beacons were necessary. This is the "new" light, lit in 1870:

The name "Presque Isle" is French for "almost an island," or "narrow peninsula," because of the tombolo, though it is hardly the only one in Michigan. But since this one was used as a portage site in the fur trading days by both Anishinaabeg natives and French voyageurs, the appellation has stuck.

Not far away is the "old" light, which dates to 1840:

It is one of the oldest surviving lights on the Great Lakes, and also one of the most "haunted." It was superseded by the 1870 light because it was not able to withstand Huron's fury so close to the shore, and had deteriorated. The last keeper of this light was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln.

I later learned of an old abandoned quarry town in the central part of the county, called "Big Cut." From aerial views of the former gravel quarry it looked like it was open to off-road vehicles, so I decided to use it as an overnight car-camping spot on my next summertime trip up north. Unlike Rogers City and Calcite, Big Cut's quarry was not situated on Lake Huron's shore, but several miles inland.

When we woke up about dawn, steam was rising from the waters of a small lake that had formed in the quarry.

Nearby was a large hill of gravel, with what looked to be some sort of ruins, so I climbed it:

Looking down on my truck and the lake:

This was almost the very northern end of the grey scar that Big Cut had carved into the Earth's surface in search of gravel; it was about two and a quarter miles long from end to end, and a quarter mile across at it's widest point. That's a big cut indeed, but it never did achieve the success of the other major quarries in the county.

I couldn't quite figure out what all this junk was, whether it actually had anything to do with the quarry, or if it had just been dumped here in recent years.

They looked like sections of a tunnel or drain.

I wouldn't be surprised if this quarry is now owned by the county road commission, and that they were the ones who put this stuff here.

While the girlfriend was getting the coffee going, I wandered around the area on foot a bit to get a better idea of our immediate surroundings.

There was not a whole lot to see. This was some broken-off wooden post set in the ground, or into this cairn of rocks at least:

Back at the truck, coffee was almost ready. It was evident that the best way for us to explore Big Cut was by vehicle, so once our caffeine fix was decanted we saddled up the Iron Camel again and started driving the bumpy trails through the quarry, hoping that they weren't going to be too challenging for my two-wheel-drive pickup.

It wasn't long before we came to something that looked interesting, so I stopped and got out for a closer look.

Ummmm--this couldn't be a mineshaft, could it?!

Nope, just a half-buried tipple of some kind. Maybe once upon a time trucks or train cars were driven through this short tunnel for crushed rock to be dispensed into them from above.

There was no sign of a rock crusher or any other equipment here, so most likely when Big Cut was closed up in the early 1980s all the machinery was disassembled and sold to be reused elsewhere.

Climbing on top, I saw this wooden stand, which possibly once held pulleys as part of a cable conveyor system:

Not far away we found what looked like an old truck trailer, most likely converted into an office or storage unit at one time.

"Something, something, Asphalt Paving Co."...

Bare inside, but lots of writing on the wall.

Looking at the rear, you can see the top of a mudflap still in place from when it was a trailer.

Pretty fabulous old trailer, maybe from the 1950s?

A small pond sat nearby, with more unidentifiable iron wreckage sticking up above its waters:

We now found ourselves riding along a much wider north-south road, which made me think that perhaps we had found the old railroad grade:

Along the side was an old pile of crushed gravel, now the playground of four-wheelers and snowmobiles. There was hardly a spot of ground anywhere in this quarry that was not crisscrossed and loopty-looped by the aggressive tire treads of ORVs.

On the opposite side of the north-south road, I noticed there was a large bare foundation.

Roy Dodge notes that Big Cut had a population of 20 people in 1910, while David M. Brown writes that it was a station on the Detroit & Mackinac Railroad, and that both the quarry and the railroad were owned by the Pinkerton family.

This immediately caught my attention, as I assumed that this referred to the Pinkerton Detective Agency, predecessor of the U.S. Secret Service. I already knew that the Pinkertons had some involvement in Michigan, so I naturally figured that this was the same family.

According to the Historical Society of Michigan, Pinkerton agents were hired as guards by lumber mill operators of the Saginaw Valley in July of 1885, when the Knights of Labor led a strike against them. Governor Alger also called in the state militia to assist the Pinkertons when the volatile situation promised to turn ugly. The Pinkertons were also involved in rounding up a fugitive on Bois Blanc Island in 1880, as I explained in an older post.

However, the book The Pinkerton Family of New York, Iowa, and Michigan by Stephen R. Pinkerton seems to indicate that in fact these Michigan Pinkertons were not related to the Pinkertons of American detective agency fame, even though the latter did get its start here in the Great Lakes.

According to a Michigan Dept. of Transportation webpage, the man I was looking for was one Charles A. Pinkerton (1910-1979), who "was a pioneer in the creation, management and use of the short line railroad system in Michigan"...
He led in making short line railroads the predominant operating mode for all railroad operations outside the state's heavily industrialized areas. In the 1970s he was the first railroader to work with the State of Michigan to preserve service in areas not served by major carriers. Innovations in management and investment enabled his Detroit & Mackinac Railway Company to grow and prosper as the leading carrier in Lower Michigan.
Though if he was born in 1910 and the quarry was already in operation by that time, then I imagine either the quarry was founded independently before the Pinkertons bought it, or Charles Pinkerton was in fact the son of its founder, whose bio is not available online.

Coincidentally enough, the Pinkerton Detective Agency did in fact move their headquarters "back to the Midwest," to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2014.

Historic photos of the train station and the Big Cut quarry's switching locomotive can be seen at This quarry closed down in the early 1980s.

Atop one of the old electric poles sat the giant nest of some raptor, perhaps a bald eagle:

This was the crossing of Spice Dam Road and the North Eastern State Trail, an old abandoned bed of the Detroit & Mackinac Railroad that has been turned into an ORV trail:

The Detroit & Mackinac Railroad was formed in 1894, and its main line extended from Bay City to Alpena, with branches extending all along the Lake Huron shore lands. The D&MRR station in nearby Millersburg used to be abandoned, but has recently been renovated and reopened as a visitor center or something along the rail trail if I'm not mistaken.

Near the crossing was another large overgrown building foundation.

As I was getting back in the truck to leave, I noticed this odd ruin as well, immediately next to what would have been the railroad right-of-way:

Again, I wonder if this was a station where train cars were loaded with gravel by conveyor before shipping out.

Looking down in:

On a different trip through Presque Isle County, I made a quick stop at the "Sinkholes Pathway," near Shoepac Lake, a series of strange depressions in the Earth over 100 feet deep. Michigan State University's Department of Geology--as always--has a good webpage explaining this extremely unique phenomenon.

It was hard to get a convincing photo of these incredibly steep and deep karst sinkholes; I hope this offers some perspective:

Ocqueoc Falls is another attraction in Presque Isle County, the only real waterfall in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan:

There was also the old, ruined footings of a Detroit & Mackinac Railroad trestle upriver from here, which I had seen on

Unfortunately after I pushed my way through the brush to get to it, it wasn't there...

I was positive I was in the right spot, but there were no huge concrete piers straddling the river anywhere. Gradually I saw what looked like a piled-stone retaining wall on the opposite side of the river, so I made my way over to it.

By the time I got there I had come to the reluctant conclusion that the large footings had been recently removed, and it even looked like the ground had been disturbed in this area where I thought they had been.

But why would anyone waste money on demolishing some harmless concrete foundations? Not that our government has ever had a problem finding pointless things to spend our tax money on, but I hoped that this move at least had some sort of ecologically beneficial reasoning behind it, such as widening the Ocqueoc River to increase flow, or improving erosion control.

Anyway, I did get a close-up of the piled stone retaining wall that apparently backed up to the concrete bridge pier on this side, even though the sun had already set:

Had to highlight it with my flashlight here:

You can easily see the freshly disturbed patch of ground on the opposite side of the river where the railroad once crossed.

Michigan Shadow Towns, by Gene Scott, p. 138
Michigan County Atlas, 2nd Ed., David M. Brown, p. 148
Michigan Ghost Towns of the Lower Peninsula (II), by Roy L. Dodge, p. 159,4616,7-151-9623_11154-126443--,00.html
The Pinkerton Family of New York, Iowa, and Michigan, by Stephen Richard Pinkerton