Only a Quarter-Mile Long: The Ghost Town of Borland, Michigan
The once-upon-a-town of Borland is a curious sight, indeed. It sits back in the woods down a dirt road, unknown by many who pass by each and every day...except for a few locals.
In the upper left corner of Deerfield Township in Mecosta County, this tiny hamlet was founded in 1869 by John Bell, who named 'his' new land “Bell's Crossing”. Not long afterward, the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad came through, and this new whistle stop was re-named “Bell Siding”.
Resident Daniel Borland opened his own general store with a post office included, and the hamlet was re-named one last time as 'Borland' in 1884. It closed on April 17, 1886, re-opened two days later, closed in April 1887, re-opened in 1889, and closed permanently in 1905. An accurate accounting of the population of Borland has never been determined back then (seven farmers for sure), or even now.
The general store remained a hangout and social gathering place for the locals up until 1930 when the owner sold it to Herbert Gleason Mingo, a transplant from Massachusetts who called himself “Big Elk”. He re-vamped the store and gave it a new name: Big Elk Camp, selling herbs and relating tall tales (some true) to the tourists. One of his biggest tales was when he was part of an expedition in the early 1900s that set out to the North Pole to find lost explorer Admiral Robert E. Peary.
Big Elk – who was also known as Chief Elk Horn - passed away in 1957 at 106 years old. According to the book "Michigan Ghost Towns Volume II", “In 1968 an old rusty bus, with faded lettering still visible, remained on the site. The bus was used by Chief Elk Horn for his 20th century traveling medicine show.”
The railroad closed and the tracks were ripped out. The dirt road that led to Borland was never paved. All that remains of Borland is a quarter mile north-to-south strip with five (or less) homes, bits of a crumbling water tower, and the old general store, sitting along the dirt road smothered in brush, decaying and rotting.
See the photos below!
The Ghost Town of Borland
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