Edenville, Once a Brawling Lumber Camp: Midland County, Michigan
So is the town of Edenville a ghost town or not? Some say it is – but I would much rather call it a ‘shadow town’. That is, a town that is a shadow of its former self…and no town better fits that description than Edenville in Midland County.
Settlers began coming to Edenville (then known as only “16”) around 1851 thanks to the timber and lumber trade. More and more families began to arrive and the town soon began to swell. “Camp 16” became one of the most notorious lumber camps in the state. The rough-and-tumble lumberjacks, riverboat men, and the saloon keepers who kept them boozed up helped create legendary tales and characters that filled forty years of Midland County history. While many lumberjacks and riverboat men came and went, one of the toughest, Herb Nolan, stayed in Edenville throughout his life. He is buried in the Edenville Cemetery on a hill with a large marker. Look for it!
Two hotels were erected in 1869 along with a post office whose name was changed from “16” to “Edenville”.
When asked what to re-name the post office, a man named Burt Church pondered that query. As he thought about it, he happened to look out over the Tittabawassee River and the river banks. To him, it was so lovely that the Garden of Eden came to mind…and Edenville it became.
On June 24, 1873, a request was granted for the Township of Edenville.
For a number of years the town had its share of lumberjack brawls without any major damage…and then a human life was taken - and not by a lumberjack. A town doctor, Dr. Rockwell, got into an argument with resident Ben Wilber about who was the rightful owner of a particular horse. The argument ended with a deceased Ben Wilber, killed by the good doctor.
Edenville was proud of its lumber (and rough-and-tumble) legacy, and in the late 1930s lumberjack reunions began being held annually, with over 50,000 people attending each year. The reunions were forced to stop in 1941.
Comparing Edenville from over 100 years ago to what it is now, you will probably find it hard to believe it’s the same town. All the great old storefronts you are about to see in the gallery below ARE ALL GONE...all except for the Methodist Church.
The Shadow Town of Edenville, Midland County
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