HISTORIC MICHIGAN: The Small Town of Elmira, the Potato Capitol
The town of Elmira is located in Otsego County, eleven miles northwest of Gaylord. The town, listed as an unincorporated community, was originally named "Windsor" in 1877.
As with many other towns & villages in Otsego County, lumbering was a major business. By 1892 Elmira boasted a church, two hotels, post office, four saloons, four sawmills, school and town hall among other shops & stores.....but a fire destroyed most of the businesses in Elmira and some business owners refused to rebuild, opting to move elsewhere.
When the lumber trade died down, many towns in the areas deteriorated into ghost towns, but that didn't seem to happen with Elmira. Yeah, the trade did dwindle, but the town still seemed to survive well. How? POTATOES.
When lumbering began pooping out in the early 1900's, the townsfolk realized they needed some income & capital for the town.. Local farmers discovered the soil in & around Elmira was perfect for growing spuds. By 1920, potato growing was flourishing and warehouses were constructed to hold the massive amounts. Richard M. Nixon's uncle, Ernest, was instrumental in the demand & supply for seed potatoes and helped the town cultivate them, bringing more capital to the town. Potatoes remain a major source of income for Elmira to this day.
Elmira still has a nice handful of old structures - including up & down some of the side roads - that make great photo ops for visitors (SEE PHOTOS BELOW).
Add a stop in Elmira to your Michigan roadtrip itinerary!
Old towns and structures are ALWAYS great to visit, for fun and a look into the past...but remember to treat all these small towns, their abandoned structures, cemeteries and historic buildings with courtesy & respect. Don't vandalize and always get permission if you find an abandoned building you want to investigate. Don't ruin the experience for others.