Chances are you have probably driven past this little village, not even realizing there was one. It's the community of North Star in Gratiot County.

North Star was settled around 1857 as a railway stop named "Douglas" along the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Northern Railroad on the Bad River; the town was re-named 'North Star' in 1884.

Business wasn't too bad – there were various stores & shops, two schools, saw mill, stave & heading mill, and post office.....but then tragedy struck.

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Frank Gardner owned the stave mill which was about a mile southeast of town. On June 25, 1890, thanks to a lack of water, the boiler exploded, killing six men and injuring a dozen more. If that wasn't bad enough, the ruins and debris from the explosion caught fire, and “everything combustible was reduced to ashes”. The nearby blacksmith shop was also a victim of the blaze. Part of an incredible account that was reported at the time reads: “Away over in the orchard back of the Gardner residence, and fully 20 rods from the site of the mill, lies, spread out, one-half of the boiler.....In reaching its present resting place it flew almost directly north, struck a stave shed in its flight, knocked out a corner post, then struck on the ground and bounded clear over the railroad track, struck a tie and then with another leap landed clear over the further fence, taking large limbs from an apple tree on its way”.

Holy cow.

The mill was never rebuilt. Possibly due to this, North Star seemed to stop growing. Even some of the original buildings have been demolished. Still standing in the old downtown crossroads is the old general store, a reminder of what North Star used to be.

Today, North Star is a pleasant little community with a good number of residents and very easy to get to. Once you're in Gratiot County, take 127 to Buchanan Road, turn east, and North Star is only a mile down the road. Makes a good roadtrip drive-thru.

Take a look at the photo gallery below.


History of Gratiot County


Flying Wallendas Tragedy: Detroit 1962

Jackson County Poor Farm/Infirmary

Abandoned Crow Schoolhouse, Allegan County

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