HISTORIC MICHIGAN TOWN: Pelkie, Baraga County
The village of Pelkie is listed as an unincorporated community in the U.P.’s Baraga County, just below the Keweenaw Peninsula. It’s located just west of the Sturgeon River, which incredibly snakes it’s way southward.
Pelkie was settled in 1885 as King’s Landing, named by French Canadian settlers. The name ‘Pelkie’ was later decided upon, named after early settler Bill Pelkie.
The town served as a station/stop along the Michigan Central Railroad, finally acquiring its own post office in 1903, located in the home of Mr. Pelkie.
Pelkie’s original 1909 one-room schoolhouse still stands, on the corner of Pelkie and Mantila roads. In 1932, Pelkie’s new Agriculture School opened, consolidating the area’s smaller schools into one. The old one-room schoolhouse north of town closed down, eventually becoming a town hall. It’s the only one-room school still existing in Baraga County and is currently used as a museum.
Pelkie’s main industry was logging, and before the first World War was over in 1918, local Pelkie farmers formed the Farmer's Cooperative Trading Company. This company made it possible to purchase farm machinery and livestock feed at an affordable cost. Known as the Pelkie Cooperative Society, it overtook logging and became Pelkie’s sustaining economy.
In 1934, the Coop expanded and opened the Pelkie Cheese Factory. A milk bottling plant followed in the 1940’s, bringing in even more money. Plentiful dairy products were being churned out – butter, cheese, cream, and milk – adding huge amounts to the Pelkie economy. So what happened? Why did it go away? Thanks to the increase of state and federal regulations, labor factors, and the deterioration of the plant, Pelkie’s cheese output was kaput by 1956. The milk bottling plant pooped out not long afterward.
The charming, small town of Pelkie has a good handful of abandoned & historic buildings, making it a good place to road-trip through for some great photo ops. Check out the museum/schoolhouse while you’re there. Restaurants are scarce, so you may have to pack some food for your trip!