Smalltown Spotlight: Pulaski, in Jackson County
The Jackson County village of Pulaski – in Pulaski Township - is not what I would call a ghost town, but it kinda has that feel to it when you drive down Pulaski Road.
When you get to Pulaski, you'll see the old Pulaski Mall (now a grocer), an abandoned old store, and a few houses. Just a couple of hundred feet north of town is the cemetery, which has more people in it than the whole town.
“The History of Jackson County” states that in the early 1830s – possibly the late 1820s – a traveler stopped in the area and built himself a little shack. He hung in for awhile until he decided not to make this spot his home. In the early 1830s migrators from New England, New York, and Pennsylvania began arriving to this new fertile land.
Then, according to Pulaski Township, the town was settled in 1833 by Matthias & Enoch Fisher and Reuben Penogen, who migrated from Pennsylvania. Their original town location was at the intersection of Watson & Folks roads, a mile west of where Pulaski currently sits. Then along came John Howard in 1834, who proclaimed this little area 'Howard's Island'.
Pulaski Township was organized in either 1837 or 1838 (depending on whose history you're reading) when Colonel Luther L. Ward named the community 'Pulaski' after Polish Revolutionary War hero Count Casimir Pulaski.
Now here comes Isaac P. Wheeler. He became one of Pulaski's most successful, famous residents. He was the town clerk, road commissioner, supervisor, member of the Michigan Legislature, and town's first postmaster. With everything he did, he was successful, which helped him maintain his 400-acre farm. Because of his stature, the town became called “Wheelerton” and the name 'Pulaski' was shoved aside to be just the title of the postal unit.
Just northeast of town is a long, skinny body of water called “Wilbur Lake”. It was named after John Wilbur and his wife, who were responsible for the first baby born in Pulaski, Goodell Wilbur.
According to the atlases seen in the photo gallery below, in 1874 the community was referred to as “Pulaski, P.O.”
In 1894, it had two names: “Wheelerton” and “Pulaski P.O.”
By 1911 it was “Wheelerton Station” and “Pulaski P.O.”
On the 1930 atlas it says “Pulaski P.O.” and “Willerton Station”, misspelling “Wheelerton”.
The railroad came through in 1884, bringing businesses and capital to Pulaski.
So, what about this 'Pulaski Mall'? It wasn't really a mall, was it? A grocery store sat on the corner of Folks & Pulaski Roads until 1923, when the structure was purchased by Fay & Harriet Butler. They renovated the second floor into “Butler's Dance Hall”, which became a favorite Saturday night hangout for all local residents, young and old.
I've visited Pulaski a good number of times and always wondered about it. If you've ever done the same, I hope I've helped.
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