(Updated 05-13-2020)

If you’re driving around and you come across this Michigan historical marker, you may think it’s honoring the old 1950s sci-fi film, “The Thing”….but it’s far from it.

“The Thing” was the first self-propelled vehicle in Michigan, before Henry Ford’s experiments and the other Michiganders that followed. It’s also considered to be the first automobile in the country!

“The Thing” seated four people and was built in 1884 by John & Thomas Clegg in their machine shop in Memphis, Michigan. The vehicle ran under the power of a single-cylinder steam engine with a boiler in the rear and “ran about 500 miles before Clegg dismantled it and sold the engine to a creamery” according to the historical marker.

Why was it called “The Thing”? Probably because the Cleggs never came up with a true name for it. If you’d like to visit this cool small town & see the marker and former machine shop site for yourself, please do. It’s a true slice of Michigan history that seems to get swept under the carpet and unknown by many.

Take I-69 East all the way to Exit 184 and head south on Highway 19 (Kinney Road). Take it a few miles until you reach Memphis. In the heart of downtown, turn left (east) on Bordman Road. A couple of blocks down on the right, you’ll cross over Cedar Street. At the corner of Cedar & Bordman is where the shop was…there is a house there now. The marker is on the right a few feet farther down Bordman.

Unfortunately, there were never any pictures taken of this vehicle, and all references to the car were burnt to a crisp when Thomas Clegg’s house caught on fire in 1929...but you can still see what it looked like if you CLICK HERE.

It doesn’t cost any "thing", to visit, it’s a perfect addition to your Michigan roadtrip, and you’ll learn another historical fact about this great state!

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