Up in Leelanau County, twenty-six miles west of Traverse City on the shores of Lake Michigan, lies the village of Empire.

In 1851, John LaRue and his family came here to settle. When a post office was implemented in 1864, he became the first postmaster; the post office was dubbed “Empire” after a schooner that became stuck in the ice in the harbor during November 1863 (some biographies say 1865). The boat was no longer seaworthy, so the townspeople took it ashore and turned it into the village's new school house.

Empire became a lumber town, ran by E.R. Dailey, owner of the Empire Lumber Company which ran from 1887 to 1917. The company was going great, churning out twenty million feet of lumber per year, until the mill burned down in 1906. The company re-built the mill as fast as they could and the second one lasted until 1917 when it, too, burned down. With so much of the timber gone by this time, they figured it was useless to try and re-build another one.

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A sight-seeing roadtrip thru Empire will show you a smattering of old structures still standing, as well as the old Roen farmhouse. Now called the Cottonwood Inn, the farm house is one of the most famous haunted locations in the area...you can read about that here.

Empire is located along one of Michigan's most scenic routes, M-22. There are also plenty of rustic small towns you can find off the beaten path, as well as a cluster of ghost towns scattered here in there on the back roads. And to top off your trip, just north of Empire are the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Plenty of reasons to include Empire on your next roadtrip...

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