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The Ghost Town of Waterville in Ionia County, Michigan

Waterville – or what’s left of it – sits at the junction of MacArthur Road and Morrison Lake Road in Ionia County.

It goes back to 1836 when a Grand Rapids man, Robert Hilton, purchased a huge portion of land near Lake Creek in Boston Township. He proceeded to plat a village on this property, which he dubbed ‘Waterville’. James Hoag built a mill along the creek along with a general store, and he was made postmaster of Waterville’s short-lived post office in 1838. Thanks to a lack of economy there was no prosperity and the following year the post office was moved to Saranac.

Robert Hilton’s dream of a rush of settlers to Waterville was dashed. It was believed there would be a major road coming through – the Grand River Turnpike – that would bring people to the area. The turnpike never came near Waterville and the village ended up closing down.

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James Hoag hung in there and continued to run his mill, even though the village was basically null and void. Hoag’s mill-running days came to an abrupt halt in 1851 when he was killed by a falling tree.

Fortunately for history-seekers, the old mill still stands, the only reminder that there was once a village called Waterville. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any old photos of Waterville…every time I thought I found one, it turned out to be ‘Watervliet’ that was mistakenly marked as ‘Waterville’.

These days, the old mill sits just off the junction of MacArthur Road @ Morrison Lake Road in Boston Township, Ionia County. It’s a cool place to visit, kind of reminding me of some old village in New England, like Vermont or Connecticut. Take a look at some photos in the gallery below!

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