Long ago and far away

Long ago and far away

Once upon a time there lived a man named Henry Ford.  Henry loved to tinker and design.  He loved to imagine.  He dreamed of something called an “automobile”, a horse buggy with tires and a motor and a steering wheel.

That was long ago and far away, and dreams sometimes do come true.

Henry designed his automobile and sold thousands and eventually millions and perhaps billions by the time his fairy tale will end.  But when he was still alive, back there in the 1920’s, Henry visited the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Our fair earth, rich with trees and minerals and two Great Lakes. 

His planning mind plotted.  He surveyed the endless miles of trees and thought (I’m sure this is what he thought):  “You know, I could use some of these hardwood trees in my automobiles.  They would make great body supports.  I will start some logging camps and supply wood for my downstate plants.”

Pequaming's old community hall

Pequaming's old community hall

Then Henry really had a brilliant idea.  He visited a mill town jutting out into the Keweenaw Bay and thought, “I am going to buy this town.  I am going to make it into a model town.  It will be a social experiment.  We’ll see how it goes.”

So Henry bought Pequaming  in September, 1923.  Went and bought the whole darn town.  The village featured about one hundred houses, a general store and a hotel.  Only a school and two or three churches were not added in the deal, which included 70,000 acres of prime timber.

Modern-day robot toy on rotting stoop of old community building

A child's modern-day robot toy on rotting stoop of old community building

And, for incentive, he decided to pay his workers more than any other loggers at the time. When other workers were receiving $1.50 per day, Henry paid his loggers $3.50 for an eight-hour shift.  He gained a reputation for “practicing forestry”–harvesting mature trees, leaving young, fast growing trees for an oncoming crop and ridding the young forest of fire hazards by removing brush.  He pioneered forest record keeping. 

That wasn’t all he did.  He then proceeded to raise the wages of his 300 workers from $3.50  a day to $5, insisting his crew punch a time clock.  After three months, if they proved themselves, they received a $1 pay raise.

Peeking through the broken window

Peeking through the broken window

After setting the mill in order, Henry proceeded to test his private theories on self reliance and education.  He aimed to turn Pequaming into a “model town”. 

House rentals were increased from $1 to $12-15 per month, but in return all dwellings were painted and repaired.  Ford Motor Company repaired the old mill, provided a new water tower and fire hydrants, as well as a Model A fire engine. In time, electricity, running water and indoor toilets were installed in all the homes. 

Who carved her name those many years ago?

Who carved her name those many years ago?

This all happened Once Upon a Time.  By the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, after the Great Depression and World War II passed, Pequaming was a ghost town.  The bustling village had almost completely emptied out.  The windows were barred and shuttered, doors flapped in the breeze.  More than 1,000 people once lived, worked, breathed, played and danced in this town.  Now the ghosts lived here among the empty buildings and in the cemetery, ghosts who fondly remembered Henry Ford and his legacy.

Tomorrow I will tell you more about his Model town, his social experiment.  Can anyone guess why I am telling you this once-upon-a- time story right now?

This tree Remembers.

This tree Remembers.

Advertisements