Credit for big innovations, discoveries or moments in history often goes to the big cities. And rightfully so, for the most part. But there’s so much more to the development of Michigan and our great nation than Detroit. Here, we’ve compiled proof that tiny towns in Michigan played interesting and often monumental roles in our state’s history. So have a look.
10) Benton Harbor
Benton Harbor came to realize moderate fame after a religious society known as the Israelite House of David was formed there in 1903. Its members wore long hair and beards and believed in abiding by a strict regime of physical fitness that included baseball. House of David baseball became famous in rural America from the 1920s to 1950s, with members who made it to the semi-pros. Pictured here is a crowded Benton Harbor baseball park.
Known as the magic capital of the world, Colon was home to Harry Blackstone, a famous Vaudville-era magician, known for innovating tricks like the vanishing birdcage and dancing handkerchief. Today, the town is known for the Abbott Magic Novelty Company, where folks can purchase all manner of magic trinkets.
Frankenmuth is already a favorite among Michiganders for its whimsical European village feel, but to top it off, it's home to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, known as the world's largest Christmas store. The site sits on 27 acres, features several 17-foot-tall Santas and 15-foot-tall snowmen, and is illuminated by some 100,000 lights.
Without the innovations of Daniel Frank Gerber, manufacturing of Gerber baby food would have never taken place in 1927 in the small town of Fremont. And who knows where young mothers would be without the ease of the convenient food for their little tots.
6) Grand Haven
This west Michigan beach town of about 10,000 boasts the world's largest musical fountain, an attraction that rivals the lights in Vegas and attracts tourists from all over.
5) Highland Park
The small city of Highland Park, which is surrounded by Detroit, is the birthplace of Henry Ford's moving assembly line, perfected in 1913. This innovation reduced production time of the Model T from 12 hours, 8 minutes down to about an hour and a half - truly remarkable for its day and age. Fun fact: Ford kept production out of Detroit proper to avoid paying taxes to the large city.
This UP town became a booming place when Iron Ore was discovered there in the 1840s. In it, what's believed to be the world's largest gemstone was discovered... Truly a treasure in our book.
3) Mackinaw City, St Ignace
Technically this happened in two cities. When the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957, it connected the Lower Peninsula town of Mackinaw City to St. Ignace in the UP over the straits of Mackinac. This massive structure has the distinction as the world's 16th-longest in total suspension and the longest suspension bridge in the Western hemisphere.
2) Paw Paw
This town was named by the Potawatomi Native Americans as “the place where the Paw Paw fruit grows.” The paw paw fruit is rare and hard to grow, but it found its place there. Today, Paw Paw is known for its fine wine and its fine dining scene.
1) Presque Isle
Michigan has the highest number of lighthouses of any state, and the New Presque Isle has the largest in all of the Great Lakes. The original lighthouse, known as the Old Presque Isle, was constructed in 1840 and was later rebuilt by order of President Abraham Lincoln. This structure is said to be haunted by the wife of a late grounds keeper. Today, it has a museum, parks, hiking trails, and a keeper's home.
Pretty neat, huh? And the thing is, we know there are at least a million other inspiring stories that come out of small towns all over Michigan. Remember one that stands out to you? Tell us about it!