It was a rainy day last Saturday, so plans by my husband and I have to have a nice fall hike were kind of…canceled. But we thought it would be a good excuse to do a “color tour” through some of the most rural of rural areas within the vicinity of our home.
View of Stony Creek Road heading southwest from Ypsilanti, MI.
We wanted to avoid “major” roads and highways as much as we could, but also didn’t want to take our fragile Chevy Malibu (don’t get me started on HOW fragile…ugh) onto unpaved roads, either. Armed with only a regional map (Huron-Clinton Metroparks map) and my basic knowledge of the area roads – we were off to the slow-paced races! We’re old school and don’t use any GPS.
Location of Lenawee County in Michigan.
Rewind to 1997, and I used to work at a small daily newspaper in Lenawee County, MI. If you want REALLY rural Michigan, fuhgettaboutit! With no major Interstates running through this county (as of now, I-73 is planned in the future), fewer than 100,000 people total living in the entire county and the largest city/county seat being Adrian (approximately 20,000 people) – things are pretty slow-paced in this very rural county! The annual “race days” at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn in June, the annual Lenawee County Fair in August and various stage productions at the historic Croswell Opera House are the focus of the “action” in this county (aside from the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian).
Croswell Opera House in Adrian, MI, which is one of the oldest theaters in MI (if not the oldest).
So, while working at this newspaper for nearly a year, I got to know some of these “country” roads bit, and I remembered quite a bit of this while I was playing “co-pilot” on Saturday’s drive. It was certainly a lot more pleasant dealing with the annoying one-way streets in Adrian – than it was navigating all of the “Michigan lefts” while working at a chain newspaper in metro Detroit a bit later!
Starting Out – Mooreville, Ho!
Blink and you’ll miss Mooreville. Or build a railroad through nearby Milan, MI in 1880 and you’ll miss Mooreville. In fact, that’s exactly what happened, and why you may not have ever heard of this little ‘burg, even if you live in the area. Mooreville is SO insignificant (go ahead and say it – “How insignificant is it?”) – it doesn’t even get its own Wikipedia article (it gets a mention in a Wiki article about Milan). Here’s a snippet from that article:
The Skinny On Mooreville:
I do not own this photo…abandoned church in Mooreville, MI.
Mooreville is located about two miles west of Milan. It was founded in 1831 by William Moore; Moore purchased property in York Township in 1831 and created a home there for himself and his family. At one time Mooreville was a larger town than Milan, with a post office, flour mill, physician, cheese factory, and other amenities ahead of Milan’s development. But in 1878 the Ann Arbor Railroad built a line through Milan, bypassing Mooreville; and in 1880 the Wabash Railroad did likewise. After that, Mooreville’s population diminished, but it still has a cluster of homes there who identify themselves as residents of Mooreville. This community is a hamlet, never having attained the status of village.
I did my own part to try to try putting Mooreville back on the map..(read on)!
Rewind again to 1997 when I was working as a “journo” (aka journalist). I did an article about a guy whom was locally dubbed “The Waver Of Mooreville.” Basically, he was a friendly, older retired guy who waved at motorists passing through the area during their morning rush hour commutes. I went out to meet this guy, and talked to some of the locals whom were familiar with this guy. The story hit the Associated Press wires and appeared in a few local news rags – which was very, very exciting to me as a “cub” reporter! Sadly, I can’t get my hands on that article – it was written long before everything was archived on the Internets (if I trekked to the old newspaper office in Adrian I’d probably be able to get my hands on a copy, but for now, just take my word for it)!
So where did we go from Mooreville? Well, after we settled down from the booming excitement of dealing with the non-stop traffic in Mooreville (JK), we tried to find a route…west. And were kind of sidetracked. Hickory Road, which we’d intended to take west, turned into a gravel road. So we proceeded south on Ridge Highway toward Ridgeway, MI – which is probably about as exciting as Mooreville! You can tell yourself it’s named for serial killer Gary Ridgeway (aka the Green River killer) – if you want to “pretend” it’s more exciting!
Ridgeway (Township), Ho!
So What’s To See In Tecumseh?
From Ridgeway, we proceeded west toward Tecumseh, which is named for a prominent Native American – and is the second largest city in Lenawee County by population. It has a cute little downtown, a microbrewery, and an annual “Appleumpkin” festival. Like many other places in Southeast MI, automaker Henry Ford made his mark here.
The Ford Motor Co. Hayden Mill building in Tecumseh as it looked in 1936 (I do not own this photo). The building still stands, and operated a tasting room for a winery recently – but is now up for lease. You can still see where the old water wheel was on the building.
We headed west through Tecumseh’s downtown district on “Chicago Boulevard,” and then through the strip mall district toward M-50, where we would head north toward our next destination:
Hayes State Park is popular with recreational boaters and is located on Wampler’s Lake. The modern campground has two rental cabins.
Where Next? Milan, MI! But First, A Cruise Through Macon Township…
We headed west on Clinton-Macon Road. A former juvenile detention center formerly known as Boysville is located along this road. I visited this place a few times while it was open and did some articles about it, because of residents’ concerns about safety.
An old postcard showing Boysville, MI.
I could not resist taking a photo of a really adorable little party store in Macon Township!
Macon Grocery in Macon Township. I dare you to find a closer spot to buy a bottle of whiskey if you live in the area!
We finally made it to Milan! When we made our last stop at Original Gravity Brewing Co., Michigan State was getting clobbered by Penn State at home. You might remember Milan from earlier as being the town that got the railroad (which essentially turned nearby Mooreville into a ghost town). What you might not know (unless you’re a Milan history buff), is that it had THREE different names before the name Milan was settled upon. First, it was called “Farmer,” because everyone there was a farmer, then Tolanville, then Woodard’s Mills before the name Milan was officially adopted.
We stopped at a brewpub to use the remains of a gift certificate I’d won in a trivia game a couple of days earlier:
I’ve played trivia games at this bar on a “semi-regular” basis since 2016.
We headed home after having our sandwiches for dinner! Thanks for joining me on this little tour of Southeast MI….