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Michigan Ghost Towns In The Lower Peninsula – Part 1

teddy bear and couch in abandoned building
dimitris_k, ThinkStock

As our state developed from the 1600s to present day, many small towns and villages were abandoned and left to be reclaimed by nature.  We now refer to many of these places as Michigan Ghost Towns and you can still find remains of old buildings, roads, railways, and ports at the original locations.

Over the next several weeks we will be listing these towns, where you can find them, and what remains.  First we will start with ghost towns in the lower peninsula and then moving north to the UP.  This is the first installment of the series.


Antrim City

Antrim County



Antrim City was only around for a little while in the 1860s.  The city was supposed to be a port on Lake Michigan but was poorly placed due to the harbor being quite shallow and only small boats being able to dock.  Several years after the city was established, the shipping operations were moved to Norwood, MI.  You can still find foundations of buildings and rows of trees that used to line the street if you visit today.




Alcona County



Alcona was a small town that was originally settled in 1855 as The Cove.  The town’s main industry shifted from fishing to lumbering in the 1880s and later was almost completely abandoned in the early 1900s.  Alcona has seen some development since in the form of private residencies, but the city’s original buildings have been torn down with little left other than the cemetery.




Benzie County



Aral was a small town of about 100 people from 1880 to 1911.  The city was built around the Otter Creek Lumber Mill and was presumably abandoned after the mill was closed.  The remains of the city, which are quite hard to find if any even still exist, are located in what is currently Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.




Berrien County



Located inside of Bertrand Township, the Village of Bertrand was officially settled in 1808 by Joseph Bertrand.  The village grew rapidly and by the 1830s had several inns, bars, and drygoods stores.  Around that time, trade with Native Americans had start to diminish and eventually the village declined as people moved to plots of land all over what is now Bertrand Township.  You can still find a few cemeteries and historical markers in the area.




Alpena County



Bolton was a small town along the partially abandoned Detroit and Mackinac Railway that was founded in the mid 1800s.  The town never grew that large and was mostly abandoned in the 1950s.  There are still 4 year round residents living in Bolton.




Border of Lake and Osceola Counties



This small farming town was located just west of Reed City and South of US-10. It is known about because of a postcard sent in the 1870s which was postmarked from a post office in Brookside. The only remains are a few farms.




Montcalm County



Butternut is located along the now defunct Grand Trunk railroad line from Middleton to Carson City.  The line was run by Sweetline Railroad and when it stopped running in the early 1900s, Butternut started to diminish.  The remains of the town are about 3 miles from Carson City.  You can still find some boarded up buildings, a few homes, and a church.




Missaukee County



Cutcheon was a small lumbering town that was never rebuilt after it burned down in the 1800s.  Not much is known about the original town except that it was once home to 1300 people and had a post office that sat near the intersection of N Edwards Rd and W Cutcheon Rd.  About 6 homes are currently located in the area.  You can also still find a few old foundations and cement watering troughs.




Ogemaw County



Damon was an old logging town located in Ogemaw State Forest.  Not much is known about the town other than it existed in the 1800s and at one time had its own post office.  You can still see the remains of the post office, some warehouse, and the town’s cemetery.  The town is located about 8 miles northwest of Rose City.




Border of Van Buren and Cass Counties



Charleston was a small town in southeast Michigan that was established in the early 1800s.  The town was quickly abandoned after a double murder went unsolved in 1879.  The residents suspected that ghosts remained in the area, so they sold their land and moved.  You can still visit the Charleston Cemetery.


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