Jennings, Michigan: Referred to as the State’s Largest Town to be Labeled a ‘Ghost Town’
Now, before I begin, I am not the one referring to Jennings as a 'ghost town'. There are a good handful of Michigan history sites that do call it “One of the Largest Michigan Towns to become a Ghost Town”, but I feel it's more like a 'shadow town'. All the old businesses have left along with most of the people, but the downtown blocks are still prevalent and there are a good handful of residents.
Briefly, Jennings was created as a logging town in 1883 by Austin and William Mitchell, who proceeded to call this new community “Mitchell” after their lumber company.
They built a number of mills on the shores of Crooked Lake, and soon the town began to rapidly flourish. With an influx of new residents and lumber employees, it was beneficial to have a post office. When they finally got one in 1890, it was re-named “Jennings” after politician William Jennings Bryan; the name change was necessary to avoid confusion with another 'Mitchell' in Antrim County.
The railroad came through a ways south of town, through a stop called “Jennings Station”, and a short ways west at another stop called “Round Lake”. Some sources say Jennings was once called 'Round Lake', but looking at the 1930 atlas below, that claim appears to be false.
The Cadillac Chemical Company was responsible for hiring hundreds of men and producing tons of charcoal that were shipped to Michigan smelting plants. Then the turn of the century came and the logging boom was going bust. The chemical company packed up and split, followed by most of the population.
1905: population, 800.
1910: population, 450.
1917: population, 1,200, thanks to a limited demand for lake ice and the cleanup of small timber.
1922: the Mitchell Brothers decide to leave and the sawmill was demolished.
1930s: population, only a few folks remained.
2000s: there is still a decent population left, but hardly any business section.
At one time, Jennings had a barber, two churches, three doctors, dry goods, general store, hotel, livery stable, newsstand, schoolhouse, and a few other shops. Now all gone.
Nowadays if you get out of your vehicle and walk through the area, you'll see sidewalks that go past empty lots where there were once stores, and some stores that have been turned into homes. Some neighborhood streets have become weeded over, and foundations from former homes & businesses are hidden in the foliage.
Take a look below at the photo gallery and see what the town of Jennings once was. It's a shadow of its former self, and a very interesting place to visit.
VINTAGE PHOTOS OF JENNINGS