This Was Once the Roughest, Bawdiest, Nastiest Town in Michigan
It's been called the “roughest, toughest, rip-snortin', rootin-tootinest town” in all of Michigan.....it's the old U.P. Lumber town of Seney, located in Schoolcraft County.
Seney started out around 1881 as a station along the Duluth, South Shore, and Atlantic Railroad.
As for the name, rumor says it was named 'Seney' after one of the railroad contractors. It started out as a quiet, peaceful little place where passengers would get off the train and hoof it to Grand Marais. With a population of 3,000, the people were happy, making a living, and content. There was a butcher shop, church, drug stores, general stores, hotel, and jewelry shop, with many other shops & stores.
But then something happened that changed this 'Garden of Eden' into a kind of 'Hell'.
In 1882, Seney became part of Michigan's burgeoning logging industry. One lumber company set up camp, and not long afterward, more logging companies arrived to set up business. With these lumber companies came some of the most ornery, ruthless, godless, burly, mean, and nasty lumberjacks.
The town population of 3,000 zoomed even higher when these lumberjacks came into town on their time off. Thanks to the influx of these hard-drinkin', cussin', fightin', killin', and horny loggers, the town soon had a whopping 21 saloons and 10 hotels, many – if not all - being used as whorehouses. Not only did Seney get a reputation, but so did some of the resident troublemakers: Frying Pan Mag, Killer Shea, Pump Handle Joe, Snapjaw Small, Stub Foot O'Donnell, and Wild Hughie Logan were just a very few of the infamous delinquents.
Soon, this once-calm village became known throughout Michigan as a violent, vulgar, and alcohol-soaked den of iniquity. Saloons & taverns, gambling shacks, fleabag inns, and whorehouses made up the town. It drew in the boisterous, the brave, the soul-less, and the meanest. Seney was a hotbed for fights, booze, prostitution, killings, and gambling. There were murders, vandalism, whoopin' & hollerin' all through the night, sex in the streets and alleyways, alcohol constantly flowing, bloody fistfights...you name it. Things would get so out-of-control every weekend, that the town’s Boot Hill Cemetery was burying new occupants every week.
Two major fires broke out in 1891 and 1895, no doubt caused by some of the rough-housers. Most of the town was devastated both times, but by the second fire, most of the trees had been harvested so the logging camps and residents began moving out.
The population of Seney went from over 4,000 to 300.
Interestingly, after the turn of the century, Seney began growing its own fields of marijuana & hemp (see photos below).
Nowadays, all the whorehouses, gambling houses, and old-time saloons have been demolished. Seney has returned as the peaceful village it started out to be in 1881. If you visit, drive back & forth, east & west on Railroad Street...that is where all the saloons, brothels, gambling joints, and trouble took place.
See the photo gallery below!
PHOTOS OF SENEY