MICHIGAN FOLKLORE: “Snapjaw”, the Ogre of Seney
The Legend of Snapjaw Small takes place in the former Upper Peninsula logging town of Seney.
Except this is no legend...this is true stuff.
Seney is located in Schoolcraft County in the U.P., beginning as a railroad stop in 1881. It became a logging community and, with the arrival of over 3,000 people, most of them lumbermen, the town became a hotbed for fights, booze, prostitution, killings, and gambling.
The 25-mile stretch between Seney and Singleton is littered with defunct logging communities. It’s definitely worth a drive during warm weather. This line of old communities contained some of the hardest-nosed fellers in Michigan history. The town of Seney was the all-time sleaziest of the U.P. logging towns. Saloons & taverns, gambling shacks, fleabag inns, and whore houses basically made up the whole town. It drew in the boisterous, the brave, the soul-less, and the meanest. Things would get so out-of-control every weekend, that the town’s Boot Hill Cemetery was burying new occupants every week.
The man who acquired the worst reputation was P.K. Small; he was given the nickname “Snapjaw” for good reason.
Snapjaw lived in the 1800’s in Seney during Michigan’s lumber boom; it didn't take long for him to make his reputation as a maniac. This guy either had mental problems or he was raised by bears. When he ran out of money – that is, if he even HAD any – he would approach lumbermen, tavern owners, saloon patrons, and townspeople and take dares in exchange for a few coins to buy himself some whiskey.
And this nut would do just about anything…the more disgusting, the more the townspeople would keep daring him. For example, he would stick in head into a slimy, partially-filled spittoon. Or, he would bite the heads off small animals, like birds, snakes…and probably squirrels if he could catch ‘em.
Oh, and those aren’t the worst dares he ever took…..he was dared to eat animal crap – horse manure - for a few coins, and he followed through. And yeah, he’d take on the same dares at other times, so the townsfolk who heard these outlandish stories could witness for themselves what a nut he was. You can imagine what some of the other dares were that he took...anything.
He has been called “The Ogre of Seney” for his boisterousness and lack of common sense. Reportedly, Snapjaw had an odd nose, thanks to something or someone biting it off…..either he or someone else sewed it back on. Lopsided, scarred, and crude stitchery may have made his nose look so bad, that the name “ogre” seems to fit.
Is P.K. Small buried in Boot Hill? I guess you’ll have to travel there and find out for yourself.
As for the town of Seney, by the late 1800's the timber was depleted and the lumber companies packed up and left, leaving the town of Seney to wither down to 200 residents and few businesses.
Check out the photos below...then take a roadtrip!