(Old Michigan Front Street)
(Very early Front Street)
Legion Picture on Front Street jpeg.JPG
(American Legion Parade on Front Street)

Our History









Michigan, North Dakota was established in 1883 with the establishment of its post office on January 2, 1883, with C.J. Bondurant as postmaster. W.S. Fowler was appointed on February 23, 1883, as postmaster.

Shortly after the post office was established a carload of iron ore intended for Michigan City, Indiana arrived on the tracks in Dakota. To avoid any further error, Michigan City was listed as just Michigan on railroad billings and timetables. We officially kept the name of Michigan City, however, to this day we refer to our town as Michigan.

Michigan was first plotted in May 1883; lots were sold, and many businesses established. On August 8, 1883, W.G. Marshall added and plotted an addition to the east called East Michigan. Stores and businesses were built and there was speculation that East Michigan would become a town of the future. It never did develop, and the businesses failed or moved to the hub of activity, Michigan City. This addition is the area east of Wisconsin Street.

A beginning? Yes. A boom town? Yes. Michigan was making itself known as a trade center. The railroad tracks had been completed and excitement was building in anticipation of the first train. Finally in March 1883 the first billows of smoke became visible, and the train reached Michigan.

With the railroad came more and more settlers, with them the need for new businesses, churches and schools. The Methodist Episcopal, Catholic and Congregational churches were established.

As the farmers cleared land and began raising crops elevators were needed. Michigan at one time had five elevators in existence.

Roads were a problem as well. Even in the horse and buggy days people wanted good, established roads to travel as they were going to patronize the town businesses.

A popular form of entertainment was the medicine shows, which besides selling patent medicines would usually have a road show. Naturally, the medicine would cure every ailment a person could have. When the medicine show came to town, people would flock to town to see them, more likely to visit neighbors than buy medicines.

Blind pigs or bootleggers were in evidence in Michigan. A profitable pastime for children was collecting bottles and selling them to the blind pigs. John P. Lamb, former President of Lamb's Bank told stories of how as a young child he made his first dime selling bottles to these establishments.

The first flag flown in Michigan was on the Vierhus Blacksmith Shop. It wasn't long before flags adorned buildings in all parts of town.

The early pioneers had many ways of making money. One way was to collect buffalo bones, of which there were many. It was not unusual to see a pile of bones on the depot platform awaiting shipment to eastern markets. When they were plentiful, bones would sell for $3 a ton. As the buffalo bones became scarce, they brought $20 a ton.

Bartering was a way of obtaining goods. Butter, cream and eggs were exchanged for much needed supplies. Very few households had their own water well.  Water was carried from a central well on First Street.

Boating and swimming were popular summer sports on Lake Carrie, the lake almost surrounding the town. In the winter people enjoyed ice skating, snow-sailing or snow-boating were enjoyed. Son-boating seemed to be the forerunner of the modern snowmobile.

Buildings were built rapidly, the Catholic Church in about two months, stores in a few weeks and an elevator ready for operation in two months. The business blocks of the town were changing with buildings moved from one place to the other. Every business seemed to have a small barn to accommodate the horses of their patrons. The center business block surrounded a barrage of small buildings, each one called a barn.

Improvements in the city in 1893 included adding wood crossings over First Street from Broadway and Jeanette Avenue to the depot platform.  Wood sidewalks were built to the school donated by the women of the community from proceeds from the July 4th Dinner.

By 1895, Michigan boosted a full business district on Jeanette Avenue, First Street, Front Street and Broadway Avenue.

By 1901, Michigan had a population of around five hundred. On August 27, 1902, Lamb's Addition was platted and surveyed. It was recorded in the Register of Deeds in February of 1904.

A fire in 1906 burned most of the main street businesses so the town was almost entirely rebuilt that summer. The buildings rebuilt after the fire remained in Michigan until 1969 when they were removed to make way for the Michigan Mall and others in 1980 for the Johner's Grocery mall addition.

In May 1906 the first city election was held for the purpose of incorporating the village into a city. This was passed unanimously by the progressive citizens of Michigan.

The first sidewalks constructed of cement on the east side of the Mercantile Store in front of L.H. Peterson's new bank building was installed in 1906.

The Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 hit Michigan hard that fall. Schools were closed, church services cancelled, meetings postponed, and the Red Cross was on hand to furnish masks to everyone to prevent the spread of the disease.

A post-war boom was witnessed after the end of World War I in November of 1918. Returning soldiers and a strong economy jump started area businesses.

In the winter of 1928-1929 a second flu epidemic tested the will of our citizens. Businesses and activities were virtually brought to a standstill. Many families were sick all at once and lives were lost each day. Almost every family in the area was stricken. Without our modern medicines, Dr. Wagar could only make the ill as comfortable as possible.

The "Dirty Thirty's" brought drought and depression. Grasshoppers came in clouds destroying every plant and crop in their path. Farms were lost by their inability to meet debts and many businesses failed. The population of the area decreased as farmers moved off the farms and businesses closed with owners moving elsewhere to seek employment.

These were the years of the transients or hobos. Michigan had the usual hobo town located by the stockyards east of the elevators. Children were warned to beware of the hobos as parents feared for their safety. Many a hobo would come to town, manage to find some menial labor for a few days and then move on down the tracks, usually hopping a railroad box car. Trains carrying transients standing in the open doors of the box cars were a familiar sight.

The forties came and the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, played an important role in our history. America entered World War II with Japan and later, Germany. 

The able-bodied men were all off to war while the ladies and older men remained behind keeping the home fires burning. Everyone worked fields, planted Victory Gardens, manned defense plants and worked those jobs left behind by absent soldiers.

Supplies were limited and rationing of products was necessary. Each person was allotted only certain amount of sugar, shoes, gas, tires, coffee and several other goods. Ration books were issued each person, and the stamps were presented each time a purchase was made. 

Two tragedies occurred during the forties. The great snowstorm of 1941 and the train wreck of 1945. Additional information can be found on these by clicking the hyperlink in sidebar to the right.

World War II ended in 1945 with Germany and Japan's surrender. Oh, what jubilation!  A postwar business boom followed with war veteran's leading the charge.

The fifties were a great time to live in Michigan. Peace and prosperity were found throughout the entire country and a new age was just over the horizon.

The sixties were years of real change in Michigan, May new homes were built. Older business buildings were vacated with new ones taking their place. A changing population saw a reduction of the main business district to First Street, and Jeanette Avenue. A new mall was built in 1969 on the corner of First Street and Broadway Avenue. 

The seventies saw an agricultural boon with $8 durum and high commodity prices. This brought increased land and equipment prices as well. This period also witnessed the mid-east oil embargo causing fuel shortages and increase energy costs. By the end of the decade, commodity prices had not kept up with the cost of production, making it difficult for farmers to make ends meet on the farm. 

Michigan celebrated its centennial in 1983 with a three-day celebration that is still talked about today. Our population at that time was 502. Since that time, we have seen a slight decrease in population and the number of businesses located here. This has been a sign of the times for rural North Dakota communities in the 80's and 90's.

As we entered the new millennium in 2000 Michigan had a population of 435 and was working to define itself for the next century. 

Our school building which closed in 1997 was reopened into a wiring harness factory. An implement dealer was closed to have a new Tesoro station, medical clinic, retail and office space take its place. Recently an abandoned Amoco station was remodeled into a storage facility and shop for our local housing authority.

As we look back with amazement at what has been accomplished, we look forward with anticipation to what is yet to come for "Our Town".