Almost two years ago my husband and I moved to Michigan. Situated close to the middle of the “mitten” we have spent the last two years exploring this beautiful state. We have fallen in love with the many small towns around the state that are full of arts and crafts, charming down towns that have preserved the older buildings and, of course, the many towns built by Lake Michigan with their beautiful beaches and historical lighthouses. While it would be hard to pick one town over the other, I must confess I especially loved Holland during the tulip festival and Frankfort was probably my favorite.
Some of our trips started out with a particular town in mind but most of the trips we just got in the car and headed north – east – west. Getting off the interstates and taking side roads led us to discover many lovely towns and beautiful scenes that we would have missed if we had stayed with the main road.
Yesterday we decided to head in a direction we had not taken – south. Heading south we discovered the area looked more like our home in Illinois. More corn fields, more open areas with fewer trees. The majority of trees were – like back home – deciduous. While there were evergreen trees they were in the minority.
It was nice to get the sense of being back home, but I must confess in my opinion the southern part of Michigan does not begin to compare with the beauty up north.
However, we did discover two interesting towns.
- Jackson Michigan
The town of Jackson claims to be the birthplace of the Republican party. (I have found other towns making that claim.) There is a plaque commemorating a meeting held in 1854 that Jackson claims was the start of the party led by anti-slavery men.
Jackson also lays claim to having the first prison in Michigan. Today the old prison area has been turned into the Armory Art’s Village. Situated behind a 25-foot stone wall, these apartments are home to emerging artists and musicians.
They give tours of the old prison site, but due to the virus restrictions we were not able to take the tour. Something to put on our bucket list for later.
Jackson also has several buildings/areas that were part of the underground railroad – but again because of the virus we were not able to visit them. Add that to the bucket list.
- From Jackson we headed west to Hillsdale.
Hillsdale College sits in the heart of the city. The school was established by Free Will Baptists as Central Michigan College at Spring Arbor in 1844. In 1853 it moved to Hillsdale and changed its name. It was the first American college whose charter prohibited discrimination based on race, religion or sex. Hillsdale was the second college in the nation to grant four-year liberal arts degrees to women.
The college was very active in the fight to end slavery with more students enlisting to fight for the Union than any other western college. More than 400 students fought for the Union and sixty gave their lives. Four students earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, three became generals and many served as regimental commanders. In honor of that heritage the college had a statute of an Union soldier on its campus as well as Frederick Douglas.
We also saw statues of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
Leaving Hillsdale we headed back home. While I must confess my trip south was not as beautiful as the trips we have taken north, still it was good to have discovered more about our adopted state, Michigan.
I vote that our next road trip takes us back north!