To celebrate our anniversary this year we took a short trip to the thumb of Michigan. Before moving to Michigan I had never heard this expression in reference to the state. However, when you look at the map of Michigan you can see that the lower peninsula does look like a mitten and – yes- the eastern part does look like a thumb.
We stayed at Port Huron where we could look over and see Canada. Unfortunately the border between our country and Canada is still closed. It was nice to see our flag and the Canadian flag flying together on both sides of the Clinton River which celebrates the two nations.
In 1836 the US established a Port of Entry and commercial ferry service began from Port Huron to Canada. It was not until 1938 that a bridge was built and opened to automobile traffic. Today the bridge is referred to as the Blue Water Bridge and is a twin-span international bridge connecting Interstate 69 and 94 in Michigan to Highway 402 in Ontario. Since moving to Michigan it has been our goal to cross this bridge and explore Canada. However, the Covid 19 has made that impossible for now. Hopefully in the future we can do that. Still, we enjoyed looking across into Canada and the bridge at night with its lights was beautiful.
We had a great lunch at Vintage Tavern. The food was great and the building built in the 1800’s was beautiful. They had the original tin ceiling with hardwood floors and brick walls throughout. There were also leaded stained glass windows and three fireplaces.
Thomas Edison lived here as a young boy and there is a museum commemorating his time in Port Huron.
As a student at Port Huron a schoolmaster called Edison “addled.” Furious, his mother took him out of the school and proceeded to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint.”
In 1859, Edison took a job selling newspapers and candy on the Grand Trunk Railroad to Detroit. In the baggage car, he set up a laboratory for his chemistry experiments and a printing press, where he started the Grand Trunk Herald, the first newspaper published on a train. An accidental fire forced him to stop his experiments on board.
While he was in Detroit Edison would visit the large library there. He said, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”
When he was 19 Edison moved to Kentucky and continued with his experiments. By the time of his death in 1831 he had a record 1,093 patents: 389 for electric light and power, 195 for the phonograph, 150 for the telegraph, 141 for storage batteries and 34 for the telephone.
Another interesting stop in Port Huron was the Great Lakes Maritime Center. Here we found a wealth of information about the history of shipping on the Great Lakes.
We also learned about the underground tunnels that run under the St Clair River allowing trains to make the crossing from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario. This tunnel was the first full-size subaqueous tunnel built in North America allowing a railroad to pass beneath a river. Before the tunnels were built trains would come to Port Huron where they would have to be loaded on a barge and carried across the river to tracks in Sarnia.
Along with all the interesting history of shipping on the Great Lakes, the Center was a nice place to just sit and watch the ships on the river as well as again glance across at Canada.
We finished our visit to the Thumb by checking out the Fort Gratiot lighthouse. This fort was built in 1914 during the War of 1812. Occupied by the United States Army until 1879 it stood guard over the juncture of St. Clair River and Lake Huron. In 1823 the lighthouse was built here and it is the first lighthouse in Michigan and the second oldest on the Great Lakes.
We enjoyed sitting here and watching the large ships coming from Lake Huron to the St Clair River.
The keepers house is large and looks beautiful although we were not able to go inside.
You can climb the stairs in the lighthouse and I only imagine what the view would be like. But my arthritic knees prevented me from climbing the 94 stairs to the top.
As always on our trips, there was so much more we wanted to see but time did not permit more exploring. There is much more to discover on the Thumb and hopefully we can return again and explore more.