Mackinaw City Historical Pathway
Mackinaw's economy was originally built on the fur trade. When that faltered in the 1840s it was supplanted by fising, lumbering, and today's tourism.
The summer of 1871 was hot, dry, and windy, resulting in devastating fires across the Midwest, including the Great Chicago Fire. In search of timber to rebuild the demolished cities, lumbermen spread across the state of Michigan. They first harvested the easily-accessed stands of giant white pines in the center of the State. But ultimately their search reached the dense, wet, and diverse forests of Northern Michigan. Lumbering around the Straits was a short-lived industry that thrived from the 1880s until the early 1900s when the timber stock was depleted.
Lumbermen used big wheels pulled by horses to skid logs to temporary narrow-gauge rail lines that then hauled the logs to a port for shipment.
A branching network of small rail lines merged into larger lines, ultimately depositing the logs at newly-sprouted port villages. Cecil Bay, on Lake Michigan, was the new community to which lumber from this area was transported. It was a thriving community from 1878 until operations at the mill ceased in 1917.
Locally harvested lumber was sent to Cecil Bay, six miles southwest of Mackinaw City on Lake Huron [sic].
its peak, Cecil Bay bustled with two lumber mills, a boarding house, post office, livery stable, ice house, school and twenty-five homes, housing in total 200 people.
After the major lumber exports had been shipped, the community turned to the manufacturing of shingles, barrel staves, excelsior bolts, railroad ties, and pulpwood, which were produced from the remaining woods. Soon, however, the town closed. (Marker Number 20