The Thumb

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The Thumb
Mid-Michigan
Country United States
State Michigan
The Thumb is in the east-central portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
Much of the Thumb is characterized by rolling farmland such as this

The Thumb is a region and a peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan, so named because the Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten. The Thumb area is generally considered to be in the Central Michigan region, located east of Flint and the Tri-Cities, and north of Metro Detroit. The region is also branded as the Blue Water Area of Michigan.

The counties which constitute the Thumb are those forming the extended peninsula that stretches northward into Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay. There is no formal declaration for which of these counties are part of the Thumb. However, virtually all common definitions include Huron, Tuscola, and Sanilac counties. This definition is almost always extended to include Lapeer and St. Clair counties as well.

Economy[edit]

The Thumb region is very flat with fertile soil, the reason for its historical role as a chiefly agricultural area. Major agricultural products include sugar beets, navy beans,[1] corn, fruits, and fish from the Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. Manufacturing - particularly concerning the Automotive Industry - is also prevalent in Michigan's Thumb. Many different types of industries can be found in the thumb, mostly located in the southern portion of the region near the larger metropolitan areas of Detroit and Flint.

Industry[edit]

See also: List of companies based in Michigan

The Thumb has many notable businesses, many linked to agriculture.

  • Intertape Polymer Group, Inc. has a major factory in Marysville.
  • Cargill Salt operates a large salt mine and factory in St. Clair. This is the only plant in the U.S.A. that produces Alberger salt, which is especially prized in the fast food industry because of its higher volume (due to its unique shape) and lower sodium content (for a given volume, not weight). This is part of Michigan's large salt-mining industry.
  • Cooperative Elevator Company has been named the top Michigan Agriculture Exporter by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.[2] Its headquarters are in Pigeon, and it has branch elevators in Deckerville, Akron, Gagetown, Sebewaing, Elkton, and Bad Axe.
Detroit Edison's St. Clair Power Plant, once the largest in the world.

International Trade Corridor[edit]

The I-69 International Trade Corridor is a strategic commercial gateway between the Midwestern United States and Ontario, Canada, with multi-modal transportation infrastructure that offers a wide range of distribution options.The I-69 International Trade Corridor Next Michigan Development Corporation (NMDC) offers economic incentives to growing businesses, both existing and new, that utilize two or more forms of transportation to move their products and are located within the territory of the NMDC. The I-69 International Trade Corridor Next Michigan Development Corporation is the largest in the state of Michigan with 35 municipal partners.[14]

Constituent counties of the trade corridor are: Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, and St. Clair Counties.[15]

Tourism[edit]

The Pointe aux Barques Light, near the tip of the Thumb.

Some towns, such as Bay Port, Caseville, Harbor Beach, Lakeport, Lexington, Port Austin, Port Hope, Port Huron, Port Sanilac, Sebewaing, and St. Clair enjoy seasonal tourism, due to their locations on Lake Huron, Saginaw Bay, or St. Clair River. The Thumb lies within the east-central tourism region of the state[16]

The Tip of The Thumb Heritage Water Trail is a nonprofit citizens organization working with the Huron County Parks to establish and maintain a water trail along Michigan's Lake Huron's shoreline.[17]

Unique to the Thumb[edit]

Few of the residents commute for work to Metropolitan Detroit or Flint or the Tri-Cities. Large cities in the Thumb area are Port Huron, Lapeer, Marysville, St. Clair, Sandusky, Bad Axe, and Caro. The majority of these cities are in the southern portion of the Thumb.

Unique features in the area include the following:

Traveling around the Thumb[edit]

A favorite of tourists who visit this area is traveling the Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay shoreline via M-25 (formerly US Highway 25 until 1973). M-25 starts at the end of I-69/I-94 in Port Huron at the foot of the Blue Water Bridge and ends in Bay City. The whole highway is about 160 miles (260 km), and passes through quaint cities and villages. Along M-25 you can see five lighthouses: Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, Port Sanilac lighthouse, Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse, Harbor Beach Light, and the Port Austin Lighthouse.

The Great Lakes Circle Tour is a designated scenic road system connecting all of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.[23] Port Huron in eastern Michigan is a good starting point for the circle tour of Lake Huron. M-25 winds around the Thumb and along the Saginaw Bay to Saginaw and Bay City. Do not forget to go to the beach and walk the boardwalks in Lexington and Port Austin.

Lighthouse at Port Sanilac on Lake Huron

Lighthouse Tour[edit]

In order from east to west:

Area festivals and events[edit]

Thumb counties[edit]

A broad definition of the Thumb of Michigan.

Huron[edit]

Huron County is located at the tip of the thumb. The county is surrounded on three sides by water – Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, and has over 90 miles (140 km) of shoreline, from White Rock on Lake Huron to Sebewaing on Saginaw Bay, and more shoreline parks than any other county in the state.
The county's economy relies on agriculture and ranks as one of the top agricultural counties in Michigan. Rich farmland inland produces beans, sugar beets and grain, including most of the world's supply of navy beans.[32] Tourism is also important to Huron County with bay front and lakefront towns such as Sebewaing, Caseville, Port Austin, Port Hope, and Harbor Beach, attracting tourists from all over. Huron County borders the Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. There are two state parks – Sleeper State Park and Port Crescent State Park. Three roadside parks – Jenks Park, Brown Park, and White Rock Park. Also, Huron County maintains nine county parks along the shoreline, which are Caseville Park, Lighthouse Park, Stafford Park, McGraw Park, Philp Park, Port Austin Bird Creek Park, Wagener Park, Oak Beach Park, and Sebewaing Park.
The county seat is Bad Axe, located in the center of the county.

Sanilac[edit]

The County of Sanilac has the largest area of land in The Thumb. Like other counties, Sanilac has fertile and flat land, great for growing crops. Towns like Lexington and Port Sanilac bring in many tourists from the Detroit Area. Sandusky is the county seat and largest city.

Tuscola[edit]

Like Huron County, Tuscola is mostly dependent on agriculture. Industries such as sugar refining and ethanol processing, as well as growing various grains and beans, make up most of the economy. Caro, one of the largest cities in The Thumb (the largest if you exclude St. Clair and Lapeer Counties), is named after Cairo, Egypt and is the county seat. Tuscola County only has 18 miles (29 km) of shoreline along Saginaw Bay, so it is not as dependent on tourism as the other counties in the area. Tuscola County is economically tied to the surrounding region as well as to the Saginaw, Bay City, and Flint areas.

Lapeer[edit]

The origin of the name of the county is often disputed, but it may have derived from the French words "la pierre", meaning "the stone." This name could be a reference to the rounded stones, or flint pebbles, found in the rivers and streams throughout the area. Another theory, is that it may simply be an English variation of "Le Pays Plat", meaning "the flat land", which is one of the original names given to the area by the French, and can be found on many early fur trader maps of the area. The idea is that "Le Pays" may have evolved into the current pronunciation, "Lapeer."

Lapeer County is in many ways different from the other counties of The Thumb. First, it is heavily influenced by its proximity to Flint and Detroit, so as a result, its economy depends more heavily on manufacturing, than the other counties of the region. Second, although agriculture is still a key economic factor in Lapeer County, it is just not as important to the economy as in the other counties. Although there are still a few large scale farms located in the county, the numbers are not found to the same extent, and these days, most farming in Lapeer now takes place on smaller, independent farms, which usually supply the local markets only. Lastly, in addition to its economic and agricultural differences, Lapeer County's geography is also very different from the other counties of The Thumb. It's topography is generally, gently rolling to quite hilly, and unlike its neighbors, which are flatter, and border on Lake Huron or Lake St. Clair, Lapeer County is landlocked. The County still has hundreds of acres of inland lakes such as Barnes Lake-Miller Lake, Lake Neppessing, The Holloway Reservoir, Big Fish Lake, and Lake Metamora, and several state recreation areas, including the Ortonville Recreation Area and the Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area, which still bring in many campers and tourists.

St. Clair[edit]

St. Clair County has the largest population in The Thumb. Many residents farther north in The Thumb, especially Sanilac County, travel to Port Huron for shopping and work. It is the farthest county to the east in Michigan, and most of the eastern border is the St. Clair River, which separates Michigan from Ontario. For the most part, St. Clair County is flat and agriculturally dominating in the north and west, but also has steep hills and small canyons near the Black River, although manufacturing dominates in and around Port Huron.

Borderline regions[edit]

Some areas of the thumb are debatable, but nearly all definitions will include Huron, Sanilac, and Tuscola Counties, known as the tri-county region. Disputed areas include:

The Blue Water Area[edit]

Map depicting the "Blue Water Area" as the area surrounding Port Huron.

The Blue Water Area is another term describing the Thumb of Michigan. The term is usually used in respect to St. Clair County, and surrounding areas. The title is also extended to include all of Michigan's Thumb.

The Blue Water Area is so named because of the Blue Water Bridge and the area's many bodies of water. It is a loosely defined sub-region of the Thumb, usually pertaining to tourism.

Discover the Blue[edit]

Discover the Blue is a promotion by the Blue Water Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau[33] to attract visitors to the shoreline of eastern Michigan. Communities participating in Discover the Blue range from Algonac (at the southern end of the Thumb) to Port Austin (at the tip of the Thumb).

Geography[edit]

Land features[edit]

See also List of Michigan state parks and geography of Michigan.

  • The Thumb's landscape ranges from a flat sandy plain, that hugs the shores of Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay, to a gently rolling topography, which is fertile and well suited for agriculture. Perhaps, the most unusual geographic formation, however, is a rugged glacial ridge, known collectively as the Hadley Hills, which extends in a northeasterly direction through the center of The Thumb, from the southwestern portion of the peninsula.
  • All counties except for Lapeer border the Saginaw Bay or Lake Huron.
  • The places with the highest elevation are all associated with the Hadley Hills, and are located in Lapeer County, they are: Pinnacle Point, at 1,262 feet (385 m), Kerr (Cemetery) Hill, at 1,258 feet (383 m), both in Hadley Township, Mt Christie, at 1,251 feet (381 m), in Metamora Township, and a point near Mayville, reaching up to 1,050 feet (320 m) above sea level.
  • The lowest place in the Thumb region is in the Saginaw Valley, the far western part of the thumb, at a low 585 feet (178 m) above sea level.
  • Huron County is very flat and is home to wind turbines and large fields.
  • The "tip of the Thumb" is Pointe Aux Barques, between Port Austin and Grindstone City.
  • Marlette is also called the "heart of the Thumb" because of its central position on the peninsula.

Major rivers[edit]

The Thumb has many waterways.

History and local culture[edit]

Culture[edit]

Persons of European ancestry have formed the overwhelming majority of the population since the late 19th century, and have left the most significant imprint on the culture of The Thumb. The land was settled mostly by English and Scots-Irish immigrants, many of whom arrived from Canada. Other settlers of the same ancestry migrated from eastern states such as New York, and Pennsylvania, as well as from New England. Later 19th and 20th century residents included Polish and German immigrants who migrated from Europe through the Detroit area. Many of the customs, much of the regional lifestyle, and even the local accent, strongly reflect these origins. Examples include polka shows on some local radio stations, and various ethnic festivals such as the Polkafest, in Kinde.

The European pioneers encountered aboriginal peoples during the settling of the area, which heavily influenced the culture of The Thumb. Most of this interaction was predominately with members of the Fox and Sauk tribes, already living in the area for centuries. There may have also been other tribes in the area such as the Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Kickapoo, but they would have been transient tribes, or found in very small numbers. All native Thumb area tribes are members of the Algonquian Nation. Other tribes that migrated into the area later, would include the Wyandot (Huron), who are members of the Iroquois Nation, and the Ottawa. This interaction and assimilation, and then subsequent migration and displacement of native peoples, played a large part in influencing the culture of The Thumb. Sadly, however, most of the aboriginal influences are quite often left only in the form of geographical place names.

Historical events[edit]

Notable people (by town)[edit]

More comprehensive lists are available at individual cities, villages, etc. See local towns of interest at the bottom of the page for links.

Cass City[edit]

Harbor Beach[edit]

Lapeer[edit]

Port Huron[edit]

Deckerville[edit]

  • Gabriel Rheaume - Writer - The Shores We Walk

Local elected officials[edit]

Congressional District 10, served by Republican Candice Miller

Local politicians in Washington and Lansing are listed below.

United States Congress[edit]

District 10 - Northern Macomb, and all of St Clair, Lapeer, Sanilac, and Huron County.

District 5 - Saginaw/Bay City Area, and all of Genesse and Tuscola.

Michigan House[edit]

32nd District - Northern Macomb and two townships in St Clair County.

  • Daniel Acciavatti, Republican

81st District - Most of St Clair County, except Port Huron.

  • Jud Gilbert, - Republican

82nd District - All of Lapeer County.

  • John Stahl, Republican

83rd District - City of Port Huron, Fort Gratiot, and all of Sanilac County.

  • John Espinoza, Democrat

84th District - Huron and Tuscola County.

  • Terry Brown, Democrat

Michigan Senate[edit]

Colleges and universities[edit]

Museums[edit]

See also: List of museums in Michigan

Harbor Beach[edit]

Marysville[edit]

Port Huron[edit]

Huron Light Ship Museum in the St. Clair River, Port Huron, Michigan

* Port Huron Museum - a series of five museums - Port Huron[36]

Elsewhere in the Thumb[edit]

Media[edit]

Radio[edit]

The Thumb Area Radio Region is an unranked market that is influenced by Detroit Radio Market, the Tri-Cities Radio Market and the Flint Market, with stations in Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario also serving the region.

Local Radio Stations in the Thumb Area

Newspapers[edit]

Huron County newspapers
  • Harbor Beach Times
  • Huron County Press
  • Huron Daily Tribune [3]
  • News Weekly, The
  • The Lakeshore Guardian
  • Thumb Blanket
Lapeer County newspapers
  • Buyer's Guide
  • County Press, The [4]
  • LA View
  • Webco Press
Sanilac County newspapers
  • Brown City Banner
  • Buyers Guide
  • Camden Publications
  • Deckerville Recorder
  • Marlette Leader
  • Sandusky Tribune
  • Sanilac County News [5]
St. Clair County newspapers
  • Blue Water Shopper
  • Port Huron Times Herald-USA Today [6]
  • Thumb Print News, The
  • Voice, The
  • Yale Expositor, The
Tuscola County Newspapers
  • Tuscola County Advertiser [7]
  • Cass City Chronicle
  • Cass River Trader
  • Reese Reporter
  • Vassar Pioneer Times
  • Mayville Monitor

Broadcast television[edit]

The Lapeer County, St. Clair County and Sanilac County area lies in the Detroit Television Market. The far northern and western areas lie inside the Flint/Tri-Cities Television Market. The only broadcast TV station licensed to the Thumb region is WDCQ-TV, the PBS station licensed to Bad Axe.

Flint/Tri-Cities
Sarnia/Windsor Ontario
Detroit area
Alpena area
  • WBKB-TV, CBS / ABC / Fox / MyTV 11

Transportation[edit]

Port Huron's two Blue Water Bridges, taken during the Port Huron to Mackinac Yacht Race.

Borders[edit]

The border between Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario is one of the busiest connections between Canada and the US. Crossings include the two Blue Water Bridges and the two St. Clair River Railway Tunnels. Ferries also connect to Canada at Marine City and Algonac.

Major highways[edit]

(organized by numbers)

Rail[edit]

Area Amtrak stations are in Lapeer, Port Huron, and Flint. Local railroads are the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, CSX Transportation, Canadian National Railway, and the Huron and Eastern Railway. Pere Marquette Railway was a railroad that had lines throughout the Thumb; its lines are now either abandoned or in use by CSX, or Huron and Eastern.

Major railroad centers are Vassar, Bad Axe and Port Huron.

Airports[edit]

The only international airport in the Thumb is St. Clair County International Airport about 6 miles (9.7 km) outside Port Huron. City airports include: Caro Municipal, Dupont-Lapeer Airport, Huron County Memorial Airport, Marine City Airport, Marlette Municipal, Sandusky City, and Yale Airport. Scheduled airline service is available from MBS International Airport[43] in Freeland, Michigan and Flint Bishop International Airport.[44] While neither of these airports is in the Thumb, both are relatively close by.

Area codes[edit]

Area code 989 covers about half of the Thumb: Huron, Tuscola, and far northern Sanilac County (and the Marlette, Michigan area). The Thumb's other half is covered by area code 810, which takes in most of Sanilac, Lapeer, Genesee and Saint Clair Counties. All of Macomb County is served by area code 586, as is a small part of south-western Saint Clair County.

See also[edit]

State[edit]

Regional[edit]

Local cities and villages of interest[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Saginaw Valley Dry Bean and Sugar Beet Research Farm, Michigan State University.
  2. ^ "Co-Op Elevator Co.". 
  3. ^ "Macraes Blue Book". 
  4. ^ "Mueller Industries". 
  5. ^ "Michigan Sugar Company". 
  6. ^ "About Keihin Michigan Manufacturing". Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Macraes Blue Book". 
  8. ^ "Star of the West Milling Co.". 
  9. ^ "Eastern Michigan Grain". 
  10. ^ "Huron Castings". 
  11. ^ "Pigeon Telephone Company". 
  12. ^ "AVCI". 
  13. ^ "Thumb Cellular". 
  14. ^ http://i-69internationaltradecorridor.com/nmdc/ Next Michigan Development Corporation
  15. ^ http://i-69internationaltradecorridor.com/about/ International Trade Corridor
  16. ^ "Michigan.org East-Central tourism". 
  17. ^ Tip of The Thumb Heritage Water Trail
  18. ^ "Bad Axe Historical Society, origin of Bad Axe's name.". 
  19. ^ "The Huron County Nature Center". Huron Nature Center. 
  20. ^ "Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary". 
  21. ^ Michigan Bean Soup recipe and history, the Honorable and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller IV, U.S. Senator.
  22. ^ "Rasmus Hanson biography". 
  23. ^ Great Lakes Circle Tour.
  24. ^ "Blue Water Ramble/Clinton River Riders". 
  25. ^ Family Night a/k/a Boat Night.
  26. ^ Port Huron to Mackinac Island, Michigan Yacht Race
  27. ^ Morris, Julie The Port Huron to Mackinac race, May 1, 2001 Detroit News
  28. ^ Cheesburger in Caseville at Pure Michigan.
  29. ^ Campbell, Ron. August 13, 2010 Cheeseburger in Caseville festival turns town into 'Fun, wacky, tasteful and tacky' place Bay City Times.
  30. ^ Pure Michigan, Huron County Fair.
  31. ^ "Farmer's Festival". 
  32. ^ Michigan Bean Commission.
  33. ^ "Blue Water Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau.". 
  34. ^ "Harbor Beach attractions". 
  35. ^ Harbor Beach, Yesterday and Today, Compiled by the Harbor Beach Woman's Club. First Printing 1976, Revised Edition 1996.
  36. ^ "Port Huron Museum". 
  37. ^ [1]
  38. ^ [2]
  39. ^ "Bay City Times". 
  40. ^ "Saginaw News". 
  41. ^ "Michigan highway ends, photos and text". 
  42. ^ Garnell, Dan. "M-46". Michigan Highway Ends. 
  43. ^ "MBS International Airport". 
  44. ^ "Flint Bishop International Airport". 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ackerman, Emma J. Thumb Fires of 1871 and 1881. CMU Term Paper, 1968.
  • DuMond, Neva. Thumb diggings; adventures into Michigan's Thumb area. Lexington, Mich, 1962.
  • The Great Fire of 1881: A Collection of Stories. Caro, MI: Tuscola County Advertiser, 1981.
  • Hatt, R. T. — The petroglyphs, by D. J. Richards. — An archeological survey of the petroglyph site, by M. Papworth (republished from the Michigan archeologist, Dec. 1957) The Sanilac petroglyphs. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: Cranbrook Institute of Science, 1958
  • House Party: Reminiscences by Traditional Musicians and Square Dance Callers in Michigan's Thumb Area. Port Huron, MI: Museum of Arts and History, 1982.
  • Schultz, Gerard. A History of Michigan's Thumb.
  • Smith, Dee. Treks into the Past: Historical Sketches of Michigan's Thumb. Decatur, MI: Heritage Valley Publishing, 1989.
  • Southgate, Jerry D. Thumb's Forest Fire of 1881. Central Michigan University Term Paper, 1967.

External links[edit]