The early 1880's brought tremendous change to the Thompson area. The abundance of nearby virgin timber and the natural harbor attracted the interest of the Delta Lumber Company of Detroit. Under the leadership of company president E.L. Thompson, a lumber mill was built on the shore of Lake Michigan, just south of where you are standing. If you look carefully you can see the remains of the brick and concrete foundation on which the mill engine was located.
By 1885, the Mill was one of the best steam mills in this part of the country. Additional circular saws and boilers increased production. The mill required 20,000,000 feet of timber to operate for the season. Expansion of the dock was necessary to accommodate loading lumber on ships bound for large cities to the south. The landscape changing 'burner," one of the largest of its class was used to dispose of dust and waste from the mill.
As the Mill grew and prospered so did the company town of Thompson. Businesses necessary to keep the Mill and its employees supplied with goods and services sprang up. Population increased, roads were created and improved, and rail lines once used only for hauling logs were extended. They now transported passengers to local attractions and outlying communities.
The Mill operated continuously for 42 years under several
Top: One of the few remaining signs of the Mill is the crumbling foundation of the power plant. In the spring dock pilings can also be seen along the old shoreline and out into the lake. Bottom: Lumber was stacked by hand on the docks to await loading on ships.different owners. In 1893 F&F Company (Frank and Friant) took over from the Delta Lumber Company, followed by the Thompson Lumber Company, North Shore Lumber Company and finally A.M. Chesborough Company.
In 1924, with timber resources used up, the saw mill and much of the town were dismantled and shipped away. While the village of Thompson still existed, it was to slowly become what you see today.
Photos courtesy of Miles Stanley