Joel Dinda

Joel Dinda

Posted on 09/30/2014


Photo taken on September 30, 2014



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Michigan Peat Company Complex

Michigan Peat Company Complex
I've known this complex for years, and have long wondered why someone built these large buildings pretty much in the middle of nowhere. So here's a long explanation from The Only Eaton Rapids on Earth, by W. Scott Munn, written in 1952:

The Peat Company bought and had options on several hundred acres of muck land north of the city, and the plan was to process it and sell it for fuel.

Two large concrete buildings were erected, a siding was run to the plant from the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, and all arrangements were made for shipping the output. The machinery was installed, a miniature track laid, and small cars put into service to transport the "bog" from the muck fields to the plant. Here it went through a process of extracting the water from the muck and forcing it into molds with tiny compartments about the size of No. 4 coal. The molds were then placed in an oven where the muck was thoroughly baked, and when the molds were opened the muck was transported to storage bins. Before shipping, a sufficient amount of time was supposed to have elapsed to have the material solidify, but such was not the case; the longer the nuggets lay in the bin, the softer they became, and when handled returned to their original state.

Everything possible was done to overcome this one failure in the processing, but because of this the whole proposition was a complete failure. It was later discovered that the muck was not of the right texture to adhere.

[snip]

During the past twenty-five years this acreage has been cleared and developed into one of the finest vegetable gardens in Michigan. Thousands of bushels of onions, carrots and potatoes are raised annually and have a ready market in the United States, yielding a nice profit to the owners.

In 1928 Fred B. Todd and son, Charles B. Todd, purchased the entire acreage and buildings of the Michigan Peat Company, which they operated as a vegetable garden until they sold to Paul E. Huston in 1945, who continues in the same line.


The buildings date from 1904 or thereabouts, and it looks like the company failed in 1908. Munn believed the entire project was deliberate fraud, but it's not clear to me that his characterization of the business is fair to the original operators--nor that it's not.

When I first discovered the complex it seemed mostly abandoned, but for a time it was occupied by the Kunkel Brothers Produce Company, which seems to be still in business but at another location. Except for some lots of equipment on the grounds the buildings appear again to be abandoned.

Comments
tarboat
tarboat
Thanks for the detailed explanation, very interesting.
4 years ago.
spacemouses
spacemouses
They needed a few people from up here to sort them out!
I, and many others still cut peat (by hand) for all our fuel.
3 years ago.
Joel Dinda has replied to spacemouses
Or maybe just from Comstock (Michigan). My dad did some peat cutting as a teenager in the 1940s.
3 years ago.