When one thinks of the name "Henry Ford," perhaps the city of Detroit is the first thing that comes to mind. The Ford plant ... the creation of the assembly line ... the Motor City. All of these are images that make Detroit and the Ford family name synonymous.
Not as well known, but equally significant, is Ford's footprint on the Upper Peninsula. There is virtually no section of the U.P. where Ford's impact has not been felt. And in many cases continues to be so. From an experimental chicken ranch in Delta County to a charcoal brand that shares its name with the Dickinson County community of its birth, Ford's U.P. shadow is large.
Ford's 150th birthday is Tuesday, and in anticipation, Michigan Technological University, a long-time Ford partner, is throwing a party in the Baraga County community Ford founded, Alberta.
The party will be held, where else, at the Ford Forestry Center off of U.S. 41 in Alberta. There will be free rides in Model T Fords, a Ford car show a visit from the Flivver Car Club and much more.
As important as Ford's contribution to the industrialization of Detroit, is his lesser known lumber empire in the U.P.
He built a sawmill in Kingsford, which later gave way to an auto plant and the previously mentioned charcoal operation. His sawmills in Baraga County contributed to the economic development of the region in the early 20th century.
Not only did Ford build the village of Alberta, naming it after a Ford manager's daughter, but he purchased the village of Pequaming where several Ford buildings, including a school, remain today.
One of the highlights of Saturday's party will be a tour of the sawmill museum.
While the focus of so much historical study in our region has been focused on copper, and deservedly so, but the significance of timber and Henry Ford's contribution to the industry cannot be overstated.
We applaud the efforts of Michigan Tech to acknowledge and celebrate the 150th birthday of one of the U.P.'s most important patrons. And we urge everyone to take advantage of this rare opportunity to revel in a special segment of the peninsula's history.