Friday, March 18, 2011

Hometown USA

Hometown USA

(Reprinted from The House of Seven Giggles blog - dated May 14, 2010)

So what do you blog about when you can blog about anything … ???  That question has been racking my brain everyday this week.  I’ve even researched the internet for some daily blog theme ideas, and wrote them down on a post-it (which has been filed away safely somewhere in the bottom of my purse) but so far I haven’t found the right blog theme, let alone enough time to be consistent with writing.

But since today is Friday, and I want to continue my Family Tree Friday theme … I decided to write about my “hometown”.  In family history … knowing “who you are” is just as important as knowing “where you come from”.  And I am lucky to have one of the best hometowns in the world. :o)

Welcome to

Harbor Beach, Michigan

Population +/- 1,700

Harbor Beach is located on the western shore of Lake Huron in Huron County, Michigan, at the intersections of Michigan Highway 25 (between Forestville and Port Hope) and Michigan Highway 142 (West to Bad Axe).   The city limits are approximately 2 square miles, surrounded by either farm land or lake water.

It is the home of the world’s largest man-made fresh water harbor, and boasts the longest fishing pier that is handicap accessible.  The best known landmark is the Harbor Beach Lighthouse, which is on the north breakwater wall.  It was first lit in 1885, and by 1968 it was changed to an automated system.  Today it is run remotely by the US Coast Guard from Saginaw, Michigan.

Terry Pepper has an excellent website “Seeing the Light – Lighthouses of the Western Great Lakes” about various lighthouses in the Great Lakes region.  You can find more information on the history of Harbor Beach Lighthouse at

The center of town is the corners of State Street and  Huron Avenue, and the Harbor Beach Community House is located on the northeast corner.  This building currently houses the local movie theater, gymnasium and public library, and the common rooms are used for local organizations and club meetings -- like the Harbor Beach Lions Club (of which my Grandpa Fred Arntz was an active member most of his life).  You can find more history on the Harbor Beach Community House at

The earliest settlers to this area arrived in 1837, where they established a sawmill for processing lumber.  The settlement was named Barnettsville in 1855, and later became the Village of Sand Beach.  In 1899, the village changed its name to Harbor Beach, because the previous name gave the impression that the area was nothing but sand.  In 1910, Harbor Beach was officially incorporated into a city.

The earliest Huron County residents in my family tree were either in the fishermen, lumbermen or farmers (dairy or sugar beets).  The largest private employer was probably the Huron Milling Company, which several of my extended family worked for.  The Huron Milling Company created the local hospital in 1920 on the corner of Broad and First Street for their employees. (See for more history on the hospital) By 1963 the hospital opened its doors to all local residents, and so this is hospital where I was born in 1968.

All the branches of my family, on both my maternal and paternal sides, come from either the Harbor Beach area or from the areas immediately surrounding Harbor Beach in Huron County and Sanilac County.  The Wood family originally settled north of Harbor Beach in a small fishing community called Grindstone City.  The city is basically now a ghost town, but there are some restaurants and a local marina that is still very active in the summer months.  The Volz family is from a small farming community to the south called Minden City (in Sanilac County), where they have owned the same farm for over 150 years.

My great grandfather Alf Roberts (who lived on Redman) made duck decoys for local hunters.  My Grandpa Emerson Wood (who lived in a redbrick house at Broad and First) worked his way up from sweeping floors to manager at the local department store, called Mehlenthalers.  My Grandpa Fred Arntz (who lived on Bartlett Street ) worked as a cooper making barrels at the Huron Milling Company (which later became the Hercules Powder Plant which made Lawry’s Seasoning Salt).  My Grandma Elsie (Roberts) (Arntz) Soule played piano for wealthy guests staying at the Resort along the lakeshore.  And my Dad (as did my Aunt Sandi Hunt) worked at the Community Theater in high school, and he taught swimming lessons in the summer at the local recreation center. 

I was born to the wandering branch of my family.  My parents and I moved away from Harbor Beach by the time I was 2 years old, and other than occasional visits when I was younger with my Grandparents (Emerson & Ruth) Wood and a family reunion or two through the 1980s … I haven’t been back.  But I still have very fond memories of my visits, and my family there.  I remember one summer visit in particular walking down to pier and the Community House with my cousin Flipper.  There was a drinking water fountain in the shape of a Lions head on the corner.  I wonder if it is still there?

Even though I was physically far away while growing up, the Spirit of Harbor Beach was always near.  Whether it was my folks talking about “Al’s Friday Fish Fry”, or copies of the local Harbor Beach Times with the lighthouse logo showing up in our mailbox in Hawaii and California.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my folks still have a subscription that they get in Arizona now.

I’m not really sure what my younger siblings or my own children will consider their “hometown” as the years pass.  Perhaps it will be Kansas City or maybe even Lebanon, Missouri for some, or Cottonwood Heights or Murray, Utah for others.  But I hope they know that no matter where they call home, they have roots planted very deep in the Thumb of Michigan, along the shores of the Great Lake the Indians called Karegnondi.

Love & Aloha,


Here is a list of some useful websites for doing genealogy research in the Huron County, Michigan area.

The local daily newspaper is the Huron Daily Tribune (

The weekly newspaper is the Huron County Press (aka the Harbor Beach Times) (

The MichiganGenWeb page for Huron County can be found at:

The Deckerville Public Library, has a website of Huron County genealogical links at:

Several of my family members are buried at the Rock Falls Cemetery (including my Grandpa Fred Arntz, and his parents).  The cemetery is located about 1½ miles south of Harbor Beach on M-25.  The following website is an index of headstones originally compiled in 1994 by Robert B. LaBelle, and then updated in 2000 and again 2005 from obituaries.

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