ON the TRAIL
Upper Branch Bridge
Lake County- North Country Trail crossing of the Pere Marquette River on South Branch Road.
1878 Justus S. Stearns who had married Mrs. Ward's sister, Paulina, & Lucius K. Baker, who maried May, eldest daughter of the E.A. Fosters. Stearns soon bought a mill of his own in Lake County, but continued his residence in Ludington. 1880 - Sawmill is constructed by Justus Stearns (age 35) four miles East of Branch, Lake County, Michigan (near Manistee). This is Stearns' first undertaking after "severing his connection with the E.B. Ward interests. First mill was about 2.5 miles south of Flint & Pere Marquette Railway and burned after two years. Most employees spoke Swedish. The mill was rebuilt at Stearns Siding on the railway, and then it too was destroyed by fire, and a third mill was built. The town grew and had a sawmill, planing mill, box factory, store, post office, cook shanty, powerhouse, and dwellings." Stearns will build the planing mill at Stearns Siding in 1886, but it will be destroyed by fire on October 31, 1899. 1880 - Thomas Rice LYON builds the Lake County Railroad west from Stearns Siding through Branch, Michigan. 1899 (Haloween) - Stearns Siding suffers a major fire. "The school was undamaged [and] the lumber mill was also unharmed [but] the village is now a ghost town. Mr. Justus S. Stearns, who owns most of the company town says it will not be rebuilt as all the virgin timber has been cut (pine) and the hardwood is about gone. He has taken over the E.B. Ward holdings in Ludington near Lake Michigan." [From Paul Bunyan Chips, 1969]
lakecountymichigan.com Stearns Siding is located near Branch and named after Justin Stearns, who was later Michiganís Secretary of State. Stearn had 2,700 residents at its peak.
http://news.pioneergroup.com/lakecountystar/2015/03/25/days-gone-by-justus-stearns-and-stearns-siding/ A History of Tank Creek Ranch and Surroundings by Paul Bigford
The bridge itself was built in 1957 and is dedicated in honor of Matt Stevensen, supervisor, by the Lake County Road Commisioners.
Pere Marquette River
plaque on bridge
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