| 1 min read | by Doug Marrin |

A walk through Burns-Stokes Preserve is an imaginative stroll through history, maybe with a few ghosts to keep you company.

Purchased in 2005, the preserve is a narrow strip of 29 acres wedged between the Huron River and railroad tracks on Zeeb near Huron River Drive. If you keep a sharp eye out, and if you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a mink or maybe a beaver. Botany enthusiasts know Burn-Stokes for its varied habitat efficiently condensed into a small area. However, the bigger story of the preserve is the history behind it.

The strip of land along the northern shore of the Huron River was the site of a lumber mill and flour mill which served as the economic heartbeat of the small hamlet of Scio Village from 1831 to 1904. The site’s steep drop in elevation favored milling operations. Even though Scio Flouring Mills shipped flour as far away as the east coast, it never experienced a financial boom, perhaps it was squeezed by the bigger, more established mills in the villages of Dexter and Delhi.


As you walk along the soft trail, one can easily imagine the bustling village life surrounding the commerce that the mills generated. A saloon, hotel, general store, brewery, schoolhouse, post office, and railroad stop served the community. However, when the mills closed down in the late 1800s, the town quickly dispersed going from more than 200 residents to around twenty within ten years. Eventually, they too moved on and Scio Village was left to the ghosts.

With the railroad on one side and the Huron River on the other, it’s easy to imagine a bustling hive of activity.

Across the tracks, across Huron River Drive, if you look hard, you might find the old cemetery where the names of many early residents are etched on gravestones. The graveyard is the site for a local urban legend about a local man who died in 1840 and is purported to be a warlock, “Warlock Willie.” The legend says that if you lie down next to the large tree that now covers his grave, you will feel a spirit pass through your body as it travels to and fro the grave.

Let me know how it goes. We’ll do an article.

For me, I find it much more invigorating to walk, with or without ghosts, through the oak and hickory woods and sedge meadows and forested flood plain of the Huron, which was flooded. As I am finding with all of Washtenaw County’s Nature Preserves, a short visit is a welcome respite from all things that haunt – real, unreal, or viral.

On the welcome kiosk is this artist rendering by Nick Marsh of the flour mill around 1874.
This stone rest place is not a leftover from the original village but built by the County’s Parks and Recreation Department in a style that gives a nod to the land’s history.
The trail ends at the forested floodplain of the Huron, which is flooded this spring.
Water is high on the Huron River. This photo was taken from Zeeb Rd. bridge which is adjacent to the preserve’s entrance.


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