| 90 sec read | by Doug Marrin, |

Belleville Lake | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Just down the road the ghosts holding their breath. The underwater ghost town of Old Rawsonville, MI, which is the first Rawsonville, lies beneath the brooding surface of Belleville Lake on the opposite side of I-94 from Willow Run Airport.

Back when Michigan was still a territory before we were a state, Henry Snow built a sawmill along the Huron River in 1823. Snow’s Landing quickly became a hot spot for commerce in the burgeoning territory expanding out from le détroit du lac Érié (French for the straight of Lake Erie). In 1838, a year after the Michigan Territory became a state, the thriving settlement became a town and was renamed Rawsonville. The boom continued right up into and through the Civil War. Good times.

But by the 1880s, the war was long gone and the Western Expansion had expanded west leaving Rawsonville behind as one of the many empty footprints in the march to the Pacific. The denizens were left providing hospice care to a dying town. The ghosts began to gather.


Looking back maybe there were things they could have done differently to keep the party going. Maybe not. Second-guessing swirled through the grapevines and empty buildings. What-Could-Have-Beens are the most relentless of spirits. But the rear-view mirror only shows you where it’s pointed. Retrospect is never 20/20 in spite of what we’ve heard.

Death finally came to the run downtown in 1925 when Henry Ford built a hydro-electric plant on the Huron River and flooded old Snow’s Landing. But Old Rawsonville is still there, down there – whole homes, the old stove factory, and other businesses sit in the murky still.

The only reminder of Old Rawsonville today is an unobtrusive historical marker. There is however a New Rawsonville invigorated by the local Ford plant, a friendly ghost.

Old Rawsonville Historical Marker | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

We all have things below the surface – ghost towns that haunt us in one way or another. Successes we can’t let go that leave us still tracing empty footprints long after everyone else has moved on.

And then there are those regrets grabbing at our feet as we struggle to break the surface and keep a nostril above the waves. Deep-seated disappointments lodged in our narrow and demanding rearview are the most critical of backseat drivers. Objects are closer than they appear. They’ll never get out of the car.

With success and regrets, it might be good to remember that what was isn’t what is. Who we were isn’t who we are. Good and bad, everything has its season. Both are soon ghost towns. There are always newer, relevant, well-lit bustling and hopeful hamlets waiting just ahead.


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