Gather around, kids.
It’s just about that time of year when old Al cranks out the ghost stories.
This year’s tale is about a variation on the spirit theme-ghost towns. A ghost town is an area that was once populated but for some reason the settlement has been abandoned by its inhabitants.
In the Upper Peninsula, this was usually because a mine had run dry or a company had left the area. In Macomb County, one of the main reasons for an area’s decline usually was a railroad stop being discontinued, as many early settlements in this area grew around transportation, either water or railroad.
Chesterfield Township has many of these ghost towns, areas that once had independent settlements and villages but have since disappeared. Aptly enough for a ghost town, in two cases only cemeteries remain.
The most prominent of Chesterfield Township’s ghost towns would probably be one that appeared on all the early maps of the area from about 1837 to about the 1930s.
Named Milton by the first postmaster, Robert Milton, it was located at 24 Mile Road and Bates Road near Gratiot. Today there are few signs left of the former village. One of the few signs is that at Bates Road by 24 Mile, the houses are much closer together than in other rural areas, indicating a one-time suburban area.
All of the original Milton buildings, except for maybe one or two of the houses, are now gone. But at one time Milton was home to a school, three churches, a doctor, a blacksmith, a dry goods and grocery store, a couple of saloons, and over a dozen houses with over 200 people residing there. Milton grew mainly from the Grand Trunk Railroad stop located there in its beginning days. The first post office in 1837 was in Robert Milton’s home. It was the first post office in Chesterfield.
The last commercial building that was around during the Milton years was considered to be the saloon, most recently known as the “Teddy Bear Bar,” was razed in 2004.
The three churches of Milton were of Baptist, Methodist, and Congregational denominations. Our present records don’t indicate what happened to the Baptist church, but the Methodist church went bankrupt and the building was sold to a firm in New Haven who converted it into a grain elevator. The Congregational Church was sold to Chesterfield Township and it was used as a municipal building where township meetings were conducted for many years. After sitting vacant for a number of years, the building was slated to be moved to a new historical area on Sugarbush Road in Chesterfield Township. Unfortunately, arsonists, (or perhaps poltergeists?) burned it down a week before it was scheduled to be moved.
Today at the site of 24 Mile Road and Gratiot, new life has appeared in the area once known as the Village of Milton. A shopping center with a 7/11, a grocery store, restaurant, and many other businesses have been constructed there, as well as a mobile home park and many new housing complexes, one even named Milton Meadows! There is no evidence, however, that this is where “Milton the Monster” (Google it, kids) came from.
Hart (also known as Heart)
This settlement, now ghost town, was probably named for settler James Hart and had an official post office from March 21, 1837 until September 22, 1838. Because there was already a Hart in Michigan, the post office name was spelled Heart. Located on Chesterfield Road near 25 Mile Road (section 7 of Chesterfield Township), Hart Cemetery (also called Chesterfield Cemetery) is the only trace remaining of this community that built up along the railroad tracks. It was purchased by the community from James Hart for $32.50. The cemetery has Revolutionary War (as well as many Civil War) veterans buried there. However, there were no witches ever burned or hanged on the site...
This was a settlement that had a post office from January 10, 1856 until November 4, 1864. The postmaster was Daniel Shattuck. This was located in “Section 18” of Chesterfield Township which is near the Macomb Township border between North Avenue and Fairchild, and 23 Mile and 24 Mile roads, not far from where the Fairchild community was. This is probably the most ghost-like of Chesterfield’s ghost towns since all information besides U.S. Post Office records about East Union has disappeared. There is no evidence, however, that anything paranormal was involved...
Fairchild, a.k.a. “Slippery Slope”
This settlement received its nickname of Slippery Slope due to a clay-bottomed road that caused buggies to slide into the ditch. In 1906, it had its own post office and was a stop on the commuter railroad of its day, the Rapid Railway. The Union Cemetery, once known as the Union Burying Ground, is the main remnant of the community and has many of Chesterfield’s early settlers from the various ghost towns buried there. To date, however, there have been no zombie sightings among the graves...
La Saline, also known as, The Salt River Settlement
The earliest French settlers had a settlement at the edge of the Salt River and would use this as a base for trading with the Native Americans. One trade item was salt, obtained from the Salt River. There was a salt spring located about four miles from the river. They would evaporate or burn the water away to get the salt, which produced brine, a valuable trade item. Most traces of this settlement disappeared when a gravel pit operated on the site in the mid-twentieth century. Pirate ghosts were not responsible for the disappearance of La Saline...
Unnamed Native American Village
Many early accounts tell of a Native American village on the Aux Vase River near the area of Sugarbush Road, in the mid-1700s. Robert Robertjean, whose name appears on many old deeds of the area, was one source of the information about the village. There was a giant burial mound in the area also. Did they abandon the village due to hauntings from the burial mound? No evidence exists that ghosts are the reason the Native American Village disappeared...
The ghost town of which most artifacts remain is the village of Chesterfield, chiefly located at 22 Mile Road and Gratiot. The one-room schoolhouse known as Chesterfield District No. 1, or more commonly known as the Weller School, named for the cattle dealer who built it, has been moved to the township’s Historical Village on Sugarbush Road. The Furton Realty office at the corner of 22 Mile and Gratiot was a grocery/general store at one time for Chesterfield Village (and contained the post office). Although the community was around in 1835, when the Grand Trunk Railroad came through the area in 1865 it began to really flourish until the early 1900s. Besides a railroad station, cattle dealership, the school and grocery store, the village also included a blacksmith and cider mill. Urban myths about werewolves sighted in the Village of Chesterfield are not true...
Around 1836, in the area of 26 Mile Road and Gratiot Turnpike, there was a village with a frame schoolhouse, hotel, blacksmith shop, ashery, and dwellings that had totally disappeared by 1912. Here is an undated picture of an establishment once located at 26 Mile and Gratiot. No monsters were behind the gobbling up of this village...
So if you are trying to avoid spirits this Halloween, now that you know the location of the ghost towns of Chesterfield, consider yourself forewarned.
All photos, unless otherwise credited, are courtesy of the Trinity Archives. No spirits were harmed or consumed in the writing of this article.
For information on the Ghosts of New Baltimore and Ashley/Ashleyville, take one of Rich Gonyeau’s Ghost Tours. Gonyeau is president of the New Baltimore Historical Society and will be announcing a Ghost Tour soon.
For information about area hauntings, consult the book “Ghosts of Anchor Bay” by Debi Chestnut. For more information about the small towns and villages of Chesterfield Township, check out Images of America: Chesterfield Township by Alan Naldrett. Both books are available in the local public libraries or can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other popular online sites. The Chesterfield book may also be purchased at the Chesterfield Public Library, the Chesterfield Treasurer’s office, Ecco Bookstore, and Preston Automotive.