The Story Behind This Michigan Roadside Oddity
Okay, so here we are, driving up the Keweenaw Peninsula, checkin’ out ghost towns, old copper towns, abandoned mines, etc. on our way up to Copper Harbor.
As we continue north on US-41, there are a good number of old mining towns once you cross over the Keweenaw Waterway, including: Arcadian, Osceola, Swedetown, Laurium, Calumet, Wolverine, Phillipsville, Copper City, Phoenix, Delaware, Mandan, Allouez…..and Kearsarge.
Kearsarge is sandwiched between Wolverine and Phillipsville; if you’re not paying which attention, you won’t know when you’re there, as these towns all blend in together which make it difficult to tell which town you’re in.
So what’s the big deal about Kearsarge? If you’ve been through there, then you may have spotted a large ship made out of bricks on the east side of the road. It was built from 1933-1934 to honor the Civil War ship, the USS Kearsarge, named after Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire. The original ship was built in 1861 and was equipped with the weaponry needed to hunt down and destroy enemy ships. The ship was kept very busy throughout the war and was decommissioned after the war ended. For thirty years afterward, it was used for expeditions and patrols including Australia and South America. In 1894 it struck a reef in Central America and was so damaged, it was deemed unusable and put out to pasture.
Now without a ship to work, the crew needed jobs. Hearing about a major ore discovery in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, many trekked north until they reached the area now known as Kearsarge. A former USS Kearsarge officer was put to work in the mine, and was responsible for the town becoming forever known as ‘Kearsarge’, in honor of his ship.
Aside from the brick ‘Kearsarge’ ship, there is a wall that honors town residents whose lives were lost due to wars, in what is known as Veterans Memorial Park. The ship is just down the road from the Wolverine Market (in Wolverine), and the two towns are so close together, you’ll be confused as to what town the ship is actually in.
I don’t know, either.
Even though the original USS Kearsarge ceased operations in 1894, other ships afterward were named 'Kearsarge' in its honor...so don't let some of the dated photos below confuse you.