Did you know that Michigan was once in Central Time, or that its capital city had an inauspicious founding? These mitten state fun facts are sure to stick with you.
MICHIGAN—Throughout the year, we’ve done a bunch of research about important topics like labor relations, clean water infrastructure, and economic policy, and also a string of equally important research (okay, maybe not quite as important but fascinating nonetheless!) on Michiganders’ favorite foods, personal histories and interesting anecdotes.
Along the way, we learned some facts that we were blown away by. We want to share those back with you.
Here are just a few notes of Michigan trivia that you’re not likely to forget soon.
Large Amish Footprint
Did you know Michigan has the sixth-highest Amish population in the United States? Many of Michigan’s Amish residents stay in Centreville, with roots going tracing back to the original settlers from Switzerland.
Michigan’s Amish community stretches over both peninsulas and dates back to 1896.
Spooky Movies Love It Here
Did you know that iconic horror movies are Michigan-made? “Evil Dead,” the 1981 scream-inducing bloodrush, touched down in the fictional town of Elk Grove, Michigan.
We won’t include any big spoilers in case you’re looking for a good scare-fest, but the basic plot is: Five Michigan State students decide to roadtrip over to an isolated cabin. You know the rest.
The film’s stars are from Royal Oak—Sam Raimi, writer and director, and Bruce Campbell, the film’s star. When they took their concoction to a film festival, horror legend Steven King praised it. A franchise of “Evil Dead” movies, series, and books took off, and Michigan is where it all began.
Recent movie-makers have also lined up spooky Michigan settings. “Don’t Breathe” is set in Detroit, where it was shot.
See more of Michigan’s spooky sets here.
The Home of Hockey
Did you know that a Michigander is responsible for hockey’s ascendance in the US?
Long, long, long ago, even before the Red Wings, Clarence “Taffy” Abel stepped foot onto an ice rink in Sault Ste. Marie at the age of 18. The rest is history.
Abel rose from the amateur ranks of the Michigan Soo Nationals to the professional ranks of the budding National Hockey League, where he was known as one of the first US-born stars of the league. In 1924, Abel carried the stars and stripes to France for the Olympics, representing the US hockey team. The team took home silver.
Abel’s career reached new heights in 1926, when he joined the New York Rangers. The next season, he won the Stanley Cup in the most unimaginable way. A puck struck the Rangers’ goalie in the head, and without a backup, the team tried to recruit someone in the stands. Failing to do so, the team’s manager put on the pads and took up the position. In defense, Abel only allowed three shots, and the Rangers went on to win the series.
After eight years, Abel retired from the NHL. He returned to Sault Ste. Marie to open a hotel, and in retirement, coached the local hockey team.
Abel died in 1964, but he is memorialized in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. Lake Superior State’s home ice, Clarence “Taffy” Abel Arena, is also named for him.
A Most Haunted State
Did you know that our beloved Mackinac Island is near the top of the list for paranormal activity and ghost sightings in the country?
Before tourists and settlers came to Mackinac Island, the picturesque island was known by Indigenous people as the sacred home for Gitche Manitou, or “Great Spirit.” Anishinaabe tribal chiefs were laid to rest on the island for generations before the British and French fought battles over possession of the island.
Since 1895, the island has been a state park, but the legends of its history have not faded. Inside the historic Grand Hotel, guests have reported seeing apparitions, dressed in fashion from centuries ago. A little girl named Rebecca is rumored to wander the fourth floor.
Todd Clements, author of “Haunts of Mackinac,” believes the island is one of the most haunted locations in the world.
The Birthplace, and Resting Place, of Many Famous Americans.
Did you know that Michigan is home to a number of famous graves, including of Civil Rights leaders?
Rosa Parks is buried in Detroit, where she moved to later in life following her refusal to give up her seat for a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested, and her defiance of segregationist law in 1955 sparked the Montgomery bus boycotts, led by Martin Luther King Jr.
When Parks moved, she took her strong moral compass and activism with her. In Detroit, she worked as secretary for Rep. John Conyers, who served in Congress for Detroit and surrounding suburbs from 1965-2017. Conyers had the sixth-longest tenure ever in Congress and the longest ever for a Black representative.
He too is buried in Michigan.
Other famous gravesites can be found in our article here.
A Time-Sensitive State
Did you know that all of Michigan once lied within the Central Time Zone? In fact, the state legislature made it law in 1885 that Michigan was a Central Time Zone state.
So how did we get the late slot for all the primetime shows, movies, and sports games? Long story short: Because of Detroit.
In the city, an organization sprung up called the “More Daylight Club.” At this point in Michigan’s history in 1907, not only were we a Central Time Zone State, but Daylight Saving Time had yet to be established. So during the summers, our friends in Eastern Michigan saw sunsets before 7 p.m., and they felt they hardly had time to enjoy the outdoors. For reference, now, those sunsets occur around 9 p.m.
The group mobilized a tremendous amount of support, and after submitting a petition of 25,000 signatures, it convinced the city council to secede from Central Time and move to Eastern Time.
Cities across the state lined up behind Detroit and followed suit—Lansing and Grand Rapids were death knells for the state’s Central Time tenure. And in 1931, the state legislature bowed to the inevitable.
This wasn’t Michigan’s last political battle over time, however. The state actually rebuffed Daylight Saving Time at one point. And later, four Upper Peninsula counties reclaimed a slice of Central Time for themselves. But those are stories for another day.
The Home of Clothing Police
Did you know that in the late 1890s, Grand Haven women faced a $5 fine (the equivalent of $150 today) for disposing of hoop skirts on the side walks?
Of course, there are so many questions we have here including about why this was a law and why it was a problem in the first place.
Well, believe it or not, the Grand Haven Tribune reported that hoop skirts were notoriously difficult to dispose of back then, likely due to their unwieldy shape and size. So people would drop them on the sidewalk and leave them there at a regular enough rate that other residents wrote, complaining about “the hoop skirts and other rubbish that littered your streets.”
Shortly, before Fourth of July festivities got underway, the city considered and passed a law prohibiting hoop skirts from being tossed on the street, under penalty of a hefty fine.
Michigan laws are still quirky to this day. Take our word for it: You DO NOT want to destroy your own personal radio in Detroit, unless you’re looking for a possible prison sentence. And if you were planning on painting your bird in Harper Woods, we strongly advise against it. There are laws on the books in both places that prosecute these very “crimes.”
Caves of All Kinds
Did you know that Michigan has its very own ice caves that are reputed for their beauty and significance?
In the Upper Peninsula town of Eben Junction, just near Marquette, you’ll find that the arctic landscape is transformed during winter. Ice caves form as snow falls off an overhang, and the arch of the dropoff then becomes the roof and anchor for ice caves.
Tourists flock to see the Eben Ice Caves, which usually form in mid-to-late December, when it’s warm enough for the snow to drip down, but cold enough for it to freeze. If this sounds like your winter kick, be warned: There is a hike to get there, and you might need snow cleats. But it’s totally worth it for droves of visitors who go to see one of Michigan’s foremost natural wonders.
LOOKING BACK: 10 Feel-Good Michigan Stories We Loved in 2021
The BIGGEST Museums in the Country
Did you know that the continent’s largest car exhibit isn’t in Detroit, New York, or Los Angeles? Travel to Hickory Corners, Michigan, however, and you’ve found it.
The Gilmore Car Museum can illuminate auto history like nowhere else. Across barns, houses, and showrooms, you’ll find classic automobiles and relive Michigan history.
Every year, the 90-acre small-town museum has more than 130,000 visitors to visit its 435 unique vehicles.
In the winter, your headlights will find more than classic models. The Gilmore Car Museum is also home to some of the most fun Christmas lights around. With drive-through and walk-through options, you can visit Santa’s garage, which he has inside a 1930s Shell station, and see classic cars housed in snow globes.
The reindeer-powered excursion is a Michigan tradition sure to help you celebrate the state’s holiday season.
The Most Experienced in Snow Art
Did you know that you’re not just stranded with all this snow around you?
In fact, for decades, Michiganders have been turning snow into snow cream, which they then eat. That’s right: There’s a tastier, sweeter way to take in snow than on the tip of your tongue.
Here’s the basics: With little more than a bowl-full of clean snow, some condensed milk, optional sugar, and flavorings such as vanilla extract, you can make your very own snow cream dessert. Feel free to look online for exact instructions, and tag us in any snow cream delicacies you make!
A Crime of Capitol Proportions
Did you know that Michigan’s capital city was born of deceit and trickery?
Of course, we all now know Lansing as Michigan’s beautiful and vibrant capital. But when Michigan became a state in 1837, Lansing hardly had a house, and Detroit was the state capital.
Lansing’s development was a mix of chance and chicanery. In 1835, two New York brothers surveyed the area and named it Biddle City, though most of the area was covered with trees and underwater. They went back to their hometown, Lansing, New York, and began selling plots for the totally undeveloped land, claiming that Biddle City had a church, 65 blocks, and a town and academic square. With no reason to doubt the spurious story, 16 residents from Lansing, New York, eagerly took them up on the affordably priced parcels, packed their bags, and moved to Michigan.
When they arrived, to their chagrin, the men found no church, town square, or development. But too disappointed or broke to return home, most chose to build houses and settle, renaming the area “Lansing Township” out of honor, and maybe some homesickness.
In 1847, the fortunes of those who stuck it out turned upward. Desperate to shift political power away from Detroit and accommodate Western expansion, the state legislature looked for a new capital. Unable to settle on one, the “Town of Michigan” was decided on, as a result of sheer gridlock. A year later, this town was officially recognized as Lansing, and soon, the capitol was built.
While Lansing residents rejoiced, as the status of capital beckoned more business and wealth, the heads of those lining the existing Capitol Square dropped. Why?
Well, because Marshall, Michigan, had already built a governor’s mansion and capitol square in anticipation that it would be the next capital of Michigan.
Didn’t you know?