Henry Ford and the Upper Peninsula
Henry Ford purchased the lumber town of Pequaming, expanding the company’s presence in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Henry Ford left his mark. One of the lumber towns he was involved with was the village of Pequaming. The settlement had existed long before the arrival of Henry Ford. The land for the town was initially purchased in 1878 by Charles Hebard who quickly built a lumber and shingle mill at the site, taking advantage of the thousands of acres of good timber. In addition to the mill, Hebard built docks on the Keweenaw Bay to ship lumber, one hundred homes, a general store, a post office, a water supply, and other buildings. The town continued to grow, containing at one time three churches for the residents to attend. The company owned all of the buildings in the town, but residents paid a low rate of one dollar per year for rent.
Yet for the small price of $2,850,000 Ford bought the entire town in 1923. Ford Motor Company purchased the lumber mill in order to continue generating quality lumber for the wooden features on his vehicles. This included the interior wood paneling, but also wooden features on the tires.
Ford brought changes to the company town, including higher wages and higher rent for employees. He also required employees to pass a physical exam in order to remain on at the mill. Employees not hired by Ford were granted pensions by the Hebard family. Ford brought his more modern work style, employing time cards and terminating the usage of child labor within the mill. He also removed livestock from the town in order to increase the sanitary conditions. Schools were built, roofs reshingled, water supplies revamped and modernized, fences of homes removed, and a railroad was built.
Despite the efforts to continue in the town, both lumber supplies and the economy were working against Pequaming and the Ford Motor Company. With the arrival of the Great Depression, automobile demand declined and thus the need for timber did too. Ford Motor Company donated shoes and clothing to their workers during the Depression, but were unable to keep the village afloat during the decline. The company store closed in 1937. World War II saw the need for manpower in other industries and thus residents moved away from the company town. Ford Motor Company sold the town of Pequaming in 1952. Despite Ford selling the town more than fifty years ago, the water tower on the site still proudly proclaims the Ford Motor Company logo.