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An unexpected holiday find

PatOur trip north to our camper at Roscommon over the holiday weekend turned out a whole lot better than the first trip this year. That time we not only battled an interloping family of mice who had taken up residence, but rainy, cold miserable weather topped off with a Sunday morning snowstorm.

It’s amazing what a difference there is in just three short weeks.

This time, the sun was shining, the weather was perfect and after disposal of one more little culprit caught in a trap and about an hour of cleaning up the remnants of his visit, we enjoyed three and half days of perfect camping weather, visits with family, our annual spruce up at the family cemetery and even a trip exploring.

Four of us – Jim and Ginger, Jack and I – set out with the idea of visiting the “Fisherman’s Chapel” on the “Mason Tract” of the south branch of the AuSable River. It is pretty easy to find – if you are canoeing down the river that is. By car it is another story. Despite the fact that Brother Jim and I have been to the place many times, we couldn’t find the right two-track that leads there.

And we went down a few pretty rough tracks looking.

So we continued east down the one-and-a-half lane dirt road called Hickey Creek that cuts along the river until we came out on M72 and proceeded, by the paved highway, back towards camp.

Brother Jim mentioned that he and Jack had actually found the old town of Eldorado while exploring around that area last summer, and since we share a love of old ghost towns, we found it again and pulled into a long drive on the east side of the road. Right away we saw several original deteriorating log homes and the remains of a post office.

According to the 1980s reprinted version of “The Old Au Sable” written by Hazen L. Miller in 1964, “Should good fortune roll your wheels northward along the McMaster’s Bridge Road and toward the Au Sable River valley, five miles before you reach the bridge you will see an old log cabin and three or four frame houses within hailing distance of each other. This is all that is left of the town of Eldorado, obviously so named because it was the location of a bonanza. Once this was the site of a town built around a busy sawmill. It was large enough to have its own post office and was then named Jack Pine. It finally sawed itself right out of existence except for the quite ordinary cluster of the three or four (abandoned) houses and a name perpetuated by some conscientious map maker.”

While we were looking at those interesting buildings, along came a gentleman from the newer home further down the (private) drive we were unknowingly trespassing on. He said he keeps a close watch on the ruins since people tend to stop and take “souvenirs” of the old ghost town.

Turns out he is quite a local historian. “It’s not really a ghost town,” he said, “and it all belongs to our family.” His name is Russell Funsch and his father Robert A. Funsch was born in the log cabin we were looking at. “It was my great grandparents’ home, Joseph and Mattie E. (Mullen) Funsch,” he said, built in 1905 or ’06.” He continued, “My grandmother Grace L. (Crane) Funsch was the postmaster right there (pointing to another abandoned building) until 1952.” He said an uncle; James F. Crane had a general store nearby that had burned down in the early 1930s. He also noted that Eldorado was the third name of the little village. It was called Jack Pine, then Jackpine and later renamed Eldorado.

“There’s a lot of history here that people don’t know about,” he said. Since Russell is also an alumnus of the same high school Jim, Ginger and I all attended, we discovered that we knew many of the same people and proceeded to talk about mutual friends and family members as well as the history of that old town.

It was an amazing accident, that stop, but one that we will be talking about for years to come I think. I’m so glad he was such a nice person to the four of us “trespassers” and, of course I’m looking forward to stopping there again.

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