Started in the 1880s, near Empire on the shores of Lake Michigan, the town of Aral was a small lumbering community. Charles Wright managed the sawmill and was known for his short temper and willingness to fight. In August of 1889, the Sheriff sent a deputy and treasurer to collect on taxes the sawmill owed to the county. Mr. Wright met the two men as they came into town and after a short argument, he shot and killed both of them leaving their bodies lay in the street. He went back to work at the sawmill as if nothing happened. He must have gotten word from someone that a telegraph message was sent back to the sheriff of the men’s murders. Charles Wright shut down operations for the day and then disappeared into the nearby forest. When the sheriff and a posse of 20 men showed up in the little town of Aral, they found Wright’s native American handyman Peter Lahala, and tied a rope around his neck. They threw it over a nearby tree and pulled him up then lowered him back down trying to get him to disclose the whereabouts of Charles Wright. A the start of hoisting Lahala a third time, two men marched Charles Wright out of the woods and he was taken into custody.
After the deadly events, The tree in town was forever known as “the hanging tree”. The town continued on until the timber was gone. The population slowly dwindled down and by the 1902s all the buildings and houses were moved away. Near Esch Beach, in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a sign describing the former town of Aral. An old tree lies nearby, and many say that is the remains of the infamous hanging tree. The last two people to leave the town of Aral was Bertie and Donna Bancroft. They moved over to M-22 and built the Ken-Tuc-U-Inn which you can read about HERE
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