The town of Deward northwest of Grayling had one of the largest sawmills in Michigan. The town was started in 1900 and named in honor of lumber baron David E. Ward. At one time it had a population of 800 people. It had a ferocious appetite for timber and after all the standing timber was logged off and cut into boards the sawmill closed in 1912 and the town died off. The buildings were dismantled and hauled away and the old sawmill was demolished leaving some concrete foundations.
Eventually, the trees grew back covering over the former townsite hiding it from view. If you know where to look you can still see the foundations and relics of the past. I felt like a modern-day Indiana Jones or Josh Gates, only without the hat, as I trekked through the forest looking for relics of the past.
I give exact locations in my Lost In Michigan books and not normally on the internet. Usually, with a little searching on google, you can find the locations of a lot of places but I had a difficult time finding the Deward ruins. I could find a lot of info about Deward, but the location seemed to be vague. I made three trips to the area until I finally found the lost town’s location. The maps show it near an intersection of Manistee River Road and Post Road. Actually, it is about a 1/4 mile south of there.
The best way to find the ruins is from county road 612. Take Manistee River Road north past West Cameron Bridge Road. About a mile and a half north of West Cameron Bridge Road you will see a two-track heading west with a small green sign with a binoculars symbol on it. Go down that road about 100 yards to a parking area. Take the trail down to the river. you will see an old wooden fence with concrete bases at each end left over from the sawmill. From the south base head into the woods about 50 yards and you will see the concrete foundations. You can’t miss them they are huge about the size of a pickup truck. The threaded rods sticking out of the top are about 2 or 3 inches in diameter. Whatever was mounted to them must have been massive.
During the summer you can get there in a car, but I would recommend a truck or SUV, especially in the spring and fall when it is raining a lot. If you want to get out and see something few people have seen, this as a great place to explore. You can see depressions in the ground where buildings once stood and there still is a dry ditch that I assume where logs were floated to the mill.
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