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Crossroads Village and the Huckleberry Railroad ~ July 27th, 2009

by Elizabeth Guenzler

After a fantastic weekend at Train Festival 2009, there was one more place to visit before the drive back to Chicago and the flight home to Seattle, namely Crossroads Village and the Huckleberry Railroad in Flint.

Crossroads Village History

In 1967, local individuals and organizations realized that many structures of historical importance in the Flint area were being destroyed, and plans for the construction of interstate highways and urban development would necessitate the demolition of additional buildings. There was also a realization that rural skills, equipment and crafts were being lost. The idea of a Farm Museum was proposed at the December 12th, 1968 meeting of the Commission by John West and Stanley Mahaffy and considerable interest was shown by the Commission.

On May 8th 1969, the Commission was appointed as advisory committee on historical preservation and the Genesee County Historical Society became involved with the project and was represented on the advisory committee. The Wisner Carriage Barn and Buzzell House, donated by the Highway Commission, were moved to the present site. The buildings were placed within the Genesee Recreation Area near the C.S. Mott Children's Farmland that had been given to the people of Genesee County by the C.S. Mott Foundation. The Carriage Barn was moved to the area in 1969; the Eldridge-Hamner House, located on land that had been purchased by the Commission in Genesee, was also moved to the Village site.

Eventually, ideas to create a farm museum and preserve buildings of historic importance merged into the concept of a rural village. Impetus came with the realization that the nation's bicentennial was fast approaching. In the summer of 1973, the County Board of Supervisors adopted the creation of a rural Crossroads Village as Genesee County's Bicentennial project and funds were appropriated for planning purposes. The plans for this hypothetical Crossroads Village evolved from the common characteristics of rural villages in Genesee County as depicted in the 1873 Atlas of Genesee County. The master plan was approved at the August 1974 meeting of the Commission, and in September and October, the Clayton Town Hall and Davison Depot were moved to the Village. The Village, dedicated July 4th 1976, became a reality.

Effort was made to furnish all of the buildings with artifacts of the period 1860-1880 and create an impression of a "living village" with the sights, sounds, smells and activities characteristic of that period. In addition to preserving buildings and artifacts, the Village serves as a place to demonstrate the crafts of the past. Thus, the Village, the Huckleberry Railroad and the Genesee Belle serve as valuable educational resources and tourist attractions. You can experience a day in the life for yourself surrounded by authentic and replica buildings and artifacts.

Huckleberry Railroad History

The Huckleberry Railroad began operating in 1857 as part of the Flint Pere Marquette Railroad Company. It was organized on June 22nd, 1857 and the branch of the Pere Marquette from Flint to Otter Lake (15 miles) was constructed under the Flint River Railroad Charter and opened in 1872. It later was known as the Otter Lake Branch. Eventually the track was extended by another 4.5 miles from Otter Lake to Fostoria, for a total of 19.5 miles from Flint to Fostoria.

Our Visit

After a good breakfast and checking out of the hotel in Owosso, Bob and I drove to Flint but were greeted by a sign that said the museum was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. As the sign gave a number to call, we called the Gennessee County Parks Department, which operates Crossroads Village, and they arranged for one of their people to come out and give us a tour. It turned out it was the archivist and she was full of interesting information; unfortunately I did not make note of her name. We started the tour at the station.

The Huckleberry Railroad station, the former Grand Trunk Railway station from Davison, Michigan.

The history of Davison Depot.

Coaches of the Huckleberry Railroad.

Huckleberry Railroad wooden coach 316.

Open car 113.

Caboose 0776.

Passenger equipment of the Huckleberry Railroad.

Pere Marquette caboose A621.

The old ticket office.

The water tank.

Looking down the tracks. The archivist then took us around Crossroads Village and I was amazed.

The general store.

One of the preserved buildings at Crossroads Village.

The Atlas Flour Mill which is in operation.

The lovely gazebo on the property.

Next was the brick schoolhouse.

The 1912 carousel I would have loved to ride.

The Genesee Belle, a paddlewheeler which offers rides around Mott Lake.

The information and brochure 'gazebo' at the entrance to Crossroads Village.

The Crossroads Village clock. It was here that the tour ended and we thanked the archivist for coming out specially for us today. We drove back to Chicago by way of Durand and Lansing, then flew home the next day.

It was a pity that Crossroads Village and the Huckleberry Railroad was not open but I was very appreciative of the tour. This gem of a living history museum deserves more attention and is somewhere I definitely want to visit again to learn more, ride the train, carousel and of course, the paddlewheeler.