Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Harrietta, the poorest town in Michigan

The little town of Harrietta, Michigan, has a rich history — of being poor.

But, I found out this weekend in a personal writer’s weekend at my brother’s cabin that its rich history is highlighted in a 1977 Detroit Free Press article about Michigan’s richest and poorest cities. (I found the article in a notebook.)

Bloomfield Hills took home the richest, and poor old Harrietta was the state’s poorest.

The people of Henrietta, all 125, give or take a few, didn’t see it that way though. The average income was $2,264, one-thirteenth of the income of Bloomfield Hills.

After several newspapers ran articles on the “Homely Little Harrietta,” a resident complained to the village president Angelette Southwick about being called poor.

They didn’t believe they were poor. They had everything they needed. Most grew their own produce, hunted their own food — be it squirrels and rabbits or even deer — and even heated their own cabins with wood stoves.

The town is tiny now, far from the 419 people at the height of its glory days in 1900. At one point, it had three doctors, a dentist, a brick factory and two general stores. A logging town that saw the trees, cut them down and everyone left.

The article ended with a quote from 64-year-old Jim Darling, “Nobody dies up here. They just dry up and blow away.”

A dried up town is Harrietta now. The general stores are boarded up, with cars snowed in under a foot of powder. The three churches are somehow still active. The village center still hosts meetings on the first Wednesday of the month.

The little village 19 miles north of Cadillac is part of what makes Michigan so special. The places you can escape from the modern commodities. A place you can write and drink whiskey and beer with music blaring from 40-year-old speakers next to a wood stove.

There’s a cabin next to my brother’s for sale for roughly $5,000. I don’t really need it seeing as I have my brother’s I can use. But it’s nice to know there are places you could buy with what’s in a bank account. A place you can run to if life becomes so terrible and you want to get away and be self sufficient.

It’s a place where money truly doesn’t matter. The stars are perfect, at least in this modern world. The life is simple, but you can also do whatever you want.

Oh, and the people are all friendly.

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