Peninsula Township, Developers, Development, farm building, migrant building
Peninsula Township Farmland | Jane Boursaw Photo
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A couple of summers ago, I published a story titled “A Brief History of Mexican Migrants Workers on the OMP.” That story continues to have legs (meaning people continue to read and comment on it through the years), which, as the editor of Old Mission Gazette, always makes me happy.

Gazette Reader David Morrow posted a comment on that story last week, wondering if we could help him find a certain farm building he’s been looking for on the Old Mission Peninsula. Here’s his note:

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About ten years ago, I was exploring some backroads on Old Mission Peninsula and ran across a red-painted wood building that had been out of use for many years and was overgrown by brush, scrappy trees, and years of neglect.

When I drove by it, I immediately slammed on my car brakes, because I was overwhelmingly captivated by its structure and design. I felt quite certain that in its prime, it would have been used to house the Mexican migrant workers that my father used to tell me about that would populate the area and streets of Traverse City during harvest season when he was a kid.

I’m so mad now that I never took a picture of this building when I saw it ten years ago. The building was elongated in size and had small units, each of which were about ten to 15 feet wide and designated with their own front door.

I’d love to find this building again to take a picture of it. I have scoured the Peninsula, but have had no luck. Can anyone tell me where I can find it, and can you tell me if my assessment of its original use as migrant worker housing is correct?

I asked David if he could give us any clues as to where the building might have been located on the Peninsula – even a general geographic area. He said this:

Due to the developed nature of the southern one-third of the Peninsula, my geographical instincts tell me that it would be located in the northern two-thirds. It was in a densely wooded area and probably on one of those roads that are not maintained during all seasons, which are thus often quite eroded in spots or very sandy and tougher to navigate safely.

I use to take more chances in my younger days when exploring by vehicle on more isolated and unstable roads or roads labeled as private or with “No Trespassing” signs. That’s why I probably can’t find this structure today, because I’m more conservative in my risk-taking now. I hope that one of your connections might know something about this. 

A few buildings come to mind, but I’ve ruled them out because they don’t seem to fit David’s description. I don’t think it’s anywhere on Johnson Farms (my family’s farm). Our main migrant building was the long silver “Butler” building across from the cooling pad about a half-mile north of Mapleton. It’s never been red or overgrown because it’s right in the middle of everything.

The Ted Ayers barn on the corner of Center Road and Swaney Road is old and overgrown and red, but it’s a barn, not a long, low building. And it’s not in a wooded area.

There’s a long, low building on what was once Far Out Farms (corner of Eastern Road and Ridgewood Wood past Haserot Beach), but it’s sort of off the road, so you can’t really see it as you’re driving around.

There’s the Wunsch Condos, but they’re not red and not overgrown and sort of out in the open.

I’m wondering if it’s one of the old farm buildings up on Teahen’s farm, off Peninsula Drive, but south of Wilson Road. It’s definitely wooded and off the beaten path there.

Really, it could be anywhere when you start thinking about all the old farm buildings out here.

Any ideas on where this building might be located? Leave thoughts in the comments below. 

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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