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If these old buildings could talk…

From A to Zowie

If these old buildings could talk…

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the June 30, 2010 issue of the Clio, Michigan-based Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

COUNTY LINE, MICH. – If the town listed in the dateline doesn’t sound familiar, there’s a reason.

On June 22 as I headed up Willard Road for my latest story assignment, I thought of my oldest sister, Sabrina. She lives in Texas and has a unique pastime: whenever she sees old, abandoned houses, she likes to look at them and try to speculate about who lived there, what they did and what events occurred in that house.

I continued thinking of Sabrina as I reached where Willard Road meets the train tracks. The road is right inside Genesee County and right next to Saginaw County. About two miles to the north, within squinting range, you can see the bustling metropolis of Birch Run.

The event I covered was the unveiling of a monument along the Trolley Line Trail, an asphalt path just off Willard and about 10 yards east of the train track. The monument stood where a general store once stood more than a century ago.

It was general store neither of Clio nor or Birch Run, but of the little settlement called County Line.

A Google search for the town will turn up nothing. The town only exists in the records of the Clio Area Historical Association (and probably Birch Run’s as well) and in the memories passed down by nineteenth-century residents to their children and to, finally, their modern-day descendants.

Back in 1898, County Line had a population of 150 residents. With several saw mills, a hotel, school, saloon and Catholic church, it no doubt was a place where local residents kept busy earning a living and raising their families.

Now, when you look at Willard Road and the surrounding area, the monument stands out among the grass and railroad tracks to remind us that once upon a time, a small town existed there. That small town is pretty much a ghost town.

County Line reminds me a little of what King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:11 and in 2:15-16. The very wise, wealthy king of Israel, Solomon noted in his book that no matter now noteworthy a person is in their life, generations will pass until, finally, it’ll be almost as though they never existed in the first place.

The monument and remaining houses have stories to tell, and I wonder how many other old structures in Mt. Morris, Genesee, Clio, Birch Run and Bridgeport have stories to tell.

I am reminded of the gray building in downtown Clio that was built during the Civil War era and once served as the town’s post office. Maybe it remembers a grief-stricken mother sending a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, telling him her only son had been killed in the Civil War.

There’s also the “Marriage Mansion” in Birch Run. I’d love to ask it what the mood was like in southern Saginaw County when the stock market crashed in 1929 and many residents lost everything.

Life does, of course, come full circle. One hundred years from now, when I’m dead, it’s possible someone will stumble upon this column in the archives and will read it. I wonder if the Herald’s offices at 10098 North Dort Highway in Clio, where Dort forks into Dort and Saginaw, will still be there in 2110 or if it’ll exist at a new location. Will there be anything to indicate to a casual observer that a newspaper office once stood here?

If these old buildings could talk…

Richard Zowie’s a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Visit his blog at http://www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com or e-mail him at fromatozowie@gmail.com.

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