Monday, August 4, 2008

Smiths Creek Depot

The Smiths Creek Depot, originally built around 1858-59 in Port Huron, Michigan, could have suffered the same wrecking ball fate as so many of the classic train depots of the 19th century. But, this building was different; it has a little bit of history attached to it that very few other depots ever had. It was while on the Grand Trunk Railroad, which traveled between Port Huron and Detroit, that young Thomas Edison (known to his family as Alva - his middle name), worked as a news and candy "butcher. A "butcher," during this mid-19th century era, was a vendor of sorts, and would sell candy, hot dogs, etc. at sporting events or aboard a train. The two major categories of such "butchers" were the "candy butchers" and "news butchers," who went from car to car on the trains selling newspapers to the passengers.
It was during one such trip, in 1863, that an angry conductor threw young Tom off the train at this Smiths Creek, Michigan depot when the boy accidentally set the baggage car on fire while conducting a chemical experiment using phosphorus.When Henry Ford heard this story from Edison himself, he decided to see if the depot still existed. He found it still in pretty decent condition and negotiated with the town and Grand Trunk Railroad for its removal to the Village, agreeing to build a replacement.
The completed structure played a featured role in the dedication of Greenfield Village when it received the honored guests traveling by special train upon the Village's grand opening on October 21, 1929.
The guests included President Hoover, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, Will Rogers, Madam Curie, and John D. Rockefeller Jr., among others.The depot, in its original location, was also the stationmaster's home, and is typical of country railroad stations in the mid-19th century. It was built by a man named Findly McDonald and his brother.

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