|The "Seney Stretch": famous as one of the straightest sections of highway east of the Mississippi, its 23 miles lie between Seney and Shingleton. Piercing the Great Manistique Swamp with its stunted cedars, it's often referred to as the most boring scenery in the country.|
Forest fires destroyed the old town of Seney, a logging town with a reputation as one of the roughest lumber towns in the north woods. Today's little array of gas stations, restaurants, and motels spread out along M-28 doesn't reflect Seney's previous layout. All around Seney there's lots of public land, with opportunities for hunting and fishing, canoeing and kayaking, ORVs and ATVs, and snowmobiling. These recreational opportunities are detailed on the informative and extensive web site of the, Fox River Motel. The web site and phone line (906-499-3332) also have a current snowmobile trail report. Seney Township has built a community recreation park on the north side of M-28, with a playground, picnic tables, horseshoe pits, and volleyball.
|All the elements of Ernest Hemingway’s famous fishing trip in his memorable story “Big Two-Hearted River” have been assembled in a display created by Jack Jobst, Michigan Tech literature professor and Hemingway fan.|
What Seney is famous for is fishing. "Big Two Hearted River," Ernest Hemingway's most famous story, was actually based on his experiences fishing the Fox near Seney, not the Two Hearted. The Fox's fishing fame was revisited in an August, 1997 National Geographic article. At the Seney Historical Museum a nifty little exhibit in the old depot commemorates Hemingway's fishing trip to the Fox – the short story read by millions of American high school students. More Seney historical materials are in the former township hall and jail, connected by a walkway. The museum, now wheelchair-accessible, is from the second week of June through Labor Day, weekdays from 10 to 5, Sundays noon to five. It's south of M-28 and clearly signed. Historical note: this is not really where Nick Adams, the Hemingway alter ego, got off the train and started walking. The depot has been moved.
|It’s only fitting that a DNR field office — with two conspicuous images of Smokey the Bear — be located near the Great Manistique Swamp, home to so many fires after it was drained.|
Andy's Seney Bar is the town's remaining tavern. But once, the story goes, Seney was a teeming collection of drinking, gambling, and whoring establishments. (A downstater who loves visiting djistinctive U.P. bars calls Andy's one of the best.) Andy himself came up in 1978 from Traverse City to buy the old bar. The combined IGA grocery market and Golden Grill restaurant (now known as Seney Crossing) is now the town's biggest employer. Its owners and many employees are members of the Seney Mennonite Church. A group of Mennonites moved to the area together to establish an outreach ministry. A company that makes wood trusses for homes is the last remaining major lumber-related company.
Seney's colorful past and the exaggerations which embellished it, were recounted in the 1940 Writers' Project Michigan: A Guide to the Wolverine State: "Tales of license and corruption brought to Seney an investigating committee of newspaper reporters, among them one of the few women reporters of the day. Unimpressed by the gambling, fighting, drinking, and prostitution, she began her reports with a more horrifying story about what locals called ‘Ram's Pasture.' Yes, she wrote, the rumors from wild Seney were true–and more, the place was a hell camp of slavery! Strangers were being ‘shanghaied' on the frontier, shunted into camp, held in chained peonage, and tracked by fierce dogs when they attempted escape. Forced to work in the forest by day, they were marched into camp at nightfall and held in the ‘Ram's Pasture,' a stockade unfit even for dumb animals. The place was so overcrowded that the chained men were forced to sleep in shifts.
"This story made headlines in metropolitan dailies throughout the country. A congressional committee was kept out of the district only through efforts of Wall Street lumbermen and Michigan politicians, who denied the story indignantly. They stated that a hoax had been played upon the newspaperwoman by practical jokers who amused themselves concocting what she wanted to find. They told her that the ‘fierce dogs' which tracked down escaping ‘slaves' were mastiffs raised by a local saloon keeper. The ‘Ram's Pasture' was in truth the main floor of a crowded hotel, where the manager permitted men to sleep in 8-hour shifts on payment of regular rates in advance. The ‘armed guards' merely insured the prompt removal of sleeping men once their 8 hours was up. There was no slavery, no shanghaiing, no stockade. . . . [But] the lawless reputation of Seney was not unearned. Few places of its size ever had quite so many picturesque characters as this mad community. The most notorious figure of the group was the section hand Leon Czolgosz, who later assassinated President William McKinley. Another was P. J. Small, better known as ‘Snap Jaw,' who regularly earned drinks and food by biting off the heads of live snakes and frogs. Extending his talents one day, he snapped off the head of a lumberjack's pet owl, and the woodsman laid him low with a peavey handle. ‘Stuttering' Jim Gallagher left his mark–mostly with rough hobnail shoes–on the faces of those who found his speech amusing. ‘Protestant Bob' McGuire was a peaceful man with thumbnails like miniature bowie knives; he seldom fought, but, when he did, his opponent was left from the combat with gaping wounds across his face.
|It comes as a surprise to find that many Seney businesses these days are owned by Mennonites — the result of a Mennonite missionary outreach several decades ago.|
"‘Stub Foot' O'Donnell and ‘Pump Handle Joe' met incoming trains, stood strangers on their heads and shook out their loose change. ‘Old Light Heart,' who liked raw liver and slept in two sugar barrels turned end to end, eventually lost his toes by frostbite."