Day 3 of our See All the Great Lakes Road Trip started on the shores of Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio. We were up and packed early, and soon crossed over to our home for the next week – Michigan.
Our first stop was historical in nature, River Raisin National Battlefield.
This was a crossroads of the War of 1812. A brief battle in 1812 saw the British (Canadian) militia sent back toward their own lands. The British and their Indian allies returned in force in January of the following year, routing half the American forces and forcing the other half to surrender. The aftermath was worse, the British withdrew after taking heavy losses, and their Native-American allies moved in and massacred the wounded American soldiers. For the rest of the war, cries of “Remember the Raisin!” inspired the American troops of the Old Northwest in their battles against the British and Native-Americans.
Today, the battlefield is a small national park property. It features a nice little visitor’s center and a short hike around the battlefield with a few interpretive signs.
From there, it was about a half hour drive to our main stop for the day – The Henry Ford in Dearfield, Michigan. Despite not having the word “museum” in the title (this is apparently the new hip thing in the museum industry), this is, in fact, a museum. Actually it’s two museums – the inside part (“The Henry Ford”) and the outside part (“Greenfield Village”). How did these museums come to be? Well, Henry Ford (founder of the Ford Motor Company for those of you who just arrived in modern society after 150 years of absence) ended up with an obscene amount of money from his brilliant use of the assembly line to mass produce motor vehicles. At the same time, he was worried that the small town America of his youth was slipping away. The solution? Build his own open air museum dedicated to small town America. Henry Ford was not a man to do things halfway, so his newly christened open air museum Greenfield Village would use real buildings trucked in from all over the country, from one of the earliest remaining homes of the early colonial period (1630s) to the one room schoolhouse where he used to get punished on a regular basis for being a rambunctious kid. You know you’re rich when you buy your old school and add it to your personal museum village!
Being a world-renowned innovator, he opted not just to gather old buildings, but also to celebrate some of the giants of American innovation by bringing in buildings tied to great advances in technology. Ford moved the Wright Brothers bicycle shop, Edison’s original buildings from his Menlo Park facility, the original home of the Heinz guy who started the ketchup company, and more. He even had the slave quarters where George Washington Carver was born reconstructed in the village… overseen by George Washington Carver himself.
What resulting is an amazing wonderland of history, impossible to duplicate. This would be our first stop in Deerfield.