Summer is the best time to brave the U.P.’s 25-miles of monotony called the “Seney Stretch” that connects Seney and Singleton with one ramrod-straight highway, and visit what was once Michigan’s hardest rocking logging town. Although the population is now down from 3000 to 300 and the scores of taverns, gambling houses and brothels have been lost over the years to forest fires and better-behaved citizens, it is still fun to see the place where the bloody mayhem would occupy whole streets on Saturday nights in the 1890s. The town had its own Boot Hill cemetery to accommodate the aftermath of each weekend’s brawl.
Some of the milder local thugs included a pair that literally shook down unwary train travelers by holding them by their heels until their pockets emptied. Another character was famous for leaving a bad impression â€“ that of his hobnail boots â€“ on the faces of those who argued with him. Most infamous, however, was P.K. (some sources say P.J.) “Snapjaw” Small, who bit the heads off of living reptiles, birds, and even a crow ala Ozzie Osbourne and his bat. “The Ogre of Seney” also scarfed fresh horse manure and would go spittoon-bobbing for the price of a few shots of whiskey. His nose had been bitten off but was reattached with amateurish, Frankenstein stitches, leaving his appearance as frightful as his behavior.
The town’s other claim to fame was a 1919 visit by Ernest Hemingway who came to fish. He later wrote about Seney in “The Big Two-Hearted River.” In the story, his character sits on the banks of the river and grieves for the many taverns that once lined the shore.
To tread where he-men Snapjaw and Hemingway once trod, just stop where Hwy M77 crosses M28, and head for the Seney’s old rail depot-turned-museum, which has been moved a tad from its original trackside spot. The museum is open in the summer from 10-5 (noon-5 on Sunday).