Historical Society Launches New Book – Thompsonville in Time: A Northwest Michigan Story 1890-2021

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To purchase Thompsonville in Time A Northwest Michigan Story, please visit our Museum, order online https://benziemuseum.org/product/thompsonville-in-time/, or support your local bookseller.

Online book orders can be shipped either directly to you or picked up here at the Benzie Area Historical Museum

Thompsonville’s often overlooked rich history presented in new book by local author and Benzie Area Historical Society

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – Small villages can inspire big endeavors, especially when the often overlooked history of the place reveals a fascinating story just waiting to be shared. A little serendipity doesn’t hurt either. If not for a local ski resort, two people’s passion for the stories of history and a chance encounter between them, the recently released book Thompsonville in Time may have never come to fruition.

Fortunately, author Charles T. Kraus—whose interest in the book’s subject matter developed only after he and his wife discovered nearby Crystal Mountain Resort—and Benzie Area Historical Museum executive director Barbara Mort did meet, a connection that became the catalyst leading to the tiny town of Thompsonville, Michigan and its rich history finally getting its due.

“I often have to chuckle about my relationship with the Benzie Area Historical Society and Museum,” said Kraus. “On that first occasion that I naively entered the narthex of the museum building, to introduce myself to Barb Mort and to pitch my idea of a historical marker for Thompsonville, I had little idea that my inquiry would transpire eventually into being asked to join the museum board and then subsequently tasked with writing something ‘small, maybe 20 pages’ about Thompsonville.” At its completion, the book’s page count hit 165.

After their initial meeting, Kraus and Mort worked closely together and with the community to ensure that Thompsonville’s history was presented on the written page. According to Mort, “The best way to share history is through stories, and both Chuck and I have a love of stories and storytelling and are eager to hear more. Thompsonville has so many rich stories that deserve to be shared so it’s not surprising that this book grew substantially from its inception.  We were determined to honor the stories of those who came before us and to hear the stories of the people who are still with us.”

Thompsonville in Time is the story of the travails of a small northwest Michigan village that enjoyed robust and rapid growth at the turn of the nineteenth century but lost its stature over time. Early on, Thompsonville served as a busy hub of two trains lines, one heading to Frankfort and the other to Traverse City and eventually Petoskey, Michigan. But its early prosperity quickly flagged after the virgin forests were depleted by lumbering operations. Add to the mix multiple downtown fires and dam failures. New businesses (which didn’t depend on lumber) tried to make a go of it, but success was elusive. Some nearby towns and villages suffered the same fate and became ghost towns. Yet Thompsonville somehow managed to hold on. The book concludes with a hopeful chapter about the village’s revitalization, thanks to the Betsie Valley Trail and nearby Crystal Mountain Resort, which are drawing an influx of outdoor enthusiasts and new residents, who treasure the rivers, forests and freshwater lakes.

A ski and outdoor enthusiast, Kraus acquainted himself with Thompsonville after he began skiing at Crystal Mountain. “I am a person who takes his surroundings very seriously and I try to offer what I can to my community wherever it has been,” said Kraus. “History is something that fascinates me. I love reading it. I think of it sometimes as taking part in time travel. In this case it allowed me to go back into the past and to see what Thompsonville was like in its heyday, then to come back to the present, and by walking through the village realize what it had become.”

The book is wholly funded by the Benzie Area Historical Society. “The funds from the sale of this book are being set aside in a restricted fund for future historical reference publications—to ensure that Benzie’s stories can continue to be researched, documented and shared,” said Mort.

The publication of Thompsonville in Time is the result of hard work, research and dedication by Kraus, Mort and many others and reflects the traits of the community itself. “I’ve worked in the Thompsonville community on and off for over 30 years, and the people and history there won my heart before even joining the Benzie Area Historical Society” said Mort. “Grit, determination, pride in community, and a healthy dose of sense of humor are common traits of local residents.

Thompsonville in Time is published by Mission Point Press of Traverse City, Michigan, and is available in stores and online. The retail price of the hardcover is $44.95, softcover is $34.95.   Online book orders can be shipped either directly to you or picked up here at the Benzie Area Historical Museum.  





Crystal Mountain Resort

Wednesday, December 29, 4-6:00 p.m.

Check out our Facebook page for appearance and program updates.  https://www.facebook.com/BenzieAreaHistoricalSociety

If your organization would like a presentation by author and researcher Charles T. Kraus, please contact the Benzie Area Historical Society at (231) 882-5539 or by email info@benziemuseum.org.