Smith's Creek depot; May 2005; Alan Loftis
Smith's Creek, Michigan depot; May 2005

Map from Grand Trunk timetable Smith's Creek is about 10 miles southwest of Port Huron. The tracks were built in 1859 by the Chicago, Detroit and Canada Grand Trunk Junction Rail Road Company. In 1928 the route was officially merged into the Grand Trunk Western.

The Smith's Creek depot was built in 1858, while the tracks were still being built. Its rounded windows are typical of the Italianate style, popular at the time. One end of the depot originally served as living quarters for the station agent and his family. Smith's Creek is one of the few surviving depots built before the Civil War.

In 1859, a 12-year-old Thomas Edison got the job of "train butcher" or "news butch".  He would load up in Port Huron with magazines, newspapers, snacks, postcards and cigars. These would be sold on the train and at station platforms along the way. In later years, Edison set up a printing press in the baggage car to publish his own newspaper, The Grand Trunk Herald. He also started building and experimenting with things, also in the baggage car. It is said that Thomas Edison was once thrown off the train at Smith's Creek after starting the baggage car on fire when a stick of phosphorous ignited.

A railroad supervisor found out about Edison's activities, and he was banned from using the trains for his personal business. He continued selling papers on station platforms. At the Mt. Clemens station, Edison saved a young boy who was on the tracks in the path of a moving boxcar. The grateful father, the station agent there, taught Edison telegraphy. He did work for a few years as a telegraph operator. The use of electricity and magnetism was a key to Edison's later innovations. In fact, his first invention was an automatic repeater, allowing telegraph messages to pass through unmanned stations.

Track Side, Smith's Creek Depot
Track Side, Smith's Creek Depot

Any of the depots along the Detroit-Port Huron line can claim a connection to Thomas Edison. But Henry Ford picked Smith's Creek depot, and moved it to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI as part of his tribute to Thomas Edison. The relocated building was dedicated in October 1929.

Interior Ticket Window
Ticket Window

The Grand Trunk was still in the passenger business, and needed a depot in Smith's Creek. So a new depot was built. Passenger service lasted only into the 1950's. In 1974 the second depot was moved to Armada Ridge Rd, in Richmond, MI where it was used as an antiques store.

Replacement depot from Smith's Creek
Second Smith's Depot, in Richmond, MI

August 2005
Louis Van Winkle
Photos by Alan Loftis

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