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Discovering antique Nahma timber maps

The town of Nahma Michigan is a very historic and unique lumber town located on Big Bay DeNoc Lake Michigan in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Isaac Stephenson was the first land looker in the area traveling from Oconto. He found enough timber with great river access to start a sawmill on the Sturgeon River. Sturgeon means Nahma in Chippewa. This was 1850 era. Land was purchased from the US government for $1.25/acre. As the years went by BayDeNoc Company built the town of Nahma and purchased many thousands of acres of land. They came north from Oconto (Oconto Company) after depleting the resource there. The company, now BayDeNoc Company, cut their first board in 1881 and had a great run until 1951, where again, the resource was depleted.

My wife and I purchased the old company hotel (Nahma Inn) in 2008. Two years later we bought the old general store mostly for storage, although there was quite a bit of old inventory from back in the days that sparked my interest. Excited to discover all the old items, I came across a box of what seemed to be paper that was going to get discarded. After further review I saw some color and writing. These were all the old company timber maps. Being a forester I was totally excited to see these. They are very accurate and depicted. There are a little over 200, each having their own section. Most were cruised 1895-1896. Each map and cruise was signed and dated by Webster Marble. Webster was a sought after forester and land looker back in the day. Webster put together a survival kit for foresters, trappers and anyone else that would spend countless days and nights out in the woods. The survival kit that Webster had put together took off like wildfire, in fact so much, he started a company to make these kits. This company is called Marble Arms, which is now based in Delta County. Their business makes highly collectable hatchets, knives and gun sights and are known globally. 

 After the closure of the sawmill in 1951 some of the lands were handpicked by the higher ups and friends. Most of the land, however, is now part of the Hiawatha National Forest, nestled in the center of the Upper Peninsula. Today there is a great active logging plan on the forest.

These maps are not only a true piece of Americana but they also give a good picture of how the foresters would layout their logging camps, railroad grades, stagecoach roads and dams for river drives back in the day. Some of the maps depict “old” camps, these were camps from the first sawmill, early 1850’s. Each map has a general write up of the section telling about the timber type and general terrain and logging chance. With this write up comes a detailed timber cruise by 40. All of the maps are colored in by timber types. Along with the general write up of the section comes many old terms not used anymore which makes the reading quite fun and interesting.

If anyone is interested in seeing these, I can make that happen by appointment. Email me to set up a time.

Have questions or want assistance in determining the best forestry strategies for your land? Contact our forestry services team or call Charlie at 800-352-1438. We can help you design plans that meet your goals and have the best interest of your forest in mind.

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