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 Cover of Tenant from Hell
The Tenant from Hell
Book 1 in the Realtor Mystery Series
Casey Clark, property manager, is just trying to evict a bad tenant. Instead she is over her head in murder and mayhem

 Cover of Double Duplicity
Double Duplicity
Book 2 in the Realtor Mystery Series
Trouble  follows Casey like a raging fire.

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Missing-- Gone but not Forgotten

Based on the unsolved abduction of a little girl in a rural  Florida Community.

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Under a Bloody Flag

Kansas and Missouri were a "no man's land" in the days before the War between the States.

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Under a Black Flag
Kansas and Missouri heated to the boiling point during the War between the States. 

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For Want of a Ship
John Roy came to New Orleans looking  for peace instead he found war.

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Last Step
Last Step will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you gasping in surprise at the ending

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Kudzu shows you a different part of the South, past and present. Mystery with a touch of romance and a smidgen of paranormal.

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Wild about Florida: South FL
The Everglades swarm with wildlife from birds,  to mammals, to reptiles.

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Wild about Florida: Central FL
Central Florida has the ocean and gulf beaches much like other parts of Florida but in many other ways it is distinct and unique. 

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Wild About Florida: North FL
Come explore caves, hills, whitewater falls and lots of other fun things you didn't expect to find in Florida.

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Georgia's Ghostly Getaways 

Who is not fascinated by mysterious things that go bump in the night? Are there some places where departed souls still linger?

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Hosts With Ghosts
The South has long been famous for its Southern Hospitality. Hotels throughout Dixie vie with one another to offer their guests more service and more amenities. Many have guests that never depart.

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Finding Florida's Phantoms
Florida! The land of sunshine and wide-open beaches. But even the Sunshine State has its dark secrets. Places where centuries old spirits remain tied to earth. Beneath the facade of fun and make believe lurks the real Florida.

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Color Saint Augustine
This is a way to virtually visit Saint Augustine. It's a coloring book for grown ups (but kids will love it too.)  with an actual photo of the attractions in Saint Augustine. The opposite page is the same photo converted into a black and white line image for you to to color. It's 64 pages with 30 photos and 30 pages for you to color. On each photo and each color page there is a little about the story of the image . 

Fayette Historical State Park and Townsite
Michigan Upper Peninsula Iron-Smelting Town

 Story and Photographs by Tom Straka

Fayette overview

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has lots of fascinating towns and museums to visit. Many of the museums are related to the region’s pioneering industries: copper, iron, and timber. The Upper Peninsula once had huge iron resources and over two-dozen iron blast furnaces, and many of the museums and historical attractions deal with the iron mining and smelting industries. The fuel for nearly all of the iron smelting furnaces was charcoal, and if you look hard you can even see some charcoal kilns that still remain to celebrate the iron industry history. Marquette was center of the iron activity and if you enter town from the east, you’ll see a huge, reconstructed charcoal kiln to welcome you to the city.  


Charcoal kiln that welcomes visitors to Marquette, prompting questions on its function, creating an opportunity to explain the Upper Peninsula’s iron mining and smelting history. 

While the iron ore was near Lake Superior and Marquette, better access to eastern smelters was available via Lake Michigan if the ore could be moved south. In 1864 the Peninsula Railroad was completed and provided that access. Ore could be moved south from Negaunee (just south of Marquette where the mine was) to Escanaba on Lake Michigan. The Jackson Iron Mining Company in Negaunee began to transport iron ore to Escanaba in 1865 and from there to Cleveland, Ohio in a ship named Fayette Brown, which could make the round-trip in just over eight days.

Shipping ore from Escanaba to foundries further east on the Great Lakes was expensive, especially since the ore was 40 percent waste material. The answer to the problem was to build a blast furnace to convert the ore into pig iron prior to shipping to iron and steel plants on the Lower Great Lakes. The furnace location needed to be close to Escanaba’s ore docks, possess a natural harbor, and have access to local limestone and hardwood forest resources.

In 1867 the Jackson Mining Company acquired 26,000 acres of hardwood timberland east of Escanaba and that timber would be converted into charcoal to fuel an iron furnace. The furnace was built about 20 miles to the east (by water) of Escanaba at a location named Fayette, constructed on a peninsula with a natural harbor and limestone cliffs. Ore was shipped from Negaunee to Escanaba, then loaded onto scows and towed to the furnaces at Fayette where it was smelted into pig iron. Charcoal kilns would be built at the furnace and in the nearby forests. The location would become a townsite. The town became an iron furnace company town, a community that supported the smelter activity. It operated from 1867 to 1891 and produced nearly a quarter-million tons of iron. A changing iron economy and exhausted timber resources were the reasons for the furnace abandonment.  

Fayette hung on for a while after the furnace closed, but eventually became a ghost town. Later, it was recognized as one of the best-surviving former iron furnace communities and acquired by the state to become a historical park. Today there are over 20 well-preserved buildings and structures that present a picture of what the community looked like. The second Saturday in August is Fayette Heritage Days with period displays, food and music.

Since Fayette was an iron manufacturing community, the center of activity in the town was the two large blast furnaces (or stacks), a battery of charcoal kilns, a lime kiln, and a large dock. The hot blast was provided by machinery housed on the upper level of furnace complex. Steam was produced by boilers and sent to blowing engines which provided the blast to the furnace. The fuel was charcoal from the nearby hardwood forests and limestone was quarried from the nearby bluffs. An interpretative sign notes: “The furnace complex was the heart of industrial Fayette. Here, the heat, roar, and odors of the smelting operation merged with the shouts of men, whir of engines and shill scream of steam whistles.”

furnace building building

The two blast furnaces and furnace complex, the productive heart of the community.

Inside one of the blast furnaces, where action took place.

back of stacks

The back of the stacks or blast furnace, elevated for access to the stacks. These sections of the furnace complex housed the machinery which powered the foundry’s hot blast. Boilers supplied steam to the blowing engines which forced air through the hot blast ovens and into the furnaces.

overview of inside furace comples

 Illustration of the furnace complex from interpretative sign.  

Fuel was crucial to the operation. At first charcoal was produced in rows of large rectangular charcoal kilns. The rectangular kilns proved to be unsuccessful and were replaced by more productive conical charcoal kilns. A row of ten conical kilns was next to the furnace; none survive and a reconstructed kiln now represents that battery of charcoal kilns. An interpretative sign next to the kiln states: “Colliers manufactured charcoal to fuel the furnaces at a row of kilns, like this reconstruction. The company also operated kilns on the Garden Peninsula and contracted with private operators to provide charcoal. By the mid-1880s, more than eighty kilns were in operation within ten miles of Fayette.” Shortages of fuel were always issues at the charcoal iron furnaces. In 1870 the Escanaba Tribune reported: “Fears were entertained that the supply of charcoal would fall short, but with extraordinary exertions, they now have another set of kilns ready, and the supply will be kept up.”

charcoal kiln

The reconstructed conical charcoal kiln, imagine a row of them and the smoke they created.

A warehouse and general store was built in 1879. The store had a captive market and did not always offer competitive prices. A fire in the early 1900s destroyed the store and today only stone walls remain. As to costs at the company store, one shopper described the pricing policy as “pluck me.” The interpretative sign at the machine shop states: “Machinists like Louis Follo maintained Fayette’s industrial equipment from this shop. Power machinery, used to manufacture equipment parts, was driven by steam piped from the furnace boilers. Master mechanics were paid $75 per month. Machinists like Follo earned $1.80 per day.” 

ruins of warehouse and store

The skeleton of the company store complex.

old machine shop

The machine shop still survives.        

A cluster of buildings remains and inside visitors can get a glimpse of what life was like when Fayette boomed. An interpretative sign states: “Fayette was a company town whose residents depended on the Jackson Iron Company for jobs, housing, medical care, and supplies. From 1867 to 1891 the furnaces at Fayette produced high quality charcoal iron for America’s steel industry and supported a bustling immigrant community of nearly 500 residents. Today, twenty structures, including the furnace complex, business district and employee’s homes, recall the daily life of this industrial community.”  

inside hotel

 The hotel is still in Fayette and the desk is ready for check-in. A second-floor washroom featured a bathtub and sinks, with hot, running water piped underground from the furnace complex. Hotel guests used a two-story outhouse, accessed from the second floor by a wooden walkway.

inside middle class hme

inside middle class home

Typical middle class home at Fayette. Furniture would have been shipped in from Escanaba.

Fayette Historic State Park is a must-see Upper Peninsula attraction. Its only a few miles off the main U.S. highway for travelers following the Lake Michigan coastline. The history of the region is tied to the iron industry, and this is the place to experience that history.

Author: Thomas J. Straka is a forestry professor emeritus at Clemson University in South Carolina. He is a regular contributor with an interest in history, natural exploration, and unusual sites.