A Brief History of
the Bay Mills - Brimley Area
a state in 1837. Three years later William A.
Burt, a loyal and able Deputy U.S. surveyor,
began his survey of township boundaries for the
Upper Peninsula. There was little inducement to
settlers until townships where subdivided into
square miles in 1849. Outside of Sault Ste.
Marie, there was little evidence of white
The Iroquois Point lighthouse was built
in 1870. Wood burning steam boats which required
fuel wood furnished employment for a few
settlers. The first settlers in the Brimley area
were the Ripley's, but three Scribner brothers,
reputedly lured by riches in pine lumber, are
credited with being the first settlers with
designs on a town site. James came west in
search of timber shortly after the civil War.
Brother Willoughby Scribner
(1847-1913), generally known as the founder of
Brimley, arrived about 1872 and settled with his
brothers on adjoining homesteads. A small man
with an extremely short temper, he ran a general
store. Brother Josiah (1850-1940), a mason, came
to Brimley in 1874. Despite poor vision he was
also a cooper who could make wet or dry barrels.
He helped construct and maintain the factory and
sawmill at Bay Mills. He also built and
plastered many homes and built many chimneys in
Brimley. It was he who, through goading and
persistence, convinced the community that a
school system was needed.
With the coming of the railroad in
1887, the town originally known as "Bay Mills",
"Bay Mills Crossing", and "Superior", needed a
name change to avoid confusion. Exactly who
"Brimley" was remains in dispute, but his became
the official name for the town in 1896.
The Bay Mills extension of the Duluth,
South Shore, & Atlantic Railroad from Brimley to
Bay Mills started in January, 1891. The bridge,
built entirely of pine timber, was placed on
pilings as 1-12 foot intervals, and the piling,
about 6 to a bent, was tied together with
timbers or sway braces. Ties and rails were laid
and a 12-inch plank in the center worn concave
by the countless tread of caulked boots served
as a walkway. At a point of deepest water, a
manually operated swing bridge allowed small
boats access to the bay. The trestle was 6-10
feet above the water.
Bay Mills was named for the Hall &
Munson Company plants. For many years the area
was inhabited by Indians and Bay Mills was a
trading post. A post office was established in
1879. The first permanent settlement began in
1882 when a sawmill was built. By 1893, three
Churches, two saw-mills, a sash & blind factory,
planing mill, box factory, Niagara Paper Co.,
and pulp mill were doing a flourishing business.
Mail was twice daily ! A druggist, machinist,
photographer, stage line and ferry operator,
butcher, carpenter, millwright, lumber
inspector, barber, innkeeper, blacksmith, and
saw filer were among the 1,900 residents.
At it's peak, the Hall & Munson Co.
employed about 800 men. The sawmill turned out
160,000 feet of lumber a day, the sash and door
company made about 800 doors, 1500 pairs of
window sash, 500 blinds, and 300 window frames.
The company carried about 30 million feet of
lumber on its docks.
In 1904, the factory burned down; a few
years later the sawmill ran out of timber and
quit business. As a result, by 1909 the
population had diminished to less than 75 people
and the post office closed. Thereafter, the mail
was delivered R.F.D. from Brimley Only one
general store continued in business. By 1940 Bay
Mills was deserted, but slowly people began
moving back into the area. In 1995, the Bay
Mills Indian community completed a Casino/Resort
complex on the west shore of the bay.