History’s Gem of the Month: History of M77

Spring 2009

Although people started living full time in Grand Marais in the mid 1800s, the town really didn’t grow until 1893 when the railroad was extended from Adam’s Trail north to town. Within a few short years, Grand Marais was a thriving community with a couple thousand residents, as well as other transient workers that were employed by the lumber companies. They thought at the time that the vast woodlands around Grand Marais had an endless supply of timber. That was not the case. By 1910, the forests around Grand Marais were clear cut. Thus, the Alger-Smith company that owned the railroad took the tracks and their train with them when they moved to Minnesota.

A few families stayed in Grand Marais, despite its then isolated location. My family (Hills) stayed, as did the Niemi family. It was a hard way to exist, though, since there was no longer a railroad – and there certainly were no roads. During the warmer months, schooners supplied the town from lakeside. Sleds could also be pulled in the winter, except for when the snow was too deep for the horses.

Finally, with a lot of lobbying, M-77 was constructed in 1920 from Blaney Park beginning at M-12 (now US-2), and ending in Grand Maris for a total distance of 42.57 miles. M77 is one of only four north-south cross-peninsular M-numbered state highways in the U.P. During the 1950s, two sharp turns in the route, one 11 miles north of Seney at Lavender Corner and the other four miles south of Grand Marais, were bypassed with short segments of new highway. Also, in 1958 and 1959, the last two segments of gravel-surfaced M-77 were paved from Germfask to Seney and from Snyder Lake to Grand Marais.

Pictured below is a picture taken from the top of the hill in town, looking north. This photo was taken before M-77 was constructed. I’ve also included a map of M-77, and a photo of the termination point taken from Dan Garnell’s Michigan Highway Ends website.


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