Pequaquawaming was the original name of Pequaming, meaning point village or cape point and was thought by the Chippewa tribe to be shaped like a bear. For centuries this land-made bear protected and provided for the Chippewa, fur traders, farmers, and mill families who settled there. Surrounded by trees and renowned for good fishing, Pequaming became a place of hard work and vibrant life.
The village of Pequaming was settled in 1878 by Charles and Edward Hebard with H.C. Thurber and they built a sawmill that produced pine lumber and shingles. Wanting to draw workers to the mill instead of area mines, in addition to the usual company town businesses they built parks, churches, schools, bath houses, and a hall with an Odd Fellows Lodge on the second floor. The Hebard Thurber Mill was the first and biggest lumber operation on Lake Superior. By 1904 the lumber company had exhausted the area’s virgin timber and the town struggled during a transition to milling hardwood.
In 1923 the sons of Charles and Edward Hebard sold 40,000 acres, including the Pequaming holdings of Charles Hebard and Sons, Inc., and the town of Pequaming to Henry Ford. Ford ran the mills in Pequaming and L’Anse to supply wooden car parts and crating material for his company. The salary of workers was raised from $3.50 to $5, and the rent was raised from a $1 a year to $12 dollars a month. Ford turned Pequaming into a model town, repainting and rebuilding houses, adding stores, churches, a hotel, railroad tracks, a Model A fire truck, and a new water tower. In 1935 Ford built four one room schools for elementary through intermediate grades and in 1937 a high school so Pequaming high school students wouldn’t have to go to L’Anse.
The mill operated productively until the Depression when it ran part time and many workers were laid off, even though Ford closed his Iron Mountain Mill to keep the Pequaming and L’Anse mills running.
There was a burst of activity after a financial recovery from the Depression in 1940, but a shortage of manpower because of the war became an obstacle. The year 1942 saw the close of the Pequaming Mill and schools. There had been about 400 residents in Pequaming when the mill closed. Many people from Pequaming started farming or transferred to different Ford plants such as the one in L’Anse. By 1950 only about three families lived in Pequaming, most buildings were dismantled or boarded up, and Pequaming was considered to be a ghost town. It is said that the fate of Pequaming broke Henry Ford’s heart.
The Ford Company sold Pequaming in 1952 to a group of investors who planned to make a recreation and resort area. However, the plans fell through, as did many other ideas for redevelopment through the years. Some of the original 1890s homes that were falling apart were torn down. In 1989 The Bungalow (Ford’s home) was purchased and restored and in 1993 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For a while it operated as a bed and breakfast and later, and to this day, for rent. The powerhouse and Ford water tank remain. There are still some family homes and rentals in the community as well as commercial fishing operations. Pequaming is still frequented as a ghost town and by former inhabitants for reunions.