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The unincorporated community of Germfask is in the center of Germfask Township, in eastern Schoolcraft County, Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

As an unincorporated village, it lacks defined borders, but it is on the eastern edge of the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. The inhabited area generally referred to as Germfask begins just north of where the Manistique River turns south, roughly paralleling M-77, past Ten Curves Road, to where M-77 crosses the river just south of the Germfask Cemetery. However, a distance surrounding this settlement area might also be considered part of Germfask. As the Germfask post office serves the entire township, addresses within the township would be appropriate here.

There are no incorporated cities or villages within thirty miles of Germfask, the closest being Newberry, Manistique, and Munising. Unincorporated communities within twenty miles include Carpenter Landing, Curtis, Helmer, Danaher, Laketon, Blaney Park, and Gulliver.

In 1881, the town got its name from the first letter of the surnames of each of its eight founders: John Grant, Matthew Edge, George Robinson, Thaddeus Mead, Dr. W.W. French, Ezekiel Ackley, Oscar Shepard, and Hezekiah Knaggs. Founded as a logging town, the Manistique Railway, a logging railroad that reached from Seney to Grand Marias on Lake Superior, established a station there in 1893.

In anticipation of the railroad, the village was platted in 1890, and a post office was established on February 26th of that year, with Janet E. Robinson as postmaster. Although platted, Germfask was never incorporated.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps, a creation of President Franklin Roosevelt, came to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The program was intended to provide work for unemployed males between the ages of seventeen and twenty-three, who would be employed to work on federal and state-owned land. Most of those who enrolled in the program in Michigan were natives of the state.

Company #3626 of the CCC established the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in 1935. Based in Germfask, they transformed 95,000 acres of marshland into a refuge for migratory birds, constructing a system of dams, spillways, ditches, dikes, and pools, as well as planting hundreds of acres of food crops for birds. More heavy machinery was put into use at Camp Germfask than at any other Michigan CCC camp.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, the CCC men, for the most part, joined the US Army or other branches of the military, and Camp Germfask was temporarily closed.

However, with most of Michigan's able-bodied young men serving in the military, there was a lack of workers for the Upper Peninsula's pulp and paper industry, considered essential for the war effort. In response, they turned to an outside source: German prisoners of war and American conscientious objectors. In 1943, the Army stationed troops at Camp Germfask, and German POWs were put to work in the woods.

In 1944, American conscientious objectors were sent to Camp Germfask in lieu of military service, which they refused. The majority of the incoming COs were college graduates, including Americans with PhDs, as well as physicians, lawyers, teachers, and social workers, but there were also farmers and students, musicians, journalists, and artists. The work was very demanding, particularly for those who had little experience with physical labor, or with winter conditions in the Upper Peninsula. Local citizens, most of whom had family members serving overseas, had more respect for the German POWs than for the American COs.

Today, the buildings from Camp Germfask have been moved to Manistique and, while there is a sign acknowledging the site of Camp Germfask #3626 as a CCC camp, its use as a forced labor camp for conscientious objectors gets little mention, although it has been referred to as America's Siberia by historians.

The site of Camp Germfask is currently the home of Big Cedar Campground, one of several camps in the area, which currently serves as a gateway to the Seney National Wildlife Refuge and as a base for a variety of outdoor activities, given that the village is surrounded by large and small lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.

The focus of this guide is on the unincorporated village of Germfask. Online resources representing individuals, businesses, industries, schools, churches, organizations, attractions, events, guest accommodations, and recreational opportunities in Germfask are appropriate for this category.

 

 

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