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The City of Gladstone is bordered to the east by Little Bay de Noc, which opens onto Green Bay on Lake Michigan, to the north by the Hiawatha National Forest.

The city is on a small projection into the Little Bay de Noc, in Delta County, within the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The chief route through the city is US-2 and US-41, which run concurrently through the city, connecting with Escanaba nine miles to the south. US-41 continues north to Marquette, about sixty miles away, while US-2. runs east to Manistique and Saint Ignace, forty-five and a hundred and thirty miles, respectively. M-35 forms a portion of the city's western border, before turning east to merge with US-2/US-41 south to Escanaba.

Escanaba is the only incorporated municipality within twenty miles of Gladstone. Unincorporated communities within ten miles of the city include Kipling, West Gladstone, Chaison, Larch, Lambert, Groos, North Escanaba, Soo Hill, and Chandler.

Until its settlement by European-Americans in the mid-19th-century, it does not appear that the area that has become Gladstone was inhabited. Ojibwe hunters and French trappers came through from time to time, but there is no evidence of permanent settlements before the 1850s.

The earliest development was on Saunders Point, named for Captain Nate Saunders, a fisherman who headquartered there while fishing at various points along the bay. As others built homes in the area, the small community became known as Saunders. Something more closely resembling a town began when the Hamilton Corporation of Fayette began using it as a shipping point for transporting iron ore in 1859.

Expanding beyond its origins, the port began shipping lumber, coal, and copper during the American Civil War, and, for a time, it was a busy port town. For a time, the town was known as Minnewasca, which is Sioux for "white water."

In 1887, the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (Soo Line) extended its tracks to the area, building a large railroad station, a roundhouse, a machine shop, merchandise and coal docks, and an iron ore dock. The Soo Line platted the village as Minnewasca but, after it was filed, Senatore W.D. Washburn, who held an interest in the railroad, had the name changed for Gladstone, in honor of a British politician, William Evert Gladstone.

A post office was established at Gladstone on May 24, 1887, with Richard Mertz as the first postmaster. Gladstone was incorporated as a village on March 5, 1888, and it became a city n 1893, at which time it had a population of 1,800.

In 1889, Gladstone had fifteen hotels, three boarding houses, three boot and shoe stores, three clothing stores, five grocery stores, two meat markets, three jewelry stores, a cigar maker, four dressmakers, a tailor, five contractors, an ice dealer, an insurance agency, three lawyers, and a justice of the peace. Three sawmills were in operation, and a washboard manufacturing company had begun operation. By 1900, Gladstone's main street had twenty-three saloons serving sailors, dockworkers, and railroad workers.

By 1910, Gladstone had a population of 4,211, many of them immigrants from Belgium, Finland, Germany, and Sweden. Gladstone's peak population was 5,170 in 1930. Since then, its population has declined slightly but changed little.

Gladstone is a relatively small city with a traditional downtown district, which hosts most of the city's businesses. Because of its proximity to the Little Bay de Noc, the national forest, and nearby rivers, lakes, and streams, people come to the area for various outdoor activities. The city itself has several parks and recreational opportunities, such as Van Cleve Park, which includes a playground, skateboarding park, baseball field, basketball court, fitness trail, a white sand beach with a water slide, boardwalk, and a harbor with boat ramps and a fish cleaning station. Gladstone Sports Park also features baseball fields, skiing and snowboard runs, and a tubing facility. The Gladstone Golf Course winds through woods, crossing water on six of its eighteen holes.

Tourism was hurt in the 1950s when I-75 was built from St. Ignace to Sault Ste. Marie, diverting the "around the lake" tourism directly into Canada. Later, a four-lane expressway bypassed downtown Gladstone, limiting access from one end of the city to the other.

While Escanaba has more industries, Gladstone hosts several businesses that are doing well, such as Bay de Noc Lure Company, Besse Forest Bramco Containers, Brampton Bike and Ski, Hoegh Pet Caskets, Independent Machine Company, Pardon, Inc., Products, Marble Arms, and VanAire, Inc. Nevertheless, many of its residents commute to Escanaba.

The focus of this guide is on the city of Gladstone, Michigan. Topics relating to the municipality or local businesses, schools, churches, organizations, attractions, and events are appropriate for this category.

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