MICHIGAN SMALL TOWN: The Former Lumber Town of Sumner, 1854
The village of Sumner lies in the township of the same name within Gratiot County.
In 1854 the land was visited and eventually settled by George Bell and Titus Stover. It seems these two had difficulty in deciding what to name this new community. George referred to it as ‘Belltown’ and Titus called it ‘Stover’, both egos contradicting each other.
The main source of prosperity was the lumber trade, as it was with most mid-northern Michigan towns.
I’m sure to the dismay of both gentlemen, after the town was platted, it was named ‘Estella’ in 1868.
The township had already been titled ‘Sumner’ since 1855, named after another early settler, Charles Sumner. Eventually the town got its own post office in 1869, listed on maps as ‘Sumner P.O.’ This post office saved the residents the trouble of walking two days through the woods just to get to the closest postal service, which was in Ionia.
Finally, in 1887 the village decided to avoid confusion by switching its name to ‘Sumner’ once and for all.
Sumner had four churches, cobbler, general store, hardware store, harness shops, hotel, meat market, millinery store, saloons, sawmill, schoolhouse, and wagon shop.
Michigan’s tiniest post office is located just five miles north of Sumner in the village of Elm Hall. Read all about it and see photos HERE.
These days Sumner’s lumber industry has given way to farming as its staple of economy. Driving thru and around the neighborhoods of Sumner, you’ll discover a handful of old stores still standing. It’s a cool little drive-thru to make on your next Michigan roadtrip!