Custer, Mich.

Population: 400

smithsonian.com

Custer, Michigan, population around four hundred, would not exist today, except for an entrepreneur, Joseph Sanders. Joe was born in 1901, grew up in Custer when the main street was closely aligned with the railroad tracks.

Don Howard would push the mail cart from the train, each noon to the post office where Sadie Howard sorted the mail. Don then went down the street past Dave Fisher's grocery store, Mead's Clothing establishment to Joe Howard's Barber Shop and Pool Hall. Beyond was Alson and Smedberg's Hardware and across the street, the Custer Garage where there was one gasoline pump, where you pumped up the gas into the glass globe and gravity flow let the gas into your tank. The horse drawn water wagon for fires was housed in the fire barn. Roaches grocery store, Don Fisher's Used Furniture and the bank were "John Doe" was the teller filled the opposite side. (When my sister went to college, she told her friends, "I know John Doe".)

Joe Sanders married in 1925, he and his wife, Vera had three children; Les, Doris Jean and Carlton.

Joe borrowed money from his father-in-law to buy a cow to butcher. He peddled the meat house-to-house and from that humble beginning started the Sanders Meat Packing Company. It still operates on the main street of Custer. Joe and his sons eventually purchased the south side of the main street and built their processing plant, which is the biggest business in the area. Most of the people in the area have worked for Sanders at some point.

The businesses that were on Main Street migrated up to US10 so the Sanders Meat Packing Company is now on Sanders Street. The trains no longer run through town. It's been a long time since horse drawn buggies were tied to the iron hitching posts along the main street, but Custer, thanks to a young man's dream still exists, and you can still find one bent iron hitching post along Sanders Street.

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