It’s one of those towns we always pass by on our way up north, approximately 35 miles north of the junction where US-127 turns into US-75.

How many times have you – or someone else in the car – ask “which do we come to first? Gaylord or Grayling?" Since both towns sound similar and begin with the letter “g” it confuses most of us. An easy way to remember: If you’re looking at a map, think of the two towns as being listed alphabetically, even though they are north and south of each other. Gaylord is north and Grayling is south. The same theory applies to Houghton and Higgins lakes…Higgins is north, Houghton is south.

Anyway, back to Gaylord.

Originally named ‘Barnes’ by early settlers in 1874 when the Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw Railroad came barreling thru Otsego County, the village was re-named after Augustine Smith Gaylord, one of the railroad attorneys. He never lived in the town named after him, but had a home in Saginaw. President Grant had sent Gaylord to Montana to negotiate a treaty with the Native Americans and the trip may have been too strenuous on him. He passed away in Saginaw at the age of 46 in 1877.

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: Becomes the county seat, taking it over from Otsego Lake
1881: Incorporated as a village
1905: Marketing ploy was implemented to bring prospective residents. One of the ‘perks’ of living in Gaylord was that it was on the 45th parallel. How that helped, I don’t know.
1922: Incorporated as a city.

Many of the hardwoods found throughout Otsego County and Gaylord were cut down and used to make items you wouldn’t expect; items like bowling pins, golf club heads, and wooden shoes.

Did you know Gaylord had its own automobile factory? The Gaylord Motor Car Company formed in 1910 by a group of well-to-do investors that fantasized at beating Detroit at its own automobile game. An enthusiastic idea, but it didn’t work. After only 350 vehicles were produced, the plant went bankrupt and shut down in 1922 (the first Gaylord automobile can be seen in the photo gallery below).

Thanks to its location, the town grew. Travelers in the first half of the 1900s were treated to many roadside stops in the Gaylord area: snack shops, restaurants, souvenir shops, Mom & Pop-pers, gas stations and motels.

As it progressed, Gaylord took on the appearance of an Alpine village as an added tourist attraction. The town also referred to itself as “The Top of Michigan” and “The Ski Capitol of Michigan”. Gaylord is the Michigan Mitten’s city with the highest elevation: 1,394 feet above sea level. Because of this, Gaylord’s snowfall each winter is exceptional and a mecca for skiers.

Take a look below at some great vintage photos of Gaylord, going back over 100 years to the early 1900s!

Vintage Images of Gaylord


Vintage Photos of Old 27

Vintage Photos of Grayling, 1900-1964

Vintage Photos of Alpena, 1900-1940s

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