By Sterling McGinn

Over 100 years ago, the lumbering community of Dollarville suffered a major fire that destroyed half of the settlement. More than 20 families who lived in the wooden village were left homeless and the community general merchandise store and other businesses were destroyed.

Newberry and Dollarville were both founded in 1882, and owe their existence to the railroad. Lumberman Robert Dollar transferred his logging operations from Canada to Michigan in 1882. He established a pine mill on the banks of the Tahquamenon River, and a community with his namesake began.

Dollarville was constructed entirely of wood-framed buildings. At the time of the fire the Newberry News reported that Dollarville was without fire protection. Fires were a common occurrence in early villages, because of the use of stoves and kerosene lamps in wood buildings.

In the afternoon of June 18, 1914 a fire broke out in a poolroom located in the middle of town. The proprietor of the poolroom had recently purchased a picture machine and was attempting to operate it. The machine exploded and flames instantly engulfed the structure.

The flames from the poolroom jumped to the neighboring buildings, which quickly ignited.

Fire continued to jump from roof to roof, and soon the entire west side of town was in flames. A large crowd observing the devastation started saving merchandise from the W. H. Krempel Store. The store was located a good distance from the nearest building, but the heat from the other buildings forced those trying to save the store to give up.

A small portion of merchandise was saved before the entire building was engulfed. According to an article in the Newberry News of July 19, 1914, “The buildings were mere shells, built of pine and were dry as tinder.”

As the fire progressed, families tried saving possessions from their homes. Furniture that was saved burned in the streets. A small creek that ran through the town acted as a dividing line for the fire.

A shift in the wind kept the flames from spreading to the rest of Dollarville. A rainstorm also aided the bucket brigade in saving the remainder of town.

After the fire was extinguished, 22 families were without homes and the Krempel store, which was also home to the South Shore Cedar Company office, was totally destroyed. All records of the company burned, with the exception of those kept in the safe.

The Newberry News stated that many of the families were in destitute circumstances and no vacant homes were available in Newberry.

The South Shore Cedar Company barn was the only building saved on the west side. If the barn had caught fire, the mill and lumber stock would have likely been destroyed.

After the fire, the Dollarville population declined to 300. The peak population was 600 in 1905. The Dollarville post office was discontinued in 1919, with mail sent to Newberry. The K-6 Dollarville school continued to operate until 1926, when motorized bussing became available through the Newberry school system.

As for Robert Dollar: Dollar left Michigan after only six years of operating his mill in Dollarville. He sold his conglomerate to the Peninsular Lumber and Manufacturing Company. Dollar moved to California, and after operating a lumbering business there, started the famed Dollar Steam Ship Lines.

The Newberry mill changed hands several times and operated until the early 1920s. After the white pine era ended, cedar products were produced at the Dollarville mill.  The South Shore Cedar Company was the last company to operate the mill, manufacturing cedar shingles and other products.