The Michigan Central Railroad arrived in Jackson in 1841 and Jackson remained the railroad’s western terminal for many years. This brought a flood of settlers, prospectors, pioneers, and entrepreneurs to Jackson. With the railroad, many jobs opened up with the need for services such as repair work, metal-shaping and foundry capabilities, freight-shipping, and an increasing tourist trade. Jackson was a midway stop between Detroit and Chicago which made a great asset. Until 1856, the Michigan Central held a monopoly over railroad transportation services in Jackson. However, that year a second company arrived, the Michigan Southern, and now Jackson was the first settlement in Michigan to service two competing lines. By 1871, Jackson had become Michigan’s Central City as products and people were coming in and Jackson products were able to be transported all over the country. When the Michigan Central re-located their locomotive and repair shops from Marshall to Jackson, it brought over 1,000 jobs to the community. These jobs included mechanics, engineers, foundry specialists and other knowledgeable skilled workers (Ella Sharp Museum, 38-40).
Many famous Americans have stopped in Jackson on the railroad including Dwight D. Eisenhower, William Taft, John F. Kennedy. The train however began to slow down once the car took over the travel and transportation aspect of the country.
My family has a connection with the railroads in Jackson. Jackson still has the oldest and operational train station in the country. Many companies still ship goods through the lines in Jackson because of it’s central location. My family owns a machine company where we make machines, fix machines, and then have a branch that ships the products. In the late 20th century, my grandfather Leo Miller, purchased the warehouses that the Michigan Central used for shipping purposes. To this day, trains and freight trucks arrive in the warehouses and big cranes will move the machines onto the transportation vehicles. The F.P. Miller company started with my great-grandfather working as a machinist for the Jackson Automobile Company. He wanted to start his own business so in 1922 he opened a business in car repair in his home garage.Within a couple years, he moved out of the garage and owned several machine shops and by 1937 the company moved to a larger facility and became one of Jackson’s largest machining industry.
By Elaine Brewster