By Steve Ellis
Three Oaks is a sleepy little village tucked into the southwest corner of Michigan, only five miles from Lake Michigan and two miles from the Indiana border.
It was first settled in 1850 by Henry Chamberlain and was originally called Chamberlain’s Siding. The name was quickly changed to Three Oaks because of three oak trees that stood at the train stop and acted as a guide for train engineers
The “Dewey Cannon” put Three Oaks on the map in 1899. The cannon, captured in the Spanish–American War by Admiral Dewey, was presented to Three Oaks when its citizens raised $1,400 for a memorial to the men of the battleship USS Maine. This was the largest contribution per capita of any community in the nation. The cannon and park were dedicated on October 17, 1899, by President William McKinley.
The Warren Featherbone Factory was built over a century ago by Edward Kirk Warren and was a major employer in the area.
The company stripped turkey feathers of their quills and used them in women’s garments of the era, such as corsets. The factory building still stands today and houses the Journeyman Distillery and the Acorn Theater.
The Journeyman Distillery is worth a stop even if just to see this historic building. It offers tours, special events, has great food and specializes in handcrafted artisan whiskey.
The Acorn Theater is the perfect place to see regional and national acts in a cozy, intimate setting.
Three Oaks has a great downtown full of art galleries, antique shops, great restaurants and the Vickers Theatre. The Vickers shows independent, documentary, and foreign language films.
We’ve had breakfast at the Viola Café and the Oaks Eatery. Both are very good.
The Dewey Cannon Trading Company is the location for tourist and cycling information and bicycle rentals. Attached is the Three Oaks Bicycle Museum, which is free and houses a couple dozen classic old bikes.
The annual Apple Cider Century bicycle tour through the local countryside brings over 5,000 cyclists to the area for the one-day race – September 25 this year. Cyclists can ride a variety of distances ranging from 15 to 100 miles. Jackie and I chose the 25-mile route a few years back and had a great time.
Froehlich’s, Poppy Hill Vintage, Blais Rustic Chic and Trilogy Antiques and Designs are our don’t-miss stores.
A trip to Three Oaks is not complete without stopping into Drier’s Old Fashioned Meat Market. The 100-plus-year-old Drier’s is like stepping back in time into the type of butcher shop our grandparents would have frequented. There are pictures on the wall of Carl Sandburg and Larry Hagman, who had been regular customers over the years.
The movie Prancer was filmed in Three Oaks. While having breakfast in town last winter, we spoke with the folks at the table next to us and asked if they were in town when Prancer was filmed there. The ladies’ eyes lit up and told us of how exciting it was to have real live movie stars in town like Sam Elliott and Cloris Leachman and how nice they were.
If you are looking for a great place to visit that is close to home, the village of Three Oaks is hard to beat.
By Steve Ellis