Across its history, the Upper Peninsula has had many famous and distinguished visitors to the region. Like today, the U.P. has always been an attraction to visitors and tourists. From Mackinac Island to Pictured Rocks. From Copper Country to the resorts of Delta County, visitors have come to view the wonders for nearly 200 years. Great steamships and passenger railroads once traveled to and across the peninsula. Before highways, these were the only ways to travel.
In 1889, Rudyard Kipling embarked on a trip from New York to San Francisco. He would have been about 30 years old and early in his writing career. He had a couple of very successful books under his belt, including Soldiers Three which contained the monumental tale of Gunga Din. The Jungle Book would be released the next year.
A leg of this journey brought Kipling through the U.P. on the Soo Line railroad. One of his early stops was at a budding logging town in Chippewa County. Though referred to as Pine River at the time, it had caused confusion because there was another place already in Michigan called Pine River. Instead, Soo Line General Manager named Fred Underwood, who was an avid Kipling fan, was travelling with him, suggested that the town be named after their illustrious passenger, so Pine River became Rudyard, the name it still bears today.
Proceeding east through Manistique and onwards past the Rapid River, Kipling stopped at another logging community. When he asked Underwood what the name of it was, he was told it didn’t have one yet. It would be dubbed Kipling. The credit to applying Kipling’s name to the two towns goes to Underwood who had the right to name stops on the line in his position as General Manager. Many past historians have claimed there is no evidence that Kipling ever came through the U.P. I disagree. When Kipling was informed by Underwood that the towns had been named after him he was quite flattered and requested pictures of both places. “I write to beg you to send me a photograph if possible, of either Rudyard or Kipling or preferentially both. I shall take a deep interest in their little welfares.”
Kipling dubbed them his “sons in Michigan.” He even included a poem which is reprinted below.
KIPLING’S MICHIGAN TWINS
“Wise is the child who knows his sire”
The ancient proverb ran
But wiser far the man who knows
How, where and when his offspring grows
For who the mischief would suppose
I’ve sons in Michigan?
Yet am I saved from midnight ills
That warp the soul of man
They do not make me walk the floor
Nor hammer on the doctor’s door
They deal in wheat and iron-ore
My sons in Michigan
Oh! Tourist in the Pullman car
(By Cook’s or Raymond’s plan)
Forgive a parent’s partial view
But may be you have children too
So let me introduce to you
My sons in Michigan
-Rudyard Kipling, poem reprinted from wikipedia
The poem itself mentions the view from the “Pullman Car.”
In 1922, after publishing a book of local history, the town of Rudyard sent Kipling a copy. He responded with a letter which seems to confirm his time in the Upper Peninsula. The letter sent to the town of Rudyard from Kipling in 1923 has Kipling recalling memories from his time spent in the U.P.!
““I have not been in Michigan since a trifle more than thirty years ago, and in those days big stretches of the State were hardly settled up, and the trade at the small stores in Schoolcraft county, if I recollect aright, was nearly all barter. There certainly did not seem to be any prospect of hay for export in those days and it is hard to realize that all the lumber round you must be cleared by now.” (15 January 1923: British Library).
Schoolcraft County is where most of his trip would have travelled between Rudyard and Kipling. This letter leaves little doubt he was in the U.P. 30 years previously. His description of the region is accurate and his mention specifically of Schoolcraft County leaves little doubt to his one time presence. His name lives on with the namesake communities that still exist today, though Kipling (the town) is but a shadow of itself.
More about Rudyard Kipling here: