hartley history


The Hartley Nature Camp Corporation was created in 1948 by Peter Hartley. The camp continued until acquired by the Saginaw Intermediate School District in 1969. In 1975, Hartley Outdoor Education Center opened its door. It was founded on the site of Coal Mine No. 8 and is also home to the Schroeder Log Cabin.


In 1896 John Schroeder built this one-and-one-half-story log home for his family on a farm about a mile west of Freeland. His son George resided there until 1968. Exhibiting hand-hewn, notched white pine logs, boarded gables, and a wood-shingled roof, the cabin was moved to the Hartley Outdoor Education Center in 1978. Equipped with furnishings from the late nineteenth century, the cabin is a pioneer heritage studies site where students can practice pioneer crafts and skills.

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Located at the Hartley Outdoor Education Center, coal mine No. 8 was one of the longest-operating coal mines in Michigan after coal was originally discovered in the St. Charles area in 1896.

On this site in 1917, the Robert Gage Coal Company sunk a shaft 200 feet beneath the surface while the main entrance off the shaft was about three miles long. The mine often employed as many as four hundred men who worked in pairs. In 1919 a miner earned sixty to seventy cents per ton. After undercutting and blasting coal from seams 22 to 64 inches thick, miners shoveled it into cars pulled by mules and electric motors to the cage, where it was lifted up the shaft to the tipple. It was then sorted, weighed, and loaded into railroad cars. The highest grade of bituminous coal in Michigan was mined here until 1931, when the shift to other fuels and competition from higher-grade coal in different states made it necessary to close.

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The Murphy Farm in Swan Creek Township is a Michigan Historic site located on the north side of 13300 West Townline Road in St. Charles. Murphy Farm includes the farmhouse, barn, Henige Cabin and general store. Visitors may walk to the school through the trails from the Beaver Road parking lot or drive to it. 

In May of 2012, one of the oldest buildings in Saginaw County found a new home at the Hartley Outdoor Education Center’s Murphy Farm.

The barn, on Water near Saginaw Avenue, likely is the oldest building in St. Charles, according to Thomas B. Mudd, president of the Saginaw Valley Historic Preservation Society and Saginaw County Hall of Fame.

The Frank N. Andersen Foundation granted $500,000 to Hartley officials for relocation and renovation of the barn to their grounds. The barn is now used for its original purpose as a demonstration of the 1800s blacksmithing trade.


The Fowler School is a one-room schoolhouse built in 1882 on the corner of Burt and Chapin Roads in Marion Township in Saginaw County, where a single teacher held classes for children from first through eighth grade until 1943. In 1988 the Saginaw Intermediate School District purchased the school building from Mr. and Mrs. Wilmar Lacker and had it moved from its original location to Hartley's Murphy Farm. Today the Fowler School is a fully restored and registered Michigan Historic Site, once again educating students with a hands-on history experience. 

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Information gathered from Lost in Michigan, MLive, and Walker Homeschool Blog