Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer
Taking the Chelsea off-ramp from Interstate 94 on a recent Sunday, I wondered what would have greeted my ancestors when they made the trek from New York to this area in the 1830s. Certainly not the Taco Bell, KFC and McDonalds we found on the road! Chelsea is a wonderful, small town with one of our favorite restaurants, The Common Grill. Unfortunately, I had no time to sample their fresh seafood on this trip. We were looking for the church that my great, great, great, great grandfather, John Glenn, and his brother Charles had built in 1846 on the family homestead—North Lake United Methodist. The church had special family meaning, as its first services were held in our family’s home and my great (x5) uncle served as the speaker. He wasn’t a trained minister, but religion was important to my family, which had arrived in Washtenaw County just eight years after the county’s founding. The Glenn brothers first built a school that doubled as the community’s church. Before our visit, I’d only seen photos of the building in family albums, and it was eerie to imagine the simple white wooden structure as it might have first looked when the family built it in 1846. Leaving Chelsea and after ten more minutes’ drive, we arrived in Dexter, a quaint village of 4000 souls along the banks of the Huron River and Mill Creek. Strange how we had ended up living 57 miles from where my great grandmother, Emma Glenn, was born in Dexter. We had named our daughter after this great grandmother, and two others who shared the family name. My great grandfather, Richard William Webb, was born nearby in Unadilla. All of this family genealogy made us hungry, so we started searching for a lunch spot. The local Dairy Queen was one possible choice; I do love their chocolate dipped soft serve ice cream. Terry B’s looked more to our taste—a restaurant and bar, located in a arts and craft style former farmhouse built during the 1850s. The yellow building with a bright purple awning looked very inviting with its big deck for outside seating. My great grandmother might very well have walked by this same house growing up in Dexter. It did feel like a day for family ghosts, but no one joined us for lunch at Terry B’s, as it was only open for dinner. Their menu looked it liked was worth a return visit, however, to try their Michigan Shrimp and Grits or locally raised rib-eye steak. Our next choice was the Red Brick Kitchen and Bar, a self-styled gastro-pub. It looked wonderful. Luckily, I didn’t have my heart set on that one either, as it was closed on Sundays! It seemed that this trip had not been very well planned from an eating perspective. But, not being food snobs, we went back to the Dairy Queen. Their original double cheeseburger with a side of onion rings fit the bill. I took my ice cream cone along for a short walk along the river boardwalk in the new Mill Creek Park. In addition to the boardwalk, the park boasts an amphitheater, two boat launches, two observation and fishing decks and benches. On our back way through the outskirts of Chelsea on Territorial Road, we decided to stop at the Ugly Dog Distillery. We wanted to buy a bottle of their bacon-flavored vodka, which had been recommended for Bloody Marys. The distillery was born out of a bet between two friends, made at a campfire four years ago. The spirits were named after one of the owners’ dog, Ruger, a German wire haired pointer. Bacon was not their only unusually flavored vodka. How about whipped cream vodka? Perhaps the next time we visit my family roots, we’ll search for the family graveyard, where all our forebears now rest, to pay our respects…and go on a day when the local restaurants are open.