Alger County WWII
about 1900 many Slovenian country people came from their homeland around
Ljubljana, bordering Italy, Austria, and Hungary, to work in Upper
Peninsula mines and lumber camps. Michigan was well known in Slovenia
because of the energetic activities of Slovenian missionaries, beginning
with Father Frederick Baraga, the legendary Snowshoe Priest.
Slovenes who worked in Michigan lumber camps settled in this neighborhood. Their
Slovenian hall, cemetery, general store, and tidy two-room school remain today,
neatly arranged around the intersection of Limestone-Traunik Road (H-44) and
Eben Depot Road (H-01).
Coming upon Traunik is a little like falling into a time warp. The story goes
that storekeeper and postmaster Louis Mikulich commemorated his native Slovenian
village when he changed the settlement's name from Buckeye Landing (commemorating
the Buckeye Land & Lumber Company) to Traunik. Pronounced "TRAW-nik," it
means "meadow" in Slovenian.
For a look back at Mikulich's general store, and how it was truly one-stop
shopping, visit traunik.com. In
spring, 2008, it reopened as Lily's coffeehouse and health food and gift shop.
The Traunik Slovenian Hall has been preserved thanks to the efforts of
native son and current resident Frank Bartol, a retired Northern Michigan University
English teacher. "It was too precious to go down," he says. Many such landmark
buildings could be safeguarded, he maintains, "if the people who love an area
would pony in" to acquire and maintain them. The hall, not open to the public,
is now used for occasional weddings and two polka dances a year. Occasionally
it hosts a big reunion with visitors from Slovenia.
Frank wrote for the historical marker: "To this place [the Slovenian settlers]
came, beginning in 1912, and when enough had formed a community, they named it ‘Traunik.'
. . . They brought with them a willingness to work and a determination to succeed.
Out of the forests they shaped fields, homes, and a good life for their families.
This monument has been placed here. . . by their children and grandchildren,
now scattered about the world but tied by invisible bonds to this spot, where
once the night air was filled with Slovenian melodies."