Mid-Michigan was an untamable wilderness, good only for trappers and Native Americans until America's population exploded and the demand for timber suddenly changed everything. By the 1860s, Clare was at the center of this lumberman's paradise. Startingfrom a small village beside an abandoned lumber camp, the town prospered as farmers, ranchers, and merchants replaced loggers. Hastily thrown-up frame buildings gave way to brick, and interesting local life mirrored small-town America of the early 20th century. Thencame oil, and colorful men such as Henry Ford and Jack Dempsey arrived. Purple Gangsters from Detroit moved in to take advantage of a "clean" investment. A famous murder at the local grand hotel brought national attention. On the eve of World War II, Clare had risen from the wilderness to be a fascinating community tucked away in middle America.