Thompsonville is a small village located in Benzie County and was founded in the late 19th century. The history of Thompsonville is closely tied to early European-American settlement, the lumber industry, agriculture, and its transformation into a community near Crystal Mountain Resort.

The lumber industry played a significant role in the local economy during the late 19th century. The vast forests in the region were logged to provide lumber for construction and shipping, contributing to the growth of the community.

The Railroads

In 1889 two railroads, the Chicago & West Michigan and the Frankfort & Southeastern had line that crossed in Thompsonville on it’s way to Traverse City. Both lines had depots and 1 story towers that controlled the crossing.

The crossing of the tracks formed a diamond that allowed east/west and north/south rail traffic to pass through Thompsonville.

Thompsonville Diamond Railroad JunctionAs the lumber industry waned, agriculture, particularly fruit farming and livestock raising, became an important part of the local economy. The area’s fertile soil made it well-suited for farming.

Once the area’s hardwood forests were cut down and automobiles were a common sight on area roads, the town started to die out. According to the US census Bureau as of 2021 the population was just 477 and has stayed pretty steady for the last 30-40 years.

Crystal Mountain Resort

Formation of Crystal Mountain Resort: In the mid-20th century, the area around Thompsonville saw the development of Crystal Mountain Resort. The resort has grown to become a popular year-round destination for outdoor and recreational activities, including skiing, golf, and other leisure pursuits.

Thompsonville maintains its rural character while offering a range of amenities and services, largely related to the tourism industry. Today Thompsonville is known for the ski resort/golf resort Crystal Mountain and the Iron Fish Distillery.

Thompsonville continues to be a picturesque community in northern Michigan, providing outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and tourists.


In 2020 a group of residents formed the Thompsonville Area Revitalization Project (TARP). TARP is a nonprofit whose mission is to: “Create an attractive and historically compelling destination for visitors to relax, enjoy, and appreciate the history of a once robust town and rail crossing that played a significant role in the growth and development of Benzie County and Northwest Michigan.”

The hope to not only help improvements such as extending the Betsie Valley Trail east and to encourage the revitalization of the Village of Thompsonville.

Thompsonville Junction CabooseThe junction is now a Rails to Trails stop and was recently recognized with a historical marker. The Dedication and Community Celebration was held June 19, 2021. The marker recognizes both the Junction’s diamond crossing and the village that grew around it.

The last C&O train went through Thompsonville in 1982. In 1991 Tuscola and Saginaw Bay Railway train was the last train through Thompsonville. The diamond survived the dismantling of the tracks and was moved. Today it sits with a Caboose on its tracks in what will eventually become Thompsonville Junction, with a visitors center, trailhead and park.

For more information on the history of Thompsonville check out “Thompsonville in Time”, authored by Charles Kraus an area resident and board member on the Benzie Area Historical Society.

Thompsonville Junction/Village of Thompsonville Historical Marker

Industry and Invention (1875-1915) – Registered in 2020 and erected in 2020 – ID #L2335

Located on Thompson Avenue, Thompsonville – Lat: 44.51935 / Long: -85.93992

Thompsonville Junction

Constructed in 1889, Thompsonville Junction’s did13851amond crossing formed the intersection of the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad (eventually Chesapeake and Ohio) and the Frankfort and Southeastern Railroad (later the Ann Arbor). Both had depots at the junction, which was located just south of Thompson Avenue on what became part of the Betsie Valley Trail. Their lines linked Frankfort to Toledo and the Traverse City area to Chicago. The railroads offered both passenger and freight service. In the summer of 1903 the Ann Arbor operated a “ping-pong” train that took travelers from Thompsonville to Frankfort’s resorts every few hours. All railroad service to Thompsonville ceased by the 1980s. The diamond crossing was moved after the tracks were dismantled.

Village of Thompsonville

A village began growing around the diamond railroad junction in 1890. It was originally known as Lyndonville but was renamed Thompsonville for S.S. Thompson, the president of the Frankfort and Southeastern Railroad. Multiple sawmills served as the first community businesses. Thompsonville incorporated as a village in 1892. By 1896, Thompsonville had established an electrical plant that provided light and power for its residents. The village labeled itself “The Biggest Little Town in Michigan” in 1901. Its population was less than one thousand, but it boasted forty-eight businesses and two churches. Thousands visited the annual village street fair in the early twentieth century. Thompsonville’s population began declining by 1910 and continued to do so as rail service decreased.

Learn more about the rich history of the Northwest Lower Peninsula.