Posted by: Kath Usitalo | July 28, 2011

Curiosity Stop: Elsie The Cowtown

Elsie's big cow

In my criss-crossing of the state I’d never visited the village of Elsie, a dairy area not far from Ovid (a more familiar landmark might be the state capitol–Lansing is about 30 miles southwest of Elsie).

Mom’s name was Elsie, so when I found myself just a few (country) miles east of town I decided to swing through to see this Elsie’s giant cow statue and get a whiff of the dairy air. But the name of the town has nothing to do with Borden Dairy’s “Elsie the Cow.”

In 1836 white settlers moved to the area that had been home to the Sauk and then the Chippewa Indians. By 1850 the growing population justified a school, but the community wasn’t called Elsie until 1857, after Elsie Amelia Tillotson, the first white child born in the village.

A sign outside of the library, “Elsie Historical Room,” caught my eye, but after being greeted by Yoshi the Library Dog I learned that access to the papers, photos, and other records is by appointment.

Yoshi, the Elsie Library Dog

The library ladies said someone would be happy to come and unlock it for me, and gave me names and phone numbers to call. I decided to save that for another day and opted for a stroll along Elsie’s main vein.

The giant cow—which looks more like Elsie the Cow’s husband Elmer the Bull—has a prominent place next to the town hall.

Milk can turned flower pot, Elsie

Elsie has a bank, hardware store, market, pizza joint (where you can get ice cream, too) and a place that offers massages and alternative healing services. And a lot of vacant buildings. I know there’s a funeral home nearby because someone stopped and asked me for directions.

The Red Rooster Cafe is a bright spot in town. Although it was between meal times I popped in to check out what was behind the cheery facade.

The joint is cozy and nicely decorated (with roosters, of course). It’s the kind of place where everyone stops talking to size up the stranger who just walked through the door.

The homemade pie (a la mode, of course–this is dairy country) was tempting but I couldn’t have done it justice.

That’ll have to wait until next time.

Red Rooster, a cheery cafe in Elsie

I would like to return to Elsie for a self-guided visit to Green Meadow Farms. At 6,500 acres and 9,500 head of cattle, mostly Holsteins, it’s one of the largest dairy farms in Michigan and has one of the largest herds of registered Holsteins in the country.

Green Meadow Farms is home of the Michigan State University Training Center for Dairy Professionals and works with large animal veterinarians.

In another project with the MSU Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, the farm’s complex manure system uses a methane digester to produce electricity.

Udderly fascinating.

Detail from a mural for the annual Dairy Festival, held in early July

Chowing down on the farm, Elsie



  1. i love the dog in the library, he is cuter then the president of the villiage ask anyone who lives here…….

    • Funny!

  2. […] cow-crazy moooooves include a detour to the mid-Michigan town of Elsie, which holds an annual Dairy Festival (July 5-7, 2012) and a tour of the Udderly Delightful […]

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