Sam's Village: Sam Shibler creates a village within the village of Clayton

Written by David Green.


Most people look at a pile of junk and see just that—a pile of junk.

That’s not how it works for Sam Shibler. He sees things differently.

Sam sees a small scale feed mill. He sees a locomotive just big enough for a child to sit inside. He sees tractors and a lighthouse, tables and benches, a bird house, a barn and a train depot.

Right now he’s trying to see a church.

Over the past dozen years, Sam Shibler has created a miniature village in his home town of Clayton. Spread across the lot next to his woodworking and antique store is an array of small buildings and other creations.

The lot is getting full, but he’s not done yet.

“I’ve got plans for two or three more,” he said. “The next thing…I’ve got a lot of people who want me to make a little church.”

Planning for the church means scouting around for construction material.

“I’m looking at other people’s junk to see what I can do with it,” Sam said. “As you can see, almost everything here is recycled.”

He points to a building that serves as a mock machine shed. This was his first creation. The shell of the building was once an enormous shipping crate from overseas. Sam covered it over, added a door and windows, and finished it off with trim and decorations.

The jail in his little village came from another part of Clayton where it used to serve as a playhouse for kids. His feed mill once was part of a real feed mill. It was the cupola on top of the old Anderson mill in town.

His trading post was part of Clayton’s old slaughterhouse. Mom’s Place was once an old addition on the side of Joe Borck’s house on Tomer Road. A small metal building once functioned as a Consumer Power shed.

His bank was…now Sam is puzzled. The origin of that building is eluding him.

Finally the connection is made.

“It came from Posey Lake off an old cottage,” Sam recalls.

Every building tells a story, and that’s why it would be so difficult to watch one get hauled away down the street.

“At first I was going to sell the buildings, but it’s hard to part with them.”

It’s the little outhouse/storage sheds and the new line of log cabin design outbuildings that he’s selling. Those and the benches, tables, cabinets, houses for birds, bats and butterflies, and all the other myriad creations.

When Sam sees something useful, he doesn’t always know what’s going to become of it.

“Sometimes I’ll look at something for six months and then I’ll say, ‘That’s why I brought it home.’”

And sometimes he thinks he knows what’s coming up, but even he ends up surprised.

“I’ll build a floor and I’ll tell people it’s going to be one thing,” he said. “They’ll come back a week later and it’s something else.”

Other times it’s all too obvious. He once saw an old metal shower and knew he had to have it.

“When I saw that, I just knew it was going to make a good milk truck,” he said.

The truck is now part of his collection, out there near the locomotive and train depot. In Sam’s eye, his lot looked a little empty in the middle so he built a wooden water tower for the locomotive. Right now, he likes that water tower more than anything he’s built.

“It’s the lighthouse and the barn that are drawing the most attention,” Sam said, “and now the log cabins are catching on.”

He’ll keep turning out those cabins, along with the benches and cabinets and bird houses. The love for working with wood must run in his blood.

“I’ve been making stuff ever since I could drive a nail,” he said. “I’m just a nut building some buildings.”

    – Sept. 18, 2002 
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016