Mason County History Companion
Old Places Familiar Faces
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I am more than grateful to Ethelwyn Wing whose prodding suggestions and helpful criticism kept this story alive when my discouraged inclination was to let it die; to Effie Fortune Stanford and Charlotte Leonardson who courageously read through the typescript searching for errors (and found them); to Kathryn Stanford, city librarian, and Agnes MacLaren of the Daily News staff who made available to me old newspaper files; to Mabel Morse who brought me much valuable material from the Smith-Morse family collection; to Rose D. Hawley, curator of the Mason County Historical Society museum, who made available a great deal of classified material; to Charles E. Cartier whose knowledge and memory of lumbering in Mason County have proved highly valuable; to Dr. Charles W. Brayman of Cedar Springs whose loan of his mother's diaries preserved an outstanding record of pioneer days; to Miss Carrie Mears who loaned her father's diaries for publication and to Mrs. Allen Williams who edited them; to Jacob Lunde whose diorama has given a priceless record of lumbering days; and to the members of pioneer families whose reminiscences have been exceedingly helpful, among them: Flora Pierce Clark, David Gibbs, Karl Ashbacker and Ida Ashbacker Grant; Ben Beaudreau, Hans Rasmussen, James H. Sawyer of Chicago, Edith Dowland Hawkes, Bess LaBelle Sheldon, Daisy Marsh Reek, George Pomeroy, Maria Hansen Daub, Virgil Fitch, Florence Fitch, Mrs. Charles Dahn and those who have related reminiscences of their families in the meetings of the Mason County Historical Society from which sources I have drawn freely.
SAND, SAWDUST AND SAW LOGS Lumber Days in Ludington
I have set myself the pleasant task of picturing some of
the scenes and recalling some of the people who walked the stage in the era of
the lumber mill and sailing ship. Then our lives were shaped by the roistering
lumber jack's echoing call of "timber-r-r," the roaring drive of pine
logs down the Pere Marquette River and the
noisy hum of saw mills. From memories that have remained with me, from
such information as I have been able to garner from old timers and the dusty
files of yellowed newspapers, I have pieced together this none-too-serious and
unconventional account of the region around Pere Marquette Lake. I have
attempted to make this record accurate, but
no doubt much that was important has faded from my memory or escaped my attention. None of my
sources is infallible. Such as it is, I submit this history of early
Mason County hoping it may be acceptable to those readers who enjoy the flavor of by-gone days.
About a half century after Columbus discovered the New World, the bold French explorer, Jacques Cartier, anchored in the Bay of Gaspe and claimed all the land back of it for his sovereign, Louis XIII. Cartier named this region New France in America. A bit more than half a century later James I of England established the boundaries of the Virginia colony to extend "up into the land throughout from sea to sea west and northwest." James called this vast region his Fifth Dominion. Thus the banners of two kings floated at one time over the fair land of which Mason County is a part.
But the Indian held possession. Tribe fought tribe, the swaying pines grew undisturbed and the tiny beaver, not knowing that his silky brown fur was prized by kings, paddled into the placid streams to construct his dams. A French fur trading company named the Hundred Associates was the first to penetrate these green-black forests of the Indian.
A century after Cartier claimed the region, Samuel Champlain, governor of New France, entrusted a young fur trader, Jean Nicolet, with the responsibility of bringing together as many Indians "as could be notified by fleet runners" to make a treaty which would give the King of France jurisdiction over these vast hunting grounds. After a series of feasts and ceremonies, Nicolet made a treaty with the Indians. Thus was established the Inner Empire of Michil-Mackinac.
The English Hudson's Bay Company soon followed. Raising their flag with their Latin slogan, "a skin for a skin", they established their trading posts irritatingly near the French. The worried French began erecting forts around the English from Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico. Soon bickerings began that led to the long series of French and Indian wars in which the Indians were generally allied with the French against the English.
The long conflict became involved with the tremendous Seven Years' War in Europe. When the conflict ended in 1763, France had been driven from the American continent and English territory extended west to the Mississippi River. Beyond lay Spanish territory—Louisiana.
Regardless of the foreign flags waving above them the Indians carried on their own wars. In the many conflicts the Iroquois drove the Chippewa, the Ottawa and the Potawatomi westward to the shores of Lake Michigan. After a time these three tribes formed a loose confederacy, though the Potawatomi sometimes warred against the other two. In one of these conflicts the river now known as the Pere Marquette, received the Indian name Not-a-pe-ka-gon, "river with heads on sticks," following a battle between a tribe of Ottawa living along its banks and a fierce band of Potawatomi from the south.
The conquering Potawatomi, in celebration of their victory and as a warning to all unfriendly tribes, severed the heads of their slain victims and erected the grim trophies on poles along the river edge. Nin-de-be-ke-tun-ning, "place of skulls", was the gruesome name given the Indian village on the south side of Pere Marquette Lake.
The First White Men
The recorded history of Mason County did not begin with accounts of subduing Indians. Nicolet's treaty had opened a vast territory to the missionaries of his faith who, according to Bancroft, "went out with altars strapped to their backs, with a flask of communion wine and a packet of colored pictures of the saints" to rescue the souls of the savages. Their work had made this country safe for development when the white settlers arrived. The letters, diaries and reports—the Jesuit Relations-sent by these ardent missionaries to their superiors mark the beginning of recorded history of the Great Lakes region. The death of one of these courageous missionaries, Pere Jacques Marquette, begins the recorded history of the white man in Mason County.
On the eighteenth of May, 1675, a weather-beaten, birch-bark canoe took shelter in the shallow "river" that channeled the placid waters of Pere Marquette Lake into the restless waters of Lake Michigan. Attending the dying priest, prone on a rush mat in the bottom of the canoe, were his two voyageurs— "donnes"—devout men of the church who gave their services to the missionaries without pay—Jacques L'Argilier and Pierre Porteret. These three white men were the first to visit this region so far recorded.
Marquette's faithful attendants hastily prepared a rude hut of saplings and bark, kindled a fire of driftwood, and bore the beloved missionary to this flimsy shelter on a lonely hill. Hours later the intrepid young priest, only thirty-eight years old, died. His sorrowing men buried his body on the desolate knoll, and over his grave placed a wooden cross.
Two years later some of Marquette's followers returned and exhumed the precious bones. With solemn ceremonial they were carried to the mission at St. Ignace and enshrined. The rustic cross was left to mark the hallowed spot.
Nearly half a century later Pierre Xavier de Charlevoix visited his fellow explorer's death site and, recording the first description of the barren sandy region, stated that the "river" was "no more than a brook" but that it widened into a lake nearly two leagues in circuit, and that the river had apparently cut through a great hummock. Today Charlevoix's sand-clogged "brook" is known as the site of the old channel. The present channel is man-made. The river proper, the former Not-a-pe-ka-gon, enters the lake on its eastern border. Both lake and river bear the name of Pere Marquette.
Fur traders, fishermen and eventually permanent white settlers followed Charlevoix and found remnants of a weathered cross atop a sandy hill. Among these white visitors was William Quevillonwho came through here in 1835-6 buying pelts of the Indians for Louis Campeau, founder of Grand Rapids.
After several years Quevillon returned and settled on a farm on the Claybanks. Later he moved to Ludington. He platted a subdivision in the north part of Ludington naming the streets for his family and himself. Quevillon linked the eras of the passing red man and the oncoming white man.
Though the Indians here were friendly when the first white man came, evidence of strife among the tribes remained. Pounding breakers and beating winds bared the sandy soil and brought to the surface flint arrow heads and broken bones of warriors who had fallen in battle. The new comer found Indian history suggested in the names by which the streams, the villages and the land were known to the native. Indian legends gave precise accounts of events of historical import. All combined to tell the story that became the prized possession of the first white families who lived here. An outstanding Indian, Naw-gone-ko-ung, "Leading Thunder", bridged the days of the transient fur trader and the permanent settler. In 1845, just after the death of Sag-e-Maw, the last chief of the Ottawa, Indian families began to scatter. Leading Thunder was among the few who remained. Nearly all reminiscences of early settlers mention him as Good John.
John was reared in the lodge of his grandmother having been orphaned when a child. For many years he kept alive traditions that she had imparted to him. The Indian, having no written language, passed on by accurate oral reporting the history he wanted preserved. It was from the eager Good John that pioneers heard the story of Black Robe and the weathered cross that marked the place of his death. John had seen one of the crosses erected by early missionaries. He had been converted to Christianity and fired with zeal for the cause.
The Indian such as the white man found here a century ago has disappeared from this region. The few who remain in this county have received schooling and, for the most part, are respected and useful members of this community.
On a balmy day in the late summer of 1847, The Eagle, a sailing schooner northbound from Chicago, with a family of six aboard, stood off the entrance to Pere Marquette Lake. Unable
to sail through the shallow channel, the captain sent the family ashore in the yawl. Their oxen, cows, and pigs were forced overboard, and after circling the schooner once or twice, swam ashore. A year's provisions for the family were brought to land in row boats. Such was the dramatic arrival of the Burr Caswell family, first permanent white settlers in the region about Pere Marquette Lake. Burr was forty years old, his wife, Hannah Green, a year or two younger. Of their four children, Mary was fifteen, George thirteen, Helen ten, and Edgar seven.
The Caswell family lived for a time in a driftwood cabin which the father, who had fished in the adjoining waters the previous two summers, had built for them. The cabin was near Nin-de-be-ka-tun-ning, the Indian village of fifty " fires" and gruesome memory. These Indians lived in lodges, rectangular in shape, made of bark and covered with dome-shaped roofs. Later Caswell built a spacious house from lumber which had washed up on the beach, the historic house still standing on the Lake Shore Road.
Securing The Waterways
During the '40's the pine-covered lands surrounding Pere Marquette Lake were turned over to private ownership. John S. Wheeler made the first entry in June of 1840 taking up a fractional section which included land on the south and east shores and part of the lake itself. Seven years later the land at the present channel was entered by Joseph Boyden.
At the end of the decade George Farnsworth and Henry R. Talmadge had taken up the remaining land. These four men controlled transportation on the lake, river and channel.
Waterways were important then and the man who owned land at the mouth of a river often exacted tribute of those along its course. The beach was the main highway. Sailing craft had been spreading their silver wings on the Great Lakes for nearly two centuries, ever since La Salle's "Griffon" made the first voyage on Lake Ontario. "Walk-in-the-Water", acclaimed as the first steamer to navigate the Lakes, had led the way for the propeller thirty years previously. But up to this time the sailing ship and the steamboat merely foretold the commerce of the lakes. The inland waterways still belonged to the canoe, the row boat and the tiny sailing boats.
In 1845 an enterprising young man from Massachusetts, destined to play an important part in the development of the western part of the state, came scouting along the east shore of Lake Michigan. Charles Mears looked with eager eyes on the pine-backed rivers of Mason County. He foresaw that the settlers on the western prairies would build their houses of these towering pines, and the lumber must be transported on these lakes and streams. Of course something would have to be done about these sand-clogged channels, but he was the man to do it. Pere Marquette lands were already taken, but there were "Big Sauble" and "Little Sauble" just north. Mears returned in two years and entered all available land on these lakes and rivers. Old Freesoil beyond "Big Sauble" had been entered in 1844 by John H. Harris.
Thus all the waterways within the boundaries of the present Mason County came under control of individual owners. The stage was set for the great drama of the lumbering era.
Charles Mears had found at Old Freesoil a little water-powered lumber mill, operated by a man named Porter. Porter's mill burned about 1846 and the place was abandoned for awhile, Old Freesoil thereby losing the distinction of becoming the first permanent settlement in the county.
In 1849 a rustic saw mill was built by Baird and Bean on the north shore of Pere Marquette Lake at the foot of the present south William Street where a little creek entered the lake. The pine lands surrounding the lake had come into possession of George W. Ford and Joseph W. Smith. The first land which they logged off was the present site of the Court House and the Stearns Hotel. Charles Mears began operations two years later (1851) at Little Sauble, now part of Epworth Heights.
The years following the arrival of the Burr Caswell family marked the opening of the region to agriculture. Among the first farmers were Amabel Cowan, William Quevillon, Peter LaBelle, Jeremiah Phillips, and Charles King. All settled on the rich land of the Claybanks.
Others soon followed and settled along the watercourses of the region where for untold autumns the gold and crimson leaves of maple, beech and birch had fluttered to the ground to form the fertile top soil of Mason County's fields and orchards.
The history of farm building in Mason County is packed with drama. If portrayed in murals an awe-inspiring pageant of men and women of high purpose and great hardihood could be portrayed. The William Freemans and their seven children treked over trails covered with ground hemlock into the dense forests of Freesoil where the father had prepared a house for them. The house burned the first night of their arrival as howling wolves looked on. Undismayed the Freemans set up their family altar under the towering trees the following morning, and the father gave thanks that his family was safe.
The diary of Hiram Beebe of Summit Township reads like a great tone poem set to the rhythm of the woodsman's ax: "Cold and clear. Chopped on the job all day in heavy hardwood timber. "It has been a nice day to chop ... I cut down 50 trees.
"Had very good luck jamming timber. I will finish the strip 16 rods wide tomorrow forenoon. "I broke my ax and now I am a bankrupt timber slasher. "I ground up an old ax that had laid around all summer and now will have to cope with it."
The David Darrs treked to a homestead in the dense woods of Freesoil. The discouraged father, dismayed by the howling wolves, the pestering fleas and mosquitoes, and the difficulties of travel through forests, was willing to return to Ohio, but the resolute mother walked gallantly along the trail, her industrious fingers busy with her knitting, her needles glinting as an occasional ray of the sun filtered through the dense foliage.
Charles Dahn and his homesteading neighbors of Amber Township, unable to get material in by road to finish their log houses, poled a raft of lumber against the swift current of the Pere Marquette river, battling the slush ice of early winter.
When conditions made it impossible for them to go on, they tied their raft to the Elm Rollway for the remainder of the winter. When the homesteaders returned in the spring for their lumber, every board had been stolen.
The Samuel C. Genson family drove a covered wagon from Maumee, Ohio, to Victory Corners. Going down hill the horses fell. The broken tongue of the wagon pierced the side of one of the horses—an inestimable loss in a new country. They were obliged to proceed with one horse.
The wife and children of Pierce Butler arrived at Lincoln and learned with disappointment that the father who had preceded them, not knowing the day of their arrival, was not there to meet them. Courageously they set out afoot through the forest over brambled, vine-harrassed trails to their new home in Riverton, the elders carrying the young children and all their goods.
Regardless of hardships, occasions for recreation and enjoyment were not infrequent in this new country. An ox-or horse-drawn sleigh could carry a large part of a neighborhood to a sewing bee, a barn raising, a spelling down, a singing or a quilting.
Organization of churches awaited the coming of the circuit rider, though religion in the home was not neglected by these sturdy pioneers who were as devout as they were hardy.
Pioneers who wrested tillable land from the forest found it necessary to turn to some other form of work to maintain themselves and their families until the farm could support them. Fur trading was still profitable when the first settlers came. The treasured mink and muskrat, the now extinct wolverine and panther, the fox, and above all, the prized beaver whose pelt was so valuable that it served as legal tender for lack of currency, were bartered with the Indians for brass trinkets, gaily colored cloth, knives, guns, tin cups, and the crazing fire water.
Richard Hatfield who, in the early fifties, married Burr Caswell's eldest daughter Mary in the first white wedding in the county, traded in furs. Dick packed the pelts on his back down the lake shore to New Buffalo, the terminus of the Michigan Central Railroad, then "rode the cars" to Detroit.
Some of these pioneers, among them Burr Caswell and his two sons, George and Edgar, turned to fishing for their livelihood. Fishing was big business, not sport, in those strenuous beginning years. Immigrants were pouring into the fertile prairies west of the Great Lakes and on to the Mississippi River where for many years the food supply remained inadequate to maintain the increasing population. The teeming waters of the Great Lakes helped solve the food problem. Hundred pound sturgeon, sixty pound trout, forty pound muskellunge, huge whitefish, pike and pickerel were salted and shipped to this eager market.
The diaries and reminiscences of early comers to this region refer frequently to maple sugar as a money crop. The Indiana produced "Indian" sugar in amazing quantities. J. Freemont Whitaker writes in his reminiscences of Victory Township in the sixties: "Herbert and Gilbert Blodgett came to this district . . . bought sixty acres of fine sugar maple and made and equipped one of the finest camps in Mason County with 3000 buckets." For many years these buckets supplied the syrup for the breakfast stack of hot buckwheat cakes in Ludington homes, and more than one generation of young folks looked forward to the annual jaunt to Blodgett's historic sugar bush.
Though early Mason County found the passenger pigeon a welcome source of food, pioneers knew the bird from the sportsman's angle rather than as a business. A few of these migratory birds came to this part of the state as soon as the snow was off the ground. They reappeared in June, young, fat and desirable for food since they fed on sprouted beech nuts which gave them an unusual flavor.
Sometimes the pigeon appeared for a third time in September. Then farmers found them a pest since they destroyed the sprouted grain in fall-sowed fields. A migration averaged more than a billion birds. Pioneers of this region tell of watching a continuous flight so thick that the sun was obscured for hours.
The birds lived on forest mast and disappeared with the forest. Like the wolverine and the panther, the passenger pigeon has become extinct. No doubt the greatest number of pioneer farmers turned to logging and lumbering for a means of livelihood. The first saw mills began buzzing in this area shortly after the arrival of the first white settlers in the late forties. Writing of conditions in early days from information supplied by the pioneer Charles Houk, Mrs. Merton Luscomb (Lucille French) relates: "We find that Mr. Houk and Smith Hawley are the only two people in Summit who try to farm the year round. Most of the men work their farms in the summer and work in the Ludington lumber camp and mills in the winter."
Charles Dahn relates, "Father worked in Charles Mears' camp for $96 a year and saved $75 . . . After supper all the men except the teamsters, after working in the woods all day, had to make shingles by hand until ten o'clock."
And thus grew the structure of this area's early economy-fur trading, fishing, farming and lumbering. The greatest of these financially was lumbering, but the sturdy pioneer farmer laid the foundation of the entire structure.
The territory now comprising Ottawa, Oceana, and Mason Counties was originally included in Ottawa County. On April 1, 1855 pioneers of this region met for the purpose of organizing a new county. Indians were invited to attend the meeting, and records show that Good John accepted and signed the petition. Forty-one votes were cast. Among the white men who were present were Burr Caswell, Charles W. King, William Quevillon, Oliver Aubery, Delos Holmes, Hiram Bean, George Farnsworth and Richard Hatfield. Three townships, Freesoil, Little Sauble and Pere Marquette were formed.
The county was named in honor of Stevens T. Mason, "boy governor" of Michigan. When in 1831 the territorial governor, Lewis Cass, resigned to become secretary of war in President Andrew Jackson's cabinet, the President appointed George B. Porter of Pennsylvania as governor and John T. Mason of Virginia as secretary of Michigan territory. Porter was too busy with his law practice to come to Michigan, and Mason declined in favor of his nineteen-year-old son who was approved by the President.
In the absence of a governor, the boy became acting governor. When a delegation appeared to protest, young Mason replied, "President Jackson appointed me with his eyes open. Go home and mind your own business." The young man carried on satisfactorily, and four years later was elected first governor of the newly organized state of Michigan.
The first general election of Mason County was held the day after the organization meeting. Daniel Holmes was elected sheriff; George B. Roys, clerk and register of deeds; Charles Freeman and William Quevillon, coroners; John P. Sedan, surveyor; Burr Caswell, judge of probate. Caswell also became fish inspector at this time though there is nothing to indicate this was a county office. The certificate of election was signed by Thomas Andersen and Hiram Orsen as county commissioners (supervisors) and by George B. Roys as clerk.
The first meeting of the supervisors was held at Little Sauble the day following the election, and the second meeting occurred in October. At this meeting the board borrowed twenty-seven dollars from Charles Mears to pay for the necessary books for the register of deeds of the new county. The next meeting was called on January 14, 1856. At this meeting Richard Hatfield was paid a bounty of twenty-four dollars for killing three wolves, and Charles Mears received a dollar and a half for the book for the clerk, presumably from the twenty-seven dollars borrowed from Mears. Funds were getting low.
Another special meeting of the board of supervisors was held at Little Sauble early in November of the same year. At this time John Flinn (Flynn) was appointed to assess the property of the county so that three hundred dollars could be raised to pay its outstanding debts. The board decided also that the county seat should be located on the Burr Caswell farm in Pere Marquette Township where a frame building could be used as a court house.
A meeting was held the following February (1857) at the new county seat, and John Wheeler was appointed assessor for Freesoil Township.
Two weeks later a meeting of the supervisors was held at which seventy-five per cent was deducted from the tax bills of both Pere Marquette and Freesoil Townships and added to the tax roll of Little Sauble. This brought the latter township's taxes to $693.93—more than the other two combined.
In the light of what followed one gathers that Charles Mears was not happy about this soak-the-rich system of taxation.
By the late fifties Little Sauble which had been born in 1851 was growing healthily. A dam built where the lake narrowed to form a channel into Lake Michigan now generated sufficient power to run the mills. A frame building near the dam housed the saw mill and a grist mill. The place boasted a spacious well-stocked store building, and a sightly boarding house towered above the cottages of the workmen. White picket fences protected the gardens that ornamented the village yards. Mills, store, houses, and fences were refurbished each spring with a fresh coat of white wash. Big Sauble was four years younger than its sister village but differed little except in size.
The settlement at Pere Marquette lagged behind the two Sauble settlements. William J. Carter, pioneer lake captain, recalled that when he sailed into Pere Marquette harbor in 1860 the only signs of civilization around the lake were three buildings—the rustic saw mill, a boarding house of rough unpainted lumber and a small cottage set back of a white picket fence.
Mrs. Ellen Egbert, the first white child born in Big Sauble, recalled that around these settlements, as in the remote parts of the county, timber wolves howled at night, bears often came in too close, blue green passenger pigeons blotted out the sun in their migrations, huge fish swam in the waters, sand fleas and mosquitoes tormented the inhabitants, and babies were born who would grow up to tell that the happiest days of their lives had been spent in these saw-mill settlements.
When George Ford took possession of the rustic mill and the surrounding timber at Pere Marquette, the money for the purchase was loaned by James Ludington, a Milwaukee capitalist who later supplied Ford with funds for running the mill. In January of 1859, Ludington, through his attorney, John Mason Loomis of Chicago, secured a judgment against Ford for $69,849.71 to draw interest at ten per cent. Ford transferred the property to Ludington who paid a considerable sum of money in addition to the judgment.
Ludington was quite fully occupied in Milwaukee.
His father had established a lumber town, Columbus, in Wisconsin for which James acted as his father's agent. James was also interested in a railroad and in a bank. He had taken part in Milwaukee politics to the extent of becoming alderman. He had established himself in luxurious bachelor quarters in a Milwaukee hotel. Still a young man in his middle thirties, he gave no indication at this time of any wild enthusiasm for a tiny lumber mill in Michigan that had been losing money for its owner.
But Charles Mears could fit Ludington's mill into his own scheme of things. A search through Mears' carefully kept diaries indicates that as soon as navigation opened on the lakes in the spring of 1859 he was ready to begin negotiations to lease this mill. In April he records a trip across the lake in company with a group of men, among them John Mason Loomis. They arrived in Little Sauble on the 26th and the following morning left for Per Marquette where they "went to Caswell's" (the court house) and attended a sale of lands. The 28th he and Loomis accompanied by J. P. Sedan (the county surveyor) went to Pere Marquette and "run a line down the river."
The next day Loomis and Sedan again went to Pere Marquette, but Mears spent the day in his store at Little Sauble until five o'clock in the afternoon when he "Rode pony to Pere Marquette." The following day was Sunday. Mears, Loomis and Sedan spent the day "mostly" in the store at Little Sauble. The next day "After breakfast signed contract with Loomis and Sedan for a lease of the Pere Marquette property two years and then went with them to Pere Marquette, surveyed harbour, examined lands and returned home to Little Sauble."
It is not likely that Sedan had acquired part ownership of the mill. His part probably was to contract to do some engineering work on the channel.
It is also significant that Mears speaks of Little Sauble as home although his business keeps him in Chicago the greater part of the time.
Charles Hears now controlled all the harbors on the east shore of Lake Michigan between Muskegon and Manistee. His fleet of sailing ships augmented by chartered vessels and his favorite little "Propeller" flitted back and forth between his east shore settlements and Chicago. Eastbound they carried "hands" to work in the mills, settlers and their families who had been encouraged, sometimes aided, by Mears to enter farm lands; oxen and horses for logging and supplies for his stores and camps. Westbound the cargoes were furs, maple sugar, brightly colored Indian baskets, and the all important lumber. During the memorable summer of 1860 cargoes of evergreens crossed the lake in Mears' ships to deck the Wigwam, the hall in which Abraham Lincoln was nominated to the Presidency.
The entire east coast was thriving, and Pere Marquette began to share in the general prosperity.
If the farmers of Pere Marquette Township could have read the entries in Charles Mears' meticulous diaries in 1859 and 1860 they might have been alerted to coming changes. On Monday, August 8 of 1859 he wrote: "After breakfast rode with Mr. Colby (his lawyer) to Pere Marquette where we found the Schooner. Forrester, in charge of Capt. Nelson of Chicago, for a load of lumber. Sea too heavy for loading." At this time the lumber from the mill was taken out on scows in Lake Michigan and loaded since the channel was too shallow to permit the schooners to enter. "After sailing about the lake and talking with George Caswell returned to Little Sauble for the night."
A year later, August 16, 1860, Mears records: "After retiring at a late hour, left my room and commenced to prepare for changing Pere Marquette river and inquiring about roads, town business and conventions. The following day after breakfast started with team, 25 wheelbarrows and a good number of hands and worked with Pere Marquette hands, 36 in all, during the day and returned at night." On the next day he hurried to Pere Marquette "with few less hands." "By driving sheet piling and working hard stopped the water before dark. Sedan and 7 hands started the water at new channel. Took supper on the ground and worked till 9 when raining." Changing the channel between Pere Marquette Lake and Lake Michigan was as simple as that according to Mears' diary.
From the records of eye witnesses come highlights on this historic piece of hydraulic engineering. A primitive road extended north from the channel, along a narrow strip of swirling sand turned east and continued along the north end of the lake to the mill. This road had been piled with slabs in some places as high as twenty feet. A vivid account of cutting the new channel was recorded in 1914 by August Miller, who had been employed by Mears as a sawyer and who had worked on the harbor job. He reported that one day the lumberman ordered his foreman to have his men dig a ditch across this narrow neck of land. Mears then left for Chicago. During his absence the ditch was made deep enough to permit Miller to paddle a canoe between the two lakes.
When Mears returned he was informed that his plan of making a new channel was suspected. According to Miller Mears was greatly perturbed. Other reports state that Mears was furious because the canoe had gone through the ditch. He had hoped to be the first to make the historic trip.
At this point Claybanks farmers objected vigorously to moving the channel. Burr Caswell, his son-in-law Sewall Moulton, Jeremiah Phillips and others sent protests to Washington only to find that Mears and Ludington had been there first and had permission to make the change.
It required a year to close the old outlet. One account says an old schooner was filled with debris and sunk in the channel. Miller's account says brush, straw, planks, and everything available were thrown into the channel slowly closing it. As the water began to rise in the new ditch the slab-packed road formed a dam and flood conditions threatened the nearby homes.
With picks, crowbars, ox-drawn cedar posts, and other primitive implements, Mr. Mears' "hands" were struggling to make a way through the solid wall of slabs. With the first opening the water rushed through with such force that the " Propeller ", attempting to make port, was unable to enter even under a full head of steam. Many delays and disappointments occurred before the new channel was banked with slabs, dredged and otherwise made usable. Thus was born the present channel, the basic structure of Ludington's magnificent harbor.
Not only the national election of 1860 was momentous because of the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency, but also memorable was the local election in five-year-old Mason County. Charles Mears of Little Sauble was chosen to represent the people in the state legislature as senator. His influence was soon felt in the county.
To Mears it was unreasonable that the county seat should remain on the Burr Caswell farm. The lumberman contended that the logical place for it was at his thriving, white-washed village of Little Sauble.
It is not to be wondered at that this energetic, far-sighted business man, who controlled the jobs in three, possibly four settlements (some claim he leased the mill at Old Freesoil for a time) was able to induce the supervisors to present to the voters the matter of changing the location of the county seat.
Nor is it surprising that with only a handful of farmers to oppose him, the measure carried. On January 1st, 1861, all there was of county property to move—a few record books and a little office furniture—was carted to Mears' store at Little Sauble.
Among Mears' other achievements that year of progress was having the name of Little Sauble changed to Lincoln and that of Big Sauble«to Hamlin. He also succeeded in having a new township, which he also named Lincoln, formed about his favorite village. His next achievement was to secure a post office for the community providing space for it also in his store building.
Into these thriving mill villages and scattered farms of Mason County the Civil War crashed, taking during four years, fifty-nine men from a population of less than 900 people. John L. Lynn's tribute to his grandparents, John and Elizabeth Couch Haggarty, pictures a typical scene of those trying days. " There were rumors of war and whenever the stagecoach came through to and from Manistee it was customary (for the Haggartys) to drop their work and go out to the turnpike to meet it, to receive any mail one might get and to garner whatever news the drivers might have heard.
"On June 12, the rattle of the arriving stage was accompanied by the sound of marching men, and the first sight of a U. S. Army uniform of blue, which the recruiting officer wore, gave the wordless message that the dark hour had arrived. Quickly sensing what this meant, John Haggarty said to his young wife, 'It's come Lizzie. War's declared.' She asked him what he was going to do and his answer came unhesitatingly, 'I must go.' He signed the enlistment blank, and took his place with the sober faced marching men. He didn't even stop to unyoke the oxen."
Life went on in the stricken communities as it always does in war time—women, sometimes hopeless, courageously carrying on the work of the absent men. Eventually clouds lifted and skies brightened as the war came to an end. William Miller, Lincoln pioneer, pictures a happier scene as he tells of walking with his mother down the beach to meet his father who was coming home from the war.
The farmers south of Pere Marquette Lake, especially those engaged in fishing, had been placed an inconvenient distance from their base by Mears' new channel. Too, the removal of the county seat to Lincoln put them annoyingly long miles over poor highways from the seat of their county government. In 1857 they were granted a measure of relief when the Board of Supervisors of the young county appropriated $1000 to construct a county road from the line of Oceana county, through Mason county to the line of Manistee county.
In 1863 the ferry was placed under a licensed operator. William Farrell was authorized to carry passengers across the channel. Previously travelers had depended on finding some one living in the vicinity willing to ferry them across. Farrell was required to give a bond to provide the necessary equipment and to systematize the rates.
The equipment consisted of a scow large enough to transport at least one team of horses, or oxen, and wagon. The scow was man propelled by means of a grooved mallet-like implement pulled against a steel cable which was stretched across the channel. Foot passengers were rowed across in a clumsy flat-bottom boat.
Passengers on the scow were expected, sometimes reminded, to "lend a hand". In the boat extra oars were carried conveniently for passenger assistance. Fares were established at five cents for one passenger, fifteen cents for a horse and passenger, twenty-five cents for a vehicle and horse, and thirty-five cents for a vehicle and double team.
With the improvement of the road and the assured ferry service, the Claybanks farmers, whose faces had previously been turned toward Pentwater, could now consider their bustling county seat at Lincoln. Here they were invited to do their "trading", get their grain ground, attend court, enjoy social gatherings and pay their taxes.
In 1861 James Ludington took back the management of the Pere Marquette mill which Mears had been operating for two years. One writer asserts Mears had been permitted the use of the mill and timber as a reward for changing the channel.
In recent years some curiosity has been aroused concerning the history and personality of the man for whom the city of Ludington was named. It is known that he was born in Carmel, New York in 1827 and at the age of sixteen came west to Milwaukee with the large Ludington family.
Frequent mention is made of him in the pioneer Mason County Record from which one gets the impression that his business was run efficiently, that he was a man of culture, and that he was generous in his gifts to the community. Unmarried, he never established a home in the town. His name never appears in the items of social gatherings. None of the early residents here seems to have been well acquainted or to have passed on any anecdotes of business or social contacts with him. Apparently he held himself aloof and ran the town by remote control from Milwaukee.
After Ludington took over, no conspicuous developments in operations connected with the Pere Marquette mill occurred until the Civil War came to an end. Then the mill owner branched out on a scale apparently intended to show Charles Mears what a young saw-mill village should be like.
In 1864 the tiny settlement which was a part of Pere Marquette Township secured a post office with David Melendy, James Ludington's book-keeper and partner in the shipping end of the business, as postmaster. The post office was named Ludington. There is some indication that the name Pere Marquette was not retained because a post office of similar name, Marquette, had been established in the northern peninsula.
The new post office was housed in James Ludington's store building near the mill at the foot of present-day William Street. Besides the rustic store and boarding house, a few rude shanties had been built for the mill workers along a wagon road that wound among pine stumps from the mill to the bayou.
This "street" bore the nicely descriptive name of Sawdust Avenue. One of the shanties was used as a school house and here Sarah Melendy, sister of the postmaster, opened Ludington's first school in the summer of 1865.
The shanty that served as a school house was also used for the first church services, though religious gatherings had been held in the homes from the days of the first white settlers.
In the fall of 1865 the Pere Marquette circuit of the Methodist Episcopal church was organized and L. M. Garlick was appointed the first pastor. The circuit included Riverton, Claybanks, and Pere Marquette, visited one Sunday, and Pere Marquette Settlement, Bird Settlement (Victory) and Lincoln the next.
For eight years the Methodist congregation met in school houses and public halls for their services before they were able to build their first church on the northeast corner of south Harrison and east Loomis Streets when a frame structure was erected. The opening of the post office, the school and the church spelled progress to the little pine woods settlement.
In the fall of 1865 James Ludington began building in the block that is now the city park, a spacious, well appointed boarding house for his mill hands. Ox teams belonging to Charles Dahn of Amber did the excavating, and the beautiful maples set out on the grounds were transplanted as saplings from the Dahn farm.
An early history says the boarding house was "equal to a first-class hotel" and the grounds were "abundantly adorned with choice fruit and ornamental trees, shrubbery, and a profusion of flowers." The tall building stood well back in the landscaped grounds, facing Ludington Avenue.
Later a circular driveway which entered from Main Street (Gaylord Avenue) and from Lewis Street was opened. An orchard and vineyard were planted back of the building and, since travelers were accommodated, stables were built for their horses. The buildings were completed in the spring of 1866.
The same year saw the completion of the first residence, other than the Sawdust Avenue shanties, within the limits of Ludington, on the southwest corner of Ferry and Court Streets. This was the pretentious home of Patrick M. Danaher who, for a year or more had been getting out logs for James Ludington's mill. In the fall of that year Danaher brought his wife and eight children here, the eldest James, a boy of fifteen.
The Danaher home was the beginning of a neighborhood unique in associations that created ties of life-long friendships. The year 1866 also marked the coming of the Luther H. Foster family. Foster came originally from the state of Maine, but had been employed by lumbering concerns in Wisconsin where he met James Ludington.
The mill owner brought Foster here to look after the outside interests of his business. Employed by the Foster family was Miss Emily Catalina Mitchell, daughter of a Port Huron judge who had once been the candidate of the Prohibition Party for the Presidency of the United States.
She came as governess for the two young Foster boys, Frank and Edward, and followed Sarah Melendy as first full-time teacher of the Sawdust Avenue school. Another arrival that year was a young Civil War veteran, a Milwaukee school teacher, Frederick J. Dowland, who came here as a bookkeeper for James Ludington.
The following year both Foster and Dowland built houses. Foster's house still stands on the northwest corner of Ludington and Gaylord Avenues. Dowland and Miss Mitchell were married and went to housekeeping in their new home on the northwest corner of Ferry and Court Streets.
In 1867 James Ludington began city planning on a wide scale. He laid out and named streets over an area of sand hills, swamps, and creek bottom which now comprise the first three wards of the city, from Lake Michigan to the bayou. It must have taken a bit of looking around to find a strip of land high and dry enough for his business street. He decided on one running north from Pere Marquette Lake and named it Main Street—the present Gaylord Avenue.
This stump-littered thoroughfare became lost in the woods about two blocks north of the principal east-west street, Ludington Avenue. The avenue began at Lake Michigan and extended two or three blocks east where it was barred by a swamp.
If Charles Mears had glimpsed the plat of this city on paper he might have raised his eyebrows slightly when he discovered that the first street north of the avenue had been named Court Street. Why should there be a Court Street in Ludington when the county seat was at Lincoln?
The next street north of Court Street, Pere Marquette, was named in honor of the Jesuit missionary for whom the township had originally been named and of which the settlement was a part. North of this street were swamp and woods.
Of the streets running north and south James Ludington began at the lake and named what is now Lake Shore Drive, Amelia Avenue after a favorite sister. The next street east he called Park, probably visioning a recreation area in the neighborhood, and the next Ferry, since it was a continuation from the channel Ferry. East of Main Street (Gaylord Avenue) he returned to his plan of using family names—Lewis, William, Robert, Charles (Rath Avenue), James, Harrison, Rowe, Delia, and Emily. Brothers, sisters, cousins, and he himself were remembered.
His lumbermen friends—Loomis, Filer, Foster, Danaher, Melendy and Dowland—must have smiled at the honor conferred on them by giving their names to streets south of Ludington Avenue. Only a few expected a lumber town to live after the pine was cut. Having a street named for one in a saw-mill town was considered at best a short lived distinction.
Ludington, having platted his city on paper, began at once to bring it into realization. After the completion of his large boarding house, he next erected his "mammoth store" on the southwest corner of Main Street and Ludington Avenue. Luther Foster was first manager of this new store and Jacob Staffon, who had come here two years previously and started as clerk in the rustic Sawdust Avenue store, continued in the new building. Here Dave Melendy moved the post office.
This emporium supplied the loggers with equipment and provisions for their camps—everything from the lumberjack's gaily colored mackinaws and spiked boots to his peevies and canthooks.
The homesteader bought his ground-breaking tools here and, as soon as his first produce was ready to market, bartered his surplus hay and grain and his wife's earthen-crocked butter and country-fresh eggs for dry groceries. The store supplied yard goods, boots, shoes, hoop skirts, bustles— an endless list of goods in demand in those pioneer days.
The second story of the "mammoth" building, entered by an outside stairway, was used for public gatherings. The religious meetings which had been held in the Sawdust Avenue school house now moved to the upstairs over the store. After Luther Foster had organized here the first Sunday school in the settlement, James Ludington sent to the school from Milwaukee an organ costing four hundred fifty dollars.
James Ludington moved the old Sawdust Avenue store building to Main Street south of the big store and had it made into two store buildings. The "mammoth" store became known as the big store and for many years was a land mark. Its list of employees carries the names of nearly every pioneer family in the city.
During the building boom of this momentous year of 1867, the first hotel in the settlement was built on Ludington Avenue east of the boarding house by William Farrell. It was a spacious building almost as large as its neighbor and served the needs of the growing community many years. It was known as the Farrell House, subsequently as the Clinton House, then the Gregory House.
After more than twenty-five years of service it burned to the ground. About the same time this hotel was built a new schoolhouse was "built in the woods" on the southwest corner of the present Ludington Avenue and James Street.
A block farther east on the southwest corner of the avenue and Harrison Street, William Kieswalter built a grocery store, but it was so far out in the woods it was hardly considered a part of Ludington.
The founder's crowning achievement for that eventful year of progress was the establishment of a newspaper in his thriving village. George W. Clayton, lean Yankee veteran of the recent war, came to the settlement on the "inducement" of James Ludington and built himself a house on the northeast corner of Ferry and Court Streets. In the second story of this house, he set up a hand press and began the publication of the Mason County Record September 17, 1867.
In his first editorial Clayton announced that the village had a chance of becoming a leading town on the east shore. One thing he did not say, though it must have been in his mind, was that Charles Hears would have to think fast and step lively if he intended to keep the county seat in his slowly growing village of Lincoln.
Among the advertisers in the first edition of this newspaper were Dr. E. Doty who had put up a two-story building on the northwest corner of Main (Gaylord Avenue) and Court Streets.
Here on the ground floor was housed Ludington's pioneer drug store, and on the second floor the law offices of Shubael F. White, the town's first lawyer. One block north on the southwest corner of Main and Pere Marquette Streets, George Weimer's boot and shoe shop was established.
These two business places together with the big store and the two small store buildings made from the original Sawdust Avenue store comprised about the extent of Main Street business places. The lots were bought up by those who hoped to make a big profit. The selling price was held too high, and business began locating on Ludington Avenue.
Before long Clayton's "Mason County Record" was telling the world in general, but intending that Charles Mears in particular should take notice, all about Ludington's "large and powerful" mill that employed 150 men and sawed a hundred thousand feet of lumber daily."
The harbor was widened and deepened by the government. No longer was it necessary to carry lumber out into Lake Michigan for loading. Ludington and Melendy sold the shipping end of the business—the tug Cyclone and the schooner Sinai to Captain Robert Caswell of Milwaukee who later formed a partnership with Captain Amos Breinig of Milwaukee.
James Foley became a member of the firm when they purchased an interest in the historic tug Sport. The tug Margaret replaced the Cyclone, in turn replaced by the B. W. Aldrich. This towing line was active in the harbor throughout the lumbering era.
"The harbor," said the Record, "was the best on the east shore north of Grand Haven" and "without the shadow of a doubt" the village would be the western terminus of the Flint and Pere Marquette Railway in process of building. Mason County had a population of 2500, five hundred of whom lived in Ludington. Farm land near the village sold for twenty dollars an acre. Pointing out all these advantages, the Record soon had the question out in the open. Who could doubt that the county seat belonged in Ludington!
Of the seven county officials holding office in 1867 all were residents of Charles Mears' villages—three of Hamlin and four of Lincoln. Would the citizens of Ludington and the southern part of the county permit this monopoly to continue? The battle was on!
Mears had no newspaper and certainly gained little space in the Record, but he held on for several years.
In the campaign of 1868 Mears' candidate for prosecuting attorney, a man by the name of Harley, was opposed by Shubael F. White, a spirited campaigner. White won and the "monoply" was broken, but there was more work to be done before the county seat would be moved.
By the end of the decade Ludington Avenue had been cleared of stumps and graded three miles. It began to flourish as a business street. George Tripp opened his meat market near Robert Street. The Record announced "We learn that the village of Ludington is to have a new Hotel shortly. Mr. David Wilson is the proprietor." Goodsell's hardware store was established and Duncan Dewar built a block of five stores with a hall above on west Ludington Avenue at Park Street. Paul Pomeroy "completed his new building upon the beach to be used for the manufacture of his celebrated root beer."
But as a business center, west Ludington Avenue and Main Street began to decline. The Dewar Block and James Ludington's old stores became tenement homes with clothes lines full of checkered shirts and calico dresses flapping in the wind, and the housewives were having curtain trouble with the store-size windows.
Pere Marquette Lumber Company
Before James Ludington realized his objective of having the county seat established in his namesake village, his health failed. Desiring to be relieved of the cares of his business here, he organized a new company, retaining only an interest.
Several of Ludington's former associates became stockholders in the new organization, among them Colonel John Mason Loomis, his attorney, who looked after Ludington's interest. The new blood in the corporation was Delos L. Filer and Edward A. (Gus) Foster, brother of the civic-minded Luther. Filer, president of the company, came here from Manistee where he owned important lumber interests.
Three years previously, a widower with four children, he had married a Ludington girl, Miss Mary Pierce, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin B. Pierce, whose home was on the northwest corner of Court and Park Streets. The Filer family established their home in the spacious building that James Ludington had built for a boarding house, no longer needed for that purpose since David Wilson and others had erected small hotels which took care of some of the men, and many of the mill employees had established homes here.
The Filer house of many rooms, set in its ten-year growth of leafy maples and orange-berried mountain ash, was too large for the needs of the family, and they occupied only the rooms on the west end. When the growing town required this building for hotel purposes, it became known as the Filer House. The Filers continued to live there. Like her parents, Mrs. Filer was a musician of ability and prior to her marriage had taught piano in the village.
Foster came here from Muskegon and built a roomy house on the edge of the pine forest which surrounded the town. The house stood in the middle of the block between Park and Ferry Streets, facing Pere Marquette. The six young Fosters were a lively addition to the growing community, and from the beginning this home was a center of social activities.
The Pere Marquette Lumber Company entered actively into a development plan for the tiny lumber hamlet.
With a great deal of real estate among its holdings, the company inaugurated a give-away program that made land available without cost to churches and other desirable organizations and at low cost to home builders. The effort of the company to transform the little sand-hill settlement which began with one rustic saw-mill and a stump-studded street of rude shanties into an enterprising lumber town of substantial homes received vigorous encouragement.
The New England Migration
The Foster families were among the first of the Yankee lumbermen who followed the forest west. Both Luther and "Gus" were originally from Maine. Several families of relatives followed them here from New England.
Joshua Alien, whose wife was a sister of the Fosters, and their son Eugene established a factory for turned goods such as curtain rollers and broom handles. When this factory burned ihey purchased the dock at the foot of Main Street where they built warehouses. Here they carried on an active and important business during the lumbering era.
The passenger steamers of the Engleman and later the Goodrich line—the historic DePere, the City of Ludington, and the old sidewheeler, the John A. Dix among them, docked here, as did the big coal sailing ships that came up from Buffalo once or twice a year, the little Pentwater boat, the harbor tugs, and the tramp hookers.
Eugene Alien and his sister Fannie (Mrs. Frank N. Latimer) as well as Eugene's wife, Mary Montague Ferry, augmented the considerable group of talented musicians who helped make early Ludington music conscious.
Another sister of the Fosters, Mrs. Marian Hutchins, widow of a Bowdin College professor, came here with her two daughters. The older, by a former marriage, Emma Stanchfield, married James B. McMahon, one of the city's brilliant lawyers; Charlie, the younger daughter, named for her father who fell in the Civil War about the time of her birth, married James' brother, Porter McMahon.
All three women were school teachers here in the sand and sawdust days. Their home was on the northwest corner of Main (Gaylord Avenue) and Court Streets south of Dr. Doty's drug store. This house later was moved to 207 North Gaylord Avenue, and Dr. Doty's drug store was moved to Robert Street.
On the corner where these two buildings stood, was erected the Victorian mansion prepared for Ed Stanchfield's bride, the vivacious Ellen (Nell) Woodward of Augusta, Maine. Later the Ed Stanchfields were joined by Nell's brother, Augustus D. (Gus) Woodward, for many years connected with the First National Bank. Another relative, Oliver O. Stanchfield, an attorney, built his home on the southwest corner of Harrison and Pere Marquette Streets.
This group of New Englanders was long active in business, civic, and religious affairs in the growing city and appreciably influential in its cultural growth. "I was surprised to see so nice a company for Ludington," Mrs. Marshall Brayman, a bride of 1870, wrote in her diary after attending a social at Mrs. Luther Foster's home.
The lumber industry in Ludington made a notable growth during the 1870's. For more than twenty years prior to 1870, there had been only the one saw mill on Pere Marquette Lake, the primitive structure built by Baird and Bean in 1849. This had grown into James Ludington's "large and powerful mill."
In 1870 the Danaher Melendy Company built a mill on the east end of the lake. The entire Fourth Ward was a pine forest then, the giant trees growing to the edge of the water. The firm employed more than fifty men for whom they erected a large boarding house and several small cottages. They built also near the mill a warehouse for hay and grain, but continued their general store "down town" on the northwest corner of Ludington Avenue and Charles Street (Rath Avenue).
The Ward mills soon followed the Danaher mill. Captain Eber B. Ward, whose parents were natives of Vermont, had come west to Ohio and later settled in Detroit. Starting as a cabin boy on a lower lake schooner, Ward had risen like one of Horatio Alger's heroes. In 1869 he was a wide-scale vessel owner and ship builder, and was president of the Flint and Pere Marquette Railway then under construction.
He possessed vast timber tracts along the Pere Marquette River. In 1870 he acquired two mill sites on Pere Marquette Lake and built the " north mill." The following year he built the " south mill" publicized as "the finest saw mill in the world."
This mill started sawing in 1872 with A. G. Spencer as foreman. The usual three-story boarding house and a row of cottages bordering the lake housed the Ward employees' families. Like James Ludington, Ward operated by remote control sending his son Milton and a man by the name of Bean here to manage the business, with John S. Woodruff as one of the top executives. When Ward died in 1875, Woodruff became manager, for a time, for Ward's widow, Catherine Lyon Ward.
In 1878 a company was formed in which Mrs. Ward's two brothers, John B. and Thomas R. Lyon, became stockholders with Mrs. Ward. Twenty-four year old Thomas became manager. From then on as long as the business existed it was conducted by T. R. Lyon Agt. Woodruff remained as secretary.
Among other early employees of the firm were Justus S. Stearns who had married Mrs. Ward's sister, Paulina, and Lucius K. Baker, who maried May, eldest daughter of the E. A. Fosters. Stearns soon bought a mill of his own in Lake County, but continued his residence in Ludington in the sightly home which he built on south Washington Avenue and Fourth Street. The Baker home stood just north of the Stearns residence. Lyon married the lovable Harriet Rice of Ludington.
The spacious home where their four children were reared stood on the site of the present Paulina Stearns Hospital. The popular Woodruff family occupied the house built for Milton Ward facing Pere Marquette Lake.
With the increasing demand for lumber prodding the mill owners, the Ward interests developed a unique method of getting their product to market. Gigantic scows, each with a capacity of 700,000 feet were loaded with lumber and towed to Chicago by the large tug, the George £. Brockway, Captain William Courtland. As a rule one of the scows was loading in Ludington while one was unloading in Chicago and a third was in transit, but occasionally the Brockway towed two across the lake.
On one occasion she delivered a record load of 1,400,000 feet of pine in Chicago. Ward also owned, among other vessels, the three-masted schooner Conneaut, Captain Reimer Young, and the two-masted Mars, Captain William Young.
Among the other historic vessels owned by this pioneer umber company was the Sport, the first steel tug built on the Great Lakes. She was brought to Ludington from Detroit in 1874, was later sold to James Foley who sold a third interest in her to Caswell and Breinig. In the early '90's the Cartier Lumber Company bought her and she remained in the harbor until the end of lumbering days.
With four saw mills buzzing south of the bayou while the Pere Marquette Lumber Company buzzed alone on the northside of the lake, Wardtown began to surpass Ludington in population and buildings. For a time transportation between the two settlements was mostly by water.
"We had quite a party go up on the tug," Carrie Brayman wrote in her diary in reference to a dancing party at the Danaher-Melendy boarding house. But however desirable water transportation may have been for bulky lumber cargoes-and groups of young dancers, horse-drawn rigs were indispensable. Stump-studded wagon trails must be made passable.
John S. Woodruff, a firm believer in the use of by products, a system later adopted by meat packers under the slogan, "nothing gets away but the squeal," thriftily contracted with the city fathers to lay sawdust on the streets. From Ward's north mill alone was hauled, for a time, fifty cubic yards of sawdust a day.
Ludington's fourth mill was built on the east side of Pere Marquette Lake south of the Ward mills by Dr. George W. Roby. This mill began operating in 1872 under the management of James Crowley. Lewis C. Waldo who married Dr. Roby's daughter Minnie, was secretary of the company and carried on the business for Dr. Roby. The Waldo family lived in the house at 706 East Ludington Avenue. There were several young children in the family who were frequently met driving their burrow and cart over the sawdust streets. "Min" Waldo was a popular hostess and "Lewie's" tenor voice was welcomed in musical circles.
Pardee Cook and Company bought the Roby mill. They had purchased the mill and timber at Hamlin from Charles Mears and had been operating there several years. In 1888 their dam broke and, according to an eye witness, Captain John Stram of the Au Sauble Lifesaving Station, "washed twenty-three dwelling houses and as many out houses, barns and about 1,000,000 feet of pine logs into Lake Michigan ....
There was just enough sea running so the logs knocked the houses all to pieces and washed most of the wreckage ashore here, in front of the station."
The logs were picked up and towed to Ludington by the harbor tugs. The firm's three-masted schooner, the Mary Ellen Cook, lives in local history as the ship that rode the Chicago breakwater in a furious storm.
Pardee, Cook and Company's lumber operations in Ludington were in charge of Will Cook, a handsome young man who drove beautiful horses. His popular wife and their two little girls, brunette Mary Ellen and blond Rosa Belle, were socially and neighborly active.
The family moved to California when the mill finished its cut here in 1892.
In 1873 Oliver N. Taylor bought a half interest in a mill on "the island," the narrow strip of sand dunes between the present channel and the site of the old channel. In 1888 Taylor became sole owner and operated the mill until their pine was exhausted. The usual saw mill village sprang up around the mill to flourish and die. Only its ghost, suggested by a few rotting piles of the pier, remains.
The daughters of O. N. Taylor, Lillian (Mrs. Cornelius D. ("Con") Danaher) and Lulu (Mrs. Edward Freeman) were socially prominent and admired for their graceful and intelligent horsemanship. The son of the family, William S., married Ida Cartier, daughter of the Antoine E. Cartiers. Other Taylor children by a second marriage were still young when the mill closed here and the family moved to new lumbering areas near Brunswick, Georgia.
The mill on the south side of Pere Marquette Lake is remembered as the Butters and Peters' Lumber Company. Horace U. Butters, a native of Maine, had been active in the logging branch of the lumber business when he came to Mason County in the late sixties. Stewart Holbrook, in his lusty history of the lumber jack, "Holy Old Mackinaw", lauds Butters' contribution to the lumber industry—inventions which eased the work of the loggers and were used wherever logging was done on a wide scale. Butters brought his wife and eight children here to the house at 206 North Park Street.
The eldest son, Marshall F. Butters, married the gracious Maggie Arnott, one of the five socially active Arnott girls whose father was first agent of the recently completed Flint and Pere Marquette Railway (1874).
Butters and his son began operations at Tallman in eastern Mason County. With R. G. Peters of Manistee they bought the mill on the south side of Pere Marquette Lake of Cartier and Filer previously owned by Foster and Stanchfield. This mill had been built in 1872 by Vahue, Hustis and Company, partners of D. L. Filer whose son, Frank, had possession of the property when the partnership with Antoine E. Cartier was formed.
When Butters and Peters bought the mill the Butters family moved across the little lake to the spacious brick house built by Judge Samuel D. Haight. This fine residence in its beautiful setting of about forty acres sloping to the lake had been the bachelor estate of Frank Filer. Here he had indulged his fondness for fine horses.
The likable Butters family attended Ludington public schools and took an active part in church and social affairs. Several of the boys married Ludington girls and reared families here.
At one time Buttersville was a thriving mill village of three hundred inhabitants. Besides lumber, the firm manufactured lath, shingles and after 1885 salt, coopering their own barrels and shipping their products in their own barge, the Marshall F. Butters, Captain William J. Carter, later Captain John McClure.
This company also owned their own narrow-gauge railroad, named the Mason and Oceana, which brought in logs from as far south as Walkerville. Today like Taylorville, only a few decaying dock piles are left to mark the site of this once prosperous lumbering town.
Antoine E. Cartier, the last of the early lumbermen to locate here, brought his family to Ludington from Manistee in 1878. The hospitable Cartier home filled with lively young people-eight of them was established at 501 East Ludington Avenue. After dissolving the partnership of Cartier and Filer, A. E. Cartier purchased a mill at the foot of James Street which had been built and operated for a time by William Alien and George Goodsell.
The Cartier-Filer store was on the northeast corner of Charles (Rath) Street and Ludington Avenue. Like the P. M. Danaher family, the Cartier family has given the city three mayors, the father and two sons of each family having held that office.
These eight mills operated throughout the lumbering era. Other than the sale of the Roby mill to Pardee, Cook and Company, there were few changes until Justus S. Stearns bought Ward's north mill in the late nineties.
Shingle mills, planing mills, and kindred factories flourished and changed hands or suspended operations as conditions improved or changed. Among these shingle mills were those of Moulton and Flagg, who also operated at Pentwater, one near Taylor's mill owned by Col. John M. Loomis and operated by Michael J. Danaher, and Foster and Stanchfield. Warbrocheck and Farrel and later Haskell Brothers operated planing mills.
Another allied industry was the woodenware factory of Henry B. ("Bert") Smith at the Fourth Ward Bridge, generally spoken of as the pin mill since among its products was clothes pins. All these pay rolls meant a growing town. By the end of the seventies Ludington and Wardtown which had become the Fourth Ward of the city had a population nearing seven thousand.
Ludington Becomes the County Seat 1873
The business and bustle created by the increasing number of mills (there were four) brought forth withering comparisons between thriving Ludington and Charles Mears' one-mill village of Lincoln. Mears' mill might hum as noisily as any in Ludington, his spacious store might be selling as prosperously, his white-washed buildings might be standing up as neatly, his fleet of schooners might be sailing as frequently, but his village had been outclassed. The county seat should be in Ludington.
The battle continued to be fought verbally in the pages of the Mason County Record and in places where men congregated to discuss local politics. Discussion had gained momentum each year since Shubael White had broken Mears' monopoly of the ticket in the election in 1868.
Now five years later, according to the Record "the Board of Supervisors took an important step in the interest of the county by adoption of a Resolution ... to submit to the people, at the spring election, the question of the removal of the County Seat to Ludington. It has for a long time been a conceded fact . . . that this step was only a question of time, and a thing which was sure to be accomplished."
Various inducements to bring the county seat to Ludington had been offered by local patriots. The Record had announced in December of the previous year that "Mr. James Ludington, in view of the fact that his name was chosen for our prospective city had donated $5000, $2500 of which is to be used for County Buildings, provided the County seat shall be removed to this place."
Among other inducements was a choice of lots "in the northerly part of the proposed city limits" by William Quevillon. Charles E. Resseguie offered a block of land in his addition kitty corner from the site selected for the new Union schoolhouse, now the Longfellow building.
The Pere Marquette Lumber Company proposed the erection of a two-story library building, the lower story to be used for a library and the second story for county offices and courtroom as well as for a city council room for which James Ludington would give $5000; D. L. Filer, $1000; John Mason Loomis, $1000; and the company a suitable location.
The county would be permitted the use of the company's hall in the big store building until other buildings were provided. This offer is probably an effort to use James Ludington's $5000 offer, add the other gifts to it, and combine county and city buildings. This appears to be the best offer of the group, and nothing in the newspaper explains why it was not accepted.
It must be remembered, however, that Ludington had not received its charter yet and that the "city" had not been officially named. It is possible James Ludington wished to keep his county and city donations separate until his requirements had been met. Later editions of the newspaper indicate he paid the $2500 for county buildings, but local tradition persists that he never paid the city, though his name was taken for the city.
When the election results showed the county seat would be moved to Ludington, the Resseguie offer was accepted, and the first court house built at a cost of $6000 east of the present county jail. Until this building was ready, the county used the hall over the big store.
At the dedication of the new court house in 1874, the pioneer supervisor William Freeman was chosen chairman. Shubael White, Circuit Judge of the district, gave the address. E. Nelson Fitch, Samuel D. Haight, Harrison H. Wheeler, and another pioneer lawyer by the name of Ewell, all gave congratulatory addresses.
The idolized Luther H. Foster reviewed the hard-fought battles that had resulted in the removal of the county seat to Ludington. Present were Mason County's new Board of Supervisors': Amber, W. A. Bailey; Branch, Benjamin F. Barnett; Grant, William Freeman; Hamlin, N. S. Bird; Lincoln, Jeremiah Collins; Pere Marquette, S. S. Brooks; Sherman, J. G. Law; Summit, W. H. Foster; Victory, Marion Abbey; Ludington, 1st Ward, F. F. Hopkins; 2nd Ward, Benjamin J. Goodsell; 3rd Ward, A. A. Maxim; 4th Ward, George W. Roby.
Ludington Becomes A City
Ludington received its charter in 1873 and the first city election was held Monday, April 7, of that year. The first officials elected were: Mayor, Charles Resseguie; Recorder, William F. Kenfield; Treasurer, Samuel D. Haight; Attorney, E. Nelson Fitch; Surveyor, G. S. Johnson; Marshal, John Davidson; Justices of the Peace, Levi Shackelton, George Westcott, Charles Eggleston, James N. Henry; Aldermen, 1st Ward, George E. Tripp, Peter Anderson; 2nd Ward, Fayette Johnson, L. T. Southworth; 3rd Ward, Robert Davidson, William Tolles; 4th Ward, Dennis Carroll, James Crowley.
The first session of the common council was held the following evening at the "commodious and convenient City Hall," a frame building on the northwest corner of Charles (Rath Avenue) and Court Streets. The first financial statement of the city treasurer bore a significant entry: Receivable from James Ludington $2500.
By the early seventies the intelligentsia of the thriving young city had been gathered into a literary society. Their sessions were reported in the early newspapers, and their public entertainments filled "every available seat" in whatever hall it was given. Readings, debates and essays were popular. "Miss Jennie Frye read 'The Lost Steamship.' Dr. Philip P. Shorts 'read an essay.' C. G. Wing 'said something about Shakespeare.'"
In a discussion as to what was the most useful invention of the age Luther H. Foster claimed the highest place for soap, and Fred Dowland held for the common sewing needle. And, as always at their meetings, "a good time was had by all. " One of the objectives of the society was to establish a public library.
Donations of books from citizens gave the library a start, and from Milwaukee James Ludington sent a check for $100 with which to buy books. For a time the association occupied a small building, just south of the big store, which had been built to house the Eber B. Ward clerical force during the building of the Ward mills.
The year following the chartering of the city, steps were taken to erect a library building. Delos L. Filer, president of the Pere Marquette Lumber Company, was also president of the library association. In the name of the lumber company he offered the association a site on Ludington Avenue and lumber for the building on condition that the common council appropriate for that purpose the $2,500 receivable from James Ludington.
The council did so, but the library was not built. From an early report we have the terse statement, "The matter was dropped." This is all the written record gives, but oral tradition, handed down in many pioneer families, insists that James Ludington refused to pay the money.
There were those who believed that not enough consideration had been given in bestowing upon the city the name of Ludington instead of Pere Marquette, especially after the money promised by James Ludington was not forthcoming. No doubt the apathy was general; few cared because most lumber towns died after the mills finished their cut of pine.
When choosing the name was under discussion in the council, one man declared he would rather name the place after a live dog than a dead lion. Only one dissenting vote was cast, and the name Ludington was chosen. Thus the live lumberman triumphed over the dead missionary, and the city waited many years for a library building. Some one expressed it: "The city sold her birthright for a mess of pottage."
Until late in 1874 travelers from distant points coming to Ludington (Pere Marquette) could take no railroad that would bring them nearer than Grand Haven. In early days Charles Mears' lumber vessels had brought workmen and land-hungry settlers to his east shore settlements.
After the Pere Marquette harbor had been opened at the present site and deepened to accommodate larger craft, a steam-ship passenger route was opened from Milwaukee to Manistee with stops at Grand Haven, Pentwater and Ludington. The historic Joe Barber, the Messenger and the Manistee of the Engleman line were among the steamers. There was also a horse-drawn stage route up the shore from Grand Haven.
Prior to 1870 Eber B. Ward, president of the railroad, building out of Flint "to an undetermined east shore point," visited this part of the state. The astute editor of the Mason County Record who had announced shortly after Ward's visit that "without the shadow of a doubt" Ludington (Pere Marquette) would be the western terminus of the railroad, was absolutely right. The new road was named the Flint and Pere Marquette.
As the building of the railroad progressed the Record kept its readers informed regarding grading, laying of rails and ties as well as other developments. But, as construction neared completion, the pages of the newspaper announced no elaborate celebration. From Charles G. Wing's reminiscences comes the story: "In November of 1874, when the F. and P. M. railroad was nearly completed to Ludington, Governor John J. Bagley came over the line on a tour of inspection . . . (he) received the most distinguished mark of attention Ludington could show.
He rode to and from his railroad car in the only covered carriage up to that time ever owned within the borders of Mason County. Mr. (D. L.) Filer's black carriage horses conveyed him about town and he was kept overnight as a guest of the Filer residence which was in the center of the present city park." The first regular passenger train entered Ludington December 6, 1874.
Trans lake freight business developed with the coming of the railroad. The old side-wheeler John Sherman carried package and break-bulk freight the first year between Ludington and Milwaukee.
Then the business was handled by the Goodrich Transportation Company carrying passengers as well as freight. In 1882 the railroad company began building their own steamers.
Public school education in Ludington took a forward step in 1875 when the school board employed as superintendent, John N. Foster of Lansing.
The crude Sawdust Avenue school house where the aristocratic Sarah Melendy and the gentle Catalina Mitchell (Mrs. Fred Dowland) had opened up the world of knowledge to the resisting youth of the community, housed the typical district school of retarded boys, spelling bees and McGuffey Readers.
Mrs. Dowland told of finding live frogs in her desk (compliments of Peter Glassmire, prominent Manistee attorney in later years). Items in the Record indicate the school was like many others that became famous in song and story.
One of the pioneer women teachers was obliged to go to the school board for help in disciplining the big boys. One teacher decided to give an "exhibit,' and visitors were mildly startled at some of the information given by the "scholars:"
"Teacher: What state do you live in?
Little Girl: British America.
Teacher: What is the capital of this state?
Another Little Girl: Maine.
Teacher: Who ruled this country 99 years ago?
Third Little Girl: The Pere Marquette Lumber Company."
Since the lumber industry moved here from New England, close neighbors to "British America," and many Ludington residents of that day came from Maine, and for years the Pere Marquette Lumber Company was the only large industry here, one must admit the little girls were developing powers of observation.
Of such was District 3 of Pere Marquette Township which embraced the same territory that is now included in Union District 1 of the City of Ludington.
John N. Foster the first superintendent came to Ludington directly from the Reform School at Lansing, later the State Industrial School, where for two years he had been assistant superintendent. Discipline held an important place in the educational set up of that day. Mr. Foster's first report published at the close of the school year in 1876 gives his clear-cut ideas of the requirements of a public school system.
In reviewing the work of the previous year he stressed the fact that resort to corporal punishment—many an unruly boy of that year remembered it not resentfully as the soundest thrashing he ever received in his life had occurred only in extreme cases. There had been 3000 cases of tardiness during the year and Foster promised to do something about that. He had instituted a system of grading.
The high school had been accredited to some higher institutions of learning, but not the state university which required an additional year of study. The library of 35 volumes would soon begin to grow under his expert guidance. "Prof." Foster had prepared his first class here for graduation when Luther H. Foster was assassinated. The commencement exercises were postponed (Foster was a member of the school board) and never took place.
The shocking murder of Luther Foster brought benumbing tragedy to the peaceful little town as well as to the school. Awakening in the night to find a prowler in their room, Mrs. Foster heard her husband exclaim, "You rascal! " The intruder fled and Foster, grasping a revolver, followed. Under a young maple at the corner of Main (Gaylord Avenue) and Court Streets, the burglar fired, and Foster dropped. Mrs. Foster, who had followed her husband, found him still breathing, but he died in her arms unable to speak. The crime remains unsolved.
Foster had led in every movement for the good of the community. Other than his city school board activities he had organized the first Sunday School in the town and played the organ for its services, had helped establish both the Congregational and the Presbyterian churches, had led in the Temperance movement and had been superintendent of county schools. It is fitting that one of the Ludington school buildings as well as one of its residential streets is named in his honor.
John N. Foster, for all his severity—a quality not disapproved in a school man of the 1870's—was an educator of high rank and accomplishment. Ludington schools progressed during his superintendency. He set for them a standard that demanded progress. With Luther Foster and other education-minded men on the board, the schools moved forward under the first superintendent 's efforts. Testing them by the leadership they produced, the schools of the seventies were excellent.
It is conceded that Ludington has background and individuality; it is not just another revived sawmill town. No less a historian than Milo M. Quaife in his book "Lake Michigan" of the American Lake series comments that Ludington's lumbering days, in striking contrast to those of the usual sawdust town, were relatively calm and respectable. He suggests that both the benign influence of the saintly Pere Marquette and the cultural standards of James Ludington may have had their effect on the community.
Undoubtedly Ludington had its skid row of a sort. Drunken brawls and street fights were frequent enough, and the town had a red-light district. But no prominent novelist so far has singled out lumber-day Ludington as a locale for the familiar skid row story. The town's lumber jacks were likely not the right type for such literature.
For the most part they were young men of the community who worked in the woods in winter and in the mills during the summer. An illustration comes from the Mason County Record: "Last Saturday evening a pleasant little gathering met at the Farrell Hotel and amused themselves by a few hours' dancing after which a good Oyster Supper was had. This was a farewell party given to a number of our young men who were upon the eve of going into the woods for the winter."
From the columns of the city's first newspapers may be gathered items that indicate the cultural activities of early Ludington absorbed the interest of a large number of its people. Four or five amusement halls were required for entertainment in the seventies. On the northwest corner of Ludington Avenue and James Street stood Temperance Hall.
The Clark building on the northwest corner of the avenue and Robert Street accommodated on its upper floor the Masonic and Odd Fellows' lodges. The pioneer Dewar hall on west Ludington Avenue at Park Street was used for dancing and school entertainments.
The upstairs of the big store of the Pere Marquette Lumber Company was available for church, lodge and other public gathering and the "commodious" City Hall on the northwest corner of Charles (Rath Avenue) and Court Streets had a room large enough to house social gatherings.
"Moral Dramas" and Minstrel Shows were frequently given by home talent; concerts and literary programs were produced. The outstanding entertainment of the sawdust seventies was "The Great Opening of Staffon's Opera House" when the Ludington Musical Union presented the oratorio of " Esther, the Beautiful Queen." Authentic costumes secured from professional wardrobe makers were placed on exhibition in store windows to increase interest in the production. The cast was supported by a chorus of fifty voices and a five-piece orchestra.
That a tiny saw mill community of less than 1000 people had the talent to produce and the following to appreciate such an ambitious entertainment should add evidence to the claim that the town was not the sort often pictured as being taken apart by roaring, roistering lumber jacks.
An item in the Ludington Appeal, the city's second newspaper, stated December 1, 1878, "We are informed that a life-saving station is to be erected near Sweet and Taylor's mill." In the Mason County Record of December 5 of the succeeding year the following appeared: "The life-saving station is now completed. It is a neat little building 36 by 22 feet, one and a half stories high. It is built on piles on the edge of Pere Marquette Lake, just north of M. J. Danaher's shingle mill; the lower floor contains a boat room and a kitchen.
From the boat room runs, to the water's edge, an apron on which to draw up the boat when not in use. The floor of the boat room slopes to the apron. The boats are to be pulled up by aid of a small reel. In the upper story are three rooms, two bedrooms and the men's sitting room." Later the station was moved to the site of the present Coast Guard buildings.
The station at Big Point Sauble had been established in 1876. The nearest one south was at Little Point Sauble. These were supplied with hand powered surf boats, beach apparatus, wreck gun and restoratives.
They were staffed by men who worked largely for the love of adventure and not for the money in the job. Often volunteers were called. At first the keepers received only $200 a year, in the seventies raised to $400.
Their log books report drills "with surfboat, whip line, hawser and breeches buoy," mention the crew's fighting a fire in the city with a force pump and record the passing of 48 schooners and 14 steamers past the station in one day.
Heroic rescues were logged in matter-of-fact figures of dimension of boat, number on board and hours required. The friendly crew welcomed visitors in fair weather and explained paraphernalia.
From the first Ludington has been proud of the courageous men who have served in what is now known as the Coast Guard. Some of the most honored names in local marine history have appeared on the rolls of the life-saving crews.
In the summer of 1893, the Ludington crew, under Captain Charles Tuft, later a member of the state senate from Mason County, was stationed at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago as the most efficient crew on Lake Michigan. Later they were sent to the Cotton Exposition at Atlanta, Georgia.
The Elegant Eighties
Whatever of elegance there may have been elsewhere, there was little in the Ludington of sand and sawdust days that could be described by the fashionable adjective of the decade. The scum-covered, mosquito-breeding swamps had been but partially conquered, and on the higher ground flea-infested sand dunes spilled into the streets.
In the outlying areas of the town, plank sidewalks bordered by rank weeds, were shaded sparsely by scrawny, pine-boxed, maple saplings in various stages of growth. The beach was strewn with discarded butts of saw logs, planks and edgings refuse from the mills that had been gathered into booms, towed into the big lake, then loosed and permitted to float ashore. Yards were crowded with out buildings barns, privies, fuel-sheds, chicken coops, and occasionally a pig-sty.
Cows roamed at large, pasturing on the stump-littered commons and along the side streets, in search of grass. Manure piles flourished in the alleys where flies swarmed triumphantly.
Typhoid and malaria, often at epidemic stage, plagued the town. Cholera morbus took innumerable babies, and diphtheria epidemics terrorized the parents of young children. The germ theory of disease was new, and fumigation with sulphur and the occasional use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic were about as far as the medical profession had gone in the matter of controlling the spread of disease. Flies and mosquitoes had not come under suspicion.
The intersection of Ludington Avenue and James Street had become the business center, Main Street having been given over to residential purposes, though the Big Store which for a time enjoyed a wide patronage attracted by the clever advertising of its manager, Herman N. Morse, carried on in its original location for awhile.
Business streets were lined with frame, two-story or false-front buildings with an occasional modest brick structure. Streets were unlighted except by a few privately maintained post lamps, and after-dark shoppers carried lanterns. The Big Store for a time attracted evening trade by means of a locomotive headlight placed to brighten west Ludington Avenue.
Show windows were kerosene-lighted, and drug stores adhered to their ancient custom of dyed liquid in huge bottles for colorful night window dressing. Plank walks in the down-town area were made wide since merchants believed in outdoor displays.
Over hanging signs and awnings swayed and rattled in the wind. Cigar-store Indians and red-and-white barber poles were familiar business signs. Saloon doors and windows were shuttered.
Winter silenced the mills and closed navigation. Only one industry flourished during the freezing weather. Then the little lake, except near the channel, froze completely over, and up near the bayou crews toiled at getting out the summer supply of ice for the town's refrigerators.
Cut in huge blocks the ice was packed in sawdust and stored in warehouses from which it was delivered by horse and wagon in twenty-pound cakes during the hot days of summer. Under the impression that ice was pure because it was frozen, it was chipped to cool the drinking water and lemonade that quenched the young city's summer thirst.
Not many bragged of good health in those days and the sale of "patent medicines" flourished—Hood's Sarsaparilla, Paine's Celery Compound, St. Jacob's Oil, and an endless list of "bitters" meant to abolish the abominable ague.
Home life was ordinarily wholesome, hospitable, and, because of many large families, generally lively. These not-so-elegant eighties were the days of big meals, the hired girl, summer visitors, and Society spelled with a capital S.
Breakfast, dinner at noon, and the six o'clock supper were built on a base of meat, potatoes and bread and butter. Buckwheat cakes with maple syrup formed a favorite winter breakfast combination.
When the family began to get buckwheat rash it was time to change to boiled potatoes and creamed cod fish. Ham or bacon and eggs were year-round staples except when the hens were molting. Peter LaBelle delivered beef by the quarter to many families in winter, and George Tripp sold round steaks for ten cents, the whole steak, not just a pound.
Salads were not considered important; green vegetables were not available all the year. Celery was shipped in for Thanksgiving, occasionally for the later holidays, and sometimes a winter radish was available. Cabbage, carrots, rutabagas and beets were stored in cellar bins for the winter, and cole slaw appeared on the table often, but raw carrots were not popular. Kitchens were always redolent of pies, cakes, and cookies coming from the ovens of wood-fueled ranges. In many homes flour was bought by the barrel, and "dry groceries "such as sugar, rice, beans and even tea and coffee were sold in bulk, since packaging remained to be developed as people learned more about disease germs.
Fruit canning, especially the "preserves" in which as much sugar as fruit went into the glass containers, was the chief culinary accomplishment and pride of many housewives. Vegetable canning came later with the invention of the pressure cooker.
That most families "ate well" in those days of epidemics probably gave them the resistance that kept them alive.
We have nothing now like the hired girl of that era. Today she is the maid or one of the staff, or mother's helper—the latter recently changed to baby sitter. In earlier days she was a combination of several of these with the reservation that baby tending in the days of large families was no sitting job. Even then the term hired girl was not quite satisfactory.
Some of those who employed her referred to here as a servant or domestic. She seemed different to various families because there were so many kinds of families.
The hired girl was frequently foreign born. Immigration was less restricted in the eighties and labor was imported to furnish man power for lumber camps and mills.
As a rule the first money saved by these men was sent back to "the old country" and used to bring their families here. The next step often was to begin saving money for a farm. One or two daughters in the family could generally be spared to earn additional money. A desire to learn English and escape the isolation of the farm induced the girls to seek the privileges of the town. Since no factories employing women existed, the girls went into homes eager to receive their help.
In pre-appliance days when all housework was done the hard way, extra help was a necessity in many homes. The girls' wages were seldom more than three dollars a week. In some homes she was expected to "keep her place," in others she was "one of the family." Whichever atmosphere prevailed, many of these homes were richer for their contact with this sterling element in the community.
From these girls children gathered a bit of foreign language, learned some of the folk lore of the countries from which these girls came, acquired skill in copying their native lace patterns, and gained something of the culture of a foreign land. All of this valuable material went into the melting pot that helped produce Ludington.
Society enjoyed dancing and attended the "theatre," entertained with pink teas and card parties, and observed the code of calls religiously. A large dancing party was a ball, a small one a hop. Low-neck gowns were frowned upon, and ladies' ankles were not exposed. Courtly manners were observed in the ball room. No lady danced more than twice with the same gentleman unless engaged to him, and she never walked across the ball-room floor unescorted.
Card parties were evening affairs. The Ludington Record of February 26,1885 reported: "Progressive euchre has struck this poor town at last. And yet they who indulged in a sweet racket say they spent a pleasant evening . . . This is the nature of the game." After explaining at length how euchre was played the item continued "the one remaining longest at the booby table is made the butt for all the jokes of the evening. This is progressive euchre."
The decade fostered the "ten-twenty-thirties." Billboards down town proclaimed that Hazel Kirke or East Lynne or Lady Audley's Secret was coming, and the arrival was eagerly awaited. If Uncle Tom's Cabin played at the "Opera House" down James Street there was a parade with "blood hounds."
The minstrel shows also gave noon-day parades with band music. Shakespeare's plays were not infrequent and often well played despite the limitations of the crude stage and ridiculous scenery. Sometimes a troupe with a week's repertoire gave a different show every night. The actor's put up at the Filer House, and some of the townspeople met them and said they were "real nice." They weren't supposed to be. Several of the churches condemned dancing, card-playing and theatre-going as works of the devil, and their members were forbidden to attend such gatherings.
The original meaning of pink tea was weak tea, but it came to apply to an afternoon gathering of ladies at which the color predominated in decorations and ice cream. The fad spread to other colors than pink until the ice cream makers were put to it to find ways of coloring their product.
Formal calls were made promptly on new comers, and etiquette required that the calls be returned within two weeks. A lady left two of her husband's cards and one of her own on the tray on the hat rack in the hall.
New Year's Day calling prevailed throughout the decade. Ladies who decided to "receive" announced in the newspapers the hours they would be "At Home." Refreshments were served and occasionally some such form of entertainment as dancing was provided. The gentlemen generally drove in sleighs from one house to another and left specially printed "Happy New Year" cards.
The Temperance Movement had passed from the hands of the Good Templars to the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Saloons were fairly well regulated. The W. C. T. U. with their slogan "For God and Home and Native Land" carried a column in one of the local newspapers acquainting the public with the progress of their work. Their oratorical contests were well attended and emotionally satisfying. Nearly all church women were active in the movement.
Children looked forward to the Sunday-school picnic in summer and the concert and tree at Christmas time. When a bit older they would attend choir practice and church socials where they played games and ate hot biscuits with maple syrup, or strawberries with cake, or oyster soup with doughnuts, according to the season. The church supper combined with the yearly bazaar was a huge meal at which layer cakes predominated.
Home talent entertainments were frequent and well attended as were magic lantern shows.
A large enough group could be depended upon to support a lecture course, though more than lectures were included—jubilee singing, concerts and, most popular of all, elocution, the name by which we refer today to readings or impersonations.
Fashions in Dress
Fashion wise, the era of the eighties has been called the Mauve Decade. The Red Flannel Decade would probably have been a more appropriate name. A modern version of sack cloth and ashes, an undergarment worn by men as well as women, long-sleeve and ankle-length, was donned about the first of November and clung (literally, for flannel was shrinkable material) until the first of May. Besides its warmth-giving qualities, red flannel was credited with a curative, or at least malady-preventive, value.
Most men were bewhiskered—burnsides, beard, or fringe cut. Though black broadcloth, "plug" hat, and gold-headed cane set the standard in gentleman's attire, few occasions in Ludington required such elegance. Business suits, tailored to measurement and trim with stiff-bosom, high-collar shirts, were supplied by several efficient shops, among them John Gebhart's and F. M. Ashbacker's. Peter Mendelson's clothing store had supplied ready-to-wear suits from the early seventies.
Men wore high boots, often made to order. Groening's shoe shop "at the sign of the golden boot" was long a land mark on south James Street.
In the red plush photograph album, long the chief exhibit on the marble-top center table of the eighties, and from the pages of the Delineator, the modern fashion magazine which was rapidly pushing Godey's publication into the background, the feminine form divine was imitating the lines and proportions of the hour glass.
The corset was one compound curve after another produced by whale bones and a heavy cloth known as drilling. The bustle was a contraption of this same sturdy material stuffed with that strange device, excelsior, reinforced with a wire coil. The bustle was fastened about the lady's waist with a belt and buckle. The "hoops" which had extended the skirts of Civil War days had gradually diminished in size and were on their way out.
Ladies underwear was not lingerie in the eighties. The lady of that day referred to her undergarments as "unmentionables," if she referred to them at all, and she would have blushed furiously if they had been spoken of in mixed company. Yet they, especially the trousseau, were works of art, remarkable for their fine material and the fullness thereof. Nainsook, lawn, and muslin were used, and the fine stitchery and embroidery were done by hand with a cambric needle.
Accessories was a word not used in the fashion vocabulary of the period, yet certain things "went with" a lady's costume. The parasol of pastel color, ruffled or lace trimmed, and the fan of gauze, lace, or feathers were never underestimated. The lace trimmed handkerchief was carried on every occasion, since paper had not replaced it. In milady's reticule was likely to be found a tiny glass bottle with a gold or silver top, containing smelling salts, and known as a vinaigrette.
A perfect lady fainted occasionally and the salts revived her.
The gown of this period was a marvelous creation of pleats, puffs, panniers, panels, and passamenterie. If used "for best" it was very likely made of black silk, " so stiff it would stand alone," fitted "as if she were molded into it."
Into this young city of sand and sawdust, fleas and flies, bearded men and bustled women, the new decade opened in disaster. The town was smitten by a diphtheria epidemic and the "big fire." As long as they lived terror rose in the hearts of parents who recalled the grief-filled days of the early eighties.
Some had lost as many as four children within a few hours. For months schools were closed, families were quarantined, and all other precautions known to the medical profession were taken, but the epidemic raged out of hand. Dr. G. O. Switzer, who came here directly from medical school to assist Dr. Philip P. Shorts, estimated that two hundred school children died.
Yellow flags marking the houses where the disease had entered, and black crepe streamers floating from the doors of homes from which little victims had "gone," waved in triumph week after week as if disease and death were celebrating a holiday. At the peak of the disaster in the winter of 1881 the ground froze so hard, and snow drifts piled so high that burials could not be made in the cemetery; shallow graves were made in the home yard.
In March as the ground thawed, funeral processions began to move toward the cemetery, and day after day despairing parents followed their dead from their door yards to their family burial plots. Physicians believed the disease was a cold-weather problem, and that warm weather would of itself stop the raging scourge. But early June found the epidemic still out of hand.
Children were still quarantined in their yards when the big fire broke out on June 11, 1881. A circus was in town that day and the parade had started from the lot on Main Street (Gaylord Avenue) south of the Big Store when fire started in a bakery on the north side of Loomis Street between Charles (Rath Avenue) and James Streets.
The only fire protection the mushroom town possessed was a few wells dug in the streets and a few force pumps, some privately owned. A brisk wind was blowing, and despite the efforts of all the able bodied men in town, circus performers among them, the flames wiped out the principal business section, bounded roughly by Loomis, Charles, Court and Harrison Streets, and at some points spread into the residential sections.
Stocks and furnishings were hastily carted to vacant lots. Children broke quarantine and ran wild while busy housewives made ready their spare rooms to accommodate their burned out neighbors. By night fall the flames were under control. By morning relaxation had begun its healing work and drays began hauling building material to vacant lots. Within a week brick blocks began to rise on the sites of primitive frame buildings, and a fine new business section began to rise from the ashes of early Ludington.
A water system was under construction when the big fire occurred, but the work had not progressed far enough for the system to be of any use. In early December of 1880, six months preceding the great catastrophe, a fire had occurred that destroyed the Central House and Phalen House, two small hotels on South James Street.
With great difficulty hand engines owned in the neighborhood had pumped water from wells and saved the adjoining property. From this disaster grew demands for better fire protection. The organization of the Ludington Water Supply Company followed.
In March of 1881 work began on the project with Nelson J. Gaylord as superintendent, and on the southwest corner of West Ludington Avenue and Park Street a brick building was erected to house the pumping machinery. Both the intake pipe and the sewage disposal pipe connected with the channel. Hydrants for which an annual rental of eighty dollars each was charged were installed throughout the city. The completion of the system gave the townspeople a feeling of security they had never before enjoyed.
Important as was fire protection, this aspect was overshadowed by the amazing effects of the water system on the appearance of the city. The possession of running water and a sewage system ushered in a series of projects that marked the eighties as a decade of civic progress. The Ludington Record of May 3, 1883 noted: "Grading and sodding lots in all parts of the city has been carried on for the past two weeks to the great improvement of the city's general appearance.
Scores of shade trees have been planted at the same time and will add much in beauty to the city's appearance." Whirling sprinklers throughout the city reflected rainbows on the recently sodded lawns as the newly available water was put to use. To protect these lawns cows were no longer permitted to run at large. Down came the unsightly fences. Gradually all live stock was banished and the cow sheds disappeared from the back yards.
The water system also ushered in the tin bath tub, and an era of house remodeling began to arrange for the bath room. Soon the little Johns together with the lattice work that had partly concealed some of them began to disappear. The gingerbread type of architecture became popular, and scroll-saw-tortured towers, turrets, cupolas, bay windows and porches blossomed on houses throughout the city.
William G. Fortune who had been the first to build his home north of the ravine, pioneered a new residential section as that area began to take shape in blocks of new homes, and Charles, James, Harrison and Rowe Streets were bridged across the gully. East Ludington Avenue became the fashionable residential street, the show place of the city.
Inside the homes the base-burner, mica-window, coal stove was replaced by the hot air furnace or steam and hot water heating systems. Golden oak and red plush furniture crowded out the early Victorian walnut and black horse-hair pieces. Upright pianos with perforated paneling replaced the parlor organs and melodeons of an earlier day. Currier and Ives prints and steel engravings were on their way out.
The glass-domed dish of wax fruit, together with the white marble-top table on which it stood, as well as the corner what-not were about ready for the attic. But the hanging lamp with its sparkling crystal prisms remained, literally, the highlight of the sitting room until the electric light was introduced.
Regardless of all this progress and improvement an ominous note which had appeared in the Record of May 7, 1880 was recalled with misgivings: "It is doubtful whether the saw mill at Lincoln will run this season owing to the expense of getting out logs at the present time. It is reported that there is but one more season's cut on that river." Lincoln, the bustling village, that had once been the county seat was nearing its end, about to meet the common fate of many saw mill towns—desertion and death. Could Ludington with its eight saw mills survive after the surrounding pine had been cut?
Early in the eighties a grave-yard-whistling group was presenting salt as a restorative if this saw-humming city showed signs of passing out with the mills. The complete story of the beginning of salt manufacturing in Ludington maybe compiled by following the issues of the Ludington Record, beginning in the late months of 1882.
In November of that year a drill house was erected by the Pere Marquette Lumber Company near their mill, and shortly thereafter a contractor to drill for salt was selected. In February of the following year Eugene Rohn, a young man recently arrived in Ludington seeking a business career, was placed in charge of the pump, and the contractor was informed that everything was in readiness to begin work.
A month later "the Company expects its salt-well contractor any day." By June the well was down seventy-eight feet and operations temporarily suspended. But a week later the work had been resumed and the well was down one hundred forty feet. In July at two hundred twenty-four feet the contractor changed from a twelve-inch to a nine-inch pipe and was boring through "stiff soil."
In late August work had been suspended; the pipe had burst at eighty feet below the surface, and all pipe below that depth would have to be removed by special machinery "a tedious job."
By October they were "prosecuting" the job day and night. By November there was trouble again, " the precise nature of which had not been ascertained." By December there was "a good prospect of making some progress."
By the end of January 1884 the well was down four hundred ninety-five feet, by April forty-one feet farther, by July 31, "but never mind—it is not deep enough for a salt well yet by some 1200 feet." H. E. Freeman, the superintendent, estimated that "without unlocked for delays" they would reach brine at a depth of probably 2000 feet in April. April 9 at 2,030 feet, "salt may be struck at any time."
A few days later and 112 feet deeper the pole broke leaving drill and sinker at the bottom of the well, and "machinery must be brought in for extracting these."
The promoters, apparently, were discouraged. The Record reported: "It has been confidently expected in the past that salt would have been struck before this, and the promoters of the enterprise are somewhat undetermined as to how far they will go before giving up the enterprise.
The general public, in the meantime, is anxious to see the matter proven to a depth of 2500 feet if necessary . . The promoters finally decided to go on with the drilling and by early May at 2,160 feet the salometer indicated brine at 72 degrees.
Orders were given to continue boring. May 21, Good News! Said the Record: "All classes of citizens who take interest in the future growth and prosperity of the city are jubilant this week over the discovery of an inexhaustible supply of salt . . . The oft mooted question of what will become of Ludington after the pine is cut is forever set at rest." The town celebrated noisily with speeches and a parade.
The Pere Marquette Lumber Company proceeded to build an addition to the saw mill and install machinery for making salt barrels. By the end of July a block had been erected containing tanks, settlers, and grainers for the manufacture of salt.
It was predicted that the plant would be in operation by November; later the date was set up to December. The Record reported December 17, 1885: "Last Monday the Pere Marquette Lumber Company commenced the manufacture of salt in earnest. The community is to be congratulated upon the establishment of so important an industry."
Salt became one of the town's important commercial products and several mill firms drilled wells. The waste fuel of the mill produced the steam used in processing the brine.
Hope and pride in the city's appearance surged so high in the waning years of the decade that improvement of the sandy streets was demanded. Seven miles of cedar block pavement were completed by the end of 1887, extending from the Big Store on West Ludington Avenue, around "the big square" bounded by James and Dowland Streets and Ludington and Washington Avenues, then on to the foot of Madison Street in the Fourth Ward.
The work began with grading the streets and removing some of the sand that had spilled in from the dunes. As the leveling was completed pine planks were laid and covered with tar. On this the cedar blocks were placed, end up, and the intervening space filled with gravel. All during the life of cedar block pavement, the streets were lively with the clop-clop of horses and the rumble of iron tires.
Nearly every store owned a delivery rig of some sort, intra-city transportation was carried on by horse-drawn drays, and there was a great deal of pleasure driving.
The crowning improvements in the modernization of the eighties was the installation of electric lights. The Brush Electric Company installed ninety arc lights for the streets in 1888. On a mild evening in April of that year James B. McMahon and Dan V. Samuels orated from an improvised stand at the intersection of Ludington Avenue and James Street reviewing the city's progress since its incorporation in 1873.
At the words, "Let there be light," the Mayor, the Hon. A.E. Smith, turned the switch, and a loud hurrah went up as "the brilliant rays from the powerful arc lights" blossomed throughout the city. A parade started headed by Glazier's Cornet Band followed by three divisions of the fire department, the Danish band, the Danish Aid Society, and a hundred carriages filled with leading citizens and visitors.
Greek fire illuminated the procession at points along the route. The parade was followed by dancing parties held in the skating rink and other halls throughout the city. Though the installation meant only ninety street lights, the achievement was a grand climax in an important list of city improvements.
Economy minded taxpayers accustomed to turning low their kerosene lamps when no one in the room was reading, and carrying lanterns on the streets on dark nights, had to be educated up to the fact that it cost money to produce electricity.
For a time the new lights were switched off at midnight and they never burned on moonlight nights. When money in the city treasury ran low, the lights were not turned on at all, and night travelers got out their lanterns again. But eventually the problems were worked out, and the use of electricity began to expand.
The stores began to accept the new medium, using arc lights attached to the street circuit, but timid home owners were slow in accepting the incandescent light. The electric company made inducements of a trial porch-light for three months at fifty cents a month, and, though fear of electricity and the cost of installation caused delay, electric lighting was gradually extended to the homes.
The elegant eighties was a decade of growth and progress for Ludington. The sand swept village of primitive buildings skirting swamps and gulleys had grown into a city of wide paved streets shaded by arching maples and a business district of modern buildings. It was a city of good schools and churches and prosperous people.
The living of everyone in the city depended directly or indirectly, on the lumber industry. The eight lumber mills and their allied salt blocks, planing mills and shingle mills operated, sometimes day and night, twelve (later shortened to ten) hours a shift for eight or nine months of the year. Wages ranged from a dollar to a dollar and a half a day for common labor to three or four dollars for skilled men such as sawyers and filers.
From along the docks the merged odors of tar, rope, fish, freshly cut pine and burning sawdust floated through the town with an off-lake breeze. From the little lake came the raucous whistles and rhythmic exhaust of steam craft mingled with the yo-heave-ho of sailors raising canvas. A fleet of white-sailed ships, escorted in and out the harbor by puffing tugs, carried lumber across the lake. Pine was king. Chicago was the greatest lumber market in the world. And Ludington was closely related to Chicago.
The decade that followed the elegant eighties buffeted "hard times," strikes, uprisings, war and insurrection. Yet these years oddly enough have been dubbed the Gay Nineties. All the catastrophes of the decade were reflected in Ludington.
Lumber mills in this area reached their peak of production in 1891 when 146,000,000 feet were manufactured. The decline began the following summer when Pardee, Cook and Company's mill was wiped out by fire and was not rebuilt.
From the angle of pay rolls the manufacture of salt was proving a disappointment since the industry required comparatively few men, and the product could be manufactured economically only by using steam from the mills. When the mills closed, the salt wells would be capped. With the manufacture of lumber and salt on the wane, Ludington faced the dismaying possibility that the end was in sight.
Within three miles of the city, shifting sand swirled around the vacant buildings of "old Lincoln," the once bustling village that had predated Ludington as the county seat. Here only ten years previously Charles Mears' historic mill had hummed, and, from slab-piled piers, his lumber-laden schooners had set sail for Chicago.
Now the village was deserted. Creeping vines grew over the door steps of abandoned cottages, and children bent on picnics raced through the vacant rooms of the gaunt boarding house. The tired old mill was toppling into the water. Could all this happen to Ludington?
The town must not die! Other industries must be attracted here to replace the mills. The city had valuable possibilities as a summer resort. The harbor and railroad facilities were important assets. The splendid farms and orchards of its rapidly developing hinterland would bring wealth to the city.
Business men, alarmed by the appalling possibility of a vanishing Ludington, organized a Citizens' Development Company. Their efforts received the name and ever since have been known as "the boom."
The first project of this company was the platting of Manufacturers' Addition, a two-thousand acre tract of land, bounded by the present Bryant Street and Washington, Rath and Tinkham Avenues. Water mains were laid by the city, telephone lines were extended, and the Flint and Pere Marquette Railway Company built a spur to the tract.
A neatly printed and illustrated brochure was distributed with the hope of attracting new capital here.
The booklet refused to "assign the common word boom to the growth of this always prosperous, pleasant and busy town." "We are not content," said the author, "to stop with what we have, but are reaching out and encouraging others to come." Three small, short-lived factories came.
The most happily completed project of the doleful decade was the establishment of Epworth. The possibilities of making Ludington a summer resort town had been explored by Charles G. Wing, President of the Citizen's Development Company, after he came into possession of the Filer House. This pioneer hostelry had been obliged to give up as a commercial hotel after the area around the intersection of James Street and Ludington Avenue became the business center of the city.
A stock company was formed in the early nineties to remodel the Filer House and erect cottages on the grounds, but the plan failed. Eventually the thirty-year-old hotel, built to house James Ludington's mill hands, was torn down and the land, burdened with delinquent taxes amounting to nearly $4,000, became the city park.
During lumbering days Ludington was not considered a good summer resort town. Many tourists and resorters passed through here on their way to the fashionable vacation spots in the northern part of the state, but no one had cared to build a summer home near whining saw mills and the raucous lumber traffic on Pere Marquette Lake.
Regardless of the disturbing noise, nearly every family in Ludington entertained summer visitors who enjoyed the beach, picnicked in the Buttersville grove, and relaxed in the shade of leafy maples. Camping parties, one on Old Baldy, long since hauled off to a glass factory, and one at the old log house on the historic LaBelle farm, gathered each summer as vacations of congenial groups permitted. These vacationers advertised Ludington's possibilities as a summer recreation land.
Since the mill at old Lincoln had ceased to buzz, the area surrounding the deserted village had become a picnic spot. Second growth trees and shrubs covered the logged off land and wild flowers grew in the hollows and on the wooded hills. It was here at old Lincoln in the summer of 1894 that Epworth came into existence as the Epworth League Training Assembly, named in honor of the youth organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
In the summer of 1894 a group of these young people came here to live in tents and study the Bible.
To them was donated 240 acres of land by enterprising citizens of Ludington. The Flint and Pere Marquette Railway Company approved the venture with a generous gift of money. Surveying and platting the tract, building the auditorium and two cottages and installing utilities was accomplished in five weeks. The following year the hotel and more cottages were erected, and Ludington business men built the memorable Epworth League Railway known as "the dummy line."
From this wholesome beginning a summer assembly conducted on the Chautauqua plan grew rapidly. Some of the finest talent in the country, men and women of nation-wide repute as orators, lecturers and musicians, came to the Epworth platform. More than one summer Handel's "Messiah" was produced there by a chorus and orchestra of Ludington musicians. The development of Hamlin soon followed. William G. Hudson and Charles T. Gatke built the first summer hotels on Hamlin Lake. The "dummy line" was extended to that resort area and renamed the Ludington and Northern Railroad.
But delightful as were the cultural aspects of Epworth, and the vacation enjoyments of Hamlin, it was plain that summer resorts that functioned only a few weeks during the hot weather could not compete with a saw mill in providing jobs. Other means must be explored.
Development of Harbor and Railroad Facilities
Many believed that the railroad and harbor would not let the town die. A straight line on the map from Detroit to Minneapolis passed practically through Ludington. Transportation miles could be saved if the manufactured articles of the lower lake region and the wheat of the Red River Valley followed this straight line instead of rolling around the lower end of Lake Michigan. This freight would have to cross the lake, preferably with Ludington as the east shore port.
Freight handling had brought business to Ludington since the sixties when steam boats of the Engleman Transportation Company had relieved the lumber schooners of this side line. After the Flint and Pere Marquette Railway entered Ludington in 1874 an increase in cross lake freight and passenger business had developed rapidly.
In 1882 the railroad company began building their own steamers to replace those of the Goodrich Transportation Company. On a balmy September day of that year the Flint and Pere Marquette No. 1 sailed into Ludington harbor and was deafeningly saluted by everything in the little lake possessing a whistle, her own raucous voice responding blast for blast.
A large part of the saw log town's population welcomed the newcomer. Her sister ship the No. 2 soon followed. In the ensuing ten years, the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 were brought out new. Later three more wooden ships were purchased and added to the line. All were wooden boats painted black and became known as the "Black Boats."
Summer resort boats, on their run from Chicago to the northern Michigan playgrounds, stopped at Ludington two or three times a week. These fair weather boats—the Puritan, the Petoskey, the City of Charlevoix (renamed the Kansas), the Illinois and Missouri added gay coloring to the harbor scene. In 1895 two of these summer lines merged.
The Seymour Transportation Company and the Northern Michigan Transportation Company became one, taking the name of the latter. Antoine E. Cartier of Ludington owned an interest in the line, and the boats used the Cartier dock on his mill property at the foot of James Street. When the schedule permitted, passengers often rented the waiting hacks to haul them about the city streets where they could see a lumber town in full swing.
Besides the Pere Marquette Railway and the summer resort boats, there was one giving twice a day service between Ludington and Pentwater. These boats filled the gap in railroad service on the east shore.
The Pentwater boats were small, the best remembered probably the Grace Barker, the E. G. Maxwell, and the John D. Dewar. The twelve-mile ride to Pentwater, supper at the Elliott House (later the Imus House) and return by moonlight was a favorite holiday trip in the days before the automobile changed our way of having a good time.
The tiniest passenger boat on Pere Marquette Lake was the busy little ferry between Ludington and Buttersville, a thriving village then with a saw mill, lath and shingle mills, salt block and cooper shop besides the lumber barge, the Marshall F. Butters, and the logging railroad, the Mason and Oceana, popularly nicknamed The Miserable and Onery. Three hundred people lived in Buttersville. In turn the Maude Lilly, the Sprite, the Mary Scott, the Helen Taylor, and the Ralph M. Cooper, probably others, chugged across the little lake from the foot of James Street to the dock at Buttersville. A schedule of 45 minute service and five-cent fare was maintained while the mills operated.
Not only mill employees but also picnic parties bound for the Buttersville grove, passengers going south on the Mason and Oceana railroad and students attending Ludington high school crossed on the tiny ferry boat.
These boats, added to the schooners, barges and tugs of the hectic lumber traffic made a vivid, colorful scene of the little lake.
By the middle nineties the gloom in Ludington was almost opaque. The three new factories that had been attracted here had folded. The Citizen's Development Company was in litigation and their project in the hands of a receiver. The Commercial and Savings Bank which had financed "the boom" failed. A. E. Cartier saw that the depositors were paid in full but the loss to the stockholders was heavy.
Ward's south mill burned in September of 1895. It had not been running for two years and the machinery had been removed, but the burning, according to the Record of September 26, "marked the rapid decay and near extinction of the pine lumber industry of Ludington,"
Discouragement reached the point that there was serious talk of discontinuing the high school. The Ludington Record of July 2, 1896 reported: "The public school matters are subject of common talk these days. Consensus is against any increase of taxation and in favor of vigorous cutting down of expense. Some go so far as to favor abolishing the high school."
The city was frequently disturbed by strikes at the freight sheds. These work stoppages were an expense and distress to the railroad company. Executives finally asked, "Why not a boat designed to carry the loaded car and avoid the expense of transferring the freight? " The answer was a carferry. There were wooden carferries operating on the lakes, but the first steel carferry in the world, the Pere Marquette, built by the railroad company, entered Ludington harbor in February 1897.
The launching of the memorable Pere Marquette, occurred in Bay City, Michigan, December 30, 1896. She was brought to Ludington for completion and made her maiden voyage from here to Milwaukee. On February 18, 1897 the Record reported: "The appearance of the new carferry at Milwaukee called out between 40,000 and 50,000 people to see the mammoth craft . . . The boat is in command of Captain Joseph Russell and the engine is in charge of Robert MacLaren . . . Captain Russell may well feel proud of his new command. There is nothing to equal it on all the lakes." Many others felt pride, but job-hungry freight handlers wondered if the carferry didn't mean fewer jobs instead of more.
The gloom of the situation was not diminished when in September the pioneer Pere Marquette Lumber Company sawed its last log, and in December the Danaher-Melendy Company announced that they were moving their head office from Ludington to Dollarville where their volume of business exceeded that at Ludington.
During the nineties hardwood lumbering became exceedingly important to Ludington. In the early days of the lumbering industry when logs were brought down rivers to the mills the hardwoods were by-passed because the logs would not float. When the pine forests within profitable reach of the rivers had been cut, it became necessary to bring the outlying timber to the mills by means of railroads. With rail transportation available, the magnificent maples and other deciduous trees of Mason County began to share the fate of the giant pines.
The woodsman's ax had felled many hardwoods in the making of farms. Great bob-sled loads of beech and maple cord wood drawn by oxen or farm horses, hauled in to fuel the town's heating stoves and ranges, were familiar winter sights on Ludington Streets. There were still large acreages of these woods on the farms when the mill owners sought them as merchantable timber. With improved methods of felling the trees the land was left in suitable condition for easy clearing and cropping. Fruit growing and general farming made a rapid growth during this period of hardwood marketing.
Though all the mill owners in Ludington cut hardwood as well as pine during the closing years of the waning industry, Albert Vogel became the leading independent hardwood operator in the county. He owned five portable mills and large tracts of hard woods in Mason County as well as in Wisconsin. He continued to maintain his home in Ludington where he had come in the late seventies and, during the years since, had been the local representative of the Valentine Blatz Brewing Company of Milwaukee.
In 1898 he controlled the product of nearly half the hardwood land in Mason County. Other Ludington operators who logged hardwood in that year were W. C. Barbour, Antoine E. Cartier, Charles C. Cartier, Butters and Peters, Cartier and Rath, Ludington Woodenware Company, Cartier Enameling Company, and Danaher and Melendy. Rasmus Rasmussen was the outstanding dealer in hemlock. He dealt in ties, wood and bark, shipping his product in his two-masted schooner, the Abbie.
The sun began to dispel the gloom in the nineties when some of the abandoned buildings on Manufacturers' Addition were occupied with factories making use of hardwood. Such products as game boards, folding tables, kitchen utensils, butter molds and clothes pins began to carry the name of Ludington throughout the United States.
Some of the industries now operating had their beginning in those years, among them the Carom Company and the Handy Things Company. The remarkable growth of fruit growing at this time made profitable two other industries, a basket factory and a canning factory. Their work was seasonal without large pay rolls, but helpful to the morale of the community.
The Ludington Appeal of May 5, 1898 contains the following story:
"By far the most interesting word that has yet come to the people of the Fourth Ward and of the entire city was the news that the T. R. Lyon plant had been purchased by Mr. J. S. Stearns. It was already a foregone conclusion that the plant giving employment to a very large number of men and being perhaps the largest single institution in the city, must close its doors within a year or two and join the steadily increasing van of departing mill men.
Mr. Lyon has operated the plant for nearly a quarter of a century, and, although still possessing valuable holdings of pine lands tributary to this point, he was desirous of disposing of the mill and estate and confining his attention to matters with which he is more closely associated.
The remarkably low figure at which the plant was sold, $20,000 for the entire institution and appurtenances, is in substantiation of the above statement that Mr. Lyon would have ceased cutting at the north mill in a very short time.
With the change of ownership comes a new hope that the mill will be operated for many years to come."
The generation that grew up in the prosperous years following the Civil War heard a great deal of the glories of that conflict. The day that war was declared against Spain in April of 1898, school children of Ludington put aside their books and sang "The Red, White and Blue" and other patriotic songs. After the battle of Manila youth learned a new song to the tune of " Yankee Doodle," " Then Yankee Dewey sent us word, And this is what he said, sir: 'We've sunk their gun boats every one, And not a Yankee dead, sir.' "
War seemed as simple as that in those untested days.
The Spanish American war was fought entirely by volunteers. About fifty men from Mason County enlisted but few of them saw fighting in Cuba, though some of them were within sound of gun firing when hostilities ceased. The horrors of war overtook our men when typhoid fever, malaria, and yellow fever broke out in the camps.
In the Philippine Insurrection which followed the Cuban war, Ludington lost its first man to die in action, William Wallace Salisbury. Later George Quinn died in the Philippines while in the armed forces. The two military funerals sobered their home town into a realization that war was not all glory and flag waving.
The war had no effect on the economy of the town. There were no bond sales or drives of any kind. The real effects of the conflict, the realization that the nation had become a world power, and the decision that the Panama Canal must be built as soon as possible, were slow in crystalizing.
Return to Prosperity
By the time Aquinaldo's surrender ended the Philippine Insurrection, the country was well out of the "hard times" of the early nineties. After the election of 1896, when wheat reached a dollar a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, the return of prosperity was loudly proclaimed.
Though Ludington shared in the general optimism, there were those who could see no bright future for the town, and groups of overburdened taxpayers fought proposed improvements. When the original unit of the present senior high school and the court house were built during those uncertain years, there was a difference of opinion between those who groaned under the required heavy taxes and those who rejoiced that the work "gave men jobs."
The wooden pavements needed attention. The cedar blocks had gone to pieces rapidly after the pavements were laid. Too, the cedar blocks were in ill repute because of the malaria that plagued the town. Though the mosquito had not yet been proved guilty, there were those who felt some connection existed between the disease and decaying vegetation or the miasma that hung over the streets. But not until the end of the decade was the machinery put in motion to begin replacing the cedar blocks with macadam pavements.
Those improvements on which decisions could be made individually moved faster. Replacing the plank sidewalks with cement began about the middle nineties. The Record of May 21, 1896 stated, "Ex-alderman Blouin's 36 feet of cement sidewalk on James Street is a good starter along that thoroughfare."
Five years later: "The amount of cement walk being laid has given opportunity for the formation of a new firm—Caswell, Eseltine and Reed. Our well known H. B. Caswell is the senior member . . . They are at present engaged in laying 200 feet for A. E. Cartier on two sides of the club house . . . Mr. Cartier's action is exceptionally public spirited in making improvements on property unoccupied and without income."
Cement sidewalks followed in the residential areas. The steadily increasing number of summer resorters and tourists coming here gave an added impetus to this improvement. Property owners wanted the visitors to be favorably impressed.
House building and remodeling, begun in the eighties, continued throughout the nineties and a goodly number of handsome modern residences of gingerbread architecture were erected throughout the city.
October 1, 1898 was an important day in Ludington—the day of the first free mail delivery here. The first carriers were U. S. Grant, Eugene Rohn, Claude Bailey and Charles Clausen. Ben Beaudreau was substitute carrier. The routes were about twenty miles each and were covered twice a day.
The carriers climbed stairs in office buildings and in winter broke a path in the snow, since the carriers were out on their routes before the snow plow passed. When the post office inspector came he protested the long arduous routes. George Hammond was added to the carrier force and given a horse and cart route on the outskirts of the town.
There were four rural routes out of the Ludington post office. Since the weather meant a great deal in farming areas the official weather reports, received daily by telegraph at the life saving station, were flagged on the carts of the rural carriers.
As in many other small towns there had grown up a fellowship among those going to the post office at the same time each day, meeting the same people and discussing the current town topics for a few moments. After the inauguration of mail delivery post office box holders missed this association for a time, but the gap was soon filled by improved telephone facilities.
The few telephones in use as far back as the eighties had been used only for business and emergencies. When Heber R. Mason came here in the late nineties as manager for the telephone company, he began to build up the residential part of the business. He made it possible to install a telephone in a home for one dollar a month.
The first telephone directory in Ludington was issued May 1, 1899. Two hundred forty telephones were listed and fifty more had been ordered. Previous to calling by number, "Central"—a very important person—was requested to "get my party" by the name of the person or the place—"Please give me the Busy Big Store" or "Call the City Hall quick-there's a fire." With the new directory patrons were requested to make their calls by number.
The "New Woman" was in the news everywhere. One of her activities was the organization of literary clubs. When the National Federation of Women's Clubs was formed at the turn of the century sixty-three clubs in seventeen states united in this organization.
Early in the nineties the first women's club in Ludington, The Pere Marquette Literary Club, was organized largely through the efforts of Miss Elizabeth Smith.
The meetings of the club were held in the afternoon at the home of one of its members, and their programs followed the general plan of literary clubs of that day. Masterpieces of literature were reviewed, and papers were prepared on subjects pertaining to books and writers.
Another early club was the Bay View Reading Circle organized in the early nineties by Mrs. John S. Woodruff. Meetings were held each Monday evening in her home, membership was by invitation from Mrs. Woodruff, and men were included in the membership. The Bay View course was much like that of the Chautauqua course so popular at the time. The headquarters and assembly were at Bay View, Michigan.
The women's club movement developed rapidly and by the end of the decade other clubs had been formed in Ludington. Besides these all the lodges had women's auxiliaries. A great deal of the social life of the city stemmed from these organizations.
New Opportunities for Women
Regardless of the New Woman movement opportunities for those in Ludington desiring to enter the world of men outside the home were limited. By far the greater number of young women turned to school teaching as a means of livelihood. The telephone company and the post office employed a few girls. Some turned to music and supported themselves by giving piano lessons.
When Thomas R. Lyon Agt. brought Miss Anna Fiske (Mrs. E. N. Dundass) here as his stenographer and typist, high school girls saw the opening of a new career for women. Miss Fisk, it was said, received a salary of seventy dollars a month while women teachers were receiving from twenty-five to fifty dollars but only nine or ten months of the year. It was not long before the Martindale and Rose Business College opened in the old court house building, and more young women turned to careers in business.
Those who turned to music also received an impetus. From the first Ludington was music conscious and had always possessed good talent, but opportunities to hear good music were limited. The phonograph changed this.
The Ludington Appeal of February 24, 1898 told the following story:
"The Presbyterian church was packed to the doors last Friday night with people who were alive with curiosity to see and hear the gramaphone (phonograph). And it's safe to say too that none of them was disappointed. The instrument did all and more too than was expected of it ... M. H. Butters and his son operated the machine."
The increasingly popular Epworth programs, the winter lecture course, the presentation of cookery as an art by women's magazines with an occasional "cooking school" in Ludington gave additional opportunities for the cultural growth of women.
It is doubtful if an automobile had ever appeared on the streets of Ludington sixty years ago, but travelers to the cities had returned and reported they saw a horseless carriage while in the metropolis. Some even prophesied the passing of the horse.
The "cinematograph" appeared in Ludington during the nineties. It was a crude affair, but interesting, and in time might replace the magic lantern in the entertainment field. The scenes were exciting, sometimes amusing and objects really did move. It was several years later that filmed plays began to compete with the stage. These moving picture shows came to the old opera house on James Street on the site of the present Lyric Theatre. Many signs foretold a changing world, but as yet Ludington had no great part in the conversion. The official census at the end of the nineties showed that during the decade Ludington had lost 1,078 people. It's population figure now was 7,166.
Transformation of the beautiful little city on Lake Michigan came gradually. One by one Ludington's four remaining saw mills ceased operation, the last one in 1917 when the Stearns mill banked its fires. In place of the mills came other industries, the Star Watch Case factory in 1906 followed at intervals by Electric Tamper Company, Thompson Cabinet Company, Atkinson Manufacturing Company, Wolverine Manufacturing Company and Dow Chemical Company among others, their products known in many parts of the world.
Improved farm facilities brought changes in rural living and added pay rolls to agricultural areas. The prosperity and cultural growth of her hinterland favored Ludington. The eight-hour day became effective giving more leisure time to millions of families and Ludington's surrounding tourist and resort areas grew amazingly. Many come here summer after summer seeking relaxation, increasing the population four fold during the resort season.
The lumbering era of Ludington—days of sand, sawdust and saw logs—is a thing of the past. A new way of living has grown up in the areas haunted by ghosts of lumbering years. Huge modern industries occupy some of the former mill sites. The peaceful Pere Marquette river that carried the huge log drives to the mills now flows through wooded slopes and well tended farms where summer visitors find good fishing. On the sites of former mill villages stand secluded summer homes.
The silver winged lumber schooners have disappeared from the harbor, their place taken by the largest fleet of train ferries in the world.
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Note to researchers, I do not maintain information on families outside of my own at this time, Your best chance to contact other family researchers and find information is going to be in posting some of your family information on the Mason County Boards. Volunteers and lookup materials can be found in the "lookups" category. -I routinely check the postings if I have information or can steer you in another direction I will contact you. I do not provide research services. Historic White Pine Village can help you in that area.
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