Mason County History Companion
Old Places Familiar Faces
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At last they had found the place for which they had been searching. A spot covered with beautiful virgin pine. Charles Carr and Benjamin Barnett, brothers-in-law, had traveled all the way from Lawrence County, New York, in 1867, just after the Civil War, for just such a spot. They had come in search of the pine, first, to find relief for Barnett's wife who was suffering from the dreaded disease, "consumption", and secondly, to establish timber claims. Carr and Barnett were Union soldiers just out of the service, taking advantage of the right given them to establish such claims.
The first timber was cut by the Barnetts in this heavily wooded area. There were one or two trails made by Indian hunters. There were also several empty wigwams indicating that hunting parties had been in the vicinity.
Carr and Barnett both settled on the spot now known as Carr Settlement, which today is an area about, six miles square, part of which is in Lake and part in Mason County. Carr Settlement is located on each side of the County line, about four miles south of Branch, and about eight miles Southwest of Baldwin. Carr settled where the present Don Abel farm is located and Barnett picked the site where John Tyndall now lives. Whether due to the pine or not, Mrs. Barnett lived to be past eighty years of age.
The first death in Carr Settlement was that of the Barnett's little daughter who was burned where the County line is. Later she was moved to an established cemetery.
Another early settler was Edward S. McCumber who brought his family from Canada in 1874. His son, Peter Sherman McCumber, then only nine years of age, later took the first bride in Carrs on July 4, 1884 when he married the daughter of Ephriam Bemis, another early settler. The first log schoolhouse in district No.1, Logan Township, was named after the McCumbers. Marsena Carrol was the first teacher. Other early teachers were a Mr. Reardon and Miss Emma Casted.
The first postmaster was William Perrin with the post office being located on the West half of the Southwest quarter of Section 24, Logan Township. Up to this time the mail had been carried from Pentwater by Dominic Doyle. Doyle was a strong, fearless, athletic type of person, and there are many stories told of him. While there were still just a few families, Doyle volunteered to walk to Pentwater, a village about thirty miles away, and carry back the mail and a few supplies. He would start in early morning, arriving in late afternoon; he would rest awhile and walk back in the night, arriving in mid-morning the following day with a loaded sack on his back.
It is also told that on the 4th of July when there would be a celebration in Ludington about twenty-five miles away, he would walk there, enter the races and jumping contests., and bring home prize money that night.
Later when J. S. Stearns had established a lumber mill in the area, it is said that Doyle, who worked as a sawyer, had trouble finding anyone to work with him, due to his great ability and endurance it is said that he would literally run from tree to tree.
Lois, Dominic's wife, who lived to see the area turned into a productive agricultural community, called it "The Little Garden of Eden." Strange to say this little area, known as Carr Settlement, or "Carrs", while productive itself, was entirely surrounded by what is known as "skim land", which was very unproductive, now covered with scrub oak.
It is told that William Perrin gave his daughter Irene, then Mrs. Austin Makin, a pig. One day she saw a bear enter the yard and carry off the animal. She hurried through the woods to get a neighbor to hunt the bear. During the time she was away, the bear's mate came and carried off the only other pig the Makin's had. It was Edward McCumber who tracked the bear and shot it. Later he got another when it had killed a settler's only cow.
Settlers had plenty of venison and were adept at curing it so that it would keep a long time. The neighborhood's first Sunday school was organized in the Augustus Preston home in Lake County. Church services were held in various homes for many years. Mrs. Barnett often related how she enjoyed a logging bee which all her neighbors attended. At exactly four O'clock in the afternoon all work ceased and dancing began. It lasted so long that the merrymakers remained for breakfast. The Barnett's son George was the first white child born in the settlement. Soon after this, the Barnett's moved to a spot across the river to Branch which was on Pere Marquette River Road put through in 1872. They erected a boarding house for lumbermen coming into the area. Ben Barnett was the first station agent there.
Mrs. Lottie Buckmaster relates how, when she was a young lady selling hats in Scottville, she would go by train with a trunkful of hats down to Barnett's boarding house where the ladies of the community would come in to buy them. Soon a factory for cutting the pine into lumber was established at Stearns Siding, on the Pere Marquette railroad, for or five miles east of Branch. This site grew into a town of 2,700 at its peak.
Today nothing remains to show the town's identity. Many of these people working at Stearn's Siding lived at Carr Settlement on farms cleared of the pine. One such person was John Johnson, a Swedish immigrant, who later became one of the Settlement's best farmers. He worked in the mill firing the mill's engine. One day he asked Mr. J S. Stearns, owner of the factory, if he could buy a certain pile of lumber to build a house. Mr. Stearns replied, "You may have it for $3.00 a thousand." The house, still good-looking, remains today.
Aaron Peterson was another Swedish immigrant who lived at Carrs and worked in the mill. His son Charles owned the first ox team in the area. One day as Charles, then seventeen, was bringing a load of supplies across the river from Stearn's Siding to Carrs, he found the hill leading down to the river very icy. When the sleigh began pushing the ox team down the hill too fast, Charles crawled out on the tongue and attempted to break the oxen's pace. He fell and was struck in the head by the sleigh, from which accident he never fully recovered.
J. S. Stearns, after the removal of most of the pine, began lumbering what is said to have been the best hardwood in Michigan. This was shipped by rail to Ludington. A large basswood cut off the forty acres where the Township hall (Lake) now stands (and a former early school), was sent to the Chicago exposition. It took two railroad cars to carry it.
Some families of French Canadian descent who worked for Stearns and settled in the Settlement, were the Cossette's, Perron's, Arseneau's, Porier's, and Charon's. They were noted as good cooks, and many, both men and women, were hired in the lumbering camps. In and about 1901, the first general store and postoffice was opened in Carr's. Romanzo N. Smart operated the store. Aaron Bennett was under contract to pick up the mail from the mail car at Branch and deliver it to this store. This was called the Star route. In 1907, Arnold C. Misteli, who had moved in from Chicago, ran the first rural free delivery route. He purchased a half dozen small, sturdy, and fast horses shipped in from the west and furnished good and quick service for many years.
In the early 1900's the smaller districts all over Michigan began to consolidate. School District No.2, built for 34 pupils, and bulging with 103, consolidated with District No.3 in Lake Township which at the extreme end of the Settlement. These two schools were sold for $500. The consolidated Lake school, still operating, was built in 1912, for $3200. This amount included two acres of land for playground. At about the same time, schools in Logan Township consolidated and built Locke School. This was a cement-block, two-story building.
At one time ten grades with two teachers were taught in each of these two consolidated schools just three miles apart, with a total enrollment of about one hundred twenty pupils. Finally the two Schools were made into a unit and called Carrs Unit. Three teachers operated the two schools, one at Locke with the 6th, 7th, and 8th, grades, and two at Lake School with the first five grades. In 1954 Carrs District was annexed to Mason County Central Schools, and in 1955 Locke School was closed and the higher grades transported into the Scottville system. Lake School is still operating with six grades and two teachers with an enrollment of about forty students, a part of the Mason County Central School system. This decrease in school enrollment would seem to indicate that the population of Carrs is decreasing.
One of Locke School's older and one of its most popular teachers was George M. Tyndall. Tyndall came to Carrs from Indiana were land was very high and bought a farm in the Settlement. He became a prosperous farmer as well as a good citizen. He was active in community, township, and county affairs. Another "Hoosier" settler was Lew Lake who was the owner of the first automobile in Carrs. It was one of the first models and had a high seat with a rod for steering on the driver' s side. On Sundays he would drive down to the local ball diamond to see a ball game and it is hard to say whether the ball game or the automobile drew the most attention.
When he prepared to leave, people would quickly go to hold the horses' heads to prevent run-a-ways or bolting. This was always an exciting event. Others coming from Indiana and buying farms were the Bogner's, Frank's, Abel's Lyon's, Wann's, and Mohlers'. Anyone who has ever come to the Settlement has undoubtedly heard of the Carrs's Barber Shop. Around 1910, Fred Campbell and Pete Trumpour, both local farmers, built a small building just north of the store and began cutting hair Saturday afternoons and evenings. It soon became the social gathering place for most of the men of the community. Exciting games of set back' would go on until the wee hours of the morning.
When all of the customers were taken care of, the barbers would join in the playing. No one was ever told to go home or that it was time to close shop. The next morning the women of the community would share in the occasion inasmuch as they were always eager to hear the latest gossip or bit of news from the night before.
In 1912, the settlers organizes the first telephone company by selling stock among themselves. The telephone company known as Carr Telephone Company, is still operating with Mrs. Henry Bogner as the operator. The first `central' (so-called operator) was Mrs. Charles Carr whose husband was a direct descendant of Charles Carr, for whom the Settlement was named.
In 1930, a cyclone hit the Settlement, blowing down barns belonging to Charles Spuller and William Bogner, the first community hall, Gillen's silo, Henry Miller's chicken coop full of chickens, and St. Gregory's Catholic Church. Tom Gillen, of Irish descent, known for his keen wit and generous traits of character, was responsible for the re-building of the church. He obtained permission from the bishop to rebuild the church, and with most of the labor donated, built the present building used for Catholic services. The evergreen Chapel is the other present religious edifice. This beautiful little chapel was built chiefly from funds raised by dinners put on by the local Ladies' Aid Society. Their chicken dinners are always a popular attraction in the fall of the year.
One of the greatest projects the Settlement has ever had was the rebuilding of the Community Hall by the people of Lake Township (Lake County), in 1932, with W.P.A. labor. A few years later, one-half of it was deeded to Logan Township, Mason County. It was named Carrs Community Hall and was supervised by a board of directors from each township. The Carr Community Hall grew in popularity through the years for community gatherings.
In 1947, two buildings were acquired from the federal government, (a former C C C camp) for the sum of $1.00 each. This price was set by the federal government for municipality use only. These two buildings were moved a distance of four miles on skids pulled by farm tractors. Labor was donated by the people living in the community. The following summer these buildings were set in place adjacent to the community hall to be used as a kitchen and dining room. This project did much to foster community-spirited citizenship. Carrs people take great pride in their community achievements. John M. Underwood, a rancher who had moved in from South Dakota in 1907, and who was supervisor of Lake Township for many years was active in this project.
We find many people who have lived in "Carrs" and drifted away, returning at one time or another. The roots grown here remain firm and sound. On the other hand, we find the roots of the pine stumps, still remaining, so well preserved these many years, beginning to rot away in the ground. There is not much left to remind us of the pine country. However, we find a stump fence now and then, still defiant to sun, rain, and the freezing snows of Winter.
Thank God for these still remaining mementos of the pioneer days of Carr Settlement! Tree planting crews working recently in the Pere Marquette State Forest of this area (Lake County) accidentally unearthed some relics from Michigan's lumber boom. Relics included logging chains, hand forged hooks, two sections of narrow gage rail, some spikes, drift pins, and one cache of forty crosscut saws. Most of the articles were very well preserved. Some of the better specimens will be turned over to historical museums.
Written December 1, 1957 Katherine La Pointe
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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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