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William Rath.—Among the sterling citizens of Mason county who have contributed in generous degree to the industrial and civic progress and upbuilding of this favored section of the Wolverine commonwealth is William Rath, who is the present able and honored incumbent of the office of mayor of the city of Ludington, where he is also serving as deputy collector of customs for this important port on the Great Lakes system.

Mr. Rath is a scion of staunch German lineage and while he is essentially loyal to American institutions and an effective exponent of the American spirit, he finds a just measure of satisfaction in reverting to the great German empire as his fatherland. He was born in the city of Hamburg, one of the three celebrated "Hanse Towns" of Germany, on the 28th of January, 1849, and is a son of Hans and Mary Rath.

The father died in Germany and the mother died at the home of her son after spending twenty years in America. Mr. Rath is indebted to the excellent schools of his native city for his early educational training and there he was reared to maturity under beneficent environments. In 1870, soon after attaining to his legal majority, he severed the ties that bound him to home and fatherland and set forth to seek his fortunes in America, to whose complex social fabric the German empire has contributed a significantly large and valuable element. He landed in New York city and soon made his way westward to Michigan. He arrived in Ludington on the 21st of June, 1870, and during the long intervening years this place has represented his home, the while he has witnessed its development from a mere straggling hamlet in the lumber woods to a position of importance as a thriving little industrial city and summer resort, as well as a prominent entrepot on the Great Lakes.

The business career of Mr. Rath in Mason county began in a most modest way, as his first employment was as a workman in local saw mills. Through fidelity and effective service he won promotion to the position of log scaler and lumber inspector, and he familiarized himself with all details of the great lumber industry, which then represented the principal and by far the most important line of business enterprise in the entire northern part of the state. About the year 1880 Mr. Rath engaged in lumbering inspecting in an independent way as a member of the firm of Weimer & Rath. Eventually he became senior member of the firm of Rath & Cartier, and this alliance is still in existence. Operations in the manufacturing of lumber in Mason county were continued by the firm until 1907, and since that time its field of enterprise has been principally in the handling of southern timber lands.

Energy, industry and mature judgment have characterized the entire business career of the present mayor of Ludington, and his advancement to a position of independence and distinctive prosperity has been gained through his own well directed efforts, the while his integrity of purpose and devotion to principle have retained to him the unqualified confidence and esteem of those with whom he has come in contact in the various relations of life. In the year 1901 Mr. Rath became associated with Judge Charles G. Wing in organizing and establishing the Ludington State Bank, and he has since been one of its principal stockholders as well as a member of its directorate. Under the same auspices was founded the Fountain Bank, at Fountain, Mason county, and both of these are staunch and popular financial institutions of the northern part of Michigan.

Mr. Rath continues as one of the interested principals in the bank last mentioned, and his progressive spirit and business acumen have also been shown through his earnest co-operation in the promoting and upbuilding of a number of successful manufacturing enterprises in his home city and other places in this section of Michigan. He is sole owner of the Briny Inn, a splendid commercial and resort hotel in the city of Manistee, Michigan, and in addition to his extensive real-estate holdings in Ludington and other parts of Mason county he is the owner of much valuable real estate in the city of Chicago.

He has shown great circumspection and judgment in his real-estate investments and through the medium of the same has added materially to his ample fortune. He came to Ludington more than forty years ago. a mere youth, a veritable stranger in a strange land, and without financial resources or influential friends. Thus the success he has achieved through earnest and honest endeavor stands the more to his credit and places him among those worthy of the proud American title of a selfmade man.

Mr. Rath has been significantly loyal as a citizen and has shown a deep interest in all that has tended to advance the material and social welfare of his home city. In politics he is found aligned as a staunch supporter of the cause of the Republican party and he has been an influential figure in local affairs of a public nature, the while he has been called upon to serve in various positions of distinctive trust. For ten years he was a member of the board of aldermen of Ludington, and in the spring of 1910 there came a further and well merited mark of popular esteem when he was elected mayor of the city, for a term of one year.

His administration of municipal affairs has been marked by the same fidelity and progressiveness that have characterized his business career and he is proving the wisdom of the popular suffrage which brought to him this official preferment. He had previously represented Ludington county as a member of the county board of supervisors, and in every possible way he has supported measures and enterprises that have tended to conserve the advancement and general prosperity of his home city and county. He has given time, effort and money in the promotion of industrial enterprises, in the effecting of public improvements and in fostering those undertakings that represent the higher civic ideals.

He has been identified with the Ludington Board of Trade during virtually the entire period of its existence and was its president for two years. For seven years he was a member of the board of trustees of the Ludington cemetery, and for more than a decade and a half he has given effective service to the government as deputy collector of customs. Both he and his wife are zealous members of the German Lutheran church, in whose faith he was reared.

On the 17th of July, 1870, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Rath to Miss Lucy Rickhoff, who likewise was born in Germany, whence she came with her parents to America when a girl. Mr. and Mrs. Rath became the parents of one child, Jennie. They have raised two adopted daughters, Ella and Jessie.

A history of northern Michigan and its people, Volume 2 By Perry Francis Powers, Harry Gardner Cutler

 

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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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