Town That Wouldn't Die

Stories of Alpena Life


     migwlt-2.gif (4527 bytes)



The Town That Wouldn't Die

Alpena, Michigan

By Robert E. Haltiner
with Much Assistance from Ann Taber

Very Special Thanks go to the author, Mr. Haltiner, who so graciously gave permission to publish photographs and excerpts from his book. As a beginner searching in the Alpena, Michigan area, I found this book a great asset in helping me to picture life as it was in the early years.

This book would be a great investment for anyone searching for their ancestors in Alpena. I obviously cannot put the entire book on this page, but the book can be purchased from THE GIFT GALLERY at the JESSE BESSER MUSEUM for $14.95, plus shipping and handling. THE GIFT GALLERY can be reached at (517) 354-7742.

Due to limited space, I am presenting this information in a different order than is presented in the book. But, please remember that all photographs and excerpts are taken directly from Mr. Haltiner's book.


Alpena - The Beginnings to 1880

Little is known about this area before the first permanent white settlers arrived in 1856. The area was visited occasionally by fishermen, traders, surveyors and hunters. The only permanent residents were small groups of Indians headed by Chiefs Mich-e-ke-wis and Sah-gon-ah-ka-to. The first whites were not welcomed and soon left after encountering unfriendly Indians and hostile environment. Nevertheless, slowly but surely, encroachments were made.

Alpena County and the present city site had been visited in 1834 by Mr. John DOUSEMAN and others from Mackinac who had attempted to settle here and build a saw mill but were driven away by the Indians. Jonathan BURTCH visited here in 1836 but moved to Ossineke because of hostile Indians. W.F. CULLINGS, a fisherman and trapper, was in the area about the same time.

David D. OLIVER came briefly in 1839 with a party of surveyors. Sometime before 1840 a lighthouse was built on Thunder Bay Island with Jesse MUNSEY as the first keeper. A party of hunters had built a few rough log shanties near the mouth of the Thunder Bay River and occupied them for several months during this early time. Mr. O.S. WARNER cam briefly about 1840 to trade with the Indians, And during the summer of 1840 Mr. Thomas TURK landed at Alpena and Stayed over during a storm -- sleeping on the north side of the river on the spot where was once an Indian burying grounds.

In the fall of 1844, Washington JAY, his wife and daughter, and a mane named William DAGGET moved from Thunder Bay Island to what now is Alpena. .......... Mrs. Jay and her daughter, Emma, though not the first permanent white settlers here, were in all probability the first white women to visit the area.

Later, Samuel E. HITCHCOCK, James K. LOCKWOOD and E.A. BRECKINRIDGE located
land in this vicinity. ........... George N. FLETCHER and John S. MINOR also located lands here at an early day.
  Samuel E. Hitchcock George N. Fletcher

Walter SCOTT arrived on the scene during this early time for the purpose of fishing and trading with the Indians, bringing them whiskey and creating quite a stir as more whites began to visit the area. Mr. SCOTT also looked up pine lands for LEWIS and GRAVES, the TROWBRIDGE brothers and others. In the summer of 1853 Mr. Daniel CARTER arrived in company with George N. FLETCHER to hunt pine lands.......

Daniel Carter         James K. Lockwood

George N. FLETCHER and James K. LOCKWOOD were the original proprietors of the site of Alpena. In 1855, having secured pine lands in this vicinity, they purchased 450 acres of land lying on both sides of Thunder Bay River and bordering on Thunder Bay. They made the purchase of Erastus BAILEY and Robert DUNLAP of Chicago for $15.00 an acre. Mr. FLETCHER retained his one-half interest and Mr. LOCKWOOD sold one-eighth interest each to Mr. John OLDFIELD and Mr. John S. MINOR.

...................And on November 26, 1856, Daniel CARTER, his wife Sarah and daughter Mary, arrived and became Alpena's first permanent white settlers.

1857 - First store constructed -- The Miller, Fletcher & Co. First post office established as Fremont, Michigan. Daniel CARTER was thhe first postmaster, being appointed December 2, 1857.

1859 - The name Fremont was changed to Alpena. Smith & Chamberlin built the first steam sawmill in Alpena. July 22 - Birth of James A. BOGGS -- first white child born in Alpena City.

1863 - First school built. First Court House erected .... May 1 - First newspaper issued -- "The Thunderbay Monitor".

1868 - Construction began on Union School

1870 - December 12 -- Court House burned -- nearly all county records lost...........


Alpena's First Court House (white bldg) and the Congretational Parsonage in the middle

1871 - March 29 -- City of Alpena incorporated. April 3 - First election held with Seth L. CARPENTER elected first mayor. April 9 - Fire wiped out business portion of Alpena on North side of river. Principal buildings burned were the Huron House, Beebe's building, Bolton &McRae, dwelling house and store on Fletcher Street owned by Mason, Dottty & Luce, dwelling howse of Moses BINGHAM, Evergreen Hall, Star Hotel, and the store owned bby J. C. BOWEN, occupied by Folkerts & Butterfield. May - First Fire Company organized.......

1872 - March 1 - Bank of Alpena Banking Company opened. April 1 - Maltz Exchange Bank commenced banking business. July 12 -- Worst fire in Alpena's history, 15 acres of stores, businesses and residences burned in the heart of town. September - Office of the Weather Bureau established.

1873 - Wooden swing bridge completed. Smallpox epidemic.

1874 - Census of the years shows 1,000 more men than women in the county.

Maltz Exchange Bank

1876 - The centennial anniversary of our Declaration of Independence marked the opening of this unusual flat-iron shaped building built by Deacon Samuel E. HITCHCOCK..... The architect was William MIRRE and the construction work was done by Fred LUDWIG

The building to the right, with a tower, was the old Trinity Episcopal Church built in 1867.

Centennial Building erected in 1876


1877 - Lighthouse at mouth of river erected.

1879 - June 18 - First telephone line constructed in Alpena.

Alpena - The 1880s

In 1880 Alpena was almost 25 years old -- almost "over the hill" as lumber towns went. Hedr lumber production would peak in 1889 and the end of her lucrative life was in sight.

But something happened to Alpena in the decade of the 80s. The little north woods town suddenly grew up and decided to live beyond the lumber which had given her first life. alpena truly became "the town that wouldn't die."

The population of 6,000 in 1880 would mushroom to 9,000 by 1884 and surpass 10,000 by the decade's end. Mills would number 17 -- 12 lumber and 5 shingle -- during most of the '80s.

That progress brought to alpena modern marvels far earlier than to many larger cities (excerpts from the book follow).

Other industries would appear in the 1880s as, one by one, the lumber mills closed. Tanneries, a woolen mill, a spool manufacturer all helped to keep the town's economy solvent.

There were by 1887 seven neighborhood schools, two Catholic schools and Cnetral High on Second Avenue.

Churches included three Catholic and two Lutheran, plus the Congregational, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal and Presbyterian.

Entertainment in Alpena at the time centered around the fabulous, newly refurbished Maltz Opera House, later the State Theater on North Second Avenue. But crowds also gathered at the Culligan or Arbieter Halls or the Temple Theater. A roller rink, a huge toboggan slide and the best trotter race track in the state further contributed to the citizens' good times, as did the many saloons.

The decade of the '80s was when the infamous Blinkie Morgan, Ohio robber-kuiller, was captured by alpena's Sheriff Charles Lynch, who was mortally wounded by the outlaw. And it was the time a character named George Jacob Schwienfurth convinced many in Alpena that he was Christ's reincarnation. He had acquired a church and a sizable fund of money before being exposed as a fraud.


July 28 - Franklin School Construction began
September 1 - Erection of Engine House - River and Third Streets
September 29 - Foundation started for St. Bernard Church
November 10 - Water Works completed


April 4 - Contract let for Court House construction
April 20 - M.E. Church constructtion commenced
April 28 - Richardson Dam washed out
May 9 - Moses Brown commenced rebuilding of Richardson Dam
September 1 - Electric Light Company organized
September 14 - Life Saving Station - Middle Island - completed


June 21 - Stone foundation - Lockwood School completed. Lots of construction - homes, etc, throughout the year.


March 1 - Electric street lights turned on -- first time
April 25 - Contract let for Episcopal stone church
July 4 - Tidal Wave on Lake Huron - partly submerging Thunder Bay Island and other islands
August 8 - Foundation begun for Obed Smith School
August 26 - Methodist Episcopal Church dedicated


April 2 - new Central Hotel - Lockwood Street - Completed
June 29 - Trinity Episcopal Church dedicated
Septenber 10 - Tornado swept over area doing great damage and killing one man
November 12 - New Roller Rink being built at end of Chisholm Street
December 6 - Experiment with crushed stone street paving


April 26 - Dedication of St. Bernard Church
April 27 - Steamer "City of Alpena" presented with set of new colors by Alpena citizens
July 7 - Contact let to pave part of Second Ave. and Dock Street
September 21 - Polanders strike at several mills for a 10 hour day -- settle for 11
October 26 - Contract awarded for new steel bridge


February 21 - St. Mary's Catholic Church dedicated
March 1 - Work begins on new bridge
April 7 - new bridge ready for travel
May 24 - Sulphite Paper Pulp Works begins construction
July 24 - Work begins on new Pump House
September 20 - First train to Alpena - temporary depot at Werth and Piper Roads
October 11 - First train to temporary Washington Avenue depot
December - Water Works begins pumping water. Sulphite Paper Pulp Works commences business. Cedar block paving on several streets


January 31 - Flectcher House moved and renamed the Churchill House
February 3 - Opening of Toboggan slide
June 27 - Blinkie Morgan, notorious criminal, captured
August 25 - Railroad completed to terminus on Fletcher Street. New Engine House being erected on Fletcher Street. First cement sidewalk in front of Reynolds Jewelry Store
September 19 - Construction begins on railroad depot on Fletcher Street
October 22 - New Opera House opened
October 24 - New Railroad Depot - Fletcher Street - opens
November - First numbering of houses and businesses. New Stone Jail opens. Beck Brewery built.

Blinkie Morgan Gang - 1887 Charles (Blinkie) Morgan is the man in the center photo.





Blinkie Morgan
Some said he rode with the James Boys. True or not, the infamous Blinke Morgan was wanted in many parts of the country. Ohio offered a big reward for his capture after he bludgeoned to death a Cleveland policeman. Blinkie Morgan and his henchmen, Coughlin and Robinson, wre captured in their Alpena hideout by Sheriff Charles Lynch on June 27, 1887. During the fracas, Lynch was mortally wounded and died of blood poisoning August 17th.


January 15 - German Baptist Church dedicated - corner 4th and Sable
January 16 - First shipment of lumber by rail
December 12 - First pumping of water from bay - Alpena Water Company


June 22 - Laying cornerstone - St. Mary's Church
August 18 - laying cornerstone German Lutheran Church - 2nd and Mirre. Construction begins on Ninth Street bridge



Alpena - The 1890s


Deaths in the 1890s of Prominent People and Little Known Early Settlers of Alpena, Michigan (page 75)

William H. PHELPS -- August 16, 1890 -- a pioneer and civil war veteran

John W. PAXTON -- December 7, 1890 -- one of the very early settlers

Dr. William P. MAIDEN -- April 1, 1892 -- one of Alpena's first physicians and a civil war veteran

Monroe KLOCK -- May 13, 1892 -- ex-mayor of Alpena, civil war veteran

John TROWBRIDGE -- April 12, 1893 --one of the first lumbermen of Alpena

Mrs. Samuel BOGGS -- September 17, 1893 -- age 63, an early settler, who first located in Alpena in 1858, and was in the hotel business until 1872

Mrs. Honora MINTON -- October 18, 1893 -- a resident of Alpena from 1861

Mrs. James BOLTON -- November 6, 1893 -- an early settler of Alpena township

Mrs. Jacob GEBHARDT -- December 28, 1893 -- age 66, one of the early pioneers of Alpena

Dougald W. CAMPBELL -- April 15, 1894 -- supervisor of First Ward, and a resident of Alpena since 1865

George C. MALTZ -- June 27, 1894 -- father of Geo L. MALTZ and Mrs. J. C. COMFORT

Mrs. John CAMPBELL -- July 27, 1894 -- aged 76, one of the early settlers

James TRODEN -- July 19, 1894 -- aged 65, a resident of Alpena since 1865 and civil war veteran

Mathew OLIVER -- July 27, 1894-- aged 57, one of the pioneers

Joseph B. COMSTOCK -- August 19,1894 -- of the firm of Comstock Brothers

Oliver FITZPATRICK -- September 24, 1894 -- an early settler in Alpena

Capt. Alonzo E. PERSONS --October 1, 1894 -- aged 76, one of the early pioneers

John S. MILLER--December 20, 1894 -- civil war veteran, aged 51, an old resident of Alpena

James W. REID -- December 26, 1894 -- one of the earliest among the settlers, having come to Alpena in 1859, and followed the fishing business

Mrs. Mary CREIGHTON -- February 9, 1895 -- aged 50, a pioneer of Alpena

James WOODS -- May 16, 1895 -- a pioneer of Alpena

City Marshal Douglas SCOTT -- July 22, 1895 -- ex-sheriff, and a resident of Alpena since 1866, civil war veteran

George S. LESTER -- February 11, 1896 -- aged 84 -- ex-judge of probate, an old pioneer, and former businessman of Alpena

Julia FARWELL -- March 1, 1896 -- one of the very early settlers of Alpena, and one of the organizers of the Congregational Society in 1862

Thomas COLLINS -- March 3, 1896 -- a resident of Alpena for 30 years (1866) having served as treasurer

Thomas G. SPRATT -- May 26, 1896 -- aged 68, one of the old pioneers, and a lumberman, civil war veteran

Capt. Erastus M. HARRINGTON -- August 24, 1896 -- aged 69, who came to Alpena in 1868

Hon. William Henry POTTER -- September 1, 1896 -- aged 55, one of the very early settlers, having come to Alpena in 1860, and engaged in the lumber business. He was mayor of Alpena in 1879 and 1880

Nels RIVET -- October 31, 1896 -- for 32 years (1864) a resident of Alpena, aged 73

Anthony BRABANT -- November 20, 1896 -- aged 79, for over 30 years a resident of Alpena (1865)

John GAVAGAN -- December 26, 1896 -- aged 52, a resident of Alpena for 30 years (1866) and conducted a hotel nearly the entire time

Daniel CARTER -- January 13, 1897 -- the oldest pioneer of Alpena, who first came to this locality in 1855, and moved here with his family 1856

Gordon H. DAVIS -- April 5, 1897 -- aged 61, one of the early pioneers, having come to Alpena in 1859, and was engaged in the lumber business

Mrs. Elizabeth RICHARDSON -- September 18, 1897 -- a pioneer, and widow of George RICHARDSON

Mrs. Mary A. Harris -- October 6, 1897 -- aged 81, a resident on Alpena from back in the '60s

Mrs. Della S. CHURCHILL --September 17, 1898 -- aged 90, mother of W.L and H.D. CHURCHILL

John D. SHEAHY -- September 21, 1898 -- aged 60, for over 30 years (1867) a resident of Alpena, civil war veteran

George TAYLOR -- September 23, 1898 -- aged 60, pioneer lumberman

Abram R. BLAKLEY -- November 14, 1898 -- aged 55, for over 30 years a resident and businessman of Alpena. He had served the city as alderman, supervisor and city comptroller, and served one term in the state legislature

George D. Bradford -- December 4, 1898 -- aged 63, one of Alpena's old businessmen, for 30 years a resident of the city (1868)

Mrs. Catherine E. HARRINGTON -- December 10, 1898 -- aged 68, widow of the late Capt. E.M. HARRINGTON

Samuel P. SMITH -- January 29, 1899 -- aged 52, of Long Rapids, for 34 years (1865) a resident of Alpena, most of the time in the city

Wm. Moody EATON -- April 6, 1899 -- aged 76, a pioneer citizen