1882 History of Manistee County

With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches
of Some of Its Men and Pioneers.
Published 1882 by H.R. Page & Co., Chicago

The history of American civilization and progress is thronged with instances of rapid development and sturdy growth.

Since the "Star of Empire" first took its way into the trackless wilds of a now busy West, wonder has been added to wonder by the transformations that have been wrought. Less than fifty years ago, foxes, wolves and Indians were in possession of the quagmires, upon which since has grown the opulent and magnificent city of Chicago; the pride of its half million inhabitants, and the envy of the East.

Fifty years ago, the waters of Lake Michigan were unruffled, save by the bark canoe and the storms of heaven. Today her sky is blackened with the smoke and whitened with the sails of a busy commerce, her ports are known in the trading centers of all the world.

In 1837 Michigan, the "Lake Country," was admitted to the sisterhood of the states. Three years prior to that time, her whole population numbered but 87,278 persons. In 1880 the census found a population of 1,636,937. So this commonwealth has grown; and today, looking over its busy cities and strong, young villages; its harbors and its marts of trade; its railroads, its churches and its schools, there is much to justify a feeling of pride over past achievements, and to strengthen faith in the energies of her people to develop and utilize the resources that lie, as yet untouched, in forest, soil and mine.

The historian who faithfully performs the task committed to his charge, will sift carefully the material which he gathers, in conscientious endeavor to preserve and use only such as bears the marks of genuineness. The page of history, to possess the value that is claimed for it, must contain a recital of facts, instead of a tale of fiction. Its mission is not to while away a listless hour, but to transmit to an ever-coming future the events and experiences of an ever-receding past.

In the preparation of this work, the aim of the historian has been to crowd these pages with facts, rather than to embellish them with figures of rhetoric, or pictures of fancy.

That part included within the scope of this work, is an important factor in the prosperity and rank to which the commonwealth has already attained. It would be scarcely possible to have a rational conception of a more rapid and real transformation than has here been wrought through the agency of human foresight, energy and enterprise. The ear is continually being startled with tales of miraculous development; of cities springing into life and attaining the stature of maturity in a day; of fortunes acquired at a single stroke; but here no mine of wealth was suddenly opened to pour out a flood of treasure, yielding fortunes as if by magic. There was not even the charm of natural scenery to entice, nor richness of soil to induce immigration.

In the early days, which the pioneers, traveling on foot along the sandy beach, or in boats upon the eastern margin of Lake Michigan, had reached a point 175 miles from Chicago, they found a narrow river emptying its waters into the lake. For about a mile the stream pursued its serpentine course, hedged in upon either side by sand bluffs covered with forests of pine. Beyond, the stream widened into an irregular-shaped lake, stretching away into the forests, and all its shore having a background of pine. About the mouth of the river were sand hills and sand plains all covered with pine. The scene presented was dreary and desolate. But all the products of the great Creator minister to some wise purpose, and the fullness of the earth is for the benefit of man, if his genius and energy are applied to its utilization for wise ends. This forest of pine was destined to become a great commercial product. To convert it into wealth would employ capital and labor, and of this harmonious and profitable union would come homes and shops, tradesmen and artisans, villages and cities.

The vein of ore which the miner's pick uncovers today may disappear upon the morrow, and the fortune which he gathered, the home he made, the city he founded in the dreams of the intervening night, vanish as a castle in the air, but the pine forest is a reality that furnishes a tangible basis of calculation.

In the natural order of things, there came a time when the manufacturer of lumber, hunting for a favorable location, lodged here, and put into operation his primitive methods and machinery. He selected a site for a water mill upon the river beyond the little lake. This was thirty-one years ago. This region was as remote from civilization as though the continent had never been discovered. Others followed, attracted by the great supply of pine timber, and the favorable location for manufacturing it into lumber. Small clearings were made, and a couple of mills built on the little lake. At the mouth of the river another mill was built, and a village started.

Until 1840 Mackinaw County included all that part of the lower peninsula of Michigan lying north of Mason County, and also a large part of the upper peninsula. The rest of this shore, as far south as Allegan, was Ottawa County.

In 1840 this vast territory was divided up, and laid off into counties, nearly as they now appear upon the map, and then, for the first time, Manistee County had a local habitation and a name, and for judicial purposes was attached to Mackinaw County.

In 1846 it was attached to Ottawa County, and the county offices were at Grand Haven, and there was also the nearest justice of the peace. Matrimony, in those days,was a serious matter, and attended with no little trouble. There was no one nearer than Grand Haven or Milwaukee authorized to speak the magic words so charming to the ear, and a trip of ninety miles by canoe, or on foot, was an excursion of considerable magnitude.

In 1851 the county was attached to Oceana, county seat at Middlesex, and in 1853 attached to Grand Traverse, to which it remained attached until the Spring of 1855, when it was organized and raised to the honorable dignity of local sovereignty. Prior to 1855, Manistee, Wexford and Missaukee Counties comprised one township, or rather, they were embraced in the township organization of Manistee town.

Return to History of Manistee County Index

Return to Main Page
Manistee County MIGenWeb