Manistee Lumber Interests


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

A moment's reflection will serve to convince the reader that it would be impossible to entirely separate a history of the lumbering interests of Manistee from the general history of this region; so that only a small portion of the earlier lumbering operations appears in this particular department, while the principal part is given along as the general development has been traced. It must be remembered that the forest of pine was the magnet that drew the first settlers to this region. It was the ax of the logger that sounded the first notes of industry awakening the echoes in these forests, and the sawmill first chorused the coming of civilization and progress. This branch of industry has brought Manistee to its present healthy proportions, built its palatial residences and solid business blocks, and made it what it is to-day.

Last February a correspondent of the Northwestern Lumberman visited Manistee and gathered some information from lumbermen, which was published in that paper, and from which we quote as follows:

" I suppose it is safe to say that there are several men in Manistee who are millionaires, and, what is pleasant to consider, they are self-made men. They settled down here when the country was wild, endured hardships, worked up and up until they met with success, and no one but a mean cur will begrudge it to them. M. Engelmann began here at six dollars a month. Louis Sands worked by the month; so did R.G. Peters, E.D. Wheeler and Messrs. Dempsey Filer and Magill. Mr. Blacker came here as a lumber inspector, and it is reported of E.T. Davies that in order to get across the lake to Manistee he pawned his tool chest. When such men as these are the foundation of a town, it takes more than a few drizzling rains too wash it away.

" 'Tell me something of the early lumber business of the place,' I said to a man who had been here since 1848.

" 'Since I came here,' he said, 'I have seen some ups and downs. Two or three years ago the manufacturers of lumber thought that prices were pretty small, but I have taken timber on the stump, sawed it into lumber, carried it on scows for three miles and sold it for $3.75 per thousand. I made money at it too. That year I made $1,900; but we worked differently from now. We began at peep o'day and worked until dungeon dark. We had long working hours, short sleeping hours, and little time to eat. I have been in the woods for seven months without seeing a mouthful of fresh meat or a potato. Some men kicked at their food in one of my camps the other day, and what do you think was on the table? Beefsteak, pork, potatoes, butter, bread, doughnuts and coffee. That is all, and the poor men thought they were starving to death. They ought to be put on the grub that the pioneer lumbermen on this river ate thirty years ago, and see how they would like it. Men now-a-days go around camp kicking when they are living better than they ever dared to live at home. The first mill was built by J. & A. Stronach in 1842, and what is strange, for forty years the fire has let it alone. It is now the Paul Camine mill, at Stronach. It may be like the man who had the same jacknife - although a new blade had been put in the handle and afterward a new handle on the blade - nevertheless, we call it the same old mill. Adam Stronach is now living up at Stronach. When I came here not a tree was cut on the present site of Manistee. There was a mission house standing just above here, that was built in 1826, and down at the mouth of the river there were a few Indian huts. It was a howling place in the wilderness then, you can bet. Always a part of the load of every vessel that came up here was whisky, and when she landed the whisky was the first thing that was put on shore. I have seen them break in the heads of the barrels with their heels, dip the whisky up in their boots and drink from them. Many a time I hid in the woods to keep away from the mob, for there was no knowing what would happen to a man who wouldn't join them. It disgusted me clean through, and now I have no use for a man who is given to whisky. I will not keep a drunkard in my employ. I don't want any man to go to his work in the morning around my mill with a thick head, and a broken nose, maybe, rubbing his eyes, and so blind that he can't tell a shingle bolt from a saw-log. Robert Canfield, father of John, built a mill in 1848, and I helped raise the frame. It had two muley saws. In 1854 a man named Bachelor, from Massachusetts, built a mill and put in a circular. It was a great curiosity. The Indians would stand off and laugh, and think the mill was running away with itself. But like a great many things, in the beginning the circular saw was voted down, and a muley took its place. The next mill was built in 1856, which afterwards passed into M. Engelmann's hands, who was one of the first sawmill men here to make the circular a success. The next mills were put up by H.N. Green, of Green Brothers, Louis Sands and John Canfield. From that time Manistee began to assume some proportions as a lumber manufacturing town, although for several years she didn't creep up very fast. The men who began operations here did not have many comforts or much money to begin with. It was a hard fight for a foothold, but at last it was gained, and now can be said, I think, that we are getting along tolerably well.'

"The prospect to me," said another gentleman, "does not look as bright as it did a few weeks ago. There are financial difficulties in Europe that are suggestive of trouble here. I do not want pine at over $2 stumpage.  That is, I do not want it to keep. I buy and sell a great deal of it, and if I pay a round price I know pretty well where the pine will be placed. Lumber, I consider, is worth about present prices, but speculation in pine lands is running riot. Men are buying on credit. A great deal of pine changes hands when not a single dollar is passed over. I speak understandingly, for I know. The men who are buying pine in this way will be called smart business men if fortuitous circumstances keep them out.  If they do not come out all right they will be called confounded fools. I did business on this basis, and was ranked as one of the fools in 1857, but I don't get in that box again."

The logs for the coming season's cut will be obtained largely on the south branch, and on the main stream in the vicinity of Fife Lake. Some of the logs will come by river 250 miles. Mr. Peters will bring 16,000,000 feet on the Flint & Pere Marquette for one of his mills, which would now be running had the track been completed as soon as expected. Peters & Co. have a nine-mile road at Tallman, on which they run a ten-ton engine. The road is owned by a stock company, as are many of the logging roads in the state; such a company, having power, forces a road through the lands of others, when otherwise it could have been prevented.

Stumpage is worth $1.75 to $5. These are the current prices, but there is stumpage on the river that cannot be bought for $8. It is favorably located, and the owners will not sell it for any reasonable price. In speaking of estimates, a dealer said: "The pine on the river has grown in quantity wonderfully, recently. As prices go up the amount of pine increases. Estimates, as it has been proved, will stretch like rubber. When timber lands were cheaper, a 9,000,000 estimate might be expected to round up 11,000,000. Now they look over it mighty close, and you pay for about what you get. The men who bought lands on the old canal estimates got a soft thing. They were altogether too low. Land sold on these estimates on a basis of $3 stumpage, stood the purchaser in at about $2."

The mills in operation in 1868, and also in 1873, have already been given. The following is a list of the Manistee mills and the capacity of each, (day sawing) in 1876.

Canfield & Wheeler 15,000,000
Wheeler, Magill & Co. 15,000,000
J.H. Shrigley & Co. 8,000,000
Cushman, Calkins & Co. 15,000,000
Lewis, O'Brien & Co. - shingle mill 20,000,000
Gifford, Ruddock & Co. 20,000,000
Engelmann, Babcock & Salling 14,000,000
R.G. Peters & Co. 14,500,000
Charles Rietz Bros. - two mills 28,000,000
Horace Taber 10,000,000
Filer & Sons 16,000,000
Stronach Lumber Company 14,000,000
Dennett & Dunham 7,500,000
Louis Sands 15,000,000
Dempsey, Cartier & Co. 16,000,000
G.M. Wing - shingle mill 20,000,000
Drummond, Lewis & Co. - shingle mill 20,000,000
Davis & Calkins - shingle mill 20,000,000
B.W. Kies & Co. - shingle mill 13,000,000
Russell & Currier - shingle mill 20,000,000
Taylor, Sweet & Co. - gang mill 18,000,000
Tyson, Sweet & Co. - circular mill 14,000,000

has had a leading part in the lumber interests of Manistee for upwards of thirty years. He is an extensive owner of mill property and pine lands, although at the present time but one mill is operated by him alone. This mill is situated on the east side of Lake Manistee, and was built by J.H. Shrigley & Co., in 1867, and purchased by Mr. Canfield in 1879. The capacity of the mill is about 75,000 feet of lumber a day.

There is also a shingle mill belonging to the same property, which was built in 1879, and cuts nearly 100,000 shingles a day. Both mills employ about eighty men. Mr. Canfield is one of the most extensive pine land owners in the state.

own the original Canfield mill property, situated at the mouth of the river. The firm is composed of John Canfield and Edward D. Wheeler, and was established in 1871. The capacity of the mill is 75,000 feet of lumber a day, and about sixty men are employed in operating it.

have an excellent mill located on what is known as "Blackbird Island." The mill was first built in 1870, but has since been destroyed by fire and rebuilt. It has a daily capacity of 75,000 feet of lumber, and gives employment to about sixty men.

have one large sawmill and two shingle mills. The sawmill was originally owned by M. Engelmann, and was afterwards known as the Cushman & Calkins mill. Subsequently it came into possession of M. Engelmann, and then Engelmann & Kitzinger.

The sawmill cuts about 125,000 feet of lumber, and 60,000 lath a day. Everything about the mill is first-class, and is operated under the superintendence of Mr. D.W. Mowatt.

The firm also have two shingle mills which cut about 450,000 shingles a day.

The firm are extensive owners of pine lands and vessel property and in their business give employment to upwards of 400 men. The senior member of the firm, Hon. M. Engelmann, is one of the pioneer lumbermen of Manistee.

owns and operates a very extensive mill property, situated on Lake Manistee, consisting of two sawmills. The property was formerly owned by the firm of Tyson, Sweet & Co., and was purchased by Mr. Sands in 1878. The daily capacity of the two mills is about 230,000 feet of lumber. One of the mills is especially fine, and is supplied with the largest burner in the world, being 120 feet in circumference, 40 feet in diameter, and 100 feet high. 400,000 bricks were used in its construction. Mr. Sands is an extensive owner of pine lands in Michigan and Wisconsin. His lumbering operations furnish employment for about 600 men. His fleet consists of two steam barges and three vessels. Last year his mills cut nearly 28,000,000 feet of lumber. Mr. Sands has recently purchased the W.S. Newson & Co.'s, shingle mill, situated in the Third Ward.

was built by Delos L. Filer & Sons, in 1866-'67. It is situated on Lake Manistee, at Filer City. The original property purchased included 25,000 acres of land, with seven mill sites. When first built, the mill had a capacity of 8,000,000 feet of lumber a season, but it has since been enlarged and improved so that its present capacity is 16,000,000 feet of lumber a season. About 7,000,000 lath are also manufactured. Since the death of Delos L. Filer, the business has been conducted by E.G. and D.W. Filer, although the firm name has never been changed.

are extensive manufacturers of lumber and shingles. The saw mill was built by Mr. Taber in 1867 at Filer Town, on Lake Manistee. The original capacity of the mill was 7,000,000 feet of lumber a season, but new improvements have since been added which increase the capacity to 9,000,000 feet.

In 1880 the shingle mill was built, which cuts about 18,000,000 shingles a season.

The mill is also supplied with machinery for sawing rift-sawed siding, which is an invention of Mr. Horace Taber, the senior member of the firm. About 2,000,000 lath are also manufactured.

The business of the firm gives employment to about 140 men.
The firm operates a large store and owns seventeen dwelling houses, which are occupied by their employees.

has become one of the leading lumbermen of the state. His two mills are located at Eastlake, on the east side of Lake Manistee. His purchase at that point included forty acres of land upon which his mills, store, boarding house, and a large number of dwellings are situated. Mr. Peters owns about 700,000,000 feet of standing pine, and is interested in about 100,000,000 feet more. The mills which he owns and is interested in cut about 60,000,000 feet of lumber a season. A list of his vessel property is given elsewhere.

The mill property of this firm is situated on Lake Manistee, at what is known as Maxwelltown. The mill was originally built in 1868 by Maxwell & Pundt. The present firm was established in 1877 and succeeded the firm of Engelmann, Babcock & Salling.

The mill has a capacity of 50,000 feet of lumber a day, and the business of the firm gives employment to about 150 men.

The firm owns about 150,000,000 feet of standing pine.

A shingle mill is also run in connection with the saw mill, which has a daily capacity of 225,000 shingle.

Lath and siding are also manufactured.

The firm run a large store in connection with the mill and own a number of dwelling houses, which are occupied by employees.

The saw mill of this company is situated on the east side of Lake Manistee. It was partially built by Mr. John Brown in 1880, and completed by Dempsey, Simpson & Co., in the Spring of 1881.

is composed of James Dempsey, president; G. Wilborn, vice president; William Wente,  secretary and treasurer, and A.E. Cartier. The company is the successor of Dempsey, Cartier & Co. The mill is situated on Lake Manistee and cuts about 18,000,000 feet of lumber a season, and about 6,000,000 lath. The business of the company gives employment to about 175 men.

The company owns several vessels and a large quantity of standing pine.

The mill of this firm, situated on the west of Lake Manistee was built by them in 1878, and is one of the finest on the lake.It is 147 feet long by 40 feet wide, with an engine house 40x40 feet. The mill is furnished with a double circular, siding, gang, edger, and cutting-off saws. The capacity of the mill is 90,000 feet of lumber a day. The firm employ about 200 men.

There is also a shingle mill run in connection with the saw mill, which cuts upwards of 40,000,000 shingle a season.

succeeded the firm of Ruddock, Palmiter & Co., in December, 1881. The mill is situated at the eastern end of Fourth Street, on Lake Manistee, and was built in 1867 by Gifford, Ruddock & Co. It has a shingle and lath mill attached. The daily capacity of the mill is 100,000 feet of lumber, 150,000 shingles and 60,000 lath. About 300 men are employed. The company operates a store in connection with their mill. They own several vessels, and have a well equipped railroad at the head of the lake for logging operations.

was organized in the Spring of 1877, and succeeded the firm of Chas. Rietz & Bros. The property was purchased by them in 1867, and at that time consisted of one sawmill, with one circular saw. In 1870 a new mill was built, and a shingle mill was also added. The old mill is now but little used in the manufacture of lumber. The new mill cuts about 885,000 feet of lumber a day.

The officers of the company are as follows: Chas. Rietz, president; F. Rietz, vice-president; August Rietz, secretary; E.G. Rietz, treasurer.

succeeded the firm of Stokoe, Secor & Co., the present season. Their saw and shingle mill is situated on Lake Manistee, and built about two years ago by Mr. Stokoe.

is situated on the Manistee River, at the point known as old Stronachtown. The original mill was the first one built in this region. In 1876 the property came into the possession of the present owner, and has been renovated and improved until now it is one of the best mills here. The season's product is about 15,000,000 feet of lumber and 20,000,000 shingles.

was organized in the Fall of 1872, and succeeded the firm of Paggeot & Thorsen. The mill is situated at Stronachtown, at the head of Lake Manistee, and was built in 1868, by Charles Paggeot. The mill cuts about 15,000,000 feet of lumber a season. The company employs about 200 men in all its operations. The officers of the company are John Thorsen, president; William B. Remington, vice president; P. Welbes, secretary. The company has a large store at Stronachtown. The business is in charge of W.R. Thorsen, son of Mr. John Thorsen.

The shingle mills in addition to those operated in connection with sawmills, and not already mentioned, are as follows: D.W. Lewis & Co., C.B. Lewis & Son, Russell Bros., Brooks & Sweet.

The statistics of the shingle product has already been given.

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1882 History of Manistee County

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