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“MANISTEE meaning literally, in the poetic language of the Chippewas, 'Whispering Pines,' is the name given, first, to the river winding its tortuous length through three hundred miles of Michigan territory, where once flourished the greatest white pine forests that ever graced the bosom of Mother Earth, and secondly to the city which has grown up about the mouth of the river, where it empties into Lake Michigan.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, when these mighty forests reared their evergreen canopies skyward, when all of the vast domain of Northern Michigan was peopled only by the Indians who roamed at will through its dense shades in search of game, and fished in the clear waters of its lakes and streams, this section must have rivalled in natural beauty that of the more southerly counties of the State, of whose forests, Harriet Martineau, the literary English woman, remarked while making a horseback trip through them in 1837.- 'Milton must have had in mind the forests of Michigan when he wrote his description of Paradise.'
Very few, if any white men with the exception of the French Jesuits, who following in the footsteps of those intrepid explorers, Joliet and Pere Marquette, established occasional missions amongst the Indians, ever penetrated the wilderness surrounding the present site of the city of Manistee, until about the year 1830, when the fur traders from Detroit and Grand Rapids, the latter, at that time, a mere frontier settlement, marking the northernmost boundary of civilization in the, then, Territory of Michigan, until the small settlement at Mackinac was reached, began to make occasional journeys into this section to trade with the Indians.
The first steps taken towards making a permanent settlement by the whites was in 1840, when quite late in the fall, two brothers John Stronach of Berrien County and Joseph Stronach of Muskegon County, entered the mouth of Manistee River in an open boat and passing on, up through what is now known as Manistee Lake, or familiarly 'The Little Lake,' found about a mile east south of its head, a site on which they decided to erect saw mill.
Returning to their homes after this visit, John and another brother, Adam, returned the following year with machinery for a small saw mill, some cattle, horses, and supplies, transporting the same aboard a small vessel to the mouth of the Manistee River, from which point it was found necessary to raft the cargo to its destination, on account of the shallowness of the channel. Thus, at what is now known as Old Stronach Town, was established the first white settlement in Manistee County, and with the erection of the primitive sawmill of the Stronachs began the lumbering industry in what, within the next half a century, was destined to become one of the greatest lumber producing ports in the world.”
Source: Manistee the Salt City of the Unsalted Seas: A Brief History of Its Pioneer Pioneer Days and Its Industrial Progress to the Present Date (Google eBook), American Printing Company, 1910, pp.3-4.