Charles Secor


Portrait And Biographical Record Of Northern Michigan
Containing Portraits And Biographical Sketches Of Prominent
And Representative Citizens
Record Publishing Co., 1895

Charles Secor, a pioneer lumberman of Manistee, was born in Blenheim, Schoharie County, N.Y., January 5, 1832, being the son of Thomas W. and Clarissa (Desbro) Secor. The family is of direct English descent and remote French ancestry. When he was fourteen years of age his parents settled in Racine, Wis., where his father resumed the occupation of a lumberman. In 1848 he came to Michigan and secured the first Government land entered in Free Soil Township, Mason County. At that time there was a mill at Ludington, and Charles Mears had a mill at Lincoln.

Settling one mile from the shores of Lake Michigan, Thomas W. Secor embarked in the manufacture of shingles, making them by hand, and also shipping shingle-bolts for manufacturers at Racine. Under him there were twenty men, who were accustomed to getting out the stock in the winter, and in the spring shipping it to Racine. After continuing this work for two winters he abandoned the occupation in Michigan and established his permanent home in Racine, where he engaged in farming until his death, the result of heart disease, at the age of sixty-four years.

The second year that Mr. Secor was interested in lumbering in Michigan, his son Charles assisted him. The latter, then a youth of eighteen, operated on this side, and spent the winter driving a team and hauling shingle-bolts to the lake shore, where they were piled ready for shipment in the spring. In the summer of 1850 he and his brother, Edwin W., returned to this shore, and, going up the Manistee River twelve miles, Charles bought eighty acres of Government land at $1.15 per acre. At that time John Dixon, Stephen Smith, German Thompson and Roswell Canfield were operating here. Canfield owned a mill standing on the channel where the mill of John Canfield now stands, and Smith had a small mill on Lake Manistee, where the Eureka Mill at present stands. The Stronachs had a mill above the head of Manistee Lake, where they had a dam and water-power. The river connecting Manistee Lake with Lake Michigan was so shallow that nearly all loading was done outside before any improvements had been made on the entrance to the river.

Our subject and his brother at once began to cut logs and put them into the river, employing ten or fifteen men in the work. The logs were set adrift and floated down to Canfield's Mill, where they were sold at $4.50 per thousand. The latter mill, usually known as the "Muley Sawmill," had two saws operating night and day, cutting about twelve thousand feet of lumber per day and operating by steam. Charles and his brother continued this line of lumbering for six years together, after which the brother worked alone until his death, about twenty years ago. His home was on a farm south of Manistee, lying on the lake shore, and there he remained until his demise. His widow, Harriet (Stevens) Secor, still lives in Manistee, where some of his children also reside.

Leaving the lumber business after having been in partnership with his brother for six years, our subject engaged in the mercantile business in Manistee for seven years. In 1864 he opened the second banking house in the place, the firm name being Charles Secor & Co. On the corner of River and Oak Streets he erected a brick building, the first structure of its kind in the city, and this he utilized for his bank. Hid partner in the business was William Dunham, and later his brother, David Secor, was taken into the firm. An extensive banking business was conducted until 1876, when the bank was discontinued through general depression in financial circles.

For some years Mr. Secor served as Under-Sheriff, and from 1868 to 1872 filled the position of Sheriff. Prior to this he had been County, and later, City Treasurer. For a period of six years he was Superintendent of the Poor, filling that position at the time the county farm was purchased and the first house built thereon. His lumbering operations were continued for some time, and he supplied with logs the Green Bros.' Mills, that stood on the present site of the First National Bank. The hard times incident to the panic of 1873 closed the bank in 1876, and crippled him in every line of the business.  Though circumstances were very unfavorable, he did not grow discouraged, but continued with undiminished energy. Under the firm name of Filer & Secor he put in logs and went up the Manistee River about one hundred miles, continuing for three years to furnish and fill contracts for Filer's Mill. In this work he employed about twenty men, and to it he gave his closest attention. His personal credit had not been injured by the panic, and he was able to carry out his contracts. In that way he secured another start.

The next enterprise in which Mr. Secor engaged was as a member of the firm of Stokey, Nelson & Secor, in the manufacture of lumber and shingles, their mill standing on Lake Manistee. During the three years in which the business was continued, the results were fair. He then organized the Onekama Lumber Company at Onekama, his associates being T.J. Ramsdell, W.W. Farr and Marvin Farr. The old Farr Mill, that had come into the hands of the company, was rebuilt, and Mr. Secor was its manager for eleven years.

Under the name of Maxted & Secor, our subject is now a member of the City Planing-mill Company, which has a plant devoted to a general custom business. They have also taken up house contracting, of which line Mr. Maxted has hitherto made a specialty. Mr. Secor devotes his attention largely to handling real estate in farm and timber lands in the northern part of the county, and has for sale considerable land well adapted for farming. Politically he is a Republican.

In September, 1858, on Mackinaw Island, Mich., Mr. Secor married Miss Maria Johnston, who was born there, her father having been a lawyer in the town of that name. Her mother, Susan, still survives, her home being with Mrs. Secor. Five daughters comprise the family of our subject and his wife. The eldest, Marion, is the widow of A.O. Ward, and with her only child, Harold, makes her home with her father. Nellie is the wife of John F. Burnham, a real-estate dealer and brick manufacturer of Milwaukee. Cora, formerly the wife of Ward Leonard, died of consumption in 1892. Clarissa, who is a graduate of the high school, has been a teacher in this city for five years. Eva, also a graduate of the high school, resides with her parents. Mr. and Mrs. Secor are members of the Congregational Church and are active in religious affairs, contributing largely to the erection of the church and maintaining a deep interest in its welfare. For thirty years they have lived on the corner of First and Oak Streets. In the fire of 1871 their residence was destroyed. It was a frame structure, and shortly after Mr. Secor built his commodious brick residence.

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1895 Portrait And Biographical Record
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