Delos L. Filer


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

Delos L. Filer, deceased, formerly an influential citizen of Manistee, was born in the State of New York, September 27, 1817, and was of Scotch parentage and ancestry. He grew to manhood in New York, and there engaged in the varied occupations of farmer, school teacher, merchant and lumberman. In 1849 he removed to Wisconsin and, making his headquarters at Racine, traveled for four years in Wisconsin and Illinois, selling cigars and tobacco.

In the fall of 1853 Mr. Filer came to manistee and obtained a position with the firm of E. & J. Canfield as bookkeeper at a salary of $400 per year. This amount being insufficient for the support of his wife and four children, he utilized his knowledge of medicine, and did considerable professional work throughout this and adjoining counties. For a time he also filled the position of County Clerk. During the five years that he remained in the employ of Messrs. Canfield he saved a sufficient amount to enable him to buy land from the Government.

In 1858 Mr. Filer bought a half-interest in the Batchelder mill property, including a sawmill, a portion of the land now covered by the city, and some outside pine lands. In this venture he met with success from the first. As soon as able, he purchased the remainder of the property, becoming its sole owner. As time passed by, he bought other property, including the McVicker tract of two hundred and forty acres, which now lies in the heart of the city. His mill, which was on the river, directly in front of the present site of the Dunham House, was burned in July, 1864, by a forest fire, and a large quantity of lumber was destroyed at the same time, entailing a loss of about $100,000, with only $11,000 insurance.

The next venture made by Mr. Filer was the erection of a gang-saw mill at the upper end of the city, on the banks of Manistee Lake. Some Milwaukee parties were taken into partnership, and the business was conducted under the firm name of Filer & Tyson. He platted a large part of the land where the old mill stood, and at the same time donated to the city the grounds now occupied by the court house, the union school building and Temperance Hall. In the year 1866 he disposed of his Manistee interests to M.S. Tyson & Co., and, going three miles into the forest at the head of Manistee Lake, he built the mill and started the business now operated by his sons. Having established the business upon a solid financial basis, he left it in charge of his sons, E.G. and D.W., and in 1868 removed to Ludington. He became one of the principal members of the Pere Marquette Lumber Company, which purchased the large property of James Ludington, valued at half a million dollars. The other members of the firm were Col. John Mason Loomis, of Chicago, and James Ludington, of Milwaukee, now deceased.

The management of the company's interests was left with Mr. Filer, and not only did he promote these, but he also fostered other enterprises and gave his encouragement to everything that would promote the welfare of the town. Before leaving Manistee he invited settlers to take up the tillable lands in that part of the state, and in reality he founded the Norwalk Colony, eight miles to the north of Manistee. His plan was to furnish the gold required by the Government, and wait on the settlers to pay him, taking a mortgage on the property. It never became necessary to foreclose any of these mortgages, as the settlers were uniformly prosperous. He practically tested the adaptability of various fruits to the climate, and introduced their culture at great pecuniary risk to himself. In other ways he proved his interest in the town and advanced the welfare of the people. He was the founder of the Cream City Iron Works of Milwaukee, in conjunction with John M. Stowell, under the firm title of Filer & Stowell. In politics he was an active Republican.

In 1838 Mr. Filer married Miss S.A. Paine, who died in June, 1839, leaving an infant daughter. The latter became the wife of John Vahue, but is now deceased. In March, 1840, Mr. Filer married Miss Juliet Golden, who died in the year 1864, leaving four children, namely: E. Golden and Delos W., of Manistee; Mary J., wife of A.G. Sexton, of Milwaukee; and Frank, whose home is in Ludington. January 23, 1866, our subject was united with Miss Mary M. Pierce, of Manistee, who, with her daughter Grace, is still living.

Failing health induced Mr. Filer to travel extensively in the South and West. In the winter of 1878-79 he started for California, but, reaching Denver, grew so seriously ill that he was compelled to return. He died at his home in Ludington July 26 following. He was buried in the Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee, and his last resting-place is appropriately marked by a handsome granite monument, erected in loving remembrance by his family.

All enterprises that had for their object the good of his county or locality, or the increase of material wealth, always found in Mr. Filer and advocate and friend, ready to take hold and give them substantial aid, and that, too, without hoping to reap any direct personal advantage. His greatest pleasure seemed to be in doing good to others, or in doing something that would redound to the advantage of the public or the benefit of individuals. He accumulated wealth rapidly, but wealth in his hands was simply the means of enabling him to assist others. No object of charity ever appealed to him in vain. Every worthy enterprise of a public character found in him a donor to the full extent of his ability to give. His death was a loss to the citizens of the county and state, and was mourned by all with whom he had acquaintance.

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1895 Portrait And Biographical Record
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