History of Muskegon- Fruitport Township  
History of Muskegon-
Fruitport Township


Thank you to Joyce VanderVere for acquiring the copies of the Township histories from the book-
History of Muskegon County, Michigan with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers
Chicago- H. R. Page & Co.



    This is the largest township in the county, being 9x6 miles, embracing, therefore, fifty-four square miles of territory, much of which is yet to be developed. It will yet be a great fruit district. The attempts that have been made have demonstrated its great value as a fruit region. It is an off-shoot of the old town of Norton, from which it separated in 1867. It has one lovely village-Fruitport- at the head of Spring Lake, which is unrivaled for its scenery, and will again become a favorite Summer resort. It is well watered by Black Creek, crossing its northwest corner, and Norris Creek and Little Deer Creek traversing its center.


    Fruitport was a portion of the old Norton Township until it was set apart under the name of Lovell by act of the Legislature in 1867. The first meeting of the electors was appointed to be held at the school house in Section 31, Henry James, Sam'l Torrans and Robert Little being the first inspectors of election. Austin W. DeFrate was the first supervisor, and was re-elected the following year. In 1870 John D. McEwing was elected supervisor. In 1871 the name of the town was changed from Lovell to Fruitport, and M. B. Converse was elected supervisor, and re-elected in 1872 and 1873. In 1874 J. D. McEwing again became supervisor, and next year M. B. Converse was elected, and re-elected until 1879, having the honor of being chairman of the county board for the last two years. In 1879 H. Beach was elected, and in 1881 J. C. Abbott became supervisor. In 1882 Frank L. Hough is supervisor. 


    The first settler  in Fruitport Township was Seth H. Norris, in Fall of 1836, who cleared seven acres and made it his home for several years. Mr. Torens came in the following Winter. Jacob Chapman was the first settler in the village of Fruitport, and was its first postmaster, J. W. Barnes became the second.
    There is no church edifice in the township. The Supervisor for 1881 is H. H. Hendryx; Clerk, Chas. Converse; Treasurer, Jos. B. Ford; Justices, W. J. Barnes and Mr. Snyder.
    Among the earliest fruit growers was Sam'l Torrans, ex-township treasurer, who had peaches bearing in 1857, and the late Jas. Lowe about the same time raised peaches. J. H. Cooley was the first to raise apples.
    The first school house, now removed, was near Jacob Chapman's in 1854, and was taught first term by a German, next by a daughter of R. Wilson, now of Alabama.
    The village of Fruitport was incorporated in 1868. Near the village is a good clay for brick making, which is to be resumed at Stahl's bay, half a mile to the West in the Spring of 1882. The soil of the township in the East is heavier and better adapted for agricultural purposes. The West is excellent for fruit growing.
    J. M. W. Jones, of the great Chicago printing house, is the proprietor of the Pomona House Grounds and Mineral Springs.
    Spring Lake, which was formerly known simply as "the Bayou," is an exceedingly beautiful body of water extending up North into Fruitport, and surrounded by slightly elevated banks, forming altogether one of the loveliest spots in the State.
    In the Spring of 1866, Capt. E. L. Craw, after carefully studying up the capabilities of the soil, came to the conclusion that it had valuable qualities for fruit growing, and purchasing several hundred acres on the Eastern shore, set out thirty acres of peach trees, and the result exceeded his highest expectations. This led to great speculations, and pure sandy soil which did not rest on clay, rose in value, but did not turn out so well. However, the business increased until the severe Winter of 1874-5, which killed nearly all the peach buds. But the people persevered, and the result is that they have succeeded in gaining a high reputation to the region. Fruitport Village, at the head of the lake, was laid out in 1868, and in the following year the foundation of a great hotel was laid. In 1871 the mineral water of a valuable character was struck, and the elegant Pomona House opened July 1st, the property belonging to a company, the Fruitport Magnetic and Sulphur Springs Company, with capital $500,000. The hotel was twice burned down, and is now a ruin.
    The financial crisis, the severe season of 1874-5 on fruit, and the Chicago fire which embarrassed some of the stock holders, and prevented others from investing, were some of the causes of the collapse of Fruitport. It is said that Cyrus H. McCormick, of Chicago was just about to invest $50,000 in stock when the Chicago fire caused him to make another use of his money.


    The Iron Company for the manufacture of Lake Superior Charcoal Pig Iron was organized in 1879 under the mining laws of the State of Michigan with a paid up  capital stock of $100,000. The officers are Samuel Marshal, of Milwaukee, President; Col. E. H. Broadhead, of Milwaukee, Vice President; Irving M. Bean, of Milwaukee, Secretary and Treasurer; Maj. H. S. Pickands, general manager. The blast furnace was erected in the fall and winter of '79 and '80 under the personal supervision of Maj. H. S. Pickands, formerly of the Bay and Munising furnaces of Lake Superior, and also manager of the Bangor Furnace Co., of Bangor, Van Buren County, Mich., and to this date Nov. 1881, has made the best record of any charcoal furnace in the United States. The plant is located on the north bank of Spring Lake and has five hundred feet of dock with sixteen feet depth of water. The ores from Lake Superior are transported in the new steam barge H. C. Akeley, built expressly for this trade at Grand Haven by Capt. Kirby and Mr. H. C. Akeley, and is unloaded at the furnace with improved steam hoisting apparatus direct into the stock house. The track of the C & W. M. railroad is laid to the furnace. The furnace stack is an iron shell forty-five feet high, supported upon iron columns. Blast is furnished by a Weimar engine of two hundred horse power, driven by two batteries of boilers. The engine and boiler houses are of brick with iron roof, and are also the hoisting and cast houses. The cast house is 50x100 feet, stock house 126x170 feet, and the coal stock house 100x100 feet. Only a small portion of the charcoal used in the furnace is made in one battery of round kilns at the furnace, the greater amount being manufactured in Oceana County, where the company have extensive works and an abundant supply of hard wood, and is transported to the furnace in cars built for the purpose by the C. & W. M. R. R. The daily capacity of the furnace is fifty gross tons of pig iron which is shipped by rail and vessel to eastern and western markets, the iron being especially adapted to the manufacture of Bessemer steel, car wheels, malleable and strong foundry castings. The company employ in the aggregate at the furnace and at the charcoal kilns in busy season about four hundred men.
    Pickand's Junction is a new place one and a half miles north of Fruitport, where a branch connects the old M. & L. S. with the C. & W. M., a short distance above Ferrysburg. It was necessary to have a track from here to Spring Lake Iron Works to convey pig iron. There are also charcoal furnaces a short distance up the line.


    Warren J. Barnes, farmer and fruit grower, Section 36, came from Oswego County, N. Y., in 1868, where he was a prominent citizen, and has been Justice of the Peace for four years in Fruitport, and moderator and road director, and in every way makes himself generally useful.

    Henry Beach was born in St. Lawrence County, N. Y., in 1838. When quite young his parents went to the Province of Ontario and settled in Elizabethtown, County of Leeds. In 1874 he went back to the State of New York staying there eight years. He then went to Illinois. In 1856 he went to Magill College, Montreal, to study medicine and practiced his profession until 1868. In that year he went to the state of Michigan and settled in the town of Fruitport, where he now resides. During his residence he has held the office of Justice of the Peace and Supervisor. In 1867 he married Miss Mary Jackson, of Chicago, by whom he has five children.

    Seneca M. Burgess, principal  of the village school, Fruitport, also senior member of the County Board of School Examiners, is a genial gentleman admirably qualified  for the position of school principal, for which he has had a successful experience of over fifty school terms in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and California. His whole soul is in his work and he was also a fighting patriot during the war, enlisting as a private in 1862, in DeGolyer's battery of light artillery, serving two years until discharged for disability, having been promoted to the Quarter-master's staff. He married in 1857 Harriet Alexander, of Rollin, Mich., and his only daughter Kate M., creditably assists him in the school.

    Arthur V. Chapman, postmaster and dealer in hardware and furniture, was born in Onondaga County, N. Y., in 1847, and commenced business in 1871, went out in 1874 and re-commenced five years afterwards. His father, Jacob Chapman, was the first postmaster of Fruitport. Arthur married in 1874 Miss L. J. Hunt, of Manchester, Mich., and has two children, Sarah, born Aug. 5, 1876, and Marshall, 5th Sept. 1880.

    David Chapman, farmer, Section 31, was born in England in 1830, settling on his farm in 1855. Has a fine fourteen acre lot on which he raises grain, vegetables and fruit.

    G. L. Calkins, general merchant, established his business in 1870, and keeps a good line of boots and shoes, groceries and provisions, and deals extensively in teas, bark, lumber, flour and feed, and ships fruit to Milwaukee and Chicago. Mr. C. is a man of liberal and generous disposition, and has accumulated wealth.

    Wm. Clydesdale, farmer, Section 31, was born in County Cavan, Ireland, in 1822 came to Canada where he remained seven years, thence to Oswego, N. Y., for five years, settling on a farm in this village, and afterwards to his present farm of forty acres.

    N. S. Cummins, farmer, born in Canada in 1834, and settled on his present farm in Section 22, since 1877, although he has been in Michigan since 1865. Has for a short period served his country as a volunteer in the late war.

    George B. Dignan was born in the county of Northumberland, England, in 1849. When he was four years old his parents left for America and landed in New York, remaining there two years; from there they went to Ann Arbor, Mich. In 1874 he left Ann Arbor and went to Saginaw, staying there two years. In 1876 he went to Fruitport and bought land in Section 29, of Fruitport, where now he resides. Mr. Dignan held the office of Constable one term. In 1863 he enlisted in the northern army and served about twenty months. He was in Washington at the time of the Early raid on that city, and he is one of the survivors of the collision of the Meteor and Pewaubeck, in August, 1865,  when about 300 lives were lost.

    B. J. Harris, general merchant, purchased in 1879 the business of Mr. Thrope, which has been ten years established. He deals heavily in teas, bark and fruit, and keeps a good stock of dry goods, groceries, &c.

    E. F. Hiler is dealer in bark and trees for Hitchcock & Foster, of Chicago, to whom they are shipped direct. Has also in connection a general store. He was born in Monroe County, N. Y., in 1847.

    Mrs. Lowe came from Plymouth, Indiana. in 1841 came to Chicago, where she resided two years, and thence removed to Black Lake for two years, and thence after spending four years in Grand Haven she came in 1869 to her present farm in Fruitport.

    John Loosmore, farmer in Section 32, was born in England July 16th, 1811; came to this country in 1852, and to his present farm of 120 acres in 1865, and is now an extensive grain raiser, having fifty acres under cultivation in 1881. He is regarded by his neighbors as a model farmer.

    John D. McEwing, farmer, has an excellent fruit and grain farm of 200 acres. He was born in New York in 1831, came to Fruitport in 1869, and has been steadily engaged in farming ever since. Was Supervisor for two years, Town Clerk for five years, School Moderator and Overseer of Highways; all of which is substantial testimony to his worth as a citizen.

    George E. Mack, carpenter and builder, was born in Ontario County, N. Y., and came to Fruitport from Auburn in 1870, and has erected the principal buildings in the village. He enlisted in the 8th N. Y. Cavalry, serving three years, and was wounded in a skirmish at Green's Station. He has by hard labor acquired a competency.

    L. L. Maxfield was born in Lamont, Ottawa County, in 1855, and lived there until he was 21. He then went to Greenville, and was there three years, keeping books for Mr. S. W. Smith, merchant. From there he went to Portage Lake, stayed there two years bookkeeping, and then went to Fruitport and established a grocery trade, where he now resides. In 1879 he married Miss Estelle Osgood, of Port Washington, Wis., by whom he has one child.

    G. S. Putnam, druggist, established his business in December, 1880, and keeps a good stock of drugs, groceries, patent medicines, and also a news depot.

    Wm. J. Riley, farmer, is a native of Ireland, and came to Fruitport village in 1870, and has a fine 40-acre lot close by the village.

    Samuel Torrans, a worthy pioneer of Fruitport, died on the 30th of April last, of blood poisoning. Mr. Torrans was born in County Londonderry, Ireland, in 1818, and emigrated to this country at the age of 19, and settled in Pennsylvania, where he resided a short time, and then removed to Fruitport, where he resided about thirty-five years. At the time of his arrival here there were but a few houses at Grand Haven, and the balance of the country in that vicinity was a vast wilderness. He engaged in lumbering, and for a number of years owned and operated a mill at the head of Spring Lake. Lately he had given more attention to farming, but still he did some lumbering in connection with it. He was married about sixteen years ago to Miss Virginia Wyatt, of Virginia, who survives him. He also leaves eight children and two sisters, Mrs. Richard Clydesdale, of Spring Lake, and Miss Agnes Torrans, of San Francisco, Cal., and one brother in Ireland.
    Mr. Torrans was a highly respected citizen and held many positions of trust in his younger days. He leaves a large circle of friends and acquaintances in this vicinity who will mourn his loss.