Pioneer Society of Michigan- Muskegon  
Pioneer Society Collections
Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan Together with Reports of County, Town and District Pioneer Societies
1877 pages 285-301 Muskegon

Part 5 - The Centennial History of Muskegon

EARLY SETTLERS (continued)

    Isaac D. Merrill was born in 1809, and settled in Muskegon in 1839. He has continued to reside on Muskegon river since that time, his present residence being at Bridgeton. 

    George Ruddiman was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Sept. 29,1815, and came  to America in 1833, stopping one year in Pennsylvania, when he came to Michigan, and has since resided most of the time in this State. He settled in Muskegon in April, 1840, and engaged as a millright in repairing the mill at the month of Bear lake. In 1841 he took charge of this mill, and in 1844, in company with his brother,  John Ruddiman, he bought the property where the McGraft & Montgomery mill now stands.
     In 1840 Mr. Ruddiman attended the election in Muskegon and voted for Gen.
Harrison for President of the United States. Geo. Ruddiman built the first boat used for towing logs and vessels in Muskegon lake. It was a small sidewheel steamer, and was called "The Peggy." He now resides in the  township of Muskegon. 

    George B. Woodbury was born in Worcester, Mass., and in 1837 removed to
Michigan City, where he remained until October; 1840, when he left and settled in Muskegon, coming all the distance along the shore of Lake Michigan in a small boat. Soon after reaching Muskegon he obtained employment as engineer in the T. Newell & Co. mill. He continued this for several years, at the same time carrying on a blacksmith shop, where be employed his leisure time in making traps for the Indians and in doing other blacksmith work. This was the first shop of the kind in Muskegon, and the only one at the time north of Grand River.
    Mr. Woodbury in those days was rather fond of a practical joke, as were most of the early settlers. The following is remembered as one of them: A man from Monroe, who was rather inclined to put on airs, came to Muskegon with a quantity of wildcat money which at that time was not entirely worthless, but was considerably depreciated in value; and thinking he was off in the woods among ignorant men, be endeavored to buy lumber with it at its par value. Samuel Rose, who happened to be up the river at the time, had a raft of lumber lying in the water near where the flouring mill now stands, and Mr. Woodbury sold the raft to the Monroe man, agreeing to wait for his pay until the lumber was hauled out, and at the same time telling everybody to keep the joke quiet. 
    The man worked three days in the water and got out about 25,000 feet, when  Mr. Rose returned and exposed the joke, when the man left town a somewhat wiser man, taking his "wildcat" with him.
    Another joke was to the following effect, played upon a loud-talking newcomer, who had failed to become popular with the settlers. Mr. Woodbury one day said to Mr. Ryerson that it was too bad that that stranger should be eaten up in that way; that Mr. Green ought to suffer for it. The loud talker, as was intended heard the remark and immediately inquired in regard to the particulars. Mr. Woodbury in reply said "that Mr. Green had sent a stranger upon the hill alone to cut logs, and that the hodags had killed and eaten him, leaving nothing but his boots." He started at once for Mr. Green's house to give him a terrible lecture. Mr. G. said it was one of Ryerson and Woodbury's jokes, but he would not believe it and continued blame him for thus allowing a stranger to expose himself. Mrs. Green endeavored to corroborate her husband's statement, when the loud talker said "he did not want her to put in her clack; " "she could not make him believe that Mr. Green was not to blame." The man was so much afraid of the imaginary animals that he soon after left the town. Hence the origin of the term hodags.

    Samuel J. Green was born in Ohio, and settled in Muskegon in 1840. He died in May, 1858. 

    John H. Knickerbocker was born in 1815, at Watertown, N. Y.  He settled, in Muskegon in 1840, and died August 26, 1856.

    Richard Ryerson was born in Paterson, N. J., Feb. 9th. 1812, where he lived till he was about twenty years of age, when he removed to Western New York, where he lived until 1843, when he came and settled in Muskegon. He was engaged during the first years of his residence here at logging, at prices that would not be considered very good at the present time: sometimes selling good logs at $2 per thousand feet. Mr. Ryerson for several years kept the Walton House, the first frame hotel in Muskegon. He still resides in this city.

    Alfred A. Maxim was born in Chautauqua county, N. Y., January 26, 1820. Coming west in 1843, he made Kenosha, Wis., his first stopping place. In November of that year he started from Chicago for Grand Haven on a schooner, with two yoke of oxen and some men whom he had employed, to seek his fortune at lumbering. The next day after reaching Grand Haven he started along the beach of Lake Michigan for Muskegon, there being at the time no road through the woods. They had not proceeded far when they came to a place where the driftwood had filled up the narrow space between the water and a high bank; and not being able to drive around they were obliged to unload the wagons -part of the load being barrels of pork -take apart the wagons and carry them and the contents over the hill. They then led the oxen around, and having yoked them and put the wagon together, loaded up and started again.
    Mr. Maxim was entirely unacquainted with quicksand, and when driving along on the smooth sand at the mouth of Little Black Lake, the oxen began to sink, and before he could get upon dry land they had sunk so that their heads alone were visible. After great exertion they finally succeeded in rescuing the animals alive from their perilous situation. They left the beach at the mouth of  Black Lake and went through the woods, taking their course by compass, and reached Muskegon Lake near were the A. V. Mann & Co. Mill is now situated. From thence they followed along up the lake and stopped at the Muskegon House, then kept by Mr. Dill. These wagons were the first ever driven into Muskegon. Mr. Maxim has been engaged in lumbering most of the time since, and has continued to reside on Muskegon river, his present home being in this city.

    John Ruddiman was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. March 20, 1814, and came to this country in 1831. He lived four years in Pennsylvania, when he came to Michigan and lived a year in Detroit. In 1839 he removed to Wisconsin, where he remained until 1843, when he settled in Muskegon, where he has since continued to reside. In 1849 he built a mill on the north side of Muskegon lake, in which in 1850 he put in the first siding mill in use on the lake. He built a flouring mill at the mouth of Bear lake in 1862--the first in operation on Muskegon Lake.

    Elias W. Merrill was born in Falmouth, Me., Oct. 2, 1812; came to Michigan in 1837, and settled in Muskegon in June, 1844. He has continued to reside here, excepting one year when be lived at Bridgeton and one year in his native State. Mr. Merrill was elected to the lower house of the State Legislature in 1856; was postmaster in 1861, State senator in 1865, and postmaster a second time in 1869, holding the office till 1875.

    Robert W. Morris was born in 1813 in the State of New York, and settled on the Muskegon river in 1842, and a few years after came to Muskegon. For a number of years he was an active business man, but his health having failed he retired from business in '65 and removed to Grand Rapids, where he died May 5th, 1866.

    Ashley B. Furman was born in Saratoga county, N. Y.; in January 1819, and settled in Muskegon in 1845. Although he saw very much of the early history and settlement of Muskegon, it is doubtful whether a reply that he once made to the question, "How long had he known Muskegon river?" was strictly true. He said  "he had known the river ever since it was a small stream, in fact since it was first laid out." Mr. Furman died Oct. 4th, 1872. 

    The foregoing are sketches of all those who settled in Muskegon during the first ten years after the first settlment was made, so far as the writer has been able to learn. Some of these sketches are not as perfect as would be desirable, the necessary information not being accessible.


   The following is a list of the persons who settled in Muskegon prior to the year 1860, so far us the writer has been able to obtain their names:

1846--James Graham, P. Blake.
1847--Charles Martin, Frank Young.
1848--Ezra Stevens, Nich. Petrie, C. Davis, Chas. Carmichael, E. A. Partridge, Mrs. Julia Witherell, Mrs. Fanny Shepherd, John Witherel, Mrs. Albert Hodge.
1849--Mrs. W. Lloyd, Mrs. Ellen Boyd, John Cameron, C. P. McSherry, E. H. Wylie, Dennis Garvey, Theo. Wilson, Nich. Kempff, P. J. Connell.
1850--Julias Bosksch, A. Trowbridge, F. John Hetz, Jonathan Boyce, Thomas Mills, Fred Drixelius, Kister Werner, John Carmichael.
1851--David Blake.
1852--A. J. McHenry, Hubert Stein, J. D. Davis, Jacob Hetz, Charles T. Hills, Lars Larson, Fred. Bowles, Edward Boyce, Raymond O'Harrow, M. S. Burge, Dennis Reardon.
1853--J. H. Swan, Charles W. Root, Wm. Glue, Peter Crossman.
1854--Ira O. Smith, P. Dowd, Henry Van Bambus, Ole Olson, Wm. Kotelman, Nich. Schuler, Henry Jacob, John Bronson, Andrew Olson, Edward Ford. 
1855--A1ex. Cotie, John W. Kent, Martin Kochlin, Peter Muhl, Captain Henry Dobson, J. H. Hackley, Matthew Wilson, Henry H. Getty.
1856-- L. G. Mason, S. D. Murray, R. P. Easton, Luman Hamblin, Gideon Truesdell, A. B. Miner, S. R. Sanford, F. Eimer, H. Riehle, J. W. Moon, John Torrent, Chas. H. Hackley, S. H. Stevens, Dr. A. Maurer.
1857-A. A. Bullock, M. F. Ranier, P. Schnorbach, Lewis M. Haines, John T. Dibble, Chas. D. Nelson, E. Potter, W. F. Wood, A. V. Mann, W. L. Ryan, Thos. Wheeler, W. H. Lewis, Bennett Ripley, Wm. Rutherford, Chas. Graves.
1858-- Henry H. Holt, Wm. Pickett, George Schwegler, A. Rodgers.
1859-- S. B. Peck, Geo. Armes, A. Mulder, J. Mulder, Geo. F Outhwaite.

Graphics from-

On to Part 6-Schools, Churches and the Post Office

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