Kautawaubet or Wexford County
During the years 1836 and 1837 the United States surveyors had reached the territory now known as Wexford county, in their preliminary or township line survey, but it was not until the year 1840 that a name was given to that part of the state known as townships 21, 22, 23 and 24 north of ranges 9, 10, 11 and 12 west. The first name to this territory was as Kautawaubet, supposed to have been an Indian name, but it was afterwards discovered that the name had no particular significance and in 1843 the name was changed to Wexford. There must have been someone around from the "Emerald Isle" when this change of name was suggested, as it is only in Ireland that we find the name Wexford applied to a locality previous to its having been used to designate a past of the wilderness of northern Michigan.

It was some twelve or fifteen years after the township lines had been established before the government found time to divide the townships up into sections. This work would doubtless have been done sooner had there been any demand for the land, but no one then would have taken land in Wexford County as a gift. While on the prairies, in states farther west, it was difficult to make surveys fast enough to meet the demands of the constantly flowing stream of people from the east. Soon after the section lines had been run an effort was made to secure the building of a state road through from Muskegon or Newaygo counties (the settlements in these counties being then the most northerly on the south side of the "Big Woods") to the new settlement opening up around the shores of the Grand Traverse Bay. This effort was crowned with success when the legislature of 1857 passed an act authorizing the construction of a state road to be called the Muskegon, Grand Traverse and Northport State Road. This name was afterwards changed and when the road was finally built it was known as the Newaygo and Northport State Road. Not much was done toward the construction of this road until 1860.
In this connection the author feels confident that his readers will be interested in a letter from the pen of the Hon. Perry Hannah, written in response to a request for some reminiscences of his early experience in northern Michigan that might interest the readers of a history of Wexford County.
We do this the more readily because in the early years of the county's existence ail the business of the new settlers was done in "Traverse City," and largely with the firm of Hannah, Lay & Company, managed by Mr. Hannah, and all the early settlers were well acquainted with him. The letter is here given complete:

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN, Jan 22, 1903.
J. H. WHEELER, Esq.
I have your request to write some early facts of my experience in the Grand Traverse country that you might incorporate in your history of Wexford County.
This would be more of a tax on my time than I could well devote to it, besides it would take a book too large for your history to put only a part of it In. I should be willing to give you an item or two of my experience that has some connection with the affairs of your county.
In the winter of 1853 and 1854 I made my first trip to the “outside" world on snow shoes. Soon after the first of January, 1854, I left Traverse City, when there was not a single house outside the limits of the city, for Grand Rapids. The snow was plump three feet deep, light as feathers, and not a single step could be taken without the Indian snow shoes. I furnished myself with two Indian packers for carrying supplies. It took six days to make the trip from here to Grand Rapids. The first settlement we reached was Big Rapids, some five or six miles this side of the forks of the Muskegon River. The wolves got on our track before the first nights camping. They were not troublesome to us in the least until we had made our camp fires in the evening, then a tremendous howl was set up and continued during the whole night. We were not in the least troubled as to their contact with us, but they broke up our sleep. As soon as we left our camp in the morning they followed us and picked up any scraps that might be left. They continued with us till we were out of the woods.
There was not a single sign of a trail of any kind to travel by, which compelled us to constantly use our compass, as very little sunshine can be seen at that season of the year beneath the thick timber that then shrouded the whole country. This was the most tedious journey I ever experienced in the early days of Grand Traverse.
In the winter of 1856-57, I was a member of the state legislature. when the legislature adjourned, early in the spring, some of the members came and shook hands with me and said, "I suppose you have to go to your home all the way by stage." This was very amusing to me, coming from state legislators, when I knew that my trip had to be made "afoot and alone” through the long woods.
In 1857 I was appointed one of the commissioners to assist in the work of laying out a state road to be called the Muskegon, Grand Traverse and Northport State Road. Before we started the survey on the line, I concluded it would be a good move to have the route looked out, so I engaged a hardy old pioneer and hunter to go from Traverse City south and look over the line through Wexford county. After being absent for some ten days he returned, and in answer to my questions regarding the feasibility of the line his reply was, "First rate; it could not be better. I tell you, Mr. Hannah, if we get a settler through to Grand Traverse on that line we will be sure of him. By golly! them hills, they be awful big, and they all slope this way, and the settler that gets here will never go back over those hills."
While the hills over the state road are pretty "tall." the old hunter got a pretty poor impression on his first trip from the state-road point of view. Today we consider that Wexford County is not all hills, but is, much of it, the best land we have in the state.
Next is a little incident in building our bridge over the Manistee river. George W. Bryant, who lived in our village, had located the land where the bridge was to cross the river. I had let the contract to Godfrey Greilick, a sturdy old German, to build the bridge. Mr. Bryant notified Mr. Greilick that in building the bridge over the Manistee River he must not cut a single tree on his land. The old German, meeting him on the street of our village one day, told Mr. Bryant, in very emphatic language, " If you come where we do make dot bridge, and I see one tree grow on top Your heat, PY golly! I cut him off." It is needless to say that Mr. Bryant's land furnished all the timber for that bridge. What a wonderful change in the last fifty years in Grand Traverse and Wexford Counties. Traverse City today has a population of twelve thousand and the Newaygo and Northport State Road is lined with many beautiful farms.
Yours respectfully,
Perry Hannah

This letter will give something of an idea of the condition of Wexford County less than half a century ago, for it should be remembered that a bridge here spoken of was built in 1861 only 39 years ago.
The making of this state road progressed very slowly and its final completion not until a goodly number of people had settled in Wexford County. Its commencement however, was doubtless the direct cause of the migration of the first settler to the country. This person was B. W. Hall, whose home for several years prior to 1863 had been in Newaygo county, who having heard something of the project of building a state road through it, made up his mind to take a trip north and see for himself if the country was desirable as it was recommended to be. It was September, 1862 that he started on this trip, having supplied himself with provisions enough to last five or six days for traveling through the forests in those days. For traveling through the forest in those days, even in summer time, was no easy task. The ground was covered in a mat of “Shin Tangle” a growth of vine or ground hemlock which grew three to six feet in length. But by reason of the weight of the snows of many winters it took nearly a horizontal position except at the ends, which turned nearly to the perpendicular, somewhat after the manner of heavy clover when it lodges from excessive growth. Indeed, it was often called “Michigan Clover”, for in the late autumn and early winter, stock would almost entirely subsist upon it, so much so that the milk and butter would taste so bitter as to be unpalatable. 
When Mr. Hall reached the plateau about half a mile north of the Manistee river and one and a half miles north of the present village of Sherman, he found a piece of land that just suited him. He continued on his journey to Traverse City, where the United States land office was then located and entered the northwest quarter of section 30 in town 24, north of range 11 west, under the pre-emption law, which held the land for an individual for six months, at the end of which time he must pay the government price of one dollar and a quarter per acre or lose his claim. The homestead law had not been enacted, and all had to pay “Uncle Sam” the same price for his land. After cutting down trees on a small piece of his land as a notice to all that the land was taken, he retraced his steps over the “trail” and began to make necessary preparations for an early removal to his new possessions in the spring.
As soon as the snow had melted away in the spring of 1863, which in those days was not until well into May, with as much of his worldly possessions as he could convey in a one horse wagon, Mr. Hall, with his wife, a cow, some pigs and some chickens started over what is now called the “Old State Road”. Fallen tree trunks, tangled underbrush and bridgeless streams he had to encounter and overcome, but no obstacles were sufficient to baffle his determination to make for himself a home in Wexford County. For three full weeks he battled with constantly recurring difficulties, at the end of which time he reached the Manistee River. Not a soul had they seen since starting on their trip, for there was not a dwelling between Big Prairie on the south till the Monroe settlement in Grand Traverse County was reached. Arriving at the river, the next thing was to cross it. Some two miles up the river from the line of the state road was what was known as the “pony jam” where the Indians were in the habit of crossing with their ponies on their hunting or migratory trips. About eighty rods down the river was another jam which afforded easy crossing on foot but was not very safe for four footed animals.  These “jams” were made of the trunks of trees which had been torn from the banks by the ever-changing channel of the river and carried downstream until arrested by some projecting point of land. Thus for ages and ages had these accumulations increased until in some cases, like that of the “pony jam”, they had entirely covered the river. To see the Manistee river today one would almost think this statement was a fairy tale, but it is nevertheless true, as a member of people yet living in Wexford County can testify from actual and personal knowledge. While Mr. Hall was inspecting the jam below the state road with a view of making such additions to the nearly perfect natural bridge as would enable him to move his belongings to the north bank of the river, he was agreeably surprised to find that another adventurous person like himself was camped on the north side of the river, bent on getting his movables to the south bank of the river. Both having the one desire of crossing the river in view, the task was much more easily accomplished than either had supposed and it was not long before the crossing was completed and each went on his way rejoicing. This second settler was Dr. John Perry, who was the first settler in the county on the south side of the Manistee River.

The homestead law was an important factor in the settlement of Wexford as well as all the other counties in northern Michigan, and before the close of navigation in 1864 nearly every available piece of government land along the line of the state road for seven miles from the north line of the county had been taken. This did not mean that the new settlers were very numerous, as each homesteader was entitled to a piece of land "half a mile square", so it took only four families to locate a whole section of land, and as every alternate section had been set apart for the purpose of aiding in the building of a railroad, the settlers were necessarily widely separated. Notwithstanding this fact everybody was everybody's neighbor, for, as Will Carleton very aptly puts it in his "First Settler's Story."
"Neighbors meant counties in those days." People would go three or four miles to a social gathering, or to assist a "neighbor" in raising a log house, or join in a "logging bee" to enable him to get a small patch of land ready to raise a little something for himself and family to eat. Thus during the summer of 1864 log cabins and small clearings made their appearance in quite a number of places in Wexford county where previously, for unnumbered centuries, the primeval forest had reigned supreme, undisturbed by naught save the wild denizens who found homes beneath its sheltering branches and in its tangled jungles, and the almost equally wild Indians who roamed at will through its majestic solitudes or fought each other to the death in its shadows.

Wexford County Historical Society