Images of Northern Michigan's First Lumbering Operations

The development of the lumber industries of Northern Michigan was the primary force which drew the railroads into that country; to a large extent the growth of the salt industries also contributed to their extension from Saginaw to Ludington and their construction along the Lake Huron and Michigan shores. Lumber, salt, climate, scenery and fruit were the chief forces contributing to the growth of Northern Michigan, the first named having almost abandoned the field—and the last being now first.

When the railroads had fairly established themselves in the northern country the benefits became mutual. Mills were built; lumbermen came into the regions around Manistee, Ludington, Alpena and Cheboygan in solid companies; camps, villages and cities appeared; general trade and commerce were founded and expanded, and another civilization was developed from the wilderness. Railroads were built in widely separated sections of the country to assist logging operations and get the first outputs of lumber to the shores of both lakes, whence they were shipped by water to the southern markets. As all the lumber industries developed and communities were founded and grew and required better transportation facilities, these old logging roads were absorbed into the various systems which have already been described. The zenith of the lumber industries in Northern Michigan was reached in 1888, since which they have gradually declined, though still presenting features of imposing magnitude.

 

Lumbering In Manistee County

The first sawmill built within what is now Manistee city—the first one of any consequence in the county and the shores of northern Lake Michigan, in the territory with which this work deals, was built by James and Adam Stronach, and was afterward known as the Humble mill, from Joseph Humble, who owned and operated it. Next after this was erected the Joseph Smith mill, soon followed by the Bachelor mill, the latter located on the point at the outlet of Manistee lake on the south side.

As the coming of the Stronachs is coincident with both the first settlement of Manistee County and the planting of the lumber industry on the shores of northwestern Michigan, the following account of their coming is reproduced from General B. M. Cutcheon's Centennial address:

"In the fall of the year 1840 John Stronach of Berrien county, Michigan, accompanied by his brother Joseph Stronach of Muskegon, coasted along this shore in a small sail boat, until they arrived at the mouth of the Manistee. They were met by a party of Chippewa’s, who treated them cordially, and gave them information of the county.

 

"Hiring a company of Indians to take them in their canoes, they explored the Manistee until they came to an ancient 'jam' of logs, flood wood and fallen trees, and finding no good place for a dam, they returned and explored the 'Little River,' called by the Indians 'Mamoosa' or 'dog-river.' After locating a point for a mill site they set sail and returned to Muskegon.

"The following spring, about the 13th of April, John Stronach chartered the schooner 'Thornton' of St. Joseph to convey them and their machinery and supplies to the Manistee.

"They arrived at the mouth of the Manistee on the 16th of April. 1841, and from that day dates the actual, permanent, white settlement of Manistee county.

"They found it impossible to enter the river, on account of the shallowness of the water, there being not to exceed three feet on the average between Lake Michigan and Manistee Lake.

"Unable to enter the stream, they constructed a pine raft, bound together with cross pieces and wedges.

"This raft they towed with the yawl to and from the vessel, until the cargo except the cattle, was landed; the cattle they threw overboard, and all but one swam safely to the shore.

 

"They found the yawl boat of the wrecked schooner 'Anadogge' and this they used to tow their raft loaded with machinery and supplies to the head of the little lake and up the 'Mamoose' or 'LittleDog' to the site of Stronach mills. A camp was built, a road cut, a dam constructed, and by the close of 1841 the first saw mill that ever startled the silence of these unbroken forests, was ready for operations."

In 1849, the year during which the Chippewa Indian reservation came into the open market, John Canfield came to Manistee, took up land near the mouth of the river and commenced the erection of a steam sawmill on the site of the large plant so well known in later years under the ownership of Canfield & Wheeler.

In 1852 the Stronach, Smith, Bachelor and Canfield (two) mills were still in operation. They all used the upright or muley saw - circulars were then unknown - and were cutting a few thousand feet of lumber daily.

In the following year (1853) occurred what a few old lumbermen still remember as the timber war. "It happened in this way," says one of them who writes from vivid recollections: "In those days there was a good deal of land in the United States, much of it belonged to the government and of necessity a good deal of it had to be left out of doors nights.

"Now there came to be a general opinion abroad that this was a free country. This opinion was supposed to be derived from the glorious Declaration of Independence.

"People reasoned like this: This timber belongs to the Government. This is a Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

"We are the people. Ergo, this timber belongs to us.

"Quod erat demonstrandum! The very thing to be proved! Therefore we will take our timber, and if history can be credited they did.

"Our venerable Uncle Samuel arose in his wrath; he sent out his officials. One Williams was U. S. timber agent, and Durkee was U. S. Marshal. All Michigan was one district with seat in Detroit. The Marshal came on with his cohorts; he shut down mills; he seized logs; he gobbled shingle bolts; he went on the booms and put “U. S.” on all the logs; he forbade the sawing of logs until a settlement was effected; the mill men were contumacious, and the war was vigorous. At this time the Hon. Stillman Stubbs was keeping a sort of tavern on the north side, near Shannon's place. The U. S. Marshal made his headquarters there. He was greatly lionized. The hands from the mills on the other side of the river resolved to give him a special display of fireworks. So they prepared large balls of wicking saturated in spirits of turpentine, and after His Excellency had retired for the night, the night being warm and the windows being open, they threw their lighted fireballs into the Marshal's windows, and so gave him a grand illumination. To add to the vexation, the Marshal's boat was sunk in the lake. Some arrests were made and some refused to stay made. There is a tradition which has come down from that remote period, of one who was sleeping, like the apostle of old, bound between two soldiers, and how he 'slid out' in light marching order! But I am not aware that he ever claimed supernatural deliverance.

"In 1854 the timber war came to a head. The mill men carried 'the war into Africa,' and the marshal, instead of 'seeking new fields to conquer,' was finding all the employment he needed in defending himself. The war ended like most of wars - in a compromise - and I believe that it has never since been renewed. The idea that this is a free country has suffered an eclipse."

 

The Grand Traverse Region

As the Manistee River at its mouth was the center of the pioneer lumbering operations on the Michigan shore of the northwestern part of the state, so was the region around Grand Traverse Bay the scene of activities of only a little later date.

In 1847 Captain Boardman, a thrifty farmer living near Napierville, Illinois, purchased of the United States government a small tract of land at the mouth of the river which bears his name, and furnished means to his son, Horace Boardman, to build a sawmill. The latter with two or three men in his employ, arrived at the river in the early part of June of that year, and immediately commenced the construction of a dwelling. The place selected was on the right bank of the stream, a little way below where it issues from Boardman Lake. The exact location of the building was in what is now East Street, Traverse City, between the center of the street and its southern boundary, just east of the eastern boundary of Boardman Avenue. It was a house of modest pretensions as to size, being only sixteen feet by twenty-four, and one story high. The material for the walls was pine logs hewn square with the broad-ax. In after years, it was known to the inhabitants of the village as the "old block-house." It was eventually destroyed by fire.

 

On .the 20th of June, a week or more after Mr. Boardman's arrival, the "Lady of the Lake," owned by him and sailed by Michael Gay, one of his employers, arrived in the mouth of the river with supplies. There came with Gay a man by the name of Dunham, who, having been in the bay on a previous occasion, acted as pilot. After assisting for a few days in the building of the house, Gay was dispatched with the little vessel to the Manitou Islands, to bring on a party of employees, who, it had been arranged, should come as far as the islands by steamer. Returning, the "Lady" entered the river on the 5th of July. There came in her as passengers Mr. Gay's young wife, then only about fifteen or sixteen years of age, and her four-months' old baby, Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, a hired girl named Ann Van Amburg and several carpenters.

Only the walls of the house had as yet been erected. The building was without roof, floors, doors or windows. A sort of lean-to, or open shed, with a floor of hewn planks, had been built for a temporary kitchen against one side of the house in which a cook stove had been set up. A tent was now constructed of some spare sails, inside the unfinished building, for the accommodation of the two married couples and the girl. The single men shifted for themselves. The company lived in this manner during the remainder of the summer, as the house was not finished until the sawmill was so far completed as to saw lumber.

It had been Mr. Boardman's intention to throw a dam across the river at some point not far below the lake and build a sawmill on that stream. The convenience of residing near the mill had been the main consideration that determined the location of the blockhouse. After a more thorough exploration of the country, however, and an estimate of the probable difficulties in the way of building, he was led to modify his plan. Mill creek, a small stream that has its source in the hills to the south and west of the bay and enters the Boardman at the western angle of its bend, seemed to offer facilities for cheaply building a small mill that should answer existing purposes. He therefore determined to build on that stream, with the intention of erecting afterward a larger and more permanent structure on the Boardman. By that plan he would have the advantage of the smaller mill for making boards, planks, and timbers for the larger, thus avoiding the difficulty of obtaining from a distance the lumber it would be necessary to have before a large mill could be put in a condition for service. There was no place nearer than Manistee where lumber could be obtained, and the "Lady of the Lake" was too small and too unsafe to be relied on for bringing any large quantity such a distance. It was not easy at that time to induce vessel masters to enter the bay, which to them was an unexplored sea.

Immediately after the arrival of the carpenters, all hands were set to work upon the mill. The "Lady of the Lake" made a trip to Manistee after plank for the flume. When the frame was ready all the white men at Old Mission and several Indians came to help raise it. It took three days to get it up. It was finally got into a condition to be set running about the first of October. Then some of the first boards made were used to complete the blockhouse which up to that time had remained unfinished. It was a long walk from the house to the mill. The path from one to the other ran along the southwestern bank of the Boardman. For convenience of reaching it from the house, a footbridge of poles was thrown across the river at the canoe landing. This slight structure was afterward replaced by a broader and firmer bridge, on which wagons could cross. In after years the sawmill was remodeled and put to a variety of uses. It was known among the inhabitants of the village as the "old planing-mill." All vestiges of the bridge have long since disappeared.

The mill having been completed, and there no longer being suitable employment for the mechanics who had been engaged upon it, it be came necessary to provide for their conveyance home. It was arranged that Mr. Boardman should take them in the "Lady of the Lake" to the Manitou’s, where they could get passage on one of the steamers that were in the habit of touching there. He would then freight his vessel with supplies, which he expected to find waiting there and return.

The only opening in the forest visible to the party as they landed, was the narrow clearing which had been made for the tramroad. Following this, Captain Boardman keeping well in advance, his party soon arrived at the mill. The mill was not running. On entering the house, the hands were all found there, amusing themselves with the game of old sledge. After shaking hands all round. Captain Boardman said to his son, "Horace, how is this, that you are not running the mill?" The reply was: '' Father, it was a little rainy to-day; the boys outside couldn't work very well, and they wanted the men in the mill to make up the number for the game; so I concluded to shut down for a time, in order that they might have a little fun." This easy way of doing business did not suit the energetic old farmer, Captain Boardman, who was now more fully convinced that the property had best be sold.

After looking over the premises for a day, a party consisting of Mr. Hannah, Horace Boardman, Mr. Morgan, and a man named Whitcher, with packs of blankets and provisions, set out to explore the country and examine the timber along the Boardman River. At the end of a week, Mr. Hannah estimated that they had seen at least a hundred million feet of pine on government land open to sale. This was a sufficient inducement to the firm to accept Captain Boardman's proposition to sell them his entire interest in the property, consisting of a sawmill, the cheap buildings that had been erected and about two hundred acres of land, on which the village plat was afterward located, for $4,500.

The first work done by the new owners was to construct a tramroad from the bend of the Boardman to the mill, so that logs floated down the stream could be hauled out at the bend and transported over land to the mill, whence the lumber, as formerly, could be run down to the slab-wharf for shipment. The next task performed, which proved to be one of no small magnitude was the clearing of the river, so that logs could be floated down from the immense tracts of pine on the upper waters. It was not merely here and there a fallen tree that had to be removed. In some places the stream was so completely covered and hidden with a mass of fallen trees and the vegetation which had so taken root and was flourishing on their decaying trunks that no water could be seen. Ten long miles of the channel had to be cleared before the first pine was reached. With an energy and a steadfastness of purpose that ever after marked the transactions of the firm, the work was pushed on till logs could be run down the stream.

The sawmill had only a single muley saw. Finding from a few months' experience that it was too small and too slow for their purposes, Hannah, Lay & Company determined to construct a new one to be run by steam power. A site was selected on the narrow tongue of land lying between the lower part of the river and the bay, where, on one hand, logs could be floated in the stream directly to the mill, and, on the other, the lumber could be loaded on vessels by being conveyed only a short distance on trucks. The project was executed in 1852, and the next year the mill went into successful operation. About the first work done in the steam mill was to saw up the pine timber on the tract of land now occupied by the city. It was cut into bridge timber for the Illinois Central Railroad Company, which used it for constructing a bridge over the Illinois river at La Salle.

In those days the lumber was all carried across the lake in sail craft. The first vessel that carried for the firm and brought in the boilers of the steam mill was the "Maria Hilliard." No lake surveys had been made in the region of Grand Traverse Bay and the masters of vessels were guided more by guess than by charts. Amusing anecdotes are told of their experiences, one of which we repeat. The "Richmond" one very dark night was beating up the bay against a light head-wind. On attempting to tack for some unaccountable reason she would not come in stays, and as she seemed to be fast the captain was forced reluctantly to let her remain. When daylight revealed the situation, what was his surprise to find his vessel lying close to a bold, wooded shore with her bow-sprit entangled among the trees.

When the pine in the immediate vicinity of the mill had been worked up, Hannah, Lay & Company commenced the system of lumbering common on the streams of Northern Michigan, even at that day giving employment, summer and winter, to a large number of men.

 

East and West Shores

In the meantime lumber camps were being established both on the eastern and western shores of Grand Traverse bay and along Lake Michigan in what is now Leelanau county. Antrim county, in the vicinity of Elk Rapids, was a pioneer locality for the building of sawmills and the founding of the industry. It happened, as was the case in so many other districts of the lumber country, that the pioneer settler of Antrim County, Abram S. Wadsworth, was a lumberman and settled therein because of its advantages for mill-building and operating.

Mr. Wadsworth was a native of Durham, Connecticut and came from Rochester, New York, to Michigan at the age of twenty-one years. He spent some time in Monroe and later located lands in Portland, Ionia County, and built the first mill-dam built across the Grand river in that region. That he first visited the Grand Traverse region in 1846, there is no doubt, but as to his movements during the next few years accounts differ. As nearly as we can ascertain, in 1846 he came northward, coasting in a small boat, and voyaging as far as the Pictured Rocks in Lake Superior and thence to Mackinaw. Thence he went by steamer to Detroit and thence returned home. The next spring, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Samuel K. Northam, he took his family to Detroit, where the party embarked on a propeller for Mackinac. From the latter place they found passage on a schooner as far as Cross village. Emmet County. There, after camping for several days on the beach, waiting for a storm to subside they embarked in a small boat for Old Mission, Grand Traverse County.

At Middle village they again went into camp, and waited two days on account of rain. The next stop was made at Little Traverse (Harbor Springs) where they hoped to obtain provisions of the Indians. They only succeeded, however, in getting a few potatoes and a single loaf of bread. The party had lived on fish until that food had ceased to tempt the appetite. The children, especially, were suffering for want of their accustomed diet. After leaving Little Traverse they were favored with pleasant weather and got on rapidly. The last day the bay was rough and they had some fears about crossing to Old Mission from the eastern shore, along which they had been coasting. Seeing a smoke on the shore near Elk River they ran to it. Fortunately they found there some Indians with an excellent sea boat, who were about to cross. As a matter of precaution, Mrs. Wadsworth and the children were put into the Indians' boat, which was navigated by Mr. Wadsworth and one of the Indians, while Mr. Northam and the remaining Indians occupied Mr. Wadsworth's boat. In a short time the party landed at Old Mission in safety. They arrived at Old Mission July 16, 1847.

Mr. Wadsworth remained some time at Old Mission, but being a man that had had much experience in mills he saw the immense water power that was running to waste on the east side of the bay, and bought the land where Elk Rapids now stands. About the spring of 1849 he built a small log cabin near the present site of the town hall at Elk Rapids village. This was the first building put up by the white man in Antrim county of which there is any account; at all events this was the initial movement in the direction of settlement. There, with Samuel K. Northam, his brother-in-law, assisted by some Indians, he peeled a quantity of hemlock bark and shipped it to Racine, Wisconsin. About that time he was employed by the government in the re-survey of lands, and with the funds arising from his work and his bark, he erected a house on his lands, and late in the fall his family settled therein. Thus was the first shipment made from the pineries east of Grand Traverse Bay and a commencement made in the founding of Elk Rapids.

In 1851 the Wadsworth family moved again to Connecticut and spent some time in that state. Later they returned and spent some three years more in Old Mission; thence they returned to Elk Rapids, and, finally, after various changes, made that place their permanent home. Mr. Wadsworth died in Traverse City in June, 1871.

In 1850 Mr. Wadsworth began to make preparations for building a sawmill. In the winter of 1850-1, James McLaughlin put up the frame of the first saw-mill on the east side of the bay. It was designed for a picket and lath-mill. In the spring of '51 Wadsworth sold out to a man by the name of Norris, but for some cause the property came back into Mr. Wadsworth's hands and in November, 1851, McLaughlin moved his family to Elk River.

As Mr. Wadsworth had surmised, the excellent water power at Elk Rapids soon attracted other manufactories besides lumber mills - shingle and planing mills, a rolling pin factory, cement mills, etc.

Northport and Sutton's Bay, on the west shore of Grand Traverse bay, and Leland, Glen Arbor and Burdickville near Lake Michigan, further west, were all the sites of sawmills erected in the fifties. They turned out some lumber and did quite a business in supplying the early steamers with cordwood fuel, in shipping bark to southern ports and (later) in supplying the railroads of Southern Michigan with ties. These statements, in fact, apply to all the lumber camps and towns of Northern Michigan.

 

Charlevoix County

Lumbering in Charlevoix County is a comparatively modern industry. In the summer of 1879 J. C. Glenn moved his sawmill from Leland, Leelanau County, to East Jordan, and erected it upon the shore of the lake. William P. Porter, also of Leelanau County, became a partner of Mr. Glenn under the firm name of Glenn & Porter. The timber had been exhausted in the vicinity of Leland and the mill was moved to this point on account of immense quantities of hard wood timber in this vicinity.

Mr. Glenn was a native of Pennsylvania and settled at New Mission in 1855, being one of the pioneers of Leelanau County. He remained at New Mission about two years, and then engaged in farming which he carried on successfully for several years. He came to Leelanau County with only five dollars to start with, and realized enough from his farming operations to start himself in other business. He engaged in the manufacture of lumber at Leland and carried it on about ten years, until his removal to East Jordan in 1879, as already stated.

The starting of this mill was the beginning of East Jordan as a business center. Some industry was needed as a nucleus of business interests and activities. The lumbering operations of Glenn & Porter gave employment to men, made a market for logs and opened the way for other interests to follow. Mr. Glenn opened a store and carried on mercantile business for many years. At the time the mill was established at East Jordan there were only five or six families at that point. The firm built a boardinghouse and docks, erected a number of store buildings and dwellings and was active in many ways in building up the village.

 

Cheboygan County

The first sawmill in Cheboygan County was built in the winter of 1846-7, by A. and R. McLeod. It had two old-fashioned upright saws set in frames and a lath mill attached to it. It cut in its best days from ten to fifteen thousand feet of lumber in twenty-four hours.

In the winter of 1848-9 Peter McKinley built the first steam sawmill in Cheboygan County. It was situated at the mouth of the river and had two upright saws, capable of cutting from eight to twelve thousand feet of lumber in twenty-four hours. It was kept in running order for only a few years and then allowed to go into decay.

In 1865 the property was purchased by the firm of McArthur Southwick & Co. In the fall of 1866 they sold the Duncan property, including about 1,200 acres of land and some village property, to Messrs. Sanford Baker, Archibald Thompson, and Robert Patterson, who took hold of the business under the firm name of Baker, Thompson & Co. This was really the beginning of Duncan City as a business point. For ten years or more the property had lain idle, and the buildings were little more than wrecks. The new firm immediately put the property in condition to be operated. In 1868 Messrs. Thompson and Patterson sold their interests to Mears & Co. of Chicago, and the firm was changed to Baker, Mears & Co. In 1870 Thompson Smith, of Toronto, Canada, purchased the interest owned by Mears & Company, and two years later Messrs. Baker and Smith divided the property, Mr. Smith retaining the Duncan property, and Mr. Baker taking other property.

By 1883 Cheboygan had become established as one of the leading lumber centers of Northern Michigan, as is evidenced by the following list of establishments, with a statement of their output for that year:

Thompson Smith: Sawed lumber, 26,000,000; on dock, 10,500,000; lath, 10,000,000.

William Smith: Sawed lumber, 7,000,000; lath, 3,000,000.

W. & A. McArthur: Sawed lumber, 14,000,000; on dock, 500,000; lath, 2,000,000; pickets, 30,000.

Southern Michigan Cedar & Lumber Company: Sawed lumber, 4,000,000; on dock, 1,000,000; shingles, 8,000,000; shingles on dock, 1,000,000.

Quay & Son: Sawed shingles, 2,500,000.

J. B. McArthur: Sawed lumber, 7,500,000; on dock, 1,000,000.

Nelson & Bullen: Sawed lumber, 20,000,000; on dock, 2,000.000; lath, 2,000,000.

Young & Co.: Sawed lumber, 2,500,000; on dock, 700,000.

Mattoon, Ogden & Co.: Sawed, 3,500,000; on dock, 1,200,000.

There were also a few small mills in the county not included in this list that would slightly increase the aggregate product for the year.

 

First Mills in Alpena County

The first sawmill in Alpena County was built at Ossineke, or Devil River, by the firm of Birch & Eldridge, in 1844. Mr. Birch had previously visited the mouth of Thunder Bay River in pursuit of a mill site, and decided to build one on the river at the rapids. He commenced getting out timber for a dam, but Indians interfered and drove the party away.

On the first day of August, 1845, Isaac Wilson, a native of the State of New York and his wife, who was a native of the State of Rhode Island, with their little son, Charles Henry, then seventeen months old, accompanied by Mr. Wilson's sister, were landed by the good schooner "Baltic" at Devil River. Mr. Wilson had come to this wilderness home, on the west shore of Lake Huron, to run the recently abandoned sawmill built by Birch & Eldridge. This isolated family lived there six weeks before seeing the face of a white person, and claim to have been the first actual settlers between Lower Saginaw, now Bay City, and Thunder Bay island, which was at this time occupied by a few temporary fishermen from the latter place and Detroit, who usually left for their homes in the fall. During this time the mill at Ossineke was the solitary monument of permanent industry in all this wilderness.

In the fall of 1847 the old Ossineke mill property was purchased by David D. Oliver. That was a watermill, and was afterward torn down, when in 1866 a steammill was built. That mill was destroyed by fire in 1872.

The pioneer lumbermen at Alpena were Geo. N. Fletcher, James K. Lockwood, John S. Minor, Archibald & Murray, A. F. Fletcher, J. Oldfield and Hillyard Broadwell.

The first move toward lumbering was the building of a dam. This was partially done in the summer of 1858. At that time John S. Minor and J. Oldfield had acquired portions of Mr. Lockwood's interest at Alpena, and, in company with Geo. N. Fletcher, they located the dam and arranged that Mr. Fletcher should go ahead and build it. It was intended to build canals and furnish water-power for mills, but they found so much quicksand that the project had to be abandoned. The dam was not entirely finished until 1863.

The first lumbering was done in the winter of 1858-59 by Archibald & Murray. They had a contract to put in the river one million feet, more or less, of logs for Lockwood & Minor. The logs were taken from town 31 north, range 6 east, and the contract price was about two dollars per thousand feet. Men's wages were from fourteen dollars to sixteen dollars per month, the lumbermen agreeing to stay until the drive was done.

Mr. Samuel Boggs felled the first tree cut into saw logs; Mr. E. K. Potter scaled the first log, and also measured the first cargo of lumber that left Alpena, which was carried by the schooner "Meridan," Capt. Flood, in the latter part of the summer of 1859.

The first steps toward building a sawmill on the site of the city were taken in December, 1858, when John Cole arrived at Alpena, accompanied by a number of mechanics, for the purpose of building two sawmills, one at each side of the dam which had been commenced that season. One of the mills was for Lockwood & Minor and the other for George N. Fletcher. The timber was got out and framed, but neither was finished at that time. The timber for Mr. Fletcher's mill was burned up in one of the numerous fires that afflicted the place.

E. K. Potter, one of the lumbermen who was in the first Lockwood & Minor camp, thus writes of these pioneer operations in the great Alpena pineries: "In the fall of 1858 Lockwood & Minor inaugurated the first lumber operations on the Thunder Bay river. Contracts were let to Archibald and Murray, and Alvin Cole. It being something new to provide a supply of everything for six months, in a country as new and undeveloped as this was, it is not to be wondered at that the supplies run short long before spring, and by the first of February, 1859, that 'General Scarcity,' you spoke of, was here in full dress uniform. I was in the lumber camp that winter, and with sorrow beheld the last piece of pork hung up by a string, over the center of a rude table, as a reminder of happy by-gone days of peace and plenty. Mr. Whitefish stepped in and took the place of honor which had been occupied by Hog, and held the balance of power from that time until the 16th of March. Mr. J. K. Lockwood being informed of our sad state, had his good schooner, the J. S. Minor, fitted out and started for Alpena, or Fremont, as it was then called, with pork, beef, sugar, etc., and she arrived as above stated, on the 16th of March, and to all appearances, it was just as cold and winter-like as at any time during the winter. We felt rejoiced to hear the news in camp, that the Minor had arrived with provisions, and we all sang Mr. Lockwood's praise, as many a poor man and his family have had occasion to do since; and I will here say to Mr. Lockwood, more than to any other man, belongs the credit of starting and keeping in motion the then small lumbering operations which gave employment to the few who were here, and thus securing the necessaries of life until better times should change the then discouraging situation of affairs, it being right after the dreadful panic of 1857, which will be remembered by all as the hardest times this country had seen for fifty years. Messrs. Lockwood & Minor built the so-called 'Island Mill,' in 1860, which was the principal means of support for this then small and poor village, for three or four years. One pair of horses did the log hauling for the mill in the summer and the lumber woods was the present site of Alpena. Down timber and burnt timber, and in fact everything that would make a piece 6x6, was hauled to the little mill, and squared, and the block ends cut off, and shipped to Cleveland, and pork, tea, sugar, etc., brought back in return; and thus, from year to year, the 'log' was kept rolling, until today we have, from this small beginning, which has been so imperfectly described, a city of nearly, if not quite, five thousand inhabitants, an honor to the founders, who, while striving to advance its interests and that of its inhabitants, in all proper ways, have not, by selfishness, grown rich in this world's goods, but they have the satisfaction of knowing that they helped their fellowman."

Mr. Fletcher and the firm of Lockwood & Minor having failed to build the two water mills referred to were anxious to have their logs manufactured into lumber, and gave sufficient inducement to Messrs. Obed Smith and Harman Chamberlain, of St. Clair County, to determine them to erect a steam sawmill at Fremont; and in the spring of 1859 they commenced the work of building the first steam sawmill in Alpena county. They pushed forward the work with vigor, and in August or September of the same year they sawed the first boards. This was an important and an encouraging event. All before had been failure, disappointment and expense, without any adequate returns. Now the mill would give employment to the people, and the proceeds would furnish the means to purchase the necessaries of life. The first work done by this mill was to cut the logs belonging to the firm of Lockwood & Minor. This occupied the balance of the season of 1859, and a part of 1860. The mill was destroyed by fire on April 17, 1863, but was immediately rebuilt by George N. Fletcher, who was interested in the property.

The next mill was built by Hillyard Broadwell in the summer of 1859 about four miles up the river, where a dam was also built. It commenced running in the fall of 1859 and Mr. Broadwell operated it until 1870. In 1871 it was sold to Speechly & Lee, who run it a short time. The mill stood idle for a number of years and finally burned in 1882, and the dam was carried away soon after.

About the first sale of logs was made by Geo. N. Fletcher. They were white pine logs and were sold at three dollars and fifty cents per thousand.

As late as 1864 a few houses and sawmills constituted Alpena; it was but a small, crude lumbering camp.

 

Iosco County Lumbering

The old Whittemore mill at Tawas City was the pioneer of the industry in Iosco county. It was built in 1854 by Charles H. Whittemore, who was the owner of the property until it was bought by McBain & Whitney in 1878. In the early 'eighties the product of the mill was about 7,000,000 feet of lumber a season.

In the year 1863 the firm of Smith, VanValkenburg & Company commenced the erection of a sawmill at Sand Point, but after the timbers were partly prepared, decided to locate the mill at East Tawas, and early in 1864 the timbers were removed to that point. In 1869 the property passed into the possession of the Tawas Mill Company, and was popularly known as the Company mill.

The Emery mill, located at East Tawas, was built in 1867-8 by the firm of D. J. Evans & Co. They operated it about two years, and were succeeded by the firm of W. G. Grant & Son. In 1875 the firm of Grant & Son failed, and H. W. Sage & Company, Bay City, came into possession of the property under mortgage. In May, 1877, it was purchased by Temple and Hiram A. Emery, under the firm style of Emery Brothers.

Absalom and Albert S. Backus, composing the firm of Backus & Brothers, settled in Au Sable in the fall of 1865, before any dock was built on the shore thereabouts. Steamboats and sail craft landed supplies on the banks of Sable river, lightered by small fish-boats, Messers Backus built their little sawmill, which had a cutting capacity of but 10,000 feet a day, and represented the pioneer of the kind between Tawas and Harrisville. It was burned in 1867, but was afterward rebuilt and greatly enlarged. This was the first sawmill to be erected at the mouth of the Au Sable.

 

Alcona County

By the early fifties the reputation of the pine along the Huron shore was established at all points, and at no locality from Bay City to Alpena was such pine visible from the lake as that seen in the forests of Alcona County. In 1854 Messrs. Holden & Davison, two pioneer fishermen, became partners in logging and lumbering and purchased the pine lands and valuable mill privilege at Harrisville; built a small water mill of one saw, and commenced the first manufacture of lumber in Alcona county. Mr. Davison continued his fishing business, intending to close it up as soon as his numerous advances had been realized, and then invest in pine lands, whose rapidly increasing value offered better inducements in his sagacious judgment, than either fishing or lumbering.

Already the land hunters were swarming on every stream and waters adjacent to the lake, and the stroke of the woodman's ax was echoing along the rivers and lake. Many were the struggles to be first to locate the government and state pine lands that were in close proximity to the lake shore. Conspicuously successful in this important business was Edward Chappelle, a son of Francis LaChappelle, Sr., one of the pioneer coopers of the region. He had been under the teaching of D. D. Oliver, of Devil River, a noted woodman, and learned much of his woodcraft that required all the sagacity of an Indian, combined with the endurance of a white man trained to the business.

 

Historic Summary

It is a fact not generally known that as early as 1836 a sawmill was built at Van Ettan Lake, near the Au Sable, by the firm of Howard & Van Ettan. They expended quite a sum there to build a watermill, but after their dam had been carried away or undermined "two or three times they were obliged to abandon the enterprise. They never sawed any lumber.

In 1844 a sawmill was built at Devil river, now Ossineke in Alpena county, by the firm of Birch & Eldridge. In 1854 Messrs. Holden & Davison built a small watermill at what is now Harrisville. The Whittemore mill, at Tawas City, was built the same summer.

The first lumbering in Alpena County was done in the winter of 1858-9, and the first mill built in the spring and summer of 1859. From this time the lumber business continued to increase, and the hitherto unknown region of the shore began to come into notice.

For purposes of comparison the following figures are presented representing substantially the lumber business of the Huron shore region in 1867-8 when the first reliable figures were collected, and 1882-3, which was a high-water mark.

1867-8.

Mill and location Capital Invested LumberLath

Mason, Doty & Luce., Alpena$ 70,0005,200,000 2,167,000

L. M. Mason & Co., Alpena 150,000                9,750,2334,403,450

E. Harrington & Co., Alpena 125,000              10,000,0002,000,000

B. H. Campbell & Co., Alpena 87,000 5,795,539 1,518,850

J. Oldfield & Co., Alpena 150,000 6,500,000 3,000,000

H. Broadwell & Co., Alpena 8,000 1,500,000

John Trowbridge & Co.,

Trowbridge Point 15,000 1,000,000

John Trowbridge & Co., Corlies 60,000 3,000,000 1,500,000

Loud, Priest & Gay, Au Sable 300,000 12,700,000 3,294,000

Backus & Bro. Au Sable 75,000 1,200,000

A. Burrows, Au Sable 8,000 800,000

C. H. Whittemore, Tawas City 45,000 3,800,000

Smith, Van Valkenburg & Co.,

East Tawas 50,000 7,100,000 1,500,000

Adams, Swanky & Co., East Tawas. . 50,000 2,800,000 700,000

Weston, Colwell & Co., Harrisville.... 60,000 6,850,000 2,000,000

D. D. Oliver, Devil River 36,000 2,497,606 504,867

Other mills, Devil River 84,000 5,000,000 1,000,000

Number of mills 19

Amount of capital invested $1,380,000

Lumber cut in 1867 85,335,872

Lumber on the dock unsold 8,979,772

Number of men employed 772

The following is the number of feet of logs run out of the Au Sable river from 1867 to 1882:

1867 48,800,000

1868 34.102,341

1869 44,500,000

1870 60.000,000

1871 52,000,000

1872 105,000,000

1873 96,148,000

1874 52,000,000

1875 55,000.000

1876 47,150,000

1877 68,800,000

1878 62,000,000

1879 113,000,000

1880 138.500,000

The following table gives the total cut of logs on all streams tributary to Au Sable and Oscoda during the season of 1882-3:

Pine River

Pack, Woods & Co 25,000,000

D. A. McDonald 2,500,000

O. S. & L. Co 21,000,000

B. Killmaster & Co 3,000,000

J. H. Killmaster 2,000,000

Joseph Dudgeon 3,500,000

Roberts & Cowley 500,000

McKay Bros 500,000

58,000,000 Au Sable River—Main Stream

D. A. McDonald 7,000,000

O. S. & L. Co 5,000,000

Moore, Whipple & Co 5,000,000

Cristy Bros 8,000,000

Moore & Tanner 4,000,000

Penoyar Bros 2,000,000

Piatt & Millen 1,500,000

Dease & Hayes 3,000,000

T. F. Thompson *• 3,000,000

1. P. Pulcifer 2,000,000

Jones & Porter 3,000,000

Kinney & Beard 1,000,000

Gardner Bros 1,500,000

Joseph Dudgeon 1,000,000

Thickstan & Manwarriug 2,000,000

W. H. Clough 500,000

49,500,000

South Branch

Moore, Whipple & Co 2,000,000

Emery Bros 6,000,000

Wm. Jenkinson 3,000,000

11,000,000

Upper South Branch

Pack, Woods & Co 2,000,000

J. E. Potts 1,500,000

Moore, Whipple & Co 8,000,000

O S. & L. Co 4,000,000

The B. L. Anderson Co 3,000,000

Wonderly, Rimington & Co 4,000,000

Martin Bresnaham 2,000,000

24,500,000

North Branch

Pack, Woods & Co 15,000,000

J. E. Potts 17,000,000

Gratwick, Smith & Fryer Lumber Co 25,000,000

Cheesebrough & Charleton 7,000,000

S. O. Fisher 8,000.000

Stephen Moore 1,500,000

Penoyar Bros > 1,500,000

Piatt & Millen 3,000,000

78,000.000

The early logging railroads and the extension of regular lines into the interior of Northern Michigan have so decimated the pine forests which lie far from the lake counties that lumbering in soft woods is a dying and, in most sections, a dead industry. Lumbering in this age and day is an entirely different proposition from the operations of forty or even thirty years ago. Most of the pine is gone and it is the hardwood that is now being largely lumbered. As has been well stated, "the lumbering industry while tending toward the vanishing point is still nourishing." It may be added that its hopes are now largely centered in the development of the hardwood products used in the manufacture of furniture and all cabinet work, flooring and much interior woodwork, and a variety of other articles.

Wexford County is a fair illustration of this transformation. In 1872 Cadillac was a crude railroad station on the G. R. & I. line standing in the midst of a dense pine forest extending from a mile in one direction to three or four in others. George A. Mitchell commenced lumbering in the summer of that year, and twenty years afterward Cadillac was a flourishing city of over 4,500 people, but with the pine woods nearly gone in the vicinity of the place. The nearest solid body was about five miles away toward the southeast, and for some years her large mills had been supplied from timber brought from ten to fifty miles away. As announced by a local print of Cadillac in the early nineties: '' Within the last year one of the largest mills in Northern Michigan has been built here exclusively for the manufacture of timber which grows at a distance of from forty to sixty miles. What the pine forests have done the others will do. The pines have led the way and the hardwoods are already following."

And still later, 1903: "The year 1872 witnessed the inauguration of the stupendous lumbering operations which have at last swept away nearly the last vestige of the large tracts of pine timber which the county then possessed. In addition to the heavy operations along the Manistee River the new village of Clam Lake (Cadillac) was a genuine lumbering town. As early as June, 1872, there had been two sawmills (each with a capacity of twenty-five thousand feet per day) put in operation, and a few months later two others were started, with a capacity of forty and sixty thousand feet per day, respectively. These four mills manufactured about four million feet of lumber per month, or nearly fifty million per year. If one stops a moment to contemplate the work of these mills and those built soon afterward at Haring, Long Lake, Bond's Mills, McCoy's Siding and on the shores of Clam lake, and their constant operation for ten, fifteen and twenty years each, he can get some idea of the vast wealth in the pine forests in Wexford county at that early day."

Last Big Rollway on The Cedar

Still later (1906), from the columns of the Gladwin Record: "Ross Brothers have been the only large operators in timber on the Cedar and Tobacco rivers during the last fifteen years.

"Their output of lumber for a number of years was not far from the 10,000,000 mark, besides large products of shingles and ties. For the last few years, however, this record has been cut about half, and this year will be some 6,000,000 feet of logs on the Cedar and Tobacco rivers.

"The Ross brothers are a family of lumbermen. Their honored father, Donald Ross, the founder of Beaverton, was one of the first to manufacture sapless-paving from cedar. The four sons are engaged in lumbering extensively; Ronald and William being the firm of Ross Bros, at Beaverton, and George and Donald G. being heavy operators in the upper peninsula. The first-named are also large stockholders in the LaClede Lumber Co., having a large mill and big timber holdings at LaClede, Idaho.

"The past eight years Ross Bros, have been fortunate in having S. A. Price for their superintendent of work in the woods. Mr. Price has had an experience of 30 years in the lumberwoods. He attends strictly to business, having very little time for recreation, and sometimes few hours for rest. To make the rounds of the camps, buy and scale logs, bolts and ties gives him a round of work for which few men would have the endurance. Mr. Price is one of those whole-souled men so typical of woods-life, and is popular with all.

"During the past two years, Martin Price of Merrill, Saginaw County, a brother of Superintendent S. A. Price, has had charge of one set of camps of Ross Bros, on the Cedar, seven miles north of Gladwin. He has had an experience of 30 years lumbering, the greater part of the time foreman of camps, 20 years in Michigan and 10 years in Florida, Idaho and Washington. He is a hale fellow well met with all. Notwithstanding the bad winter for logging he has banked his quota of logs, the last season's work at these camps. As a woods foreman he has few equals.

"It was the good fortune of the writer to be included in a recent party of visitors to these camps, and to enjoy the hospitality of Messrs. Price. In the party were Alex Graham, Guy E. Smith, M. H. Aitkin, Grover Goodrum, M. E. Baker, Harry Robinson, D. G. Fraser and Eugene Foster. A dinner in camp is one to satisfy the appetite, and the dinner that day included all that could be desired. The boys will look forward with pleasure to their next annual visit to the camps.

"Ross Bros, expect to have 4,000,000 feet of logs on the Cedar this year, of which Martin Price has banked 1,000,000 feet; Peter Ladd, jobber, will put in 1,000,000 feet; John Sharkey, logs and cedar; W. R. Looker, 150,000 pieces of cedar. F. J. Reithel's mills will saw 500,000 feet, and a mill near Meredith about the same, to be shipped from Gladwin. On the Tobacco A. P. Clark will have 200,000 feet, and John Reagle 200,000 feet. Besides a large amount of logs, etc., have been bought on bank and at small mills.

"A few years 'picking-up' and lumbering on these streams will be completed, after over forty years operations, and an output reaching perhaps 500,000,000 feet or more from the Cedar and several times as much from Tobacco and branches.

"According to the recollection of E. C. Diffin, the first lumbering on the Cedar was done in 1866 by 'Bill' Van Way, who had camps just east of the present site of the city cemetery: Among the heavy operators have been Moore, Smith & Co., Tiff Jerome, Butman & Rust, Hamilton, McClure & Co., J. F. Rust & Co., D. W. Rust & Son, Lane & Busch, Rust Bros., and Ross Bros.

"Perhaps the largest camp in Lower Michigan is being operated by Grimore & Son at Winegar's, and this will be the last big camp in these parts. They are getting out several million feet of logs which are being shipped by rail to Bousfield & Co. and Ross & Wentworth at Bay City. They will have another winter's work there."

These pictures drawn of the status of lumbering in Wexford and Gladwin counties are but illustrative of the waning of the pine industries of Northern Michigan. But the fruit raiser is close upon the retreating lumberman of the pineries, and even in certain sections of the hardwood country the farmer follows that class of lumberman so closely that what was this year a solid forest will next year be cleared and planted to potatoes or rye or wheat.

The wonderful results that have been accomplished in the manufacture of lumber, as well as the wasteful devastation of the pine forests, are due not alone to improved machinery, but to improved systems of labor, as well. In no other business are the systems and methods of labor more thoroughly organized and adhered to. From the time the towering pine in the forest is noted in the minutes of the land hunter, until in the form of lumber, lath and shingles, it is piled upon the vessel or ear, there is no deviation from carefully devised plans of action. The logging operations form a distinct business by themselves and during the winter months create a new world which drains the manufactures centres of quite a considerable part of their population. Thousands of people observe sawmills in operation, devouring logs with marvelous rapidity, without having any conception of the methods employed to obtain the logs. The logging camp, and the process of converting the tree into logs and placing them in the streams, are interesting factors of the lumber business, but these methods have been so often described that space will not be devoted to the narrative here.

Machinery, method and fires have nearly swept away the once noble pineries of Northern Michigan. The fires have cleared away square miles of brush and debris, and left much land free and as it can be purchased by the farmer at low prices these conflagrations, which have sometimes raged even at the cost of human life, will prove to be evils not unmixed with good.

Present Status of Lumbering

According to the bulletin issued by the national Bureau of the Census May 19,1911, Michigan now ranks tenth of the states in the production of lumber, which amounts to 1,889,724,000 feet, manufactured by 1,323 mills.

In all the states bordering on the Great Lakes a marked decrease is shown as compared with the figures of 1899. In the latter year Michigan's output was 3,018,338,000 feet. The marked decreased in Michigan. Wisconsin and Minnesota, is attributed solely to the diminishing supply of white pine.

Yellow pine has ranked first in quantity of product since the output of white pine began to fall off decidedly in the middle nineties, and in 1909 the yellow-pine output amounted to 36,6 per cent of the total, or three and one-half times as much as its nearest competition, Douglas fir. Oak holds third place, with 9.9 per cent of the total production, while white pine has dropped to fourth place, and hemlock to fifth. Spruce and western pine ranked, respectively, sixth and seventh in both years. In 1909, for the first time, a production of more than one billion feet of maple was recorded. The eight woods named furnished 82.8 per cent of the country's lumber product in 1909.

Michigan now ranks first in the production of maple lumber, her 961 active mills turning out 543,214,000 feet valued at $8,604,263. This was over fifty-nine per cent of the total production in the United States.

She also leads in the output of beech lumber, with 111,340,000 feet, or more than twenty-one per cent of the total manufacture of the United States.

In basswood products Michigan's output is only exceeded by that of Wisconsin, the two states cutting one-half of the total, of which the Wolverine state is credited with more than seventeen per cent. Michigan is also second in elm and birch products, Wisconsin again being her only competitor.

Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, in the order named, now supply about two-thirds of the hemlock lumber produced in the United States. There is little difference in their comparative importance as producers, each having an output of over twenty per cent. Michigan has nearly 800 mills in operation, manufacturing 614,622,000 feet valued at $7,289,417.

In 1909 Wisconsin and Michigan together cut one-half of the total output of basswood lumber, and the balance was contributed by twenty-six states, none of which cut large quantities.

Elm is another hardwood in the production of which Wisconsin leads. Of the total cut of 347,456,000 feet in 1909, reported by thirty-four states, Wisconsin furnished 21.7 per cent. Michigan ranked second, with 16.8 per cent, and Indiana third, with 11.6 per cent of the total. Although elms -are very widely distributed throughout the eastern half of the United States, no large quantity of elm lumber was cut in any state other than the three above mentioned, which together supplied one-half of the total production. As a whole, the production of elm lumber is decreasing, the heaviest decreases within the decade being in Michigan and Ohio. These two states produced 202,856,000 feet of elm lumber in 1899 and only 45.1 per cent as much in 1909. The production of elm lumber in Wisconsin has remained at practically the same level for the past ten years.

Michigan stands fourth both in the production of cedar and ash lumber, although she stands low in the percentages of cedar manufacture as compared with Washington, which now puts out fifty-three per cent of the total. Michigan's quota is a trifle over five per cent. The manufacture of ash lumber is widely and quite evenly distributed, Arkansas leading with 11.4 per cent of the total product and Michigan being fourth with 8.5 per cent.

Northern Michigan is making rapid strides in the manufacture of veneers, so that the following from the census of 1911 will especially interest that part of the state: "The consumption of logs in veneer manufacture in 1909 occurred principally in Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas, ranking in the order named. Each of these eight states reported a consumption of over 25,000,000 feet, log scale, and together reported 249,658,000, or 57.2 per cent of the total consumption. Of the twenty-nine states reported separately, both in 1908 and 1909, twelve showed decreases in the amount of wood consumed in the latter year. The principal gains in quantity consumed in 1909 were in Michigan, Arkansas, Virginia, and New York, all of which states report gains of over 8,000,000 feet. Maple was used principally in Michigan and in New York, and formed 45.9 per cent of the total quantity of wood consumed in the former state and 31.6 per cent in the latter.

"Michigan used 457,362 cords, or 39.8 per cent of the total wood consumed in hardwood distillation in 1909. This quantity, reported by fourteen establishments, was 146,452 cords more than that consumed by the Michigan establishments in 1908. The consumption per establishment, moreover, was greater by over 4,400 cords in 1909 than in 1908, and the average cost per cord was 55 cents higher."

Only within the last few years has any considerable quantity of Wisconsin and Michigan twenty-nine and twenty-eight per cent retamarack lumber been sawed. It is cut almost entirely in the Lake states, Minnesota supplying approximately two-fifths of the total, and spectively.

Hemlock bark, which in 1909 had the lowest average cost of any of the barks used for tanning, was used principally in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, and New York, these five states, ranking in the order named, consuming 620,693 tons, valued at $5,680,044, which represented 88.9 per cent of the total quantity and 88.3 per cent of the total value. Michigan produced 100,285 tons of tanbark and tanning extract, valued at $1,225,655.

Michigan is seventh in pulp-wood consumption, and 43.8 per cent of the wood used is hemlock.

The foregoing figures apply to Michigan as a state, but, although Northern Michigan is a term, the statistics and general statements as to the status of lumbering and lumber manufactures are closely significant of conditions in that section of the state.

Written by Perry F. Powers in 1912 in the book "A History of Northern Michigan".