Arrival of New Wexford County Settlers Continues.
As soon as the snow was gone and navigation opened in the spring of 1864, the tide of emigration to the Grand Traverse region set in with renewed vigor, and Wexford County got its full share of the newcomers. These later arrivals were forced to take lands farther back from the state road, and consequently had to make roads for themselves from the state road hack to their respective homesteads. 'There was no highway commissioner to lay out roads, and no way to raise funds by tax to open them, therefore the roads or "blazed trails" were not made on section lines, neither did they follow any particular point of the compass. They usually took the shortest route to the settler's home except where hills or swamps intervened, in which case they would pass around the obstruction. It was no easy matter to follow these trails by those unaccustomed to "woods lore," and especially was it difficult in the twilight or after dark, which often occurred with those who were forced to work out a part of the time to earn something to support their families, or in returning from house raisings or logging bees.
An amusing incident was related to the writer by a Mr. Duirbin, who lived only half a mile from the state road, which fully illustrates these difficulties. He had been away from home at work and, supper being a little late; it was quite dark by the time he reached the point where he had to leave the state road. About half way to his house, a tree had blown down, the top falling directly in the path. When he reached this tree-top he thought he could pick his way around it and tell when he struck the path again, as every one familiar with such matters knows that there is no sound of breaking twigs or crushing leaves in a well beaten path. He confidently started around the tree top; hut did not find the path. He kept on going, however, and soon found himself back to the state road. He soon found where his path turned into the woods again and started for home. When he reached the fallen tree-top he resolved to take extra caution this time and find the path on the other side. He moved very carefully and listened intently for the lack of snapping and crunching which would indicate the finding of the path, but, not finding it, kept on going, hoping he might see the light in his home, where, to his great surprise, he finally reached the state road again. He was thoroughly baffled and not a little frightened at this turn of events, but finally decided to try it once more. This time when he reached the fallen treetop he crawled through it, over the limbs and under the brush, never losing touch of the beaten path and of course got home all right that time.

When the summer of 1864 closed there were some twenty families in the county. These were nearly all on the state road or within two miles of it. In the spring of 1865 the settlement received numerous additions, some coming by boat and some overland. During the summer of 1965 an arrangement was made by which Jacob York, one of the newcomers who had a horse and a wagon, made weekly trips to Traverse City to take out and bring in the mail for the settlement, and also to do such errands and bring in such light articles of merchandise or freight as he could in his light wagon. By common consent the house of William Masters, on the state road, was chosen as the place for leaving and receiving letters and parcels, and his house soon came to be called the “Post Office”. Later in the year Mr. Masters was appointed Postmaster and a mail sack was furnished in which to carry the mail, but the settlers had to pay Mr. York for his services for a year before the post office department would consent to establish a mail route to the new settlement.
The first school house built in Wexford County was made of logs and was situated near the county line between Wexford and Grand Traverse counties. It was put up by volunteer work on the part of those interested in having a school, and the first teacher, Zylphia Harper, was paid under the old system of rate bill, for as yet there was not even a township or school district organization in the county. This school house was, a few years later, the scene of the first law suit ever held in Wexford County. It was a case of assault and battery between Jay J. Copley and Myron Baldwin and grew out of the holding of the second caucus in Wexford county. The case was presided over by I. U. Davis, one of the justices of the peace elected at the first township election held in the county. The writer had charge of the jury after the final pleas were made on each side, and there being but one room to the school house, and no other building within half a mile, he had to turn the spectators, lawyers and even the “court” out into the street so that the jury could deliberate in seclusion.
Among the arrivals in the fall of 1865 was J. H. Wheeler, from New York who had heard of the wonders of Wexford County through a brother of W. B. Hall, the first settler in the county. Being somewhat familiar with the sawmill business, he came with the intent of building a sawmill with which to supply the needs of the new settlers in the way of lumber. It should be remarked here that nearly every house in the settlement had thus far been built practically without a foot of lumber, for lumber was very high priced and, besides, it would cost thirty to forty dollars per one thousand feet to hire it hauled from Traverse City, the nearest place where board could be found. After the settler had got the “body” of his house up, he would hew out some poles for rafters, split out some “ribs’ and nail them to the rafters, from six inches to one foot apart (according to whether he intended to use “shakes" or shingles), and nail the shingles or "shakes" to these "ribs." By setting up other hewed poles in the gable ends of the house from the top log to the rafters and nailing "ribs" and "shakes" to them, the same as for the roof, he soon had his house enclosed. The floor was usually made of thin slabs of elm or bass-wood split out and hewed straight on the edges and then fitted to the sleepers on the lower sides, after which they could he lined ant1 hewed to make them as even as possible on the upper surface. Sometimes roofs were made of bark and occasionally an entire "shanty" was built of that material. Mr. Hall lived a year in a bark “ shanty" when he first settled in the county.
We can yet see, occasionally, a log house that was built thirty or thirty-five years ago as a home for some homesteader when he first became a resident of the county. The whole settlement were anxious to have a saw-mill built and readily subscribed a liberal amount of work toward its erection.
Plans were perfected during the winter and work commenced the following spring, but owing to unforeseen obstacles encountered in building the dam the work was delayed until the summer of 1867, when the mill was started, much to the gratification of the community, as well as the owner. This was the first saw-mill built in Wexford County. It was an old fashioned "muley" mill, something like the one heretofore described as the first mill in northern Michigan, but it performed an important part in the early development of the county. It was built on what for many years was known as the 'Wheeler creek, which empties into the Manistee River about a mile north of the present village of Sherman. A mill still occupies the same site, though two structures on the same site have been destroyed by fire. Mr. Wheeler also built a frame house in the summer of 1867, which was the first frame house built in the county.
I had almost forgotten to describe the manner of wintering the stock in those early clays. Hay there was none for the first two years on the homestead, and straw was very scarce, so some other food must be substituted. After it was too late in the spring to plant ordinary crops the settler would clear off a patch for turnips or rutabagas, even sometimes sowing the seed among the logs after the brush had been burned away, not having the time to entirely clear the land. This crop could be put out as late as the 20th of July with good results and needed no care from seed time until late in the fall, when they were pulled and put into pits for the winter use. When the snow got so deep that the cattle could no longer subsist on the Michigan clover," heretofore referred to, the settler would start in on his winter's job of felling trees upon which to browse his stock. 'The cattle soon began to relish and even thrive upon the fine twigs of the maples, and this, with a liberal feeding of the turnips or rutabagas, brought  them through the winter apparently in as good condition as if they had been wintered upon the best quality of hay. At the same time necessity on the part of the settler to provide for his stock was really a virtue in another direction, for the more timber he was obliged to cut in the winter the more acres he could clear off in tile summer.
Judge Chubb, one of the first settlers in the township of Cleon, once forming a part of Wexford County, and who still resides at Copemis11 in that township, often relates his experience in getting through his stock the first winter after his arrival. Among the other animals he brought with him were some pigs, never dreaming of the difficulty of getting them through the winter, thirty miles from the nearest point where feed could be had, and with roads-such as they w e r e m a d e impassible by four feet of snow.
When he had fed out the last of what he had provided for them, and with no possible way of getting more food, he was in despair and was sure they would die. If they had been in condition to make pork, he says, he would have killed them and got some benefit from them in that way, but to put off the evil day as long as possible in the hope that the snow might settle so that he could get to Traverse City for supplies, the rations to the pigs had been curtailed almost to the starvation point so that there was not much left of the pigs, as he put it, but their “squeal”. As a last resort and entirely as an experiment, having never heard of the like before, he drove his pigs to the woods one morning with the rest of the stock and, to his utter amazement, they took right hold of the “browse”, and from that day on to spring they followed the cattle every morning to the woods and he actually kept them the remainder of that winter on “browse”.

In 1867 Oren Fletcher settled in Wexford County and being a miller by trade, and seeing the absolute necessity of a grist-mill, he interested the people in the matter, and through the encouragements received and donations offered, at once commenced the construction of the first grist-mill in the county. The work was pushed vigorously and before winter set in the settlers had the satisfaction of knowing that they could get their gristing done without having to go twenty-five or thirty miles to Traverse City for it, as had hitherto been the case. This mill was built on the creek ever since know as Fletcher Creek and for some ten years was the only grist-mill in the county.
It was also during the summer of 1867 that the work of putting the state road in the passable shape for travel was completed. While a goodly number of settlers had already arrived in the county over “the trail”, in many places and far from being in suitable condition for travel. However, steps had been taken for an overland mail route and the first thing to be done was to put that state road in shape for travel. This being done, the mail route was established and direct intercourse with the “outside” during the whole year was henceforth to be a reality. Hitherto the only means by which a person could leave the Grand Traverse region during the winter was on foot and with the aid of snowshoes. Those were long winters indeed to many, who were strangers among stranger, and especially to those who were inclined to be at all “homesick”, for with the slow way of getting mail to and from Traverse City, and the fact that all mail had to be carried on foot or on horseback over an Indian trail from Traverse City to Manistee or Muskegon, it took from three to four weeks for a letter to go and an answer to return from any outside point.
Everybody in the Grand Traverse region had been up to this time dependent upon Traverse City for provisions, and as Hannah, Lay & Company were the principal firm at that place it was necessary for them to anticipate the need of the entire region from November, when navigation closed, until May, when the first boat could be expected. The influx of settlers’ sometimes exceeded calculations and consequently provisions at the company's store would run pretty low before navigation opened.
The winter of 1866-67 witnessed such a heavy drain upon their stock of supplies that it became necessary for then to adopt the plan of selling only fifty pounds of flour and ten or fifteen pounds of pork to one person, in order to piece the supply out and make it last until the first boat should arrive.
As soon as the state road was sufficiently improved to permit of it a mail route was established, at first with only weekly trip" but very soon the service was increased to six times a week. It required two and a half days to make the trip from Traverse City to Cedar Springs, the then northern terminus of the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad. At this period George W. Bryant, of Traverse City, erected quite a large two story building just south of the old state road bridge over the Manistee River, intending it for a sort of hotel and grocery store combined. The work was done by Lewis J. Clark, who for some time acted as salesman for Mr. Bryant and also as assistant postmaster for the second post office established in the county. The name given to this post office was Sherman, we suppose in honor of General Sherman, as it was quite the custom in those claps to name towns, cities, villages and post offices after some noted general of the late war. This name, Sherman, attached itself to the huddle
of houses that were put up when the county was organized and the county seat established, and is still retained by the prosperous village near the Manistee river in the northwestern part of the county. Mr. Bryant’s object in building nearly a mile north of the present location of the village of Sherman developed a little later when legislature passed an act organizing the county of Wexford. The postmaster at this second post office was Dr. John Perry, heretofore spoken of as the first settler on the south side of the Manistee River. New settlers in search of homestead locations had kept going farther
and farther east of the state road until some of them were ten or twelve miles distant from the new post office and it was a decided relief to them to be able to post a letter, buy a pound of soda, tea or tobacco or twenty-five pounds of flour without having to go four miles farther north to the little grocery kept by Mr. Masters, the first postmaster in the county.
Mr. Clark used to tell an amusing story of a settler living eight miles east of the post office coming in one day for some groceries.
Among other things he wanted a hundred pounds of flour, and when asked by Mr. Clark how he was going to get the things home, replied, "On my back." Upon being told by Mr. Clark that his supply of flour was quite low, and that it would be several days before he received a new supply, and that consequently he could only spare him twenty five pounds, in order that hr might have some left to supply the wants of other needy customers, the man replied, "Huh! that would not make biscuit for breakfast for 'my family." It may seem strange to state that a man would think of carrying a hundred pounds of flour besides other small groceries a distance of eight miles on his back, but backing, or "packing," as it was then called, was a common way for the settler to get his provisions home. There is a man living in the county today who on more than one occasion carried a hundred pounds of flour and several packages of small groceries from Traverse City to his home in what is now Wexford Township, a distance of twenty-eight miles and would do it between sunrise and sunset. This man's name Is R. W. Updike, a man whose reputation for truth and veracity was never questioned by those who knew him.
Thus will be seen some of the difficulties surrounding the new settlers. Most of them were from the common walks of life, and not one in ten of them was able to provide himself with a team as one of the necessary things to take with him into a new wilderness country. Consequently "packing" was a very common thing, and clearing land by hard labor about as common. The first crop was always sown without plowing the land, and frequently the second crop would be put in the same way, it being impossible to get team work to do more than harrow in the seed. Corn was as frequently and potatoes nearly always planted just as the fire left the land, without the aid either the plow or harrow. This compulsory manner of farming did not bring the results that a better system would have done, but it was the best many could do and sufficed to keep the wolf from the door until such time as team work would he more plentiful.
For three or four years there was but one horse team in the county and but three or four ox teams, and in drawing supplies from Traverse City, hauling together the logs for the houses of the new settlers, attending logging bees to enable some new comer to get in a few potatoes or a small patch of winter wheat, they had all they could possibly do without drawing the plow.

Wexford County Historical Society