Harrison

MURDER IN CLARE COUNTY

A review of a new book by Jon H.Ringelberg

Thou shalt not kill: Exodus 20:13

It’s one of the 10 Commandments and even people who don’t read the Bible know of that one. Sadly, it’s also a commandment that has been broken since the dawn of time (like so many other commandments).

A new book by local historian, attorney, and former District Court Judge Jon H. Ringelberg shows that that this specific commandment has been broken in Clare County at least 69 times going back to 1877, not long after the county was founded, and that doesn’t even mention poor Rover, whose story is also covered within the book’s 222 pages. Appropriately titled Clare County Murders 1871-2020, large paperback book details every recorded manner of death that occurred within the county’s  borders including the who, what, when, where and why, and of course, the how (as one might imagine guns are the most frequent method but the reader learns of the other imaginative ways Clareites have found to eliminate those they despised).

Along the way the reader meets men like Owen Feeney whose death led to the naming of Deadman’s Lake near Farwell; a 12-year-old girl who killed a younger sibling due to jealousy; and a case in 1903 that could have been right out of a current episode of CSI as it includes a exhumation of a body to prove poisoning.

Of course, the most well-known murder in the County, that of Isaiah Leebove at the Doherty Hotel in 1938, is included, although Ringelberg gives readers just a summary of that murder, directing readers instead to the book Mystery Man, a biography of Leebove by Robert Knapp.

One of the interesting items that Ringelberg includes in his book is a look at what he calls the “speed of justice,” over last 150 years. He might of more accurately called it the “lack of speed of justice,” since the amount of time has more than doubled in most cases.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, murders have occurred in all but one county township: Hats off to you Summerfield. One more thing, be extra nice to people in the middle of August, that’s the month with the most murders and Ringelberg adds that most murders seem to happen in the middle of the month. Not sure what to make of all that, but it may be worth keeping in mind when the dog days of summer roll around next year.

Clare County Murders is available at Cops & Doughnuts in Clare, the Clare County Cleaver office in Harrison and through Amazon. Let’s just hope there’s no need for a revised edition of the book with even more murders, but with human nature being what it is that may be wishful thinking.

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, History, logging, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GANGSTERS UP NORTH

A review of Robert Knapp’s latest book on Michigan history

Yes, Al Capone DID visit Michigan. Just not a whole lot.

I want to know more about Joe Barnes. Was this resident of Clare County that author Robert Knapp talks about in his new book Gangsters Up North, Mobsters, Mafia and Racketeers in Michigan’s Vacationlands REALLY Al Capone’s chauffeur as he sometimes claimed to be? And did Barnes host Capone’s men at his Arthur Township property as has been alleged? Was Barnes really a gangster like so many others who came to Clare, men like Meyer Lansky, the Purple Gang’s Bernstein brothers, and sorta gangsters like Sam Garfield, Harry Bennett and Isaiah Leebove. I really want to know.

Robert Knapp

In this book, Knapp offers compelling evidence that Barnes was a gangster connected with Capone but stops short of confirming it. However, Barnes is just one many fascinating characters we meet. Knapp has unearthed plenty of stories as well as rumors about nationally known, honest-to-goodness gangsters in Northern Michigan, men such as John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Fred “Killer” Burke. The book also covers lesser known ones. In fact, it appears nearly every good size city in the Northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas had gangsters living there or at least visiting. It was amusing to learn how rumors have grown over time. For example, if a gangster did own a home, that home invariably had, according to locals, machine gun nests, guards, and secret tunnels (like the ones Henry Ford’s enforcer Harry Bennett supposedly had on his property in western Clare County). 

Clare County is well represented. While I won’t go as far as to say Clare, Michigan was Michigan’s “Gangster Central,” it did have more than its fair share of mobsters, as we learned in Knapp’s other books, Mystery Man about Isaiah Leebove, and Minion of the Mob about Sam Garfield. However, that said, neither Capone or Dillinger ever visited Clare.  However, Big Al’s little sister did live in Oscoda, Michigan for many years, and kept a photo of Al on her nightstand. She was Knapp reports, “a lifelong apologist for the family.”  

The story of Capone’s sister is only one of many things I learned from reading this book. I also learned how widespread gambling was and how many gangsters were involved. Even the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island offered gambling as a profitable although illegal pastime for its guests. It was also interesting to see how many cities and towns in Michigan had connections with gangsters. Even more interesting is to see the huge number that now claim to have had them!  

Of course, gangsters didn’t come to Michigan just to engage in illegal activities or hide out. They also came for the same reason people come now—to relax and enjoy the beauty this state has to offer and Knapp covers that topic as well. Oh, although Knapp doesn’t say it, there is absolutely NO evidence any gangster even came to Clare for its baked goods, not matter how good those sugary treats might be. 

Like Knapp’s other books, Gangsters Up North is well researched and an easy read. Although it deals with a serious topic, there is even a story in it about a gangster’s kidnapping that will make you smile if not laugh out loud. Gangsters Up North is currently available online and locally in Clare County

BTW, if you have the real scoop on Joe Barnes, let me know. Please don’t make me send a gangster or mob enforcer after you.

Note: Knapp is also the author of several other books on Clare County’s history and it’s association with gangsters. They are:

  • Minion of the Mob, Sam Garfield’s Two Lives
  • Mystery Man, Gangsters, Oil and Murder in Michigan (Isaiah Leebove)
  • Clare, Michigan, 1865-1940 (Images of America Series)
Categories: Clare County, gangsters, Harrison, History, Michigan, Purple Gang | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Great Flu Pandemic in a Small Michigan County

Jim GarrityB&W-small

James Garrity in an undated photo.

James Garrity was a Clare County farm boy, the only boy in a family of four sisters.  He was 19 years old when he convinced his mother, over the objections of his father, to join the Navy.  James  wanted to join his cousin, Arthur Looker, a Gladwin county resident, who had just joined the Navy.  That was in Nov. 1917.  In Jan. 1918, Arthur died of the flu at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois.  Jim Garrity died the next day.  Both men were brought home by train for burial.  Jim’s obituary described him as bright and cheery with a host of friends.  It added that he was to have graduated from Harrison High School the following June.

Their deaths occurred before what is no called “the Great Flu Pandemic” had even gotten started.  Peaking in the winter of 1918, this worldwide event would  sicken more than a half a billion people, killing between 21 million and 100 million of them.  In the U.S., about 28% of the population (then at 105 million) became infected, and 500,000 to 675,000 died.  Deaths were especially high in young men, the group that included soldiers like Garrity and Looker.  The flu became pneumonia and the buildup of fluid in their lungs, something Covid-19 does now, is what ultimately caused death.  However, with this particular flu strain, it was those with the strongest immune systems who were especially vulnerable.  As a result an estimated 43,000 American servicemen died, more than were killed by German bullets.  Roughly 1 in 4 military personnel came down with the virus, and of those who did, 1 in 5 died.  Death often came quickly, sometimes even within hours of the first symptoms. Congestion brought on by the flu built up quickly in lungs, resulting in pneumonia, which was the cause put on many death certificates of that period.

The Dec. 5, 1918 issue of The Clare Sentinel contained an article about Earl Green, a sailor from the small Clare community of Mann Siding, who told of how, while stationed in Boston, “he helped roll up 200 boys [soldiers] in sheets and carry them out onto the docks to be buried.”

Garrity was not the only Clare County resident killed by the flu. In total, 22 out of Clare’s 450 soldiers and sailors died from the flu, according to local historian Forrest Meek, author of Michigan’s Heartland, a history of Clare County from 1900 to 1918. Meek also writes that at least 59 county deaths were directly related to the flu (see listing from the book at end of this article). Clare County had only about 8,300 people at the time.

The Clare Sentinel during that period is filled with mentions of families and individuals coming down with the flu, battling the flu, recovering from the flu, or dying of it.  There were also numerous mentions of church and school closures, sometimes for weeks at a time.

cough small

Public Service Announcement from October 24, 1918

Public service announcements warned of the dangers of coughing and sneezing in public and advertisements hawked products to those stuck indoors .  In Michigan’s Heartland, Meek writes that doctors of the community worked overtime during the outbreak.  Meek said that Dr. William Clute of Clare, hardly left his car for days.  He had a chauffeur who took him on his calls and “those few moments constituted his night’s quota of slumber.”  Meek wonders whether the fact Dr. Clute died at age 53 was partially due to his having worked so long and hard during this epidemic.  

victrola small

Advertisement in The Clare Sentinel from Nov. 14, 1918

Unlike now, there wasn’t a shelter in place requirement but then there wasn’t much of a need.  Clare County was not a vacation destination at that time, there were no freeways and few good roads of any kind.  Although people could travel by train within a state and across the country, travel internationally, other than war related travel, was rare.  It was not  until after the Second World War that regular international flights began to take place.  During WWI, that meant what happened in China and other countries, including health problems, tended to stay in those countries. Of course, soldiers returning from foreign battlefields and lands could carry diseases back with them.  But eventually the flu disappeared and Clare County, Michigan, and the world returned to normal.

James Garrity was buried in a small cemetery in Hamilton Township.  A marker and an American flag mark his grave.  His is a story more than a century old, but also a story that’s still relevant today.

Deaths small

Listing of flu deaths as compiled by Forrest Meek in his book, Michigan’s Heartland

 

 

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Face to a Name in a Graveyard

Jim Garrity went off to war.

Garrity family _EyersJim was a farm kid from rural Clare County, Michigan, a poor, sparsely populated county in mid Michigan. According to family history, Jim enlisted in the navy in Nov. 1917 joining his cousin Arthur Looker at the Naval Training Academy in Illinois.

Jim Garrity went off to war but never saw combat. He died barely two months later while in training of the Spanish flu, a pandemic that would kill an estimated 50 million to 100 million worldwide before disappearing. Many of the flu’s victims were young men, like Jim—and like Arthur who also died of the deadly virus one week earlier.

So instead of coming home proud veterans, Jim and Arthur came home in wooden boxes. Jim was buried in his family’s small cemetery on a knoll in Hamilton Township. Arthur was buried in Gladwin cemetery.

2013_August_Harrison_Gerrity Cemetery2So two sisters grieved their two sons. It was a tragic bond they now held with a third sister who had also lost her son from the flu the year before. Ervin Reed had been at Fort Wayne near Detroit. Reed too is buried in the small Garrity Cemetery.

Last year, Jim Garrity, Arthur Looker and Ervin Reed were just names. They became the subject of a blog post because I wanted to tell the story of their brief lives.  That post caught the attention of Marianne Eyer, a direct descendant of the Garrity’s, who lives in Marquette, Mich. She shared a photo of Jim; and suddenly a name I knew only in a graveyard had a face.

newsletter JamesA handsome face. The nearly century old photo of Jim is badly faded but shows a young broad-shouldered young man staring confidently into the camera.

We don’t know exactly why Jim Garrity went off to war, but according to Marianne, the story is that Jim was the only son in a farm household with four sisters. His father would not let him join the service so Jim convinced his mother to let him go. Perhaps the lure of far off places, the excitement of war despite its dangers, trumped life on the farm.

Did Jim’s father ever forgive his wife because she gave their only son her blessing to join the Navy? One wonders, after Jim died, whether his mother blamed herself because she did allow him to go.

Family history also says Jim’s sister Hazel insisted Jim be given his high school diploma, although even at 20 he had not graduated. He was smart, his report card from 1916 shows that fact; he just didn’t like school—and maybe farming. Maybe he felt he was destined for bigger things than tilling the soil. We will never know.

Newsletter - graveBecause Jim Garrity went off to war.

Categories: Cemetery, Clare County, Harrison, History | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Old Photo IDs and Journalism 101

Jim Carr

Maggie Carr -maybe

Who were these people? Were they two of the vilest people to ever call Michigan home or were they someone’s sweet great- great-uncle and great-great-aunt?

Up until a few months ago I thought they were the former.  I believed they were Jim Carr and Maggie Duncan.  Both lived during the lumbering era of the 1880s when Clare County was in the midst of a short-lived economic boom brought about by the lumbering of the county’s many forests.  Carr owned the Devil’s Ranch Stockade, a combination saloon and whorehouse in that small mid-Michigan community located in the small community of Harrison.  Carr ran the saloon while—at least it seems from the arrest records–Duncan handled the prostitutes.

Gross bookIn fact I was so sure I included those two photos in blog post entitled “Jim and Maggie: Disreputable, Despicable and Clare County’s Own.,” which provided a summary of the lives and their crimes.  I was confident in my identification because those same photos appeared in two books: Frankie and the Barons by Carr Photos (5)Stuart Gross, and Michigan Rogues, Desperadoes, Cut-Throats by Tom Powers.

Then Angela Kellogg tossed the proverbial monkey wrench into things.

In 2013, Kellogg, a Harrison librarian, was working with Cody Beemer on a book about Harrison.  Because the book would primarily use photographs to tell the county’s history, Kellogg intended to use the two photos.  However, she first wanted to ensure the two photos were actually of Carr and Duncan.  She didn’t doubt that photos of the two existed, or at least had once existed.  It’s likely both would have taken time away from their criminal enterprises to sit for a portrait with the local photographer.  Many people did back then either to share or for the novelty of it.

These are the photos identified as Carr and Duncan as they appear in the Power's book. They photos are identical to the ones in the Gross book.

These are the photos identified as Carr and Duncan as they appear in the Power’s book. They photos are identical to the ones in the Gross book.

So it was likely there had been photos of Carr and Duncan taken, but if they still existed neither Kellogg or Beemer had ever seen them, and Kellogg was not going to include any photo she could not positively identify.

It’s a Journalism 101 rule writers of history too often forget: “If your mother says she loves you, get proof.”

So Kellogg sought to contact the two authors to get that proof.  Powers quickly responded saying he copied the photos from the book by Gross but had not confirmed the identity of the two figures.  (I can’t blame the man since it was the same thing I had done when I wrote my Carr/Duncan post.)

That left Gross.  Unfortunately getting that proof proved difficult since Gross had died in 1996.  Undeterred, Kellogg contacted the book publisher Gross had used and was directed to a woman who worked there now and had been an intern when Gross was putting the finishing touches on his “Frankie” book.  She remembered rather lengthy discussions on the topic of the two photos and told Kellogg that Gross felt very strongly the two photos were the infamous pair and so pushed for their publication.  However, Kellogg’s source did not remember any real evidence that Gross had to back up his assertion.

Harrison bookWhy Gross was so insistent is not known.  he must have had some evidence, even circumstantial.  However, whatever evidence he produced had been enough so that his argument carried the day; the two photos became Carr and Duncan.

But not in Kellogg and Beemer’s book.  The story of Carr and Duncan is told but no photos of them are included.  Journalism 101.

Then the question still remains: Who were these people? Are they Carr and Duncan or are they someone’s kindly old relative long deceased who may now have hundreds of heirs.

If you know, please let Angie Kellogg at the Harrison District Library know, respond to this post, or send an email to the Clare County Historical Society.  Maybe someone still has the archives of Stuart Gross.  Maybe somewhere in there is the evidence that had convinced Gross.

In the meantime, be vigilant. You already know you have to take what you read on the Internet with a grain of salt.  Maybe an entire salt shaker.  It might also be worth exercising that same note of caution with what you read in books, especially if they rely heavily on the research of others.  As this story shows, not everything you read is necessarily accurate.  At the same time, please note that the remaining information on Carr and Duncan that appears in the Gross and Power books appears to be historically accurate, although both seem to rely on the research of others and on old newspaper accounts.

Note: Kellogg and Beemer’s book on Harrison (with 100% verified information) is available by contacting Kellogg at the above link.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, logging | Leave a comment

Michigan Lumber Pikes

  railroad coverThe following article by Fred C. Olds appeared in the July 1953 issue of Railroad Magazine.  I thought it was a terrific article, although it does not really break new ground.  It also contained a number of photographs that I have not included here for the simple reason that the pages of the magazine, has discolored over the years, as newspaper quality paper tends to, and so would not reproduce well.  Instead, I have included photos in the Clare County Historical Society archives. 

I did not change the spelling or grammar used in the original article, and that includes any factual errors.  Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy Mr. Olds’ article and hope that Logging2since the magazine is no longer in print that I’m not violating any major copywrite laws. 

The racing crests of Michigan’s big rivers, with picturesque river hogs riding spring log drives, captured most of the glamour in Michigan’s lumbering history.  All but forgotten, less colorful but just as vital to the timber industry, was the role played by the logging railroad.  Pushing out into isolated forest cuttings, these little iron pikes early in the 20th Century criss-crossed the northern and central interior of lower Michigan into a web-like pattern of rails.

Their existence dependent upon the product they transported, most were doomed from the start for but a brief span of operation.  Mileage grew at a furious paces as rails opened new timber areas for the lumberjack harvest, but these little pikes withered almost as quickly on their iron vines when the logs were cut off.  There demise was often sudden and without ceremony.  Abandonment of the forest road simply meant piling its Logging19equipment, including locomotives on flatcars to be carried out over its own creaky rails for service in another sector or for another owner.

How and where did the logging railroad get its start in Michigan?

Records shows that by 1875 loggers had been busily chewing into the state’s extensive forests for 40 years.  Over this period commercial lumbering interests had steadily whittled their way northward, skirting the shores of Lake Huron and Michigan, penetrating inland along the larger rivers—the Grand, Tittabawasee, Saginaw, Au Sable, Muskegon, Manistee, Chippewa, Pere Marquette and their tributary streams—to strip out the lush stands of cork pine.  In those first years, water played the major role as a log hauler.  Timber (pine, that is) had to be readily accessible to a suitable stream for flotage or it was practically valueless.  It was this lack of water transportation, according to a claim set forth in an old issue of The Northern Lumberman that caused the nation’s first logging railroad to be built in Michigan’s Clare County in 1876.  Its builder was Winfield Scott Gerrish, who owned extensive pine holdings in Clare in the center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula about halfway between the Straits of Mackinac and the Ohio line.

Logging49A brief biography of Gerrish, carried in the A History of Northern Michigan, shows that he gave early promise as a timber operator.  Born in Maine, where his father Nathaniel was a lumberman, young Gerrish spent his boyhood and early manhood in Croton, Michigan; started driving logs at the age of 18, and when 25 made his first large logging contract.  It called for the timber to be banked on Doc & Tom Creek in the southwest part of Clare County in 1874 for flotage to mills in Muskegon via the Muskegon River.  Misfortune struck without warning, however.  The Doc & Tom shrank to a mere rivulet as the result of a spring drought, and Gerrish’s winter cut of logs was left high and dry on the banks.

Gerrish managed to float his cargo to mill by dint of hard work, but he conceded that small streams proved an unsure means of transporting his timber.  He obtained an interest in 12,000 acres of pine on the west side of Clare County between the headwaters of the Muskegon River and Lake George, but because of its remoteness (6 to 10 miles) from a good floating stream, not a tree had been cut in this tract.  Gerrish was not one to be easily discouraged.  The Northwestern Lumberman report noted that he considered pole roads and tramways to transport logs but tried neither method, believing both were impractical.  In stead, he found his solution in a most unlikely spot—hundreds of miles away, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.  While on a visit there he saw a small Baldwin-build locomotive displayed in a machinery exhibit.  It gave him an idea.

If he couldn’t float his logs to the Muskegon River, why not haul them on this first leg of their journey by rail?  Figuring it was worth a try, he hurried home and hastily built the Lake George & Muskegon River Railroad, as he called it, which was splashing its valuable timber merchandise into the mighty Muskegon early in 1876.  The Northwestern Lumberman account calls this 6-mile pike, running from Lake George northwesterly to the river near the present village of Temple, the nation’s and perhaps the world’s first logging railroad.  Other railroads had penetrated timber areas before that time but Logging204conducted a general freight and passenger business.  The LG&MR was a strictly a log hauler, and as such is claimed to have been the first of its kind.

Gerrish, Edmund Hazelton and four associates of Hersey, Michigan, were listed as the road’s incorporators in a Special Report of the Michigan Railroad Commission.  On November 28th, 1881 the railroad was acquired by John L. Woods and on February 18th, 1882 by C. H. Hackley & Co., the last named for a large Muskegon firm which operated it as a forest road until its sale to the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Cadillac Railway (now part of the Ann Arbor Railway) between August 25th and December 20th, 1886.  Approximately four miles of the old LG&MR grade now carry Ann Arbor rails between Lake George and Temple.

It’s very lonesome country up there, particularly in the winter months.  Acres of stumps scare its ridges and valleys, a fading legacy from that long-lost pine kingdom.  Paralleling Highway 10 west from Clare for a few miles, the Ann Arbor rails turn northwest to skirt Lake George along its east rim, cutting a thin swath through the brushy second-growth timber and young spruce as it heads toward Temple, Cadillac and its Kale, Michigan terminus at Logging193Elberta.  Lake George is a bustling resort community in the summer, but the old gray depot has been closed for many years

Gerrish, after completing his logging short line, expanded his lumbering operations until his biographer described him as being at one time probably the world’s largest individual logger.  It is estimated that his highest individual contribution to the Muskegon River was 130,000,000 feet of timber in 1879.  Most of this was carried over his Lake George and Muskegon River Railroad—not a bad tonnage record for a little two-bit logging pike founded only three years before.

His new transportation idea gained quick favor among the state’s lumber kings.  It ushered in a new era, opening up hitherto unprofitable but heavily timbered pine and hardwood country.  It brought an unprecedented boom in Michigan railroad building.  Both broad and narrow-gage lines were pushed deeper into backwoods districts to take out timber.  For a few years a weird assortment of motive power echoed their whistle tones across the long plains and forested hills.  Saddle-tank dinkeys and Shay-geared sidewinders chuffed and clanked over hastily-built rails which meandered around hills and across swamps, their tenders and log cars bearing now all but forgotten titles.

Logging2Built for special purpose, log hauling, these railroad accomplished their chore efficiently and without delays.  A venture as utilitarian as the lumbermen’s favorite axiom, “Cut and get out,” no money was wasted on frills, deluxe equipment, or polished roadbed.  Swampers would first slash a rough path cross-country from the owner’s lumber tract to the nearest river if his logs were to be floated part of their journey by stream, or directly to his own mill, or to a rail junction where they could be transferred to an already established carrier to complete their trip.

Rails followed a path of least resistance, guided by the hastily scraped-up roadbed’s serpentine twisting and turning to take advantage of the land’s natural contours.  Hills and extensive swamps were skirted when possible, to avoid expensive fills and steep grades.  To cross a swamp, low log trestles were built to provide the track with a solid bottom instead of using earth fill, timber being cheaper than the cost of moving dirt.  Many of Michigan’s vacationland hunting and fishing trails still in use today were built over all or part of some timber rail line.

Motive power, based upon modern standards, would be considered mediocre.  Locomotives during the early period were bonnet stacks, burned slab Logging103wood for fuel, moved after dark to the feeble rays cast by oil headlamps, and hauled primitive four-wheel flatcars whose link-and-pin couplers exposed trainmen to an extra hazard.  Lightweight rails, sometimes strap iron screwed to a wood base and set insecurely upon the rough railbed, made the journey into the woods comparable to a sea voyage.

Back in the forests, the trees were chopped down, trimmed of their branches and their trunks cut into suitable lengths.  A log then was skidded through the brush by a team of horses or oxen to an opening where a set of big wheels could be driven over it.  The log (two of three logs if they were small) would then be lifted and carried to a rail-side decking ground where a jamming crew loaded the log lengths on railroad cars.  In winter the big wheels were supplanted by sleighs which carried the big piles of logs to the decking ground.

Loading cars of logs was described by Ferris E. Lewis in the December 1948 issue of Michigan History:  “Short wooden pins were first driven into iron brackets on the side of the flatcars to keep the logs from falling off.  Hooks, like ice tongs, each one at the end of a steel cable, were placed in the ends of a log.  A little team of horses with muscles as hard as knots, at the command of a teamster who drove them without reins, would raise the log and wing it over the flatcar where it would be lowered gently into place.  One by one the logs were loaded onto a car.  A pyramid pile, placed lengthwise of the car, was thus built at each end.  When a car was loaded, it would be moved away and a new one would take its place.

In later years, steam jammers replaced horse power, particularly among the larger operators.  These were the conditions and the equipment used along one of the nation’s last frontiers to attack the final great stand of pine and hardwood timber remaining in MichLogging7igan as the 19th century came to a close.

Besides increasing production, these railroads revolutionized the industry by making logging a year-around business.  Owners found they no longer were dependent upon proper river levels for their log transportation, and cutting could continue around the calendar instead of just during the winter months.  Some figures proving this accomplishment are cited in the book Lumber and Forestry Industry of the Northwest, for just three railroads—the Grand Rapids & Indiana, Flint and Pere Marquette, and Manistee & Grand Rapids. Each of these conducted a general freight and passenger business, although primarily engaged in timber hauling during the years cited.

Mills along the Grand Rapids & Indiana (now part of the Pennsylvania Railroad) manufactured 367,000,000 feet of lumber and 404,000,000 shingles in 1886, while the total output along this road, from construction to the first mill in 1865 to 1898, is estimated at 6,000,000,000 feet of lumber.  Timber production on the old Flint & Pere Marquette (now part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway) totaled 5,000,000,000 between 1876 and 1896.  The Manistee & Grand Rapids (later renamed the Michigan East & West and eventually abandoned) place 500,000,000 feet of pine and 1,000,000,000 feet of hardwood timber into Manistee sawmills for cutting in 1891.  In the Cadillac region up near Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, it was not uncommon for a pine tree to yield three logs, each of which would reach across car sills set 30 to 33 feet apart.

Another distinction claimed by the Cadillac region in the logging transportation was the invention there of the narrow-gage Shay logging locomotive in 1873 or 1874, by Ephraim Shay.  Slow but powerful, the Shay-engine had vertical pistons to operate the driving cranks, working a shaft geered to the motive wheels.

An account carried in The Cadillac Evening News said that Shay developed his locomotive to pull log cars from northwest of Cadillac to his sawmill at Haring.  First made in Cadillac, its patents were later sold to the Lima Machine Works in Ohio, which manufactured it for use all over the world.

There is not a logging railroad, operating as such, remaining in the lower peninsula.  In fact, their names even escape the memory of all but old timers.  Logging108Mention the Lake County Railroad and among railroaders you would likely draw only blank looks.  Or the Cadillac & Northwestern, Louis Sands’ Road, Nesson Lumber Company, Cody & Moore, Bear Lake & Eastern, or the Canfield Road—recalling only a few.

The logging railroad gave rise to few legends.  It could not match the glamour attached to sawmill towns which grew and flourished beside tis tracks, nor could it furnish the rough color provided by the swift rivers with their tension-packed spring drives.  Its mark upon the timber country, once painted briefly in bold outline, today has virtually disappeared.  Traces, of course, can still be found in the old crumbling grades, winding unevenly across grassy plains and ridges pointing toward some distant banking ground.  The old names, with some searching, can be found buried in official reports listing rail mergers and abandonment.  But that about ends it.  That and some faded photos, dim with age, gathering dust in old picture albums.

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Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, logging, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Anatomy of a Shingle Mill’ by Roy Dodge

Roy Dodge (1918 – 1978) was president of the Clare County (Michigan) Historical Society and an author of a number of books about Michigan, including “Ticket to Hell, A Sage of Michigan’s Bad Men” (out of print) and the three-volume “Ghost Towns of Michigan” series.  Dodge also wrote a number of articles about

The Old Clare County Courthouse.

The Old Clare County Courthouse.

Clare County. One of them was called “Anatomy of a Shingle Mill” and its origin goes back to a discovery of some papers when the old Clare County Courthouse in Harrison was torn down in 1968.

The paper is enlightening as to life back in the late 1870s and early 1880s when all of Clare County was booming because of the lumber industry. The paper tells the story of Philip (U.S. Census records show name as Phillip) Cory who came to the area with nothing but an old horse and made his fortune making wooden shingles. Whether he kept it isn’t clear in the papers and neither is where his brothers came from who are mentioned. However, these are just minor details to a picture of a county a century ago. I’ll let Dodge tell the story from here.

Anatomy of a Shingle Mill 1887 – 93

by Roy L. Dodge (1968)

The story of two brothers who came to northern Michigan to make their fortune during the logging days of the late 1800s came to light when the 85-year old Court House at Harrison, Mich. was torn down in 1965. A box of dusty, yellowed records consisting, of ledgers, contracts, canceled checks and letters, all laboriously written in various colored ink with a goose quill pen, revealed the following story.

Harrison in the late 1880's about the time Phillip Cory lived here. Structures in distance are sawmills around Budd Lake. Photo from the Harrison Public Library collection.

Harrison in the late 1880’s about the time Phillip Cory lived here. Structures in distance are sawmills around Budd Lake. Photo from the Harrison Public Library collection.

Philip Cory, address unknown, arrived at the company store of George B. Erenkbrook in the hamlet of Avondale, a few miles north of Evart in Osceola county, riding a tired old horse on the morning of Oct. 2, 1887 at the start of the winter logging season. His only possessions were the clothes on his back and his horse, which was of little value.

George Erenkbrook was a man experienced in every phase of the lumbering industry “from the stump up.”  He was in his middle fifties, almost old enough to be young Cory’s father, and had lumbering interest both in lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Erenkbrook was a partner in a shingle and sawmill located In Beechwood, Iron County, Michigan and owned his own mill and store at Avondale.

Cory explained to Erenkbrook that he intended to operate in the area as an independent logger, cutting his own shingle bolts, railroad ties, and any other type of timber in demand on a “piece work” basis.

His problem was that he was short on cash. Apparently he made a good impression on Erenkbrook, for upon leaving he was outfitted to begin his career as a woodsman and private contractor. He carried an invoice in his pocket for which he was billed for the following:

0ne cant hook, toe calks for his boots, files and rivets, two blocks of salt, axes, grub-hoe, swamp hook, neck yoke, sleigh bells, hammer, boring machine, one yoke of oxen, 3 pair wagon tongues, one sleigh, groceries and supplies totaling $36 and the “Diffarance”(sic) on a horse, $40.”

Cory worked hard and became a successful “jobber,” cutting logs and shingle bolts, which he sold to various mills in Missaukee and Osceola counties. He kept a meticulous record of all his expenditures, both business and personal, his stained and worn booklets disclose. Cory wasn’t satisfied with his lot as a common jobber, as later records reveal.

He soon traveled to other areas and began promoting a deal to set up his own mill.

During the next two years, his personal “Tally-book” lists expenditures for such items as one Turkey, strap and pack, $1.25. (Note: turkey was a pack in which lumberjacks carried their personal belongings.) One Rubber coat, $2.95; Shirt and Collar $1; roundtrip to Saginaw, $16.80.

During the month of July 1887, Cory bought a new straw hat for 75 cents; wrote a check for $5; bought another shirt for $1; “paid Mrs. Norman 75 cents for doing washing; and spent 50 cents attending two dances. His earnings for June and July totaled $177.50.

Philip Cory prospered during the winter logging season of 1887-1888. He also traveled extensively negotiating with companies in Saginaw, Grand Rapids and Muskegon for contracts to supply them with shingles and lumber products with intentions of setting up his own mill.

During a six-month period, he purchased a new suit of clothes for $30; tie and coat, $3.50; pair of dress shoes, $2; and made several trips. In Saginaw, he spent $23.50 for train fare, hotel and entertainment. He also made a “Trip north,” $54.  A shirt, handkerchief and soap cost him $3.60. He spent $1 for medicine, made a trip to Six Lakes, cost $6; and railroad fare to Grand Rapids, $8. Total earning from June to December (1888), $343.82.

By the spring of 1889, Philip Cory had the groundwork laid for the big venture of his lifetime. He again visited Mr. Erenkbrook of Avondale who had outfitted him two years earlier to work in the woods, only this time Cory had a signed contract with the C. C. Follner & Co of Grand Rapids, Michigan to “Purchase the cut of Cory & Co. Shingle Mill at Hamilton Township, Michigan (ClareCounty) from July 1889 until two million are cut.”

This contract included specifications for various grades of White Pine and Cedar shingles to be “Well made from good sound timber, evenly jointed and smoothly sawed, free from shaky or rotten wood,” and “To be branded at the mill with C. C. Follner & Co. brand.” The contract also called for shingles to be piled and under cover, “As fast as cut at Mostettler’s Switch near Hatton Station.”

Mr. Erenkbrook, apparently pleased with the business acumen displayed by young Cory, put up a sum of money to organize the firm of “Cory Bros. & Co.,” with himself as chief stockholder, although his name didn’t appear on the first letterheads and invoices that Cory ordered from the printers.

Upon the assurances of Erenkbrook that a substantial sum would be deposited to the Cory Co. account at the L. Saviers Bank in Harrison, Mr. Cory made another trip, this one to Bailey, at that time a booming lumbering town in Muskegon County. There he visited a Mr. Jerome Bitely who had abandoned a steam operated shingle mill near Harrison and had moved to greener pastures.

Cory made an agreement with Bitely whereby he was to take possession of the machinery located in ClareCounty and move it to Dodge City in Hamilton Township. Cory made a deposit on the mill, giving his note due one year from date for a balance of $3,000. His next visit was to the L. J. Calkins’s Co., Dealer in Lumberman’s Supplies, of Harrison where he purchased the following materials:

  • 10,700 ft. of Mud Sills
  • 1-M posts
  • 1,500 ft. beams
  • 1,300 ft. rafters
  • 4,300 ft. sheathing
  • 2,300 ft. roof boards,
  • 1-M ft. of Engine Board
  • 23 hundred thousand shingles
  • 14 windows
  • 3,500 ft. of timbers for engine bed
  • 2 sets of skylight
  • 1,300 ft.Cedar beams
  • 6 doors at $1.50 each
  • 3,600 ft. flooring
  • 50 barrel water tank
  • 1,200 ft. bridge trusses
  • $12 for nails
  • labor for moving and setting up machinery. $500

Total Outlay: $1,134.85

Cory's sawmill might have looked something like the sawmill in this photo from the Harrison Public Library collection.

Cory’s sawmill might have looked something like the sawmill in this photo from the Harrison Public Library collection.

During the next two years, things went well for the Cory Brothers, Philip, James and David. During the season of 1890, the Cory Mill grossed nearly $4,000 with expenditures of $2,500, which included their own wages as well as that of 50 mill workers and payment to private jobbers. It also included the payment of $12 paid to William H. Bryan of Gladwin, Grant Township. For that amount, Bryan agreed to sell to Cory Bros. all the Basswood, Ash, Oak, Hemlock and Pine lumber on lying, standing or being on a certain designated forty acres. “Said Wm. H. Bryan agrees to except (sic) and does hereby except (sic) $12 paid to him in hand today at Cory Bros. store for all the above described timber,” signed and dated March 8, 1889. (Note: Above document executed with red pencil on a jagged scrap of tablet paper.)

An idea of the cost of living during the years 1887 – 92 is shown in bills rendered to the company during this period. Some examples are as follows: Felts and rubbers (favorite footware of lumbermen), $3.50; shirts and drawers, $2.50; Pisas Cough Syrup, 10 cents per bottle; whiskey, 50 cents a pint. The blacksmith charged $1.20 for shoeing horses. Overalls were 75 cents a pair.

Horses brought premium prices and were considered more important than men. Cheap labor was plentiful while horses were scarce. Good teams ranged from $400 to $675 a span. A pair of calked drive shoes (for the front feet) cost $3 installed. An entry of Feb. 1889, reveals that one man and his wagon team were paid only $24 for eight days work. Wagons sold for $30. A set of heavy work harness for $12.

Misfortune struck the Cory mill on May 10, 1891 when it burned down to the ground. They were sued for unpaid bills, notes due and overdrawn checking accounts of banking accounts on banks in Grand Rapids, bay City and East Saginaw.

Mr. Erenkbrook of Avondale sold his interests there and moved to Beechwood, near Iron Mountain in the U. P.  From there he wrote letters to friends asking them to keep tabs on the movements of the Cory brothers. He hired Henry Hart, a Midland attorney, to list their debts and assets and with a court order in an attempt to recover his interest in the enterprise.

Jerome Bitely of Bailey, Michigan, demanded, in no uncertain terms evidenced in a three-page letter with no punctuation marks, that he was about to attach the land upon which the burned out mill was located to satisfy the balance owed him for the original machinery. His letter read in part: “if you and Company had don as you ought it would have pade for it selfs several times over before this time…”

In the final accounting by attorney Hart, it was determined that the company’s assets amounted to nearly $12,000. This included $2,000 owed by the C. C. Follmer & Co. of Grand Rapids for singles and lumber ready for shipment on Mostettler’s Siding several miles from the burned out mill. Another $2,000 was owed to the company store. Other assets were horses, wagons and machinery not burned. A balance of $4,965.80 was left after debts to be divided between owners and debtors.

Mr. Bitely wrote his bill for machinery off as profit and loss. Cory hired A. W. Scoville, Attorney at Law, of Marion, Mich. to collect bills due him from the firm of Desmond Brothers of that town. Erenkbrook was forced to pay a $500 note due to C. H. Rose of Evart. Philip Cory, the former protégé of Erenkbrook, was allegedly overdrawn nearly $2,000 on various bank accounts where the firm conducted their business.

In a final letter postmarked Creston, Iowa, May 11, 1893 to Mr. P. Cory, Harrison, Mich. the firm of Maxwell & Winters , Lawyers, notified him that “On this day we have sent a draft for $436.30 to your attorney, Wm. H. Brown, drawn on Anchor Insurance Co. for your loss incurred when your shingle mill burned.”

Cory then rebuilt the mill and operated under the name of Cory & Hudson-Dealer in Shingles and Pine Lumber, Dodge City, Michigan.  

There are some related incidents connected with the Cory Shingle Mill lawsuit, that although not proven definitely, court records and evidence point toward the following facts:

  • On or about the same date as the lawsuit, Mr. Mostettler who owned the storage sheds and the railroad siding where the Cory mill output was stored, committed suicide. Old timers in the Harrison area tell different stories of the incident, including Mr. Mostettler having had an affair with another woman, whereupon his wife shot him. But Mrs. Winifred Coveart, now 75, of Clare, Michigan, who lived at Dodge, said that Mr. Mostettler lost all of his money or was “tricked” out of it by some businessmen. He became despondent and one morning while his wife was out pumping a pail of water she heard a gun shot, ran in the house, and Mostettler laid on the bed, fully clothed and had shot himself in the head with a shotgun.  Mostettler Rd., at the south city limits of Harrison, running east and west, was named after the above Mr. Mostettler.
  • Philip Cory refers in his notes and accounts that certain items were purchased for “Mother.” Apparently he was not married. However, in Clare county marriage records, a David E. Cory (one of his brothers) married Foslenia Hall on Sept. 18, 1889 at Coleman, Mich.

##

Editor’s Note: According to 1880 census records, Phillip (or Philip) Cory was born in 1852 in Ohio. That means he was about 30 when he came to Clare County. His father was Wyman Cory, born in England and mother was Sarah Kiger, born in Virginia. Philip married a woman named Ettie D. (although census records show a total of three different women as his wife over the decades) and had six children living in his home in 1900.  in that year, Cory and his family had moved to Mansfield, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, near the Wisconsin border. His children at the time were shown as: William, 18, John 16, Claude 13, James P. 11, Olga 5, Clare 4.

By 1910, he and his family had moved to Skagit, Washington. Phillip died July 22, 1919 at the age of approximately 67 years, and is buried near there.

In all the records, Cory described himself as a shingle manufacturer so it’s probable the family moved to follow the lumber industry and moved on once the lumber played out.

Categories: Clare County, Economy, Harrison, History, logging | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Amish in Clare County

Amish3If you were to guess the decade the Amish established a presence in Clare County, what would be your answer?

  • Maybe the 1890s after the lumberjacks had left and farmers moved in?
  • Or the 1930s during the Great Depression when farmers moved to new areas looking for inexpensive farmland and new opportunities?
  • Perhaps after WWII when suburbs began to sprout in rural areas once containing the Amish, hiking the cost of farmlands beyond what young Amish couples could afford? 
  • The 1980s, because it took them that long to travel that far north by horse and buggy?  

The answer IS the 1980s, but not due to any reason related to horses or buggies.

Amish 1Although Amish have been in Michigan since 1895, and there were even Amish settlements in mid-Michigan that did not proper (Coleman, 1911-1913), it wasn’t until 1980 that Amish settlements started in Clare and Gladwin counties.  Although it’s not known exactly what brought the families from Ohio, a local history book called “Amish Society,” by John Hochstettler, a member of the Amish community,  mentions two reasons for the Amish coming to mid-Michigan,  including the fact it was becoming difficult for younger Amish to purchase farms in traditional Amish communities and there were  some unspecified conflicts with church ministers among some congregation members.

 Whatever the reasons, the first Amish resident in Clare County, according to the community’s local history, was Roy J. Yoder from Holmes County, Ohio.  Before coming to Clare, Yoder had investigated Michigan’s thumb area then came to mid-Michigan looking at various properties in Gladwin county before settling on land northeast of Clare.  In the spring of the following year, a second family moved to the immediate area and other families followed, beginning what is now the Clare Settlement.

Growth continued until, by 2010, there were four communities near the City of Clare, each with its own church and school, and led by its own bishop.  The Amish continue to move north with families now located both east and west of Harrison.  Currently, there are about 1,000 Amish living in the county.  (Amish tour and shopping)

About the same time, the first Amish settlement near Clare was being established, another group of Amish from Hardin County, Ohio purchased farms in Gladwin County and a large community developed in the Gladwin and Beaverton areas.Amish map

There are approximately 13,000 Amish in Michigan residing in 38 separate communities and 98 church settlements.  (Michigan’s Amish  population increased 115 percent between 1991 and 2010.) Because the Amish have no churches, instead meeting in homes, an individual community has to be small enough so meetings at homes are practical, yet large enough to be viable.  A church community has approximately 30 families (120-200 people) headed by (usually) a bishop, two preachers and a deacon.  The school has one or two teachers serving the students of that community who attend grades 1-8, which is all the schooling required by the Amish.  Community is paramount in both orders and its members operate under the Orndung, or consensus of the community.

Michigan has two orders of Amish: The Old Order  and New Order. Neither allows the driving of cars but the two orders differ on allowable technology (i.e., cell phones, power lawnmowers) and church discipline, with the New Order being more lenient.  There may also be some differences in the Orndung from community to community but because communities want to be in communion with one another and can risk being shunned by neighboring communities, the Orndung changes slowly and usually in conjunction with other neighboring communities.

Speaking of shunning, in their late teenage years Amish young people make a decision whether to be baptized into the Amish community.  Approximately 25 percent of all Amish either do not join the order or leave it after joining.  Those who choose not to become Amish are not banned or shunned.  They are welcome to visit the community and their family and friends can talk to them.  Shunning is reserved for those Amish who take the vows to be members of the community and then break those vows.  It is this process that helps keep the community strong and single-minded.

The Amish pay property taxes and income taxes.  If self-employed, they do not have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.  However, if they work for an employer, they do have to pay those taxes, even though the Amish do not use either of those social programs.

2010_Feb_Harrison_Amish_buggy

Amish FAQs

The Amish in Michigan, by Gertrude Enders Huntington (2001, Michigan State University Press)

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, Home life, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Jim and Maggie: Disreputable, Despicable and Clare County’s Own

The evil that men do live after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.  Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Jim Carr and Maggie Duncan were evil, but for a few years their evil deeds made them two of the richest individuals in Clare County.  When they died as paupers on straw mattresses on the frigid floor of a rundown shack in March 1892, few people shed tears upon hearing the news.  If Shakespeare was right, the good they did—if any—is buried with them in their unmarked graves.

Here is a brief summary of two of the nastiest people ever to call Clare County home:

Jim Carr was born in Buffalo, NY about 1850 (1).  After knocking around Toledo, Chicago and Eaton Rapids, Carr ended up in Clare County, where, in 1868, he started working for lumberman Winfield Scott Gerrish.  Carr, according to an article in the Gladwin Record, was a well-built man, six-feet tall with a mustache covering a pleasant face and possessing a gentlemanly manner.  At the same time, the writer aid there was an “air of danger” around him.

Not much is known of Duncan (2), but in her, Carr found a kindred spirit and in him, Duncan found a way out of poverty.  So Duncan was with Carr in 1881 when he decided there was more money to be made from lumberjacks than lumbering and struck out and opened a business just outside of Harrison, a town recently hewed out of the forest and the Clare County seat.

One would have said Carr’s odds of success were slight. Although Harrison was growing fast and up to 20 trains a day rolled into town, it already had 20 saloons.  Carr was not highly educated and could read but could not write.  But if the old adage is true that the three most important factors in real estate are location, location, location, then he opened his Devil’s Ranch Stockade in the right place. The stockade was a two- or perhaps three-story saloon, hotel, gambling hall, brothel located on a hill just outside the town’s limits.  When the city fathers had platted Harrison, they had determined the hill to be worthless and so didn’t include it within the town’s boundaries.  That meant Carr were not under the town’s laws but only under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff, an individual Carr apparently came to own, if reports published in local papers were true.  Plus, the hill meant the Carr’s place was visible to everyone coming into town.  The promise of cheap booze, loose women, open gambling and few regulations made Carr’s place popular with lumberjacks who flocked there to do much as they pleased.  For some lumberjack’s, Carr’s stockade was their first stop when they came to Harrison and their last–literally.  The hill on which Carr’s place stood soon became known as Dead Man’s Hill because of the people Carr was reported to have killed and buried there.

This view of Harrison was probably taken about 1880-81 and would have been taken somewhere near the site of Carr's Devil's Ranch Stockade.

This view of Harrison (facing east) was probably taken about 1880-81.  The photographer may have been standing somewhere near where Carr’s Devil’s Ranch Stockade was  or would be.

The term “stockade” used to describe the ranch was literal and not figurative.  The complex had a high fence around it meant to keep prying eyes out and the women that worked in the brothel in.  While some women began prostitutes by choice, others were forced into the business.  There is one story of a prostitute named Jenny Kinney (or King) who fled Carr’s stockade one winter night clad only in her after being beaten.  She ran into town knocking on doors asking for shelter.  When one family took her in, Duncan, a companion and a big dog appeared at the door demanding her return.  The family refused to give her up. No one was ever charged.

While Carr ran the overall business focusing on the saloon, Duncan ran the brothel.  She had experience with brothels (but then so did Carr for that matter, since that’s how the two seemed to have met).  Anyway, it was a love and business partnership that seemed made in heaven–or hell.  Duncan seems to have been Carr’s equal in every way with a love of vices and strong drink and a reputation for cruelty.  Their Harrison business  proved so successful that they even expanded and opened a second establishment in the then growing town of Meredith, some 10 miles to the northeast and in the center of some 50 logging camps.

Carr made a profitable living (or perhaps killing) off lumberjacks.  The ranch was big enough to fit up to 250 – 300 men at a time, most of them at the bar drinking Carr’s beer and rot-gut whiskey.  There was so much money that instead of cash registers, Carr’s place had buckets for the men to throw their money in for their drinks.  When the buckets were full, they were carried to Carr’s office for emptying and counting.  Carr also advanced lumberjacks credit in exchange for their time tickets, which he discounted 25 – 50 percent. (Some lumberjacks were not paid until logs they had cut were delivered to the sawmill in the spring, so to reflect their earnings, the men were given “time tickets.”  These were redeemable by bearer for cash in the full amount.)  Carr was not above adding to his earnings by robbing drunken lumberjacks or those he and his cronies drugged.  This also proved lucrative since the men carried all their earnings–sometimes for an entire logging season–on their person.

Carr’s unsavory and illegal activities were apparently well known and the subject of numerous stories and editorials in the local press (although one paper defended him by saying that men like Carr were “a necessary evil” in growing towns).  And that’s not to say Carr wasn’t arrested.  At one time when asked how many times he had been arrested, he claimed it was so many times he couldn’t remember.  However, being arrested was one thing, being convicted was another.  Witnesses were often too afraid to appear in court, were paid off, disappeared, or Carr simply paid a fine.

However, when Frankie Osborne, a prostitute popular with the lumberjacks died in Carr’s employ in 1885 that Carr’s and Duncan’s life began to start unraveling.  It was also around this time a new sheriff was elected that was not under Carr’s control and a new prosecutor named W.A. Buritt decided to rid the county of Carr.

Osborne’s death was due to a beating and at Carr’s hand.  Initially, Carr wasn’t too worried about being arrested in Osborne’s death.  When he was indicted for her murder, it’s reported he laughed and said, “Is that all?” and prepared to leave the courtroom.  Instead, the judge ordered him to jail to stand trial.  Carr was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to 15 years.

Carr was freed by the Michigan Supreme Court after a year in prison (although the Court stated Carr’s conviction was improper, it did state he was a very depraved individual).  Duncan was also freed  about that time from the Detroit House of Correction after a conviction for running a house of ill repute.  The two began their businesses again, although Buritt was not done with Carr.  Although Carr had beaten the murder rap, Buritt brought Carr up for trial, this time on charges he burned a James Silkworth’s establishment at Frostd in 1884.  Although Carr again beat these charges, the continuing legal costs had taken much of his fortune.  In addition, most of white pine in Clare County had been cut by this time and the lumberjacks had moved on to new territories.  Fewer customers, a population increasingly intolerant of Carr’s activities and increased raids on his establishments meant fewer profits.

Carr and Duncan apparently abandoned their place in Harrison but continued to run a brothel in Meredith.  In a burst of imagination and to try to avoid the law, it is said Carr put the building on skids.  Either that or put it on a railroad car.  Since Meredith was on the Clare/Gladwin County line, Carr would simply move the building between counties whenever things in one county got too hot for him.  Whether one story or the other is true isn’t known but the legend has grown with time.  In any event, the building, wherever it was located, eventually burned to the ground leaving the two without regular income.

Carr and Duncan remained in Clare County.  Why they didn’t move on with the lumberjacks and resurrect their fortunes in a new place isn’t known.  Maybe they were broke.  Maybe their alcoholism had so taken its toll they no longer had the inclination to start over.  In any event, it appears Duncan resorted to her old trade to get the two of them money for liquor.  If nothing else, she remained loyal to the end.

That end came in March 1892, when Carr died next to Duncan in a freezing shack outside Meredith.  According to some accounts published years later, Carr and Duncan died together and were buried by lumberjacks on land outside a cemetery since no minister would officiate and no cemetery would take them.  Other accounts say Carr was buried near the shack, his body dug up sometime later by the county undertaker and buried in a local cemetery.  Duncan who did not die that same night as Carr was sent to the county poorhouse where it is said she died some months later.

When Carr died, he was just 42 (although other records say 37).  Duncan’s age isn’t known but going by jail records, she was about 33.

Carr’s story (and to a lesser extent Duncan’s) is told in three books:

There is also an in-depth article by David McMacken that appeared in the Summer 1971 issue of Michigan Living magazine (Volume 55. No. 2).

Portion of jail record showing Carr's name and some information including what is termed his "social condition."

Portion of jail record showing Carr’s name and some information including what is termed his “social condition.”

(1) Some records indicate Carr was born in 1855, but records from the county jail at the Clare County Historical Museum show that he was born in 1850.  Records at Ancestry.com also show he was born about 1850.   The records show Carr was the second person held in what was then the new jail.  He was held there on the charge of arson (possibly related to the burning rival James Silkworth’s place in 1884).   The jail records state Carr stood 5 feet 10 inches and weighed 175 pounds.   He was fair-haired and had blue eyes.

Maggie 1

Maggie Carr/Duncan’s name appears when she was put in jail in April 1886 on the charge of keeping a house of ill-fame.

(2) County jail records also shows Maggie Carr/Duncan was also arrested and held in the jail on the charge of “running a house of ill-fame.”  The records show Carr/Duncan was 27 at the time of her arrest, which meant she was born about 1859.  She was  5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 130 pounds and could neither read nor write.  The record also shows that she like Carr was born in Rochester, New York so it’s possible that she knew Carr or his family in her youth, or that common thread was one of the things that brought the two together.

Note: No known photographs of Jim Carr or Maggie Duncan/Carr are known to exist. This post originally had photos of two individuals that appeared in “Frankie and the Barons” by Stuart Gross and “Michigan Rogues, Desperadoes and Cut-Throats” by Tom Powers that were identified as Carr and Duncan but no documentation exists. See my blog post on the topic of the photos entitled “Take Old Time Photos with a Grain of Salt.”

 

Categories: Clare County, Gladwin, Harrison, History, logging, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Railroad Kiosk at Mid Michigan Community College

The following is a press release I wrote concerning a new kiosk installed on the grounds of the college’s Harrison campus, near an old railroad bed that is now part of a trail system.

Coming out on a rainy May morning to take part in the dedication of the kiosk were (l-r) Joe Bradley, Carron Nevill, Cindy Mussell and Andy Coulson. Cindy is with the Mid-Michigan College Foundation and the others are part of the Clare County Historical Society.

Coming out on a rainy May morning to take part in the dedication of the kiosk were (l-r) Joe Bradley, Carron Nevill, Cindy Mussell and Andy Coulson. Cindy is with the Mid-Michigan College Foundation and the others are part of the Clare County Historical Society.

A railroad once ran through it–Mid-Michigan Community College, that is. During the latter part of the 19th century, steam locomotives once regularly hauled men and materials from Clare into the then booming town of Dodge and back south carrying lumber destined for Midwest cities. Although the rails were pulled up when the lumber played out, the grade on which the trains ran can still be seen on Mid-Michigan’s Harrison campus and some of it has been incorporated into the college’s walking trails. But many who walk those trails may not know about the history under their feet–until now.

Thanks for a new kiosk on school grounds dedicated on May 10, tourists and residents will now have the opportunity to learn more about Clare’s fascinating past while getting some exercise. The kiosk is a joint project of the college, Clare County Historical Society and Friends of Clare County Parks & Recreation.

“We’re always looking for a way to encourage people to take advantage of our trails, so when the Clare Historical Society and Friends approached us about a joint venture, we quickly agreed,” said Matt Miller, VP of Student and Community Relations. “We’ve got beautiful scenery around and above us, now we’re giving people a reason to better appreciate what’s under their feet.”

Map of the college. Green lines represent remnants of old railroad beds on college property.

Map of the college. Green lines represent remnants of old railroad beds on college property.

According to Joe Bradley, CCHS President, Clare County has more than 300 miles of railroad grades, which puts the county near the top in mileage in the state. And while most of the railroads were narrow gauged temporary railroads that existed only to haul trees out of a section of forest, a number of them were standard gauge tracks like these that had full size trains. “Once the trees were all cut the economy tanked so the railroads just pulled up stakes—literally—and rails and moved out. Now only the grades remain.” Bradley added that most of the grades are deep in the woods on state land or on private lands. Only a few are easy to walk with this being one of them. “We’re happy to partner with the college and Friends on this venture. We see it as another way to tell the exciting story of Clare’s history,” Bradley said.

Clare County map

This 1886 map shows some of the major railroad lines in the county. The railroad bed through the college grounds is near the “R” in Clare.

Gerry Schmiedeke said his group got involved because Friends sees this as another way to get residents active and promote the many recreational opportunities the county has available. “Many just think of the Pere Marquette rail-trail [the trail runs through the southern portion of ClareCounty] as only rail-oriented pathway in the county. Now we have two completely different experiences to offer,” Schmedieke said. “And as funding in the public sector dries up, public private partnerships in support of parks and recreation become more important.”

So whether you interest in railroading, history or just a quiet walk in the woods, MMCC is the place for you. And stop by the new kiosk before you head out to see the maps, photos and to read about the history. The Railroad kiosk is located just inside the gate at the south (Mannsiding) entrance to the college.

Mid Michigan Community College provides post-secondary education and services to enable students to succeed in a global society and also seeks to partners with its community for the benefit of its members. Learn more at midmich.edu or on its Facebook page.

The Clare County Historical Society has a museum complex at the corner of Dover and Eberhart roads that is open every Saturday through Oct. from 1 – 4 p.m.  Learn more at clarecountyhistory.org to on its Facebook page.

Friends of ClareCountyParks and Recreation is an independent non-profit agency that works closely with Clare County Parks & Recreation Commission to improve recreational resources throughout the county. Learn more at clarecountyrecreation.org or on its Facebook page.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, logging | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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