Posts Tagged With: Harrison

‘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

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

Clare County Michigan History in Photos

I added a video to You Tube, well, basically a slideshow that consists of old photos. Most of them show the cities of Clare, Harrison and Farwell. The show lasts about 6 minutes and music in the background. The photos are primarily from the collection Forrest Meek gave to Mid-Michigan Community College. Here’s the link to the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTX84V-VZfM

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Little DDT With Your Milk?

I was looking through some back issues of the Clare County Cleaver, a local newspaper with offices in Harrison. The folks at the office are always very open to allowing me to go through their archives. They don’t even ask if I’m a resident and/or subscriber (I am both). Anyway, it’s fascinating to look through the papers, to read the stories and look at the old ads. I was perusing some issues in 1946 the other day to get some information about a fatal plane crash at the airport in Harrison when I came across this ad so I took a photo. How things have changed in the intervening decades. Image

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Heading to Bed (a Railroad Bed) in Clare County, Michigan

A Walk Along an Old Railroad Bed

The remains of an old railroad bed from the 1870s on state land off Mostetler Rd.

I went for a long walk a couple of weeks ago (before the winter snow) on state land, along a path that was once the bed of an old railroad track that ran from Hatton to Dodge City, a distance of about 11 miles.

Hatton is now a ghost town and driver’s driving down Hatton Rd. south of the town of Harrison, a small town in mid-Michigan Clare County will find little evidence it ever existed. Dodge, on the other hand is now a quiet community with cottages nestled around small lakes.

There is little at either site to suggest they were once vibrant logging communities with post office, homes, businesses and more supporting the railroad and workers from nearby logging camps.

This map shows many of the stops trains in Clare County would make. The PM-LH2 route shown in this map is not correct in this writer's opinion. The track shown here did not go to the logging camp of Mostetler and then to Dodge. What is shown on the map is a railroad spur off that went to Mostetler. The main PM-LH2 track went in a relatively straight line from east of Hatton up to Dodge.

The location of the bed I walked is off the south side of Mostetler Road (also called Mosteller) across from Michigan Moto Mania and located a couple of miles east of Harrison.

Mostetler is an east-west gravel road that passes private and public land filled with scrub pines, oaks and cedar, and dotted with occasional homes.

The road is named for a former logging camp/town Mosteller that existed for about five years in the 1870’s when this area’s massive white pines were cut and hauled south to build homes in growing cities like Detroit, Saginaw, Flint and even Chicago.None of the trees remain and even the stumps, some that measured nearly 5-feet across have decayed in the intervening years.

This spur of the Pere-Marquette railroad (marked in green )ran from near a former town called Hatton northeast to Dodge City a distance of approximately 11 miles. Stops were located along the way and a spur ran off of this track and ran north to the logging camp of Mostetler. The red dot is the location of Mid-Michigan Community College. The blue dot shows the location of the path this writer took.

While the tracks, pilings and all evidence of the trains are gone, the bed is still relatively easy to find in most areas, especially in the fall and winter after the frost has killed the vegetation (not to mention the mosquitoes). Like all rail beds, this one runs straights and is relatively level since trains needed a grade in the order of 1 or 2 percent to safely haul the heavy logs. It is easy to see where workers raised the rail bed in areas or sunk it in others to keep the rail bed level.

In many spots the railroad bed was built up to ensure a level path for the train but in a few areas the road bed was sunk down a few feet to provide a level grade.

The walk I took headed south and I passed small creeks and downed trees. The walk also took me near to Mostetler Creek that begins in the Dodge City area, crosses Mostetler Road and then flows through state land before disappearing by the time it reaches M-61 to the south.

This site is popular with hunters in the fall since the roadbed makes for easy walking. At the same time, hikers may have a difficult time in the summer since the land near the road is swampy for the first couple of hundred years. However, once further in the woods, the land is dry and sandy and quite peaceful.

If you want to see a railroad bed in Clare County, this is a nice one to see. And maybe if you stand still and close your eyes you might even hear a faint whistle of a train long gone.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan, recreation | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

A Glimpse into the Life of a Rural Michigan Sheriff: 1939 – 1952

Serving Summons and Shooting Stray Dogs…

Sample view of the diariesI bought 13 diaries on eBay the other day for more money than I care to admit. The diaries were from the years 1939 through 1952, although 1944 was missing. They had once belonged to a sheriff in Harrison, Michigan, or at least to someone in the Sheriff’s Department in that mid-Michigan town located in Clare County. When I bought the diaries I was hoping it would provide a wealth of information, a window into the life of a rural sheriff, including how he spent his time, and would include names and events.

Sadly I didn’t get a wealth of information, more like a trickle, and as for the window
anlogy…well I see through the glass there but darkly. Turns out the diaries–and diaries is not the right name although I am not sure what to call them–were really served as a place to list events and activities for which the sheriff either was paid (like issuing a summons) or needed to pay others (like hiring a deputy for the day if he was on the road). Still it was an interesting read and my biggest impression is that the sheriff spent a lot of time issuing summonses and shooting dogs. For the former, the sheriff received $2 and for the latter $1–and the fee for shooting a dog never changed from 1930 through 1952.

I jotted down a few of the items written in the books I found interesting. Items in quotations are direct quotes from the books and items in parenthesis are my comments or thoughts.) And although the shooting of dogs and the issuing of summonses make up the biggest part of the diaries I have spared you from reading all but maybe one or two.

A page from one of the diaries1939
(Charge for mileage: 5 cents per mile; meals: 50 cents; serving papers: $2.50; Addition charge if a deputy is required: $1; pay for deputy if needed for a day: $3)
June 15–“Fred Dorsy chicken stolen. Art Olsen cows killed.
Aug. 20: “Complaint in Temple on Lester Bowen”
Aug. 21: “Arrested Lester Bowen”
Aug. 25: “Lester Bowen hearing”
Nov. 7: “Start of Bowen trial”
Nov. 10: “Took Bowen to Jackson”
(No mention of Bowen’s crime, his conviction or his sentence)

1940
(Sheriff appears to have been a S. M. Amble)
March 15: “Picked up 5 boys from Freeman Twp for unlawfully driving a car belonging to ____ Gould. Namely RIchard and Robert Barton, Russ Goodrich, Chas. Waldron and Darrell Weage.”
March 21: “Boys sentenced to 3 months probation”
(One of the boys listed above still appears in the local phone book. Can’t be sure it’s the same person but it would be interesting to call and find out. Wouldn’t he be surprised?)
March 21: “Killed and buried dog – $1”
(There are many mentions of the killing of stray dogs. Sometimes two at a time and sometimes the name of either the person requesting the killing or the owner of the dogs is listed. Not sure who they are. And sometimes there is a notation that the head was cut off and sent to Lansing–probably for testing for rabies.)
Aug. 24: “Hughes store broken into at night.and $3.50 taken from cash register.”
Oct. 18: “Investigated pig shooting.”

1941
(Mileage rate now 10 cents. Reimbursement for breakfast: 70 cents; dinner: $1)
Feb. 23: “Robt. Kroll house burned. 3-year-old-boy burned to death.”
(There is no entry on Dec. 7, but then many pages in the book lack entries and because the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred on a Sunday there would not be much happening on a Sunday in Harrison anyway.)

1943
March 23: “Repairs on car: $4”

1945
(Mileage reimbursement now 12 cents)

1946
June 29: Airplane crash at Airport. Killed Barbara Wenig, Paul Treadwell and Wenig.”
(No more information on the type of plane involved or the reason for the crash.)

June: Sheriff’s Convention in Marquette
Mileage: $42.60
Room:        9.00
Meals:       10.50
Crossing
Straits         3.00
Total        $65.10

1948
Feb. 18: “Served summons on Spikehorn for Harold Hughes”
April 7: “Ice off of Budd Lake.”
Aug. 10: “Found body of Frank Biker”
Oct. 8: “Served tax notice on Spikehorn”
(Spikehorn was a local character around Harrison who kept beers and had run-ins with locals and with the state conservation department. I was surprised that I did not find more mentions of him.)

1949
Aug. 25: “Arrested Vern Charette and Richard Henry for maliciously destroying property at state park”
(A Vern Charette is still listed in the local phone book)
Oct. 24: “First snow flakes”
Oct. 29: “Albert Eaton died”
Nov. 19: “Wet snow storm. Froze roads. Very icy. Wreck near James Hill. 2 people killed.”
Nov. 20: “Bad traffic jams. Lots of accidents.”
(The ice storm would have hit during the opening week of deer hunting season when a lot of visitors come to this part of the state. I am curious to know however, where a traffic jam would have occurred and what the sheriff considered a traffic jam.)

1950
(Deputy pay for a day: $5)

1951
(Mileage rates seems to have decreased from 12 cents to 10 cents a mile)
Feb. 5: “Mertle Shummway shot Ray”
Feb. 6: “(2:30 a.m.) Drove Roy to Gladwin Hospital”June
April 13: “Budd Lake opened up”
June 30: “Mertle sentenced to 2 1/2 years in House of Correction”
(No idea what drove Mertle to shoot her husband, the seriousness of his wounds or what happened after Mertle was released from jail.)

1952
April 18: “Ice out of Budd Lake”

And that’s a recap of the diaries. Now you know as much as I do–and for much less.I may stop by the local paper, the Clare County Cleaver and take a look into their archives to find out more about some of these stories. And as tempted as I am to call a couple of the people mentioned in the diaries, I will let sleeping dogs lie and hope the sheriff won’t shoot them.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Life, Michigan | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Christmas Music Already–oh the Horrors

Stopped in yesterday (Oct. 26) to my neighborhood Family Dollar store in Harrison, Michigan. As I wandered the aisle I heard “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” a great hymn. I was humming along thinking how nice it was to hear a Christian hymn in a store when suddenly the thought struck me: I wasn’t listening to a hymn, I was listening to CHRISTMAS MUSIC. In October. Days before Halloween. I grabbed my purchase and headed for the cashier. As I paid for my purchase I commented on how terrible it was the store was already playing CHRISTMAS MUSIC. “I’ll be tired of it by Christmas, that’s for sure,” she growled.

That’s the Christmas spirit I thought as I headed out the door, wishing the cashier a “ho,ho ho, as I left.

Categories: General, Harrison, Home life | Tags: , | Leave a comment

My Painted Turtles Hatched-Well Kinda

baby painted turtle in handWay back on June 25, I watched a painted turtle lay eggs on a sandy hill outside my window in Harrison, Michigan. I had never seen that happen before and I was enchanted and watched it from start to finish. I even took the female back down to my pond afterward so she wouldn’t have to walk all the way back. I wrote about it in the post soon afterward.

Then I waited. And waited some more. I knew it could take anywhere from 30-to-80 days for turtles to hatch (a lot depends on temps). Every once in awhile I checked the site but 30 days soon turned into 80, and early summer turned into late summer and still and nothing.

My cousin, who is a herpetologist (it’s good to have one of those in the family) told me at our family reunion on Labor Day to wait another couple of weeks and then dig up the nest and see what was there. She said that sometimes the female gets so scared when someone comes around while she’s laying eggs that she does not really lay them, just goes through the motion.

Five turtles So I waited. And waited some more. And then on Sept. 22, I grabbed my shovel and dug. Carefully, hoping I wouldn’t chop any  eggs– or turtles–in half should there be any. I was not even sure what I would find. And after about four shovelfuls of dirt I hit paydirt. Or should I say a squirming mass of turtles about six inches down in the warm sand. Five turtles to be exact. Well, maybe six but I was so excited I could have lost one when I scooped them up. They were about an inch in diameter and the spitting image of their mom. Although they seemed happy at first to see the sunlight and me, they soon did their turtle thing and pulled back into their shells. I placed them down in the grass, then on the concrete and then in the house on the kitchen floor and took a number of photos of them. And then…well, I was suddenly at a loss on what to do. Maybe I shouldn’t have dug them up after all. Maybe they were getting ready to hibernate. Maybe they were now as good as dead because I HAD dug them up. Maybe I had sealed their death warrant.

I tried to call my herpetologist cousin but she was not available. So I decided to just let them all go. After all, the water was still warm, the sun was still bright and at the very least they could get a bite to eat (assuming they knew how and what to eat) since I was plumb out of turtle food.

So I took them to the edge of the pond on my property and placed them on a stick one-by-one at the water’s edge. And, one by one, they came out of their shells, launched themselves into the water and set off swimming as though they had been doing it all their lives. And then they were gone.

It was very cool.

Categories: Clare County, ecology, Harrison, Home life, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Comments on the Clare County Historical Tour

Twelve signs have been erected in Clare County, Michigan denoting historical places or celebrating events that took place within county boundaries.The sites are promoted a local Chamber of Commerce. I was told that the sites were chosen by Clare County Parks & Recreation, the Clare County Historical Society and Central Michigan University’s history department. Most of the markers are related to lumbering that took place in the later part of the 19th century. During that period lumberjacks came by the thousands to mid- and upper-Michigan to cut the towering virgin pines that grew to feed the growing hunger for boards and shingles in cities throughout the state and Midwest. These included cities like Chicago that was rebuilding after its massive fire in 1875.

People became rich during that era. Not the lumberjacks who cut the trees and moved the logs, but those who owned the land, ran the railroads and the mills–and perhaps those owned the bars where the loggers drank away their earnings.

I took a trip across the county in July to locate the historical sites to see if I could find the landmark signs and to see what I thought of them. In the end, I visited all 12 sites although I found only 10 markers. I am not sure if some of the sites on the tour should remain since nothing remains at the sites of an historical nature. However, perhaps landmarks, like art, is in the eye of the beholder.

Below is my take on the 12 sites along with directions, links and information that doesn’t appear in the Chamber tour that history buffs may find helpful.  And although I may not agree with all the sites chosen, I still invite you to take the tour. It does make for pleasant afternoon drive.

1) Leota:  (Jonesville Rd., ½ mile north of Muskegon Rd.) Leota was a major logging town on the Muskegon River. Loggers brought their logs to the river  where they were floated downstream to sawmills. I could not find the marker in the area, which is now an ORV trail parking lot. In the lumbering era, the site was reportedly used as a railway roll-off for timber being moved out of nearby forests into the river for transport to mills downstream. Although the Chamber tour states the bridge on the site was used by the railroad, it was part of the Old State Road built in the 1930’s.

2) Merideth: (M-18, 3-miles north of Arnold Lake Rd. in the northeast corner of the county.) This site of intersecting railways was once a bustling lumber town. In 1885, 500 people lived in the town that sported several saloons, three hotels, an Opera House, jail, rail depot, roundhouse and three-story school. One of Merideth’s most infamous residents was saloonkeeper Jim Carr who is said to have trafficked in vices of all kinds including murder. It is said that when he died, seven ministers refused to officiate at his funeral and he was not allowed burial in the local cemetery. Not much of a historical nature remains in town. There is a screen from a drive-in theater that closed in the ’80s and a general store made of stone that may or may not be on the site of the former train depot. According to the book Michigan’s Ghost Towns, the theater stands where most of the former town once stood. The old town cemetery is unmarked and on private property.

3) Surrey House: (125 E. Beech, Harrison) Originally called the Ohio Tavern when constructed around 1880, the Surrey originally had an attached livery. Rumor has it that the second story was used as a house of ill repute during its saloon days. It is also rumored to be haunted by the non-violent spirit of a boy.  The building was remodeled into a hotel in the 1940’s and has been used most recently as a restaurant and bar. It is currently closed.

4) Spikehorn’s “Bear and Deer Park”: (Corner of M-61 and Business US-27, Harrison) John “Spikehorn” Meyers was one of Harrison’s most colorful characters. With his long white hair and full white beard, he was part showman, part naturalist, part politician and full-time foe of Michigan’s conservation officers with whom he fought legal battles because of his possession of wild animals.  Spikehorn opened his park around 1930 as a tourist attraction and would hand-feed the bears and, along with his friend Red Eagle, would regale tourists with stories of their adventures in the woods.  The park burned in the 1950’s. The photo depicts the site before the fire. Currently, part of the stone foundation is visible.

5) Campbell: (1901 E. Main, Temple) Now called Temple, this town, platted in 1899, was originally named after Mary Campbell who donated land for it along the Ann Arbor Railroad that ran past her property. Once home to 400, Campbell/Temple’s buildings included two hotels, a train depot, several saloons and grocery stores, sawmills and a two-story town hall.  This was another Clare town that declined when the timber played out. The final blow was when the railroad ended passenger traffic shortly after WWII.  Now a quiet village, it is home to Duggan’s Canoe Livery and a man who must love birdhouses (photo).

6) Gerrish Railroad Plaque: (Roadside County Park on S. Clare Rd., south of Mannsiding Rd., between Clare and Harrison) Clare county probably has more miles of old railroad grades than any county in the state and that is in no small part due to Winfield Scott Gerrish, who introduced the first logging railroad in Clare County in January 1877. (Note: This post originally and incorrectly stated that Scott’s logging railroad was the first un the world. Gerrish got his idea after seeing a locomotive made for just such a use at a exposition in the eastern states. He bought two locomotives and had them brought to Michigan.)  Called the Lake George & Muskegon Railroad, his train revolutionized the logging industry that, up to that time, relied on horses or water to move cut timber out of the woods. Even taking into consideration the time and expense needed to build the railbeds and lay down the track, the railroads proved extremely profitable as they cut expenses associated with moving timber out of the woods. A plaque commemorating Gerrish can also be found in the nearby community of  Lake George.

7) Cornwell Ranch: (Cornwell Ave. ½ mile south of Mannsiding Rd. and east of S. Clare Rd.) A key employer in the early era of this county, this ranch had a major influence on the development of surrounding communities. Many of the buildings on the ranch, as well as portions of the fence line are built of fieldstones and cobblestones found in abundance in the glacial moraine just to the south.

8) Depression Era Mural: (Doherty Hotel, McEwan St, Clare) Painted by Jay McHugh in 1932 this mural that is approximately 4-feet high and 75-feet long depicts leprechauns making beer. McHugh painted the mural in return for room and board. Articles in the lobby tell the story of the murals and the history of the hotel.

9) Depression Era Murals:
a. Treasury Art (Clare Post Office, Fifth St., Clare) Entitled “The Mail Comes to Clare County,”  this mural was produced under a Treasury Section of Fine Arts program similar to those down by the Works Project Administration. More than 50 post offices in Michigan have murals. The mural in Clare can be seen during regular postal business hours.
b. WPA Art: (Clare Middle School, 209 E. State St. Clare)  A mural, by Grand Rapids artist Gerald Mast fills one wall of the auditorium and celebrates farm life.  It can be viewed by appointment. Call 989-386-9979 to arrange a tour. A second piece of art, an 8-foot tall sculpture entitled “Pioneer Mother” by Samuel Cashwan stands in front of the school.

10) Clare County Museum Complex: (Everhart and Dover Rds., five miles north of Clare and one miles east of S. Clare Rd.) The former town of Dover is now the site of the Clare County Historical Museum complex that contains a museum with displays highlighting county history, the original Dover school built in 1876 and a log cabin used by Louie and Emma Ott to raise their 18 children. It was moved to museum grounds from within the county in 2000. The buildings are open Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. from May through September.

11) Farwell Historical Museum: (221 Main, Farwell) The museum highlights the history of Farwell, which once served as the county seat. The town was established in 1870 along the line of the Pere Marquette Railroad and named for Samuel Farwell,  a resident of Utica, New York and contractor for public works in the state.  However, Farwell was also a major stockholder in the Flint Pere Marquette Railway Company that eventually came through town.  It’s possible that Farwell was so named to curry favor with the railroad and ensure the town became a major stop.   The museum is open Saturdays during the summer. The town also has a wonderful Queen Anne style house built in 1895 by George and Martha Hitchcock that stands at the corner of Michigan and Superior.

12) Wilson State Park: (Shore of Budd Lake, Harrison) William Wilson of Wilson Brothers Lumber Company that had owned much of the land around Harrison and ran a sawmill on the banks of Budd Lake, deeded 40 acres to the City of Harrison to be used as a park. The park was given to the state in 1922 and became a state park in 1927. In 1939, the Civilian Conservation Corp constructed the main park building, which is still used today. They also built a stone residence with rock from nearby counties.  The park is located right in Harrison and has  modern campsites, a beach and is adjacent to the county fairgrounds. More info.

Note: All photos, except for the Spikehorn photo were taken by the author. The Spikehorn photo is from the collection of Forrest Meek and can be found in the Mid Michigan Community College library. Please contact the author if you find any of the information in this tour to be in error or know of any other historical sites in the county you believe deserve recognition.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Michigan, Travel and tourism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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