Search billions of records on


Portrait And Biographical Record Of Northern Michigan
Containing Portraits And Biographical Sketches Of Prominent
And Representative Citizens
Record Publishing Co., 1895

Every city furnishes its quota of what the world calls "self-made" men, who, commencing their life without financial assistance, have by means of their own good judgment and indefatigable energy gained success in their own chosen vocations. Such a one is the subject of this sketch, well known as the Vice-President and General Superintendent of the Manistee & Northeastern Railroad, and a member of the Buckley & Douglas Lumber Company.

The parents of our subject, William and Louisa Jane (Dewar) Douglas, were natives, respectively,  of Scotland and Chatham, Canada, and the former, who was a lumberman in his younger years, is now living retired in Manistee at the age of seventy-eight years (1895). William was born in Chatham, Quebec, April 28, 1848. In boyhood he was employed by the English Government on the Carillion Canal beginning when fourteen years old to remove obstructions from the locks, and becoming familiar with the work until he was able to fill any place on the canal. He was employed there for six years, or until the age of twenty years.

In 1869 Mr. Douglas removed to Joliet, Ill., where he worked for a few weeks, and from there he went to Manistique, in Northern Michigan, where he worked on the river for a lumber company. In the fall of 1869 he came to Manistee without any definite employment in view. Going to the adjacent woods, he secured a position as teamster for Smith & McGinnis, with whom he remained until spring. During the summer of 1870 he engaged in logging, and the following year hauled supplies by the ton into the camps. In the winter of 1872 he took a logging job, getting out two million feet of lumber and landing logs in Manistee for the firm of Cushman & Calkins. That enterprise proved renumerative, and by saving his earnings he laid the foundation for his future prosperity.

In order to investigate the lumber interests of the far West, Mr. Douglas visited California, Oregon and Washington, where he spent several months. On his return to Manistee he took a logging job for Charles Rietz & Bros., getting out several million feet of lumber, which required two years. He then commenced to buy stump timber and haul logs into lumber camps, at which he continued until 1880. During that year, associated with Edward Buckley, under the firm name of Buckley & Douglas, he founded the firm that still exists. They continued to operate for six years on the plan he had previously pursued alone, getting other mills to cut the logs. They manufactured between fifty and seventy-five millions per annum, and gave employment to two hundred men. In 1887 they purchased the mill formerly owned by Ruddock & Nuttall Lumber Company, and this they rebuilt, expending $150,000 for the purpose.

In the spring of 1888 Mr. Douglas was instrumental in building the Manistee & Northeastern Railroad, a line extending from Manistee to Traverse City, and having a main line of seventy miles, with a branch of three miles to Onekama, and another of the same length to Cedar City. The road was completed in July, 1892. The track is laid through a hardwood timber country, and towns have been started along this line since the beginning of the road. The capital stock, $2,000,000 is owned by Messrs. Buckley and Douglas, and the officers are Edward Buckley, President; William Douglas, Vice President and General Superintendent; and William J. Lau, Secretary. The main line connects at Manistee with the Flint & Pere Marquette; at Manistee Crossing with the Chicago & West Michigan; at Copemish with the Toledo, Ann Arbor & North Michigan; also with three boat lines at Manistee and two at Traverse City.

Through the building of this road a vast area of territory has been opened hitherto inaccessible, and, as much of the territory is fine farming land, a good class of settlers is being attracted hither. The land is worth from $1.25 to $15 per acre, and is largely held by non-residents. The lumber company owns thirty thousand acres along the line of the road, which furnishes about one-half of the demands of their mill. Along the line there are also thirteen sawmills for hardwood lumber.

The road is thoroughly equipped for efficient service, having eight engines, seven passenger cars, an ample supply of box and flat cars and other accessories. They run two passenger trains, making the full round trip daily, and also a train connecting with the Chicago & West Michigan night train.Employment is given to one hundred and seventy men, who by their courtesy, attention to passengers, and genial manners have brought the service into great popularity. The coaches are first class, having been erected at a cost of between $4,500 and $7,000 each. The company also has mail and express contracts.

The mill has a capacity of fifty million feet per annum, and is run eleven months of the year at its full capacity. Steady employment is furnished to a force of three hundred men, and besides these one hundred and fifty men are employed in the woods throughout the year. Recently the Manistee & Northeastern Railroad Company started a branch line from Manistee southeast twenty five miles, by which a fine hardwood territory will be opened for settlement. A branch road is also projected from Lake Ann to Glen Arbor, on Lake Michigan, twenty-five miles in length and extending through a new country, that within a few years will provide a splendid agricultural region. The road has proved a paying enterprise for its projectors. The stock has never been placed on the market, and after the first ten miles of the road had been built there was never any doubt as to its success. Its fine condition is largely due to the executive ability of Mr. Douglas, who has given it his personal oversight, guiding its interests with a keen judgment and pushing forward its success by every means in his power.

In 1879 Mr. Douglas married Miss Annie M. Halter, of Manistee. Mrs. Douglas was reared in this city and is the daughter of Anton Halter, a pioneer of Manistee, whose death occurred in August, 1894, at the age of sixty-two years. In religious connections Mr. and Mrs. Douglas attend the services of the Congregational Church and are deeply interested in all  philanthropic and charitable enterprises. Socially he is a Mason and has attained the degree of Knight Templar. While not actively connected with political matters, he is a strong Republican, and maintains a deep interest in everything calculated to promote the welfare of the city, and is a loyal, public-spirited citizen, an honor to the community in which he resides, and worthy of the confidence reposed to him.

Return to
1895 Portrait And Biographical Record
Of Northern Michigan

Return to Manistee County