ACTS OF THE EARLY SUPERVISORS
HISTORY OF MANISTEE COUNTY, MICHIGAN
With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches
of Some of Its Men and Pioneers.
Published 1882 by H.R. Page & Co., Chicago
Public records at an early day were homeless wanderers. Salaries were meagre, and of public buildings there were none. The early postoffice was kept in some mill or boarding house, and some times in the hollow of some faithful tree. The first postmaster at Manistee was Luther G. Smith, and the office was kept at his mill. Afterwards, when James Dempsey became postmaster, it was changed to Buswell's boarding house, and part of the time was kept in Canfield's mill.
The county offices and records also led a migratory life. They were pilgrims and wanders of the earth. At first they found temporary shelter in law offices and private dwellings, and the affairs of the various offices were conducted on a sort of co-operative plan. Then they found room in some hall, changing location so frequently that their whereabouts was at all times a matter of great uncertainty. In 1875, when the question of building a new court house was being agitated, one of the local papers, urging the necessity of a county building, reviewed the situation as follows:
"In 1867 the Circuit Court in Manistee was held in a small room called Burpee's Hall over a billiard saloon, near the spot where Willard & Hall's store now stands. The click of the billiard balls chimed in sweet harmony with the forensic eloquence inspired by Coke and Blackstone, while the inspiration below would sometimes become so high that the court would dispatch the sheriff to put them down.
"The county clerk's office was held in a small corner room just south of the bridge, and the treasurer's office was down near Canfield's store, with the funds in a safe so unsafe, that some scamp, with the aid of a knife or similar instrument, cut his way in and scooped the deposits.
"We next find the Circuit Court in Ellis' Hall. Then it was transferred to Thurber's Hall where winds whistled at the court and helped the counsel howl at the jury, while the witnesses had the truth froze out of them around the stove.
"Then it was chased back to Ellis' Hall. Then it perambulated to the Congregational Church, a frame building near the Union school.
"Then it slid back to Ellis' Hall. Then it took a trip up to City Hall, now the billiard saloon near the livery stable. There it tarried long enough to take a breath, and then the court was hustled up to Temperance Hall, where its sessions are sandwiched between temperance lectures, prayer meetings, negro shows and dances; all for the dignity of the city and the good of its people."
In course of time, however, both the city and county provided munificently for their public offices.
The first Board of Supervisors of Manistee County met at the office of the county clerk, April 14, 1855. Andrew C. Sherwood was chosen chairman, and Henry S. Udell, county clerk, acted as clerk of the board. The board being organized, adjourned to the house of William Magill for the transaction of business.
May 4th the second meeting was held and a resolution adopted to license Joseph Smith to keep a ferry across the river at his mill. Also, a resolution to receive proposals for the location of the county seat.
The August meeting was held at the store of John Canfield. A bounty of $8 was granted John Matowen for killing a full grown wolf.
At the october meeting the assessment rolls were examined and the aggregate value of taxable real and personal property in townships determined as follows: Manistee, $58,122.40; Stronach, $32,946; Brown, $22,157. It was determined to raise $800 for county purposes, $500 of which should be used for the erection of county buildings, and $300 for incidental expenses. A resolution was adopted prohibiting the throwing of saw dust, slabs, etc., into the Manistee River.
At a meeting held November 27th, the following resolutions were adopted:
Resolved, By the Board of Supervisors of Manistee County, that the county seat be located on Lot 6, Section 1, of Town 21, north of Range 17 west, to consist of a tract of land twenty rods square, to be selected by a committee to be appointed for that purpose, as most suitable for a site for county buildings, etc.
The first meeting in 1856 was held January 26, at which Andrew C. Sherwood was appointed a committee to draft plans for a court house and jail.
February 9th, a meeting was held and bids for the construction of a court house was examined. William Magill being the lowest bidder, the contract was awarded to him at $3,000.
At a June meeting the assessment rolls, as equalized, were examined and determined as follows:
At a meeting in September the two offices of clerk and register of deeds were united.
In July, 1857, the board adopted a resolution authorizing the sheriff to keep the river free from obstructions to navigation. The aggregate amount of real and personal property assessed for 1857 was as follows: Manistee, $139,313.51; total tax, $246.94. Brown, $94,411.17; total tax, $167.64. Stronach, $64,104.24; total tax, $113.34.
In 1858 the amount of state tax apportioned to the county was $121.83. For contingent expenses there was raised $1,100; also $250 for a bridge over Bear Creek, and $128.17 for a poor fund.
In October, 1858, a settlement was had with William Magill, contractor for the erection of county buildings. He had constructed a jail, but the supervisors had withdrawn the contract for the court house, and he was awarded suitable damages.
The amount of the state tax apportioned for the county for 1859 was $200.25; total county tax, $2,702.99.
For 1859 the salaries of the county officers were fixed as follows: Clerk, $125; treasurer, $75; prosecuting attorney, $50.
In March, 1860, a contract for building a dwelling for the sheriff at the jail was let to Holden N. Green, the consideration being $290. The aggregate valuation of real and personal property in 1860 was as follows: Manistee, $145,695.63; Brown, $32,967.38; Stronach, $55,658.78.
The county treasurer's salary was raised to $100 for 1860. Three thousand dollars were raised for a contingent fund. The prosecuting attorney's salary was also raised to $250.
At the october meeting a license was granted Charles Secor to keep a ferry across the river.