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Manistee News-Advocate for Monday, August 3, 1925, page 1


Illness, Beginning Thursday Ends Life of Distinguished Citizen


Was First Republican Mayor of Manistee and Developed Big Business in City, Though He Arrived Penniless

In the death yesterday of Gen. George A. Hart, Manistee suffered the loss of one of its best-known and most distinguished citizens, and one of the most active factors in its development.

Gen. Hart, who was 77 years of age, had been in gradually failing health for the past two years, but had retained a keen interest in public and business affairs to the very last. His final illness came upon him Thursday, and Sunday afternoon, surrounded by all the members of his family, he peacefully passed away at his home, Fourth and Oak Streets.

Born in 1848 in Lapeer, Mich. of English descent, pioneer American stock, he secured his early education in the public schools of Lapeer. His great-grandfather, Deacon Stephen Hart, was a native of Essex county, England, who emigrated to America, locating at Newton, Mass. His grandfather, Oliver R. Hart, and his father, Joseph B. Hart, came to Lapeer in 1837, the year Michigan was admitted to statehood in the Union.

Joins Army at 14---

At the age of 14, shortly after the beginning of the Civil war, Gen. Hart entered the army, being assigned to the commissary and quarter-master's department of the Fifth Michigan cavalry. In the spring of 1863 he enlisted in the ranks and participated in all the battles of the Army of the Potomac, 54 in all. At the close of the war he served with Custer's cavalry brigade and during two years was engaged in 15 Indian skirmishes. In March, 1866, he received his discharge from the army at Salt Lake City, and after being employed for a time by the Wells-Fargo & Co. Express returned in 1867 to Lapeer, where he engaged in farming until 1870, when he engaged in business at Fenton, Mich. This he closed out in 1872, accepting a position in the store of John Egan in Manistee, reaching this city without a cent. In 1876 he started in the real estate business in a small way, mostly commission sales, from which beginning he built up an extensive business which included dealing in land and timber and making loans and abstracts of title.

Orchard Beach state park, now the finest in Michigan's collection of state parks, was the gift of Gen. Hart to the city of Manistee, and eventually to the state. The site, which was originally part of his fine fruit farm, is regarded as one of the most beautiful on the east shore of Lake Michigan, and Gen. Hart conceive the idea of making it a popular amusement place, access thereto in the days previous to the era of the automobile being provided by an extension of the Manistee street railway system, which Mr. Hart built and operated for a period of years.

Upon the election as governor in 1884 of Gen. Russell A. Alger, under whom Gen. Hart served during the war, Mr. Hart was appointed to the position of quartermaster-general of the state troops, which he filled with high credit and for the duties of which he manifested marked ability.

An ardent Republican in politics, Gen. Hart never sought public office, although his name was presented in connection with nominations to office of importance, including those of governor and secretary of state. He was prominent for many years in affairs of the G. A. R. and a delegate to the Republican national convention in 1888; was aide on the staff of Gen. Alger when department commander of the Michigan G. A. R., and likewise of the staff of Col. A. T. Bliss, president of the board of trustees of the Traverse City State hospital, and served on the board of that institution for 15 years; he also served two terms as president of the Soldiers' and Sailors' association of Northwestern Michigan. In 1894-1895 he served the city of Manistee as its mayor, being the first Republican ever elected to that office.

Gen. Hart organized the Manistee Water Work company in 1882, acting as secretary and manager of the organization for a number of years. He was president and general manager of the Manistee, Filer City & Eastlake Electric railway, of which he also was the owner; was one of the incorporators of the News Publishing company, publishers of the Manistee Daily news, predecessor ot The News-Advocate, and its secretary for a number of years; was a director of the First national bank for many years, giving that institution the benefit of his wide and varied business experience; was a member of the firm of Wallace & Hart Insurance; president of the Manistee County Abstract & Title company; one of the principal stockholders of the Manistee Flouring Mill company and was formerly interested in the Manistee Shoe Manufacturing company, as well as in numerous other concerns. At the time of his death he was the owner of large holdings of city and farm property.

Gen. Hart's fraternal affiliations were with the Order of Elks and the Knights of Pythias.

Was Married Twice--

Mr. Hart was married in 1868 to Miss Elin J. Hammond of Lapeer, whose death occurred in 1878. A daughter of this union, Amy A., now Mrs. George W. Swigart of Chicago, survives. A son, Arthur, is now deceased. In 1880 Mr. Hart married Miss Mattie Dexter, daughter of Samuel Dexter of Manistee. Mrs. Hart and four daughters of this union survive. They are Mrs. Sabra Hart of Chicago, Mrs. Gordon K. MacEdward of Detroit, Mrs. Stewart M. Black of Toronto, and Golden A. Hart, Manistee.

Funeral services will be held from the family home at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon. Interment will be in Oak Grove cemetery.

Honorary pallbearers will be William Vincent, R. G. Peters, George A. Dunham, Harry W. Musselwhite, W. J. Gregory, H. W. Marsh and John D. H. Wallace. The active pallbearers are to be John H. Rademaker, Rolf Nielsen, Thomas B. Jones, Dr. Homer A. Ramsdell, William H. Greene and Robert R. Ramsdell.

Submitted by Lori Allen

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