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History of Manistee City

Published 1882 by H. R. Page & Co., Chicago.
With quotes from Gen. Byron M. Cutcheon's Historical Centennial Address
Presented on July 4th, 1886



1835 "At some time between 1835 and 1839, Charles MEARS visited this river, looking for a mill site and to locate land, but so far as I can find, left no traces of his visit."

"In December, 1835, a schooner with her crew was cast away between Rush Lake and Portage Lake, and appears to have remained there through the winter. Upon a large hemlock tree, from which the bark had been carefully peeled, until within a few years could be seen the name and date of the wreck, the names of the officers and men, and the date of the captain's death. The tree was standing seven years ago, but has since disappeared - probably destroyed by fire."
1840 Up to this time no permanent settlement had been made in this county by the whites.

"In the Fall of the year 1840 John STRONACH, of Berrien County, Mich.,
accompanied by his brother Joseph STRONACH, of Muskegon, coasted along
this shore in a small sail boat, until they arrived at the mouth of the Manistee. They were met by a party of Chippewas, who treated them cordially, and gave them information of the county."

"Hiring a company of Indians to take them in their canoes, they explored the Manistee until they came to an ancient 'jam' of logs, flood wood and fallen trees, and finding no good place for a dam. they returned and explored the 'Little River,' called by the Indians 'Mamoosa' or 'Dog River.' After locating a point for a mill site, they set sail and returned to Muskegon."

1841 "The following Spring, about the 13th of April, John STRONACH, with his son, Adam STRONACH, chartered the schooner 'Thornton,' of St. Joseph, to convey them and their machinery and supplies to the Manistee."

"The first saw mill built within what is now Manistee city, was built by James and Adam STRONACH, on Lot 2, of Section 1, Town 21 and 17, and was afterwards known as 'HUMBLE" mill, from Mr. Joseph HUMBLE, who owned and operated it. It was burnt many years ago. Next after this was the Joseph SMITH mill, built near the site of the present gang mill of CUSHMAN, CALKINS & Co., on the north side.Next came the BACHELOR mill, on the point at the outlet of Manistee Lake on the south side."

1841+ "Soon after, 1841, came Joseph SMITH, and between that and 1849 came Wm. WARD, Roswell CANFIELD, Samuel POTTER, Owen FINAN and brother, Michael FINAN, in 1847; James O'CONNELL, John OGILVIE, Cassimer COULTIER, William HALL, John BALDWIN, Matthias SIEBERT, James and John O'NEIL, George SULLIVAN, Joseph HARPER, Stephen NORMAN, 1846; James PHELPS, Francis NORMAN, 1847; H. L. BROWN (from whom Brown town is named, who was the first town clerk of Manistee town, and first prosecuting attorney of Manistee County), Wm. MAGILL."

"This list was furnished me by Adam STRONACH, I presume it is incomplete."

1847 "In 1847 came the FINAN's - Owen and Michael, to the latter of whom I am indebted for some interesting information respecting the Indians. He estimates the whole number on the reservation at this time at 1,000 souls. According to all sources, whisky was 'the chief of their diet' - yet strange to say, 'these pesky' old Indians 'would never be quiet.' "
1848 In 1848 Joseph SMITH also built a steam mill a little below where the Eureka mill now stands and in the same year Francis BACHELLOR who had drifted here form Maine, erected a steam mill on the opposite side of the river, about where the electric light plant now stands. This was at first a mulay mill, but BACHELLOR had aspirations and put in a circular saw, said to be the first ever tried in Michigan, but like most innovations it was not a success and he was obliged to return to the old time up and down saw.
1849 "In September, 1849, as already stated, the Chippewa reservation was taken up by treaty, and the land brought into market."

"In 1849 also came to Manistee, Mr. John CANFIELD, with his father, Roswell CANFIELD, took up land near the mouth of the river and commenced the erection of a steam mill, almost on the same site as the present mill of CANFIELD & WHEELER, on the southerly angle of the river. At this time the leading business men were the STRONACH's, Joseph SMITH, H. L. BROWN, and WHEELER & Son, for whom Mr. CANFIELD was employed."

"In 1849 also came Hugh McGUINEAS, then a 'braw Scots lad' of nineteen or twenty and went to work in the CANFIELD mill. Hugh was fresh from his native Scottish heather, and fresh from a clean Scotch home. I have never heard Hugh deliver but one temperance lecture, (though I hope he may live to deliver many,) and that was when he most graphically described the moral conditions of Manistee when he came here."

"He says there was no law here, and none of the restraints of the law."

"He says that John BARRETT was then keeping a grocery and saloon on the north side, just back of where the lighthouse now stands. The river then took a sharp turn almost due north, and passing the rear of where the lighthouse stands, ran along the foot of the high sand bluff, with a long narrow spit or bar of sand between it and Lake Michigan."

1852 In 1852, and indeed, until about 1855, there were no mails to Manistee."

"All letters or mail matter were directed to Grand Haven and brought from there by occasional vessels, or else to Milwaukee and forwarded in the same way."

1853 "Was a lively time at Manistee. It was noted for the first Manistee war, known as the timber war.
1854 "In 1854 the outlet of the river was changed. In consequence of the encroachment of the bar upon the outlet, it was impossible to get depth of water sufficient to enable vessels of any size to enter...The job was done by Samuel POTTER, then one of the business men of Manistee."
1855 "It was late 1854 or early in 1855 that a meeting was held to see about getting the county organized. Mr. UDELL thinks the meeting was held in the old schoolhouse, which then stood near the present site of the Methodist Church; Mr. FINAN thinks it was in CANFIELD's boarding house. The legislature was in session or about to convene, and Lucius H. Patterson, then of Grand Rapids) this district then included Kent County), was representative in the Legislature. There were present at the meeting D. L. FILER, Joseph SMITH, L. G. SMITH, H. L. BROWN, H. S. UDELL, the FINANs, and others, not now remembered. After discussion of the advantages of an organization, a resolution was passed requesting our representative in the Legislature to do all in his power to secure the organization of Manistee County. The resolution was communicated to Mr. Patterson, and he secured the passage of the bill organizing Manistee County as a separate municipality."

"As before stated, the County was divided into three townships, Stronach, Brown and Manistee."

"The first county election in Manistee County was held on the first Monday of April, 1855, and resulted in the election of the following ticket: Sheriff, Sam POTTER; clerk and register, H. S. UDELL; (D. L. FILER ran against UDELL, and received 62 votes to UDELL's 71); judge of probate, H. L. BROWN; treasurer Jo. SMITH; prosecuting attorney, H. L. BROWN."

"In April, 1855, the first board of supervisors of Manistee County met at the house of William MAGILL. Andrew C. SHERWOOD was chairman and Henry S. UDELL was clerk."

In 1855 Rastus POTTER built a saw mill on the river below where the Northern Michigan Transportation warehouse now stands, and this was one of the smartest mills in this region at that time.

1856 "The next county election occurred at the presidential election of 1856, where the following officers were elected: Sheriff, E. W. SECOR, 177 votes; clerk and register, D. L. FILER; probate judge, J. F. CHASE, 170 votes; treasurer, Jo. SMITH; prosecuting attorney, H. L. BROWN. At this election W. T. THORPE ran against D. L. FILER for clerk, receiving 33 votes."

"In the year 1856, our citizen, Captain Charles GNEWUCH, brought a small tug named Boole to Manistee from Milwaukee, and began towing vessels, displacing the primitive ox team, thus paving the way for a large fleet of fine tugs that followed, and which he commanded eventually." - E. Golden FILER
1859 "There were jokers in those days, as well as before and since. The following is a specimen of how they did it. The first part of April, 1859, Erastus B. POTTER was keeping a general grocery near the mouth, on the north side. Jo. SMITH was running a saw mill at the outlet of the little lake. He also owned a schooner, the 'Whirlwind', I believe. In the course of the morning, POTTER sent word to SMITH that his schooner was on the beach, the men in the rigging, in great distress. Immediately the mill shut down, all hands were called and started post-haste to the beach, over the sand hills. Considerably 'blowed', the men reached the lake shore, but no wrecked schooner could be found.

"In considerable dudgeon, SMITH and crew returned to POTTER's store for an explanation. POTTER indicated  by reference to the almanac that it was the first of April, and allowed that it was SMITH's treat. SMITH conceded the point, but strange to say - and this is the incredible point of the story - nothing could be found in POTTER's store available for a treat, but a barrel of eggs. By this time a crowd had assembled, and before the treat was completed the better part of a barrel of eggs had been consumed. Everybody was merry at SMITH's expense, and were about ready to depart, when POTTER signified to SMITH the amount of the egg-bill, when SMITH sympathetically referred POTTER to the almanac, with the remark that seeing that it was the first of April, he believed the eggs were already paid for, which, under the circumstances, POTTER could scarcely deny."

"The first Evangelical Church organized was the Methodist; they began to worship about 1869."

1860 Early in 1860 came a young attorney with a one horse sleigh and a box of law books. 'Manistee' was then located below 'Canfield's Hill'. There was no hotel. He brought up at CANFIELD's boarding house. D. L. FILER was then boss, and the young lawyer was informed, that in order to be taken in, he would need to see FILER, and that FILER was up to the rollway 'sealing logs'. Young lawyer had an idea that 'scaling logs' was 'peeling the bark off'.

"That young attorney was the Hon. Thomas J. RAMSDELL. His old gray horse and sleigh he traded with D. L. FILER for the forty acres of land on which the residence of John M. DENNETT stands, near the trotting park."

"The first document that appears upon the records of Manistee County was drawn by him; is a deed and acknowledgement of Hugh and Susan McGUINEAS, executed March 26, 1860."

"The first retainer paid to a lawyer in this county was paid by Hugh McGUINEAS, and for that he deserves a monument. He has always remained a patron of the bar. In November, 1860, Mr. RAMSDELL was elected representative in the lower house of the Legislature, and this one term is all the representation that Manistee has ever had in the legislative or judicial branches of the government in the twenty-one years since the county was organized."

"The first separate return of population of Manistee County was in 1860, and the census of that year reports the population at 975."

Dr. L.S. ELLIS arrives with his family from Chicago, aboard the schooner Wm. Jones.

1861 "The Catholics first began to have regular worship in 1861, a priest by the name of Father Tucker visiting here occasionally and preaching in Michael FAY's Hotel, which stood on the north side, and, I believe, is the same now occupied as a boarding house."
1864 "While the war was still raging, and I believe just twelve years ago to-day, Manistee was visited by her first great fire which came out of the woods just south of where JACK's boiler shop now stands, and burned through to the river, destroying the old McVICKAR & Co. mill, belonging to D. L. FILER, adjoining BEDFORD's dock, and many of its appurtenances. On the same day the fire caught in the upper part of the village, in the vicinity of the BACHELOR mill, and the old county jail burned to the ground."

"For a Christmas present in 1864, the ladies of Manistee presented each of the soldier's families with a barrel of flour, and the gift was twice blessed."

"The original jail was a block house, built of square timbers, ironed together. The county did not rebuild on the old site, but sold that site and acquired the present site in 1866."

1865 Next came in 1865 Capt. George W. BULLIS, seeking an opening to practice as well as to recuperate a physical system broken down by hard service in the army." (lawyer)

Bear Lake township was added.

The news of President Lincoln's assassination, April 15, 1865, was received in Manistee by vessel from Chicago. The mills were immediately stopped, and all places of business closed. Private residences and public places were draped with mourning, and an immense mass-meeting was held at the Methodist Church. Prayer was offered and remarks made by Rev. A. O. THOMAS. He was followed by Hon. T. J. RAMSDELL, who delivered an appropriate address and presented resolutions which were adopted. But a few days previous another meeting had been held in the same place to rejoice over the final victory of the Union armies.

In July the propeller "Barber" commenced making regular trips between Manistee and Milwaukee, and immigration was greatly increased. During one week forty persons came here to locate.

1866 "Mr. RAMSDELL became at once a leading man in public affairs, and there have been but few enterprises having in view the material, mental or moral improvement of the community in which he has not been active. In 1866 he was active in the organization of the Manistee Bridge Company." The stockholders were T. J. RAMSDELL, John CANFIELD, M. ENGELMANN, D. L. FILER, Charles SECOR and L. G. SMITH. John CANFELD was president and T. J. RAMSDELL secretary. A bridge of Howe Truss pattern was built at a cost of $6,000. This bridge was maintained as a toll bridge until the fire of 1871, when it burned. After the fire the site and franchises were sold to the county. The city then received the franchises and $2,000 from the county, and built the elegant iron bridge still in use, at a cost of $14,000.

In April, 1866, sixty emigrants had arrived in Manistee since the opening of navigation. They came to secure homesteads. Wages in the mills ranged from $35 to $40 a month for sawyers, $28 to $30 for experienced mill hands, and about $14 for green hands. Butter was selling at  40 cents, eggs 20 cents, beef-steak 15 cents, maple sugar 20 cents.

July 11th, CANFIELD & Bros. steam sawmill at the mouth of the river burned. loss, $30,000; insured for $15,000. This was the third mill belonging to CANFIELD & Bros. that had burned within three years.

In the Fall of 1866 the first barber shop was started by Jacob LUCAS, who put up a building for that purpose near the bridge.

George W. BULLIS purchased Mr. BLACK's farm for the purpose of going into fruit growing.

McKEE and SIBBENS had just started up their sash factory and grist mill.

H. N. GREEN had just completed a large building near his mill for a dry goods shop.

1867 "Next in order in the Spring of 1867 came Daniel W. DUNNETT, a young graduate of Ann Arbor, who remained about three years and migrated to Kansas. (lawyer)

"In May, 1867, came E. E. BENEDICT, and in July B. M. CUTCHEON, the one joining in partnership with Mr. RAMSDELL, the other with Mr. BULLIS.

"The post office and a general store were in Dr. ELLIS' residence."

"RAMSDELL & BENEDICT occupied as a law office the present office of the Boom Company."

The American House, kept by John BENNETT, was the only hotel in Manistee.

"The only meat market was back of Dr. ELLIS' barn, and the only news and cigar stand was kept in a small building just opposite to Otto BAUMAN's old stand."

"GREEN's steam mill then stood just above the bridge, and a row of wooden buildings was going up in that vicinity."

Onekama and Pleasanton townships were added.

"Three hundred buildings of various grades went up in Manistee in the year 1867. The population doubled twice between the years 1866 and 1870, and this prosperity continued almost unabashed until the great fire of 1871."

In 1867 WHEELER & HOPKINS built a mill on the site now occupied by the Manistee Shipyard Co.

1868 "In 1868 S. W. FOWLER located at Manistee in the double capacity of editor and attorney. Alexander H. DUNLAP followed the same year."

January - S. W. FOWLER succeeds RICE & WENTWORTH in the proprietorship of the Gazette. - January 8 was the coldest day of the season, mercury dropping to 8 degrees below zero.

February - organization of the Masonic Lodge. - Death of Robert R. RICE.

April - First trip of the "Manistee." - destruction of the "Sea Bird" by fire. - GREEN & Bros. sawmill blown to pieces by explosion of boiler; eleven men killed and several others injured; loss of property, $24,000. - Miss Hannah BOCH burned to death by her clothing taking fire while burning rubbish in her father's yard. - Organization of I. O. G. T. lodge. - Consolidation of GOODRICH and ENGELMANN lines.

June - GREEN's mill rebuilt. - Shipment of 4,800 live pigeons to Buffalo. - New dock built by R. BARNES & Co.

July - The people of the village receive new notions of metropolitan life by the visit of Miller's Athenaeum, being the first theatre in Manistee. - Two cases of sunstroke.

October - Worst storm of the season on the 5th inst.; many vessels disabled along the shore; no mail for six days. - New lighthouse tower at the end of south pier. - Burning of the old boarding-house of Messrs. CANFIELD, at the mouth of the river.

November - Ninety-six Republican majority at the village election. - First snow of the season on the 17th inst.

December - The "Manistee" made her last trip of the season on the 7th inst., and the sawmills shut down for the season.

During the year there were 2,600 arrivals and 2,600 departures at the port of Manistee.

The physicians were Drs. L. S. ELLIS, MOBACH, SMITH and SHURLY.

Dr. ELLIS was postmaster, and also had a dry goods and grocery store.

T. J. RAMSDELl was county treasurer, collector of the port and United States revenue collector.

The Times was the only newspaper here, and was published by S. W. FOWLER.

There were five church organizations, one fine brick union school building, three small schoolhouses and three halls. Prof. Charles HURD was principal of the Union school, and Miss ALDRICH, Miss HAIGHT, and Mrs. STANSEL, assistants.

1869 C. H. MARSH and N. W. NELSON locate in Manistee.

An informal meeting of citizens was held at the office of the county clerk, January 8, 1869, to consider the question of securing a city charter. It was decided to have Manistee incorporated after the general plan of the charter of Bay City, and to include all of Sections 11 and 12 and 1 and 2 lying west of Manistee Lake, and the northeast quarter of Section 13, the line to extend into Manistee Lake fifty rods from the shore. It was also decided to divide the city into four wards.

The first charter election was held on (Mar.) 15th, inst., and resulted in the election of the following ticket:
Mayor, George W. ROBINSON, 115 majority;
Recorder, J. L. TAYLOR, 124 majority;
Treasurer, M. FAY, 83 majority;
Marshal, L. S. JOHNSON, 102 majority;
Justice, S. S. CONOVER, 130 majority.
Second Ward, B. MILMOE, B. M. CUTCHEON;
Third Ward, Joseph BAUR, A. E. CARTIER;
Fourth Ward, S. W. HOPKINS, N. NORMAN.
First Ward, W. B. HORTON;
Second Ward, T. J. RAMSDELL;
Third Ward, Peter JONES;
Fourth Ward, W. S. KENDALL.
Constables: J. E. O'CONNOR, S. S. GLOVER, A. S. JENKINS, Geo. S. ALLEN.

The whole number of votes cast was 441.

"The first serious drawback was by the fire of 1869. Christmas night that year, the TYSON house, the finest hotel Manistee ever had, was burned, and all the rest of the block, from what is now the city bank to the TYSON & SWEET store."

"The loss was about $100,000. The place of the TYSON House hass never been filled, and the fire was a serious and permanent drawback to the prosperity of the young city."

The VANDERPOOL - FIELD tragedy occurs in September of 1869. The victim, Herbert FIELD, who was murdered September 5, 1869, was the partner of George VANDERPOOL, under the firm name of Vanderpool & Field. VANDERPOOL was arrested before the body of FIELD was found on the beach of Lake Michigan, 28 miles north, brutally murdered. VANDERPOOL was brought before the Circuit Court for the County of Manistee on December 22, and arraigned on charges of murder. On the 1st day of February, 1870, the Circuit Court of the County of Manistee was called for the purpose of trying George VANDERPOOL. On February 25th VANDERPOOL was found "Guilty of murder in the first degree." VANDERPOOL maintained he was not guilty. The jury consisted of: William TUNWELL, Richard N. DOYLE, Charles ROCKWELL, Elisha RICHMAN, Robert GREEN, Caleb GROAT, James McKAY, Phil. J. CONKLIN, Lucius F. ARNER, Henry ARNOLD, Jr., John W. ALLEN, Henry A. AUSTIN.

In 1869 another paper, called the Tribune, was started, and was edited for a short time by George W. CLAYTON, of Ludington. He was succeeded by John E. RASTELL, who continued it for a couple of years, when the paper was suspended, and he left Manistee.

1871 Mr. DOVEL, a lawyer, locates in Manistee.

In March, 1871, Mr. FOWLER sold the Times to Richard HOFFMAN. About this time the first Democratic paper was started, and called the Standard. Its publisher was O. H. GODWIN.

The Great Fire in October of 1871 destroys most of Manistee city. This occurred on the same day as the great Chicago fire.

By 1871, the number of mills had increased to twenty-one.

1872 Mr. MORRIS and Mr. McALVAY, lawyers, come to Manistee.
1873 "The new Iron Bridge, across the river on Maple Street, is completed, at a cost of about $18,000, and is far superior to the wooden structure destroyed by the great fire of October 8, 1871.

There is a daily line of steamers connecting with lines to Chicago, Milwaukee and most of the lake ports; a tri-weekly line direct to Milwaukee, and two steamers daily connecting with the cars at Pentwater.

Three lines of Telegraph are already established: One south to Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and east and south; one north to Frankfort, and a line between Stronach and this city.

1874 The great Temperance Movement begins.
1875 The Catholics abandoned their old church on the north side and built the large brick church on Third Street. (Guardian Angels)

In 1875 the Manistee Standard, published by O.H. GODWIN was bought by Col. FOWLER and merged with his paper into the Times and Standard.

1878 The Manistee Court House was built.

Manistee U.S. Life Saving Station established.

1879 The first salt well was sunk in 1879 by Charles RIETZ to a depth of 1,936 feet, when it struck rock and continued through thirty-two feet of solid salt. The RIETZ salt block continued in operation until 1896 when it was purchased by Louis SANDS.
1880 In 1880 came the Telephone exchange, with but 29 subscribers. This year, too, the commodious Fourth ward school house was built.

In September, 1880, the first vote was cast by women in Manistee under the school suffrage law. (This allowed women to vote on school board members, but no woman was elected as of 1899) The Manistee Woman Suffrage Association, organized in 1880, has done good work in petitioning the legislature at each session for municipal woman suffrage - a work still carried on by the State W.S.A. and well supplemented in late years by the W.C.T.U.K. of L. and other reform societies of a lesser note.
1881 In 1881 The Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad Co. extended their road through to this point. We listened eagerly for the first shrill screech of the iron horse, and all rejoiced when Manistee was at last united to the world by rapid transit.

It was during this year that the Baptists decided to have a house of worship of their own. They were few in number and had little means to start with, but their pastor did not lack in either determination or skill, and much of the work in their cozy little church was done with their own hands.
1882 In 1882 Union Hall came to beautify our city, and was dedicated to the cause of the W.C.T.U. The following August it was burned, but at once rebuilt after the same plans. The water company was also incorporated, and in 1883 found us with the Holly system of water works in operation.
1883 The Scandinavian Opera House built.
1884 In 1884 the Methodist and Polish Catholic churches were erected, also the Union school building.

By the census of 1884 Manistee had a population of 10, 390.
1885 The Lakeside Club was organized by Mrs. E.B. FAIRFIELD, on the 2nd of October, 1885, with a membership of twenty persons. Its object was intellectual and social culture, and the real reason for its foundation (a charter member asserts) was to keep the young ladies of Manistee from frequenting a "roller skating rink," which at that time was a popular rendezvous. The first president was Evan T. DAVIES, now of Portland, Ore. The officers of the club are: Mrs. Edward D. WHEELER, president; Miss Martha H. FILER, first vice president; Mrs. William LLOYD, second vice president; Mrs. H.B. PIERSON, recording secretary; Mrs. T.B. COLLINS, corresponding secretary; Mrs. C.B. JENTOFF, treasurer; Mrs. H.R. REYNOLDS, auditor; Mrs. C.D. GARDNER, librarian; Mrs. J.A. STINE, critic.
1886 In 1886 the Central school building destroyed by fire but was at once rebuilt on a larger scale. The Unitarians constructed their artistic little church during this year.
1888 In 1888 our worthy Fire Department became possessors of their present quarters; the Guardian Angels church was built, and Uncle Sam gave us free delivery postal service.
1889 In 1889 the Episcopal Society built their church, and the Manistee and Northeastern Railroad came to us, making a connecting link between the north and east.
1890 "Christmas night of 1890 our city was for the first time seen under the brilliant rays of electric light."

Mercy Hospital opened its doors on January 10, 1890 - John CANFIELD made a gift of sixty thousand dollars to provide funding. Another ten thousand dollars was donated by Mr. E. Golden FILER, for equipping and furnishing the hospital. Mr. T.J. RAMSDELL gave the ground on which the hospital is built. The Sisters of Mercy of Big Rapids, Mich., were given charge of the new institution. The first patient to enter the hospital was Miss Mary SWEETNAM.
1891 The schooner "Hattie A. Estell" wrecks on November 11, 1891. The Manistee Life Saving Station crew suffered frostbite and exposure.
1894 Monday morning, April 16, 1894, the first edition of the Manistee Daily News, a six column folio, was issued from a dingy basement at No. 408 River Street on an old Campbell press.
1897 On Nov. 2, 1897, the St. Joseph's school building was destroyed by fire.
1898 During the year 1898, 589 steam vessels of of 180,490 tonnage and 367 sailing craft of 61, 985 tonnage have entered our harbor and reported to the customs house.

On July 7, 1898, at 3:45 o'clock in the afternoon, the first stone of the new foundation for St. Joseph's school was laid by Father KOZLOWSKI.

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