This is a fractional township, in the northwest corner of the county. It
is bounded on the north by Benzie County, east by Pleasanton, south by Onekama,
and west by Lake Michigan. The town embraces about twenty square miles, and
has a coast line of six miles.
In assorting the contents of various pigeon holes, we came across a historical
and descriptive sketch of Arcadia, written in 1879, by one well acquainted
with the town. As it serves our purpose here, we copy it as follows:
"Early in the Fall of 1866 a number of families sought homes in the northwestern
corner of Manistee County, near the shores of a small sheet of water that
lay glimmering smilingly in the sunlight, like a beautiful gem upon the brow
of mother earth; and this sparkling jewel was known to the newcomers by the
unmusical but appropriate name of Bar Lake; so called on account of the sand
bar which crosses the channel opening into Lake Michigan.
"The first settlers who wandered into this part of the great wilderness were
Dr. D. L. DEMPSTER, from Chicago; G. W. BOSS, from Pennsylvania; H. HUNTINGTON,
from Indiana, with their families. Other families followed in quick succession,
until the central part of the town now was nearly all taken up.
"These pioneers were not exempt from hardships and discouragements; pioneers
seldom find their paths lined with thornless roses. And though many about
to immigrate build splendid castles in their day-dreams, they seldom find
their visions realized.
"But with much to try the patience of our new settlers, and not a little
to encourage them, the years glided away, and with them the forests, and
in place of these monuments of slow but sure progress, cozy home-nests sprang
up as if by magic; broad fields of waving grain were everywhere to be seen,
and by the side of the numerous murmuring streams and mirror-like lake, herds
of cattle found pasturage, where for centuries the timid deer had nipped
the green herbage and slaked its thirst.
"In 1870 the town was organized, and named Arcadia. The first election was
held April 4, 1870. The following are the names of the officers: W. H. COTTON,
supervisor; W. H. ROSS, town clerk; J. D. PADDEN, treasurer; M. O'RORKE and
J. NORTON, highway commissioners; S, CALKINS, school inspector; S. TONDU,
W. L. DEMPSTER, H. BOWEN and H. CHAPIN, justices of the peace; S. HOTCHKISS,
L. MOORE, J. MORTON and W. L. DEMPSTER, inspectors of election.
"In 1874 the total population numbered 1,229. The town contained 11,512 acres
of taxable land; 636 acres of improved land. In 1873 there were raised 1,821
bushels of wheat; 2,895 bushels of corn, and all other grains 3,397 bushels;
also 3,771 bushels of potatoes; and 234 tons of hay; 3,155 pounds of butter
were made, and in the Spring of 1874 there were 2,610 pounds of maple sugar
"Arcadia has one sawmill, built ny C. HUNTINGTON & Co., it is operated
by steam, and by the census of 1874 employed five persons. There were 3,000,000
feet of lumber cut, which was valued at $7,500.
"Education claims its share of attention, as may be seen by the handsome
frame school, which was erected a few years ago, at a cost of $800. The
inhabitants can boast of a good town library, which is a never failing source
of instruction and amusement.
"Much of the soil along the lake shore is naturally rather light, but when
well cultivated is made capable of raising excellent crops. The timber is
of pine, hemlock, maple and beech, all of which is as good as a gold mine
to the owners. Large quantities of this timber are exported to Chicago and
Milwaukee every year. As yet no public buildings have been erected, but the
farm houses that are rapidly taking the place of the pioneer cottages are
a credit to the town's people. And the years will not be many 'ere we shall
see stores, machine shops, and churches rearing their architectural forms
equal to any in the county of Manistee."
The sawmill of HUNTINGTON & Co. was operated until 1880, and then
Seymour CALKINS, one of the early settlers of Arcadia, is now a resident
Is the name of a new place recently started on the lake shore.
A pier was built there for the purpose of shipping wood, bark, etc.
There is a store, hotel, the sawmill of SHAW BROS., and some other business
interests. The Good Templars' have a prosperous organization, of which Henry
BUTTER is the presiding officer. The post office is named Burnham. There
is quite a business of shipping wood, bark, tires and timber.
is another new place recently started by Henry STARKIE, of the firm of STARKIE
Bros., Milwaukee. The post office is called Arcadia. In 1880 a sawmill was
built there by the firm of STARKIE Bros., and other buildings have followed.
There is another sawmill in the township, built the present season by H.
BOWEN. There are three schoolhouses in the town, recently built. The present
supervisor of the town is L. L. FINCH. Statistical facts about Arcadia
will be found in that department of this work.
This township is the second tier east of Lake Michigan, and, as a whole,
is the best township in the county. It embraces thirty-five square miles.
The soil is mostly of a light sandy loam, with occasional streaks of clay,
and is exceedingly productive when well worked. There is a large number of
excellent farms in the township, and many of the farmers have accumulated
a handsome property. More farms have been cleared up and been put in good
condition in this town than in any other town in the county.
During the winter of 1864-'65, the tract of land including the present towns
of Bear lake and Pleasanton was set off from the Brown Town region, as the
Town of Bear Lake. The first election was held at the house of S. ANDERSON,
in the Spring of 1865, and the following officers elected: Supervisor, S.
ANDERSON; town clerk, H. N. HANAFORD; treasurer,
D. E. SIBLEY; justice of the peace, J. A. AUSTIN; highway commissioners,
A. A. COOPER, R. F. SMITH, William PROBERT; school inspectors, G. R. PIERCE
and Jerome HULBERT; constables, James PROBERT and Hiram WALKER; directors
of the poor, J. B. MASON and Darell HOLLISTER.
About the first beginning in what is known as Bear Lake Township, was made
in 1863 by Russell F. SMITH, now a resident of Bear Lake Village. Mr. SMITH
was born in New York State in 1830, and came to Summit County in 1843.
September 3, 1855, he was married at Medina, Ohio to Miss Harriet L. CROOKS,
of that place. Having heard something about the Grand Traverse region, he
visited it in the Summer of 1863. From Traverse he walked to Bear Lake, following
the Indian trail, and being favorably impressed with the appearance of the
country, returned to traverse and entered 172 acres of land bordering on
Bear Lake. He then returned to Ohio, to bring his family to this wilderness
world. August 20, they left their home in Ohio, and came by boat to Portage
Lake. Leaving his family with a fisherman, he armed himself with a loaf of
bread, an ax, and a compass, and started to find the place of their future
home, and mark the route, for all that region was a trackless forest. While
working his way along, he was surprised at the sound of voices, and soon
came upon a man drawing a hand cart loaded with provisions, and a lady with
a baby carriage. They proved to be D. E. SIBLEY and family, who were seeking
their homestead on the north shore of Bear lake, almost opposite the one
located by Mr. SMITH. This was Saturday. An evergreen bower was put up, and
Mr. SMITH returned to Portage for his family. He got a pair of oxen, a horse
and sled to transport their goods, and she wrapped her babe in a shawl and
walked the whole distance.
The first religious services ever held in the town were held at their camp,
soon after their arrival. A Rev. Mr. THOMPSON, missionary to Africa, came
along and word was sent out to settlers some miles away that he would preach
a certain evening, and quite a gathering was the result. A large fire was
built near the evergreen bower, and the audience, seated upon logs, or upon
the ground, listened to the tidings of the gospel of peace. It was in God's
great cathedral, without pulpit or cushioned pew, yet no preacher ever was
surrounded by more inspiring circumstances, or spoke to a more appreciative
The first work before them was to build a log house. Mr. SMITH chopped the
trees and got the logs in readiness, and then got help from a Norwegian
settlement some ten or twelve miles away, to pile them up. This old log house
still stands in Mr. SMITH's yard, just back of his present house, and a
lithographic view of it may be seen upon another page.
Experiences and hardships followed that would stagger
the belief of persons unfamiliar with
tales of pioneer life. He had always followed a trade,
and was unused to any kind of farm labor, but he
possessed a brave heart and a wife no less brave than
himself. Together he logged a
little spot on the ground,
and while he went away to work by the month,
she raised vegetables, planting potatoes
with a hand spike, and doing
many other things in the same rude way.
At one time, while felling trees near the shanty,
they came down upon it and demolished the roof.
Fearing that this might happen, they had removed the children
and dishes to a safe place. Shortly after he
repaired the injury a violent storm blew the roof off just
at night, and the family were obliged to seek shelter
under the bank of the lake, and covering them with
blankets, he kept a huge fire going all night.
All supplies came from Manistee or Traverse. When
they first came an Indian carried the mail once
a week through from Manistee to Traverse.
The nearest post office was Norwalk. Often a barrel
of flour would be brought for them to a point a few
miles distant, and taking a handcart, the two would bring
it to their cabin.
For the first four months Mrs. SMITH never saw a woman,
except at the time of their first arrival. The
first Winter the entire family were sick
with small pox, and the heroism of the wife and
mother were severely tested. Mr. SMITH was taken
sick at Lincoln, where he was
at work for Charles MEARS. It was
twenty-five miles to his home, and the snow was deep
and unmarked by any road. Weak as he was, he walked
the entire distance, though often sinking down
upon the snow from exhaustion, and
when at last he reached home, he found every
member of the family sick. There
were no doctors, but the nursing of the mother
brought them all health, and without a single scar from the dreadful
For a long time their house was the only stopping-place
on the trail, and by Spring their year's stock of
provision was gone, and their money nearly gone, but he was
always able to supply actual necessities,
and amid all their hardships, the family
never knew the want of plenty to eat and comfortable
In time, however, other settlers came in. He cleared
his land and prospered. Most of the present Village of
Bear Lake stands upon a portion of his original
farm, and he has recently platted an addition of thirty acres.
For some time he kept the principal hotel in the
place, having used his dwelling for that purpose, and named
it the Russell House.
The first postmaster was Jerome HULBURT, who took the office in 1867.
He was succeeded by J. B. MASON, and then, J. N.
TILLSON, the present postmaster.
J. EDMONSON and James SMITH came in the Fall of
1863, and located about two miles
south of Bear Lake. Simon ANDERSON had already taken
up a homestead, chopped some trees on it,
and went away, but he returned in the Spring of 1864.
Settlers gathered in, gladly welcomed by the oldest
inhabitatants. Openings were made in the forest, and
fruit orchards planted.
During the Summer of 1866, Henry ERB brought in a few
goods from Milwaukee, and partitioned off a small room, possibly
6x8 feet, in his log cabin; put up a counter and shelves,
and called it a store. And there the settlers flocked
for needles, pins, sugar, tea, etc. The Rev. Mr. LEWIS
also had an accommodation store, containing the same
commodities with the exception of tobacco.
Immigrants from the east, west and south were at this
time coming in crowds to take up the government land,
and the business of cutting trees was constantly increasing.
But with the hurry of clearing land, building houses
and putting in crops, the future well-being of the children
was not forgotten. They must be educated, for to
them would belong much of the future weal or woe of
the town. A district school was started, and a good
log house built near the farm of J. B. MASON, who
was the second postmaster of the town. The house
was comfortably supplied with school apparatus, and Mrs. J.
GUERNSEY, who years before had much experience in teaching,
was again induced to put on the teachers' harness.
During the Winter of 1867-'68 the township of Pleasanton was
set off from Bear Lake Town. There was now a much smaller range
of territory, but the inhabitants were no less enterprising.
Thorough going intelligent men found here a chance to
begin a thriving business, on comparatively small capital.
The first grist mill and saw mill was built by Messrs.
CARPENTER & HARRINGTON. Meanwhile, two good stores
had been added to the town by T. A. TILLSON
& Co., and S. A. ANDERSON.
Good schools dot the town, and show how deeply the people
are interested in education. A good library was supplied by
the early settlers, containing a large number of well-selected
books, and newspapers and periodicals are found in
almost every home.
The present officers of the township are as follows:
Supervisor, James DODD; clerk, John M. BRODIE;
treasurer, G. K. ESTES; justices of the peace, D. D.
SMITH, Jerome HULBERT, Isaac HILLIARD, A.
B. CHAMBERLAIN; road commissioner, E. A. BODWELL; school
inspectors, George McKNIGHT and William KINGSCOTT.
The first efforts toward starting a village were made by
Russell F. SMITH, of whom mention has already been made.
He gave land for a mill site and otherwise encouraged immigration
and business enterprises.But little
progress, however, was made until 1873, in June of that
year, when George W. and David H. HOPKINS, under
the firm name of HOPKINS BROS., purchased the present site
of Bear Lake Village. The operations of this firm so
largely concern the commercial interests of the village,
and, in fact, the entire county, that this work would be
incomplete without a brief sketch of
its career and interests.
(See Manistee County Biographies for these sketches)
BEAR LAKE VILLAGE IN 1879
In February, 1879, the village of Bear Lake was described, by a local writer,
from whom we quote, as follows:
"Bear Lake Village has about seventy-five buildings, all of which were put
up substantially and in a comfortable and secure manner. The HOPKINS
Manufacturing Company's store is the largest building in the village. It
contains on the first floor, two large store rooms, one for groceries and
dry goods, and the other for hardware, crockery ware and other such merchandise.
The second story contains a number of rooms which are used as private rooms
by persons connected with the store or or in the employ of the firm. The
third story is a public hall, about 75x35 feet in size, furnished with
staging, scenery and seats for public entertainments, lectures, etc. The
private residences of the village are a good deal better, on the average,
than will be found in many larger villages. Messrs. George W. HOPKINS
and D. H. HOPKINS have not only comfortable, but very elegant residences.
They stand upon an elevated part of the village, giving a beautiful
and magnificent view of the lake and surrounding country. They are both furnished
with all the modern conveniences, such as heating apparatus, and are designed
in the latest style. They are surrounded by nicely laid out yards, and would
be considered very desirable residences in Chicago, Milwaukee, or any other
large city. They are worth about $10,000 each.
Main Street, Bear Lake 1915
This was one of the original townships into which the county was divided
at the time of its erection in 1855. At that time it embraced nearly or quite
three-fourths of this entire county.
At the present time it is next to the largest town in the county, embracing
108 square miles. Its boundaries are as follows: North by Bear Lake, Maple
Grove and Marilla; east by Wexford County; south by Stronach and west by
The township contains a variety of soils, ranging from pure white sand to
the heaviest clay. The timber is pine, maple, beech and elm. The land is
watered by numerous springs, and the Manistee River runs through the whole
length of the township.
Brown Town Hall
Pioneer life is much the same in all parts of the country where the first
work of the newcomer is to clear away the forest. The early settlers in the
region, afterwards included in the limits of Brown Township, were surrounded
by a vast expanse of wilderness and solitude. A large part of the county
In the years 1853-'54 several families pushed their way into this locality
and founded homes. Among those early settlers were Henry L. BROWN, Oliver
MILLER, Charles DANFORTH, James O'NEAL, Stephen SMITH and Harvey COUR. They
felled trees, built log cabins, battled with discouragements, and performed
the labors of seed time and harvest.
The months rolled by and other families came and settled upon sections here
The first town meeting was held in the Spring of 1855, and the following
officers were elected: Supervisor, Stephen SMITH; town clerk, H. L. BROWN;
treasurer, Oliver MILLER; school inspectors, Oliver MILLER and Harvey COUR;
justices of the peace, Stephen SMITH, one year; Harvey COUR, three years;
James SIVERLY, four years; commissioners of highways. Oliver MILLER and James
O'NEAL; constables, Murdock McNEAL, Edwin SECOR, John SHORES and Richard
FLANDERS. The whole number of votes cast was thirty-three, and most of these
were transient votes.
In 1857 Messrs. POTTER & ROGERS opened a store on a small scale, where
the women could supply their meager wardrobes and pantries, and the men could
gather for a friendly interchange of "yarns" and jokes.
In 1859 a township library was purchased, which in 1877 was divided into
six district libraries.
Most of the men worked out by the day or month, in order to earn money with
which to secure the necessaries of life. On this account the work of clearing
progressed slowly. The forests along the water courses were made up of grand
old pines. After the river was cleared of its debris, these pines were cut
down to be manufactured into lumber. The business of logging gave employment
to settlers at good wages, and so long as lumbering continued brisk, but
few improvements were made.
In 1873 there were produced 250 bushels of wheat, 1,535 bushels of corn,
3,742 bushels of all other grains, 5,111 bushels of potatoes, 691 tons of
hay. There were 380 pounds of wool sheared, 6,410 pounds of butter made.
According to the census of 1874, the total population numbered 526. There
were 65,483 acres of taxable land, and 1,147 acres of improved land. There
were made that year 1,295 pounds of maple sugar.
There was one flouring mill and sawmill combined, operated by water. Two
persons were employed in operating it, and the capital invested $4,000. Two
hundred barrels of flour, valued at $2,500, and 200,000 feet of lumber were
There are four burial grounds laid out, one of which is fenced and
In the Fall of 1877 a Catholic Church was built.
The present supervisor is Erastus POTTER.
Filer Township is located just south of Manistee City in the extreme southwest
part of the county. It embraces about thirteen square miles, with a frontage
on Lake Michigan of four miles. It is bounded on the north by Manistee, east
by Stronach, south by Mason County, and west by Lake Michigan. The soil is
sandy loam, and is especially adapted to fruit raising. There are four
school houses in the township. The lumber interests are elsewhere as mentioned.
Filer Town and Filer City are both the outgrowth of of the vigor and
enterprise of the well known lumber firm of D. L. FILER & SONS.
Delos L. FILER, the founder of this firm, was during his life one of the
most remarkable business men upon this shore. A partial biography of Mr.
FILER, covering his business career at Ludington, from 1869 to the time of
his death, appears in the history of the city of Ludington. While he was
a very conspicuous figure in the early history of manistee, yet it seems
appropriate, and, in fact, necessary, to speak of him and the firm he founded
in immediate connection with the town and village which they developed.
Mr. FILER's first connection with Manistee was in 1853, when he came here
from Racine, in the employ of the CANFIELD's, in whose employ he had been
at Racine. He was a poor man, well towards middle life. Soon after coming
here the natural business ability and energy of the man began to grasp hold
of the opportunities here afforded for making money. He began making plans
for future execution, and laid the foundation of his subsequent enterprises
and fortune by purchasing pine lands as he had the opportunity.
About 1858 or 1859, in company with the late L. G. SMITH, he bought the BACHELOR
mill, and in 1861 or 1862 bought the McVICKAR estate, with with his previous
purchase covered nearly two-thirds of the present city of Manistee.
In 1866 he sold out his Manistee interests, and the firm of D. L. FILER &
SONS was established, the sons being E. Golden, and Delos Warren FILER. About
2,500 acres of land, known as the Norton lands, lying south of Manistee,
and extending back from Lake Manistee, were purchased. The mill still operated
by the firm was built and commenced running in 1867.
At the time they began operating at this point,
the whole region was a dense forest, and was reached from
Manistee by a logging trail which extended along quite a distance
back from the lake and came out at the head of
the lake, some distance above the site of the present
The following year Filer Township was organized and Filer City
was platted. About this time Mr. D. L. FILER
purchased the Ludington Interest at Ludington, and in 1869
removed there and until his death devoted his attention to
the interests of the Pere Marquette Lumber Co., of which he was
president, and in that connection appears
an elegant steel portrait of Mr. FILER and a biography
of his life. No change has ever been made in the style
of the firm, although since Mr. FILER's death the firm has really been
composed of the two sons, E. Golden and Delos
(See Manistee County Biographies)