Pioneer Society Collections
Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan
Together with Reports of County, Town and District Pioneer Societies
1877 pages 285-301 Muskegon
Part 4- The Centennial History of Muskegon
By HENRY H. HOLT
Until 1834 the Indian traders had
been accustomed to come to Muskegon lake in the autumn and buy furs and
traffic with the Indians during the winter, and go away in the spring,
taking with them all their movable effects. At the latter date, Lewis
B. Baddeau, having secured the interest of Mr. Daily in his log building,
established a trading post, and became a permanent settler of Muskegon.
He was of French descent, and was born at Three Rivers, near Montreal,
in Canada. Mr. Baddeau afterwards made a preemption claim on lot two of
section nineteen, on which his trading post stood, being that part
of the city lying west and north of a line running from the Chapin &
Foss mill to the old cemetery, and thence to the Bigelow & Brother's
mill, and on the 31st of July, 1839, after the land came into the market,
he made a regular entry of the lot. He continued to trade with the Indians
until 1840, and in 1845, having become embarrassed in business, and having
lost most of his property, he went to Newaygo to live, and afterwards to
the Dam, on Muskegon river, where he died soon after.
The second settler on Muskegon lake was Joseph
Troutier, who erected a building in 1835, of hewn timber, near the
White, Swan & Smith mill, which he occupied as a trading post for several
years. Mr. Troutier was born in Mackinac, August 9, 1812, where he resided
until his settlement in Muskegon. He continued the Indian trade several
years at this place, and then removed to the Dam, where he still resides.
In 1836 Mr. Troutier went with the Indians to Washington, and assisted
in forming the treaty by which the Indian title to the land in the part
of Michigan lying north of Grand river was obtained. Mr. Troutier remembers
many interesting incidents in the early history of western Michigan,
and often remarks that "me and my wife the first white man in Muskegon."
Wm. Lasley was of French origin, was born
in Pennsylvania, but spent his early life in Mackinac, and settled is Muskegon
in the autumn of 1835, having built a trading post near where is now the
corner of Western avenue and Seventh street. He continued to trade with
the Indians for several years, and, eventually brought on goods suitable
for the trade of the early settlers sometimes keeping a stock valued
at $20,000. In 1852 he sold the mill that he had previously built, and
retired from business and died the next year.
Martin Ryerson was born on a farm near
Peterson, New Jersey, January 6, 1818. In 1834, having become satisfied
that the fortune he had even then determined to acquire was not to be easily
and readily obtained at farming, he started for Michigan, which, at that
time, was regarded as the Eldorado. When he reached Detroit his funds were
exhausted, and he was obliged to stop and obtain employment for a time
before he could proceed. After a few months he started again and reached
Grand Rapids in September of the same year, and soon after went into the
employ of Richard Godfroy, at which place
he remained until May, 1836, when he left and came to Muskegon.
On his arrival at this place he went into the employ of Joseph Troutier,
and engaged in the Indian trade, which he continued three years; was then
employed by T. Newell & Co.,, which firm then carried on the same business.
In October 1841, Mr. Ryerson & S. J. Green made a contract with
T. Newell to run his mill for two years.
After the expiration of this term Mr. Ryerson
made an arrangement to run the mill on a salary for another two years.
In September. 1845, Mr. Ryerson, in company with J. H. Knickerbocker, bought
Mr. Newell's interest in the mill and became a mill owner. This fact,
however, did not change his style of living or lessen the amount of labor
he performed. During the first year that he owned the interest in the mill
he often worked eighteen hours out of the twenty-four, filling any place
where a vacancy might chance to occur, or where his services were the most
needed. Mr. Ryerson's practical experience rendered him a competent judge
of the men in his employ, and he "expected every man to do his duty." An
incident that once occurred at his will may not be uninteresting. One day
a man who was employed in moving a pile of cull lumber, was carrying a
few pieces and going and returning at a very slow pace. Mr. Ryerson observing
this, called out to him to throw down his little load. The man stood a
minute with a surprised look without doing so. On Mr. Ryerson's repeating
the order with increased emphasis, he threw it down. He then told
him to go and sit in the shade and rest himself until he was able to take
and carry a load as a man ought to carry it. It is useless to say that
the rest was not required.
As an instance of the hardships and privations
endured by the earl settlers, Mr. Ryerson relates the following experience
: In September, 1839, he started on foot to go to Grand Rapids to
attend "Indian payment." The ordinary route at the time was by the
beach of Lake Michigan to Grand Haven, thence up Grand River. Mr. Ryerson,
however, went through what is since the township of Ravenna, although there
was then no road or settlement on the way, excepting along the first five
miles west of Grand Rapids. He kept his course by a pocket compass, crossed
Crockery creek somewhere near where is now the village of Ravenna, and
stopped for the night about ten miles beyond. He made a brush tent, built
a fire and roasted a coon that he had caught during the day and brought
with him, and made his supper from it without salt or water, and then slept
soundly on his brush bed. The remainder of the coon served for his breakfast
in the morning, after which he pursued his journey, reaching Grand Rapids
early in the day and without feeling any particular fatigue.
The following incident was related to the writer
by Mr. R., and shorts the manner of enforcing a rule of the early settlers
requiring a uniformity in dress; a rule which prohibited the wearing of
"stove-pipe" hats and white shirts. A young man from Grand Rapids one day
made his appearance on the "streets" of Muskegon wearing these contraband
articles of dress, and who, by the way, was putting on numerous airs in
consequence. A mock court was soon organized, a complaint was made against
him for horse-stealing; he was arrested, examined, and bound over to circuit
court, the constable started with him for the jail (a log stable) and on
the way he was allowed to escape, as had been, pre-arranged. The fellow
ran for the roods at a rate of speed that would have astonished a deer,
while the whole town followed, him, yelling at the top of their voices,
and pretending to try to overtake him. That hat was never seen in Muskegon
Mr. Ryerson removed to Chicago in 185l, where
he has since resided, excepting about five years which he spent with his
family in Europe.
Theodore Newell was a native of Connecticut,
and settled in Muskegon in 1836 at the mouth of Muskegon lake; his object
in locating in that place being to secure a claim to the land in that vicinity,
as it was then supposed that the future city of Muskegon would be built
on the sand hills near the mouth. He and his brother Augustus Penoyer built
a mill the same year at Penoyer creek, a few miles above the Newaygo. Mr.
P. left Muskegon soon after and removed to Grand Haven. He now lives at
Samuel Rose was born in Grandville, Mass.,
in 1817, and came to Grand Rapids in 1836, where he met Augustus Penoyer,
who was then getting ready to build a mill at Penoyer creek, a few miles
above Newaygo. He made an agreement to work for Mr. P., and started with
some other men to go through the woods to the place where they were to
There being no road and not keeping the right
direction they got lost and were out five days before they reached Muskegon
River. Then, thinking they were above Newaygo, they started down the stream
and after a time came to Muskegon Lake. After obtaining some provisions
they started up the river, and passing the site of the village of Newaygo
( at which place there was then no settlement), reached their destination.
Mr. Rose has continued to reside on Muskegon river, sometimes at Muskegon
or at others up the river; his present residence near Newaygo.
George W. Walton was born January 3, 1812,
in Essex Co. N. Y. In 1833 he removed to Chicago, and settled in Muskegon
in May, 1837. During his early residence here he was very active in public
matters : was supervisor of the township for several years, having been
first elected in 1847, and was also the first postmaster of Muskegon. Mr.
Walton removed to California in 1855, where he remained several years and
went thence to Nevada, where he died in 1874.
Jonathan H. Ford was born in the State
of New York. He settled in Muskegon in 1837. and built the mill at the
mouth of Bear creek. During, his residence here he was elected one of the
associate judges of the Ottawa county court. He left Muskegon in 1845,
and now resides in Wisconsin.
Thomas W. Dill and his wife, -now Mrs.
Susan Bohne,- came to Muskegon in 1837, stopping here a few days, and then
went to Penoyer's Mill, a few miles above the present village of
Newaygo, where they lived one year. They then came down the Muskegon river,
to Mill Iron Point, where Mr. Dill built a house and lived two years. Here
Minerva Dill, now Mrs. John Curry, was born, June 10th, 1838; the first
white child born in the present limits of Muskegon county. In the spring
of 1840, Mr. Dill and his family moved into the house previously occupied
by Mr. Baddeau, near where the Rodgers foundry now stands, and occupied
it as a hotel and boarding-house. This was known as the Muskegon
House, and was the first attempt at hotel keeping in Muskegon. After,
the death of Mr. Dill, in 1854, Mrs. Dill married Mr. Bohne, who has since
died. Mrs. Bohne is still living in Muskegon, and is the oldest settler
in Muskegon county.
On to Part 5- Early
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