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Mason County Memories


"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain


History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



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Camp Danaher Ludington [ Pere Marquette] Mich. December 22nd 1867 A local lumberjack writes to his friend to say that he is working in the Pinery 40 miles up the River from Ludington and that " it is almost like being out of the world to be here as it is nothing but woods, and the only company that we have is the howl of wolves, the leaping of deer and the smoke of Indian Wigwams." [ letter courtesy of Mike Moblo]

So it was in the lands that we now occupy here in the Mason County area and the lands that were finally home to the first white settler Burr Caswell. Caswell's life and our early history was written about by Frances Caswell Hanna in her book Sand Sawdust and Sawlogs, Lumber Days in Ludington published 1955 in the year of the Mason County Centennial.

Frances Caswell

In her Foreword Frances starts out by saying " I have set myself the pleasant task of picturing some of the scenes and recalling some of the people who walked the stage in the era of the lumber mill and sailing ship. Then our lives were shaped by the roistering lumber jack's echoing call of timber-r-r, the roaring drive of pine logs down the Pere Marquette River and the noisy hum of saw mills."

According to her Great Nephew Bob Caswell She composed the song, "Bachelor Maids." Wrote many articles for various newspapers and magazines and enjoyed Ludington history. Bob believes she had this great interest in Ludington history because she was very much involved in Ludington society while she was growing up. At the turn of the century the Caswell family was prominent in Ludington politics, business and society.

Writing the book was a natural for "Aunt Frank" as she was called by family members. She was a retired school teacher having taught in Ludington, Waukon, Iowa, Sturgeon, N.D.; Portland, Ore., and Orchards, Wash. Retiring to Ludington in 1947 to stay with Bob's family at their home on 207 N Gaylord Ave she became involved with and was a past president of the Mason County Historical Society.

Bob Caswell being the only "youngster" in the house at the time he considers that he was a natural magnet for his aunt who among other things wanted to teach him to play piano. Bob quickly took up accordion lessons in defense and Aunt Frank took on the task of completing her book. Publishing a book was no easy task in the days of setting printing type and using an old Remington Typewriter rather then the Word Processors and computers we have access to now.


Her historical account of lumber days was researched and written at a time when lumberjacks and pioneers of the 19th century were still around to tell their tales and she took it upon herself to preserve record and write about our early history. Everything that was done had to be taken care of by hand, face to face and by "snail mail". One of her excerpts in the book came from a diary written by Hiram Beebe an early settler in Summit Township.

"The diary of Hiram Beebe of Summit Township reads like a great tone poem set to the rhythm of the woodsman's ax: Cold and clear. Chopped on the job all day in heavy hardwood timber. It has been a nice day to chop ... I cut down 50 trees. Had very good luck jamming timber. I will finish the strip 16 rods wide tomorrow forenoon. I broke my ax and now I am a bankrupt timber slasher. I ground up an old ax that had laid around all summer and now will have to cope with it."

Hiram Bebee's diaries were recently donated to White Pine Village by a member of the Beebe family.

Frances Caswell was born in 1875 in Ludington, graduating from Ludington High school in the class of 1894. She was married in 1907 to Thomas B. Hanna, attorney and former professor at University of North Dakota. She passed away in 1961 in Ludington. Where to find copies of the book? Bob Caswell states " I would love to see it made available to as many people as possible. I was there while she wrote it and it has a special place in my heart." You can find the book online for free access at http://ludingtonmichigan.net/sandsawdust.htm

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