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Mason County Memories

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david k petersen

Ludington, like many lakeshore towns had a fishing settlement where the fishing families built their shanties, shacks, homes, ice houses, and claimed their piece of sand for drying racks and the like. Not much is ever said about the settlement on "The Island" which is what the fishing community referred to as their home. It's a piece of local history that is all but forgotten but the local fishing industry that flourished for awhile on our shores is an important part of our heritage that we should also look to preserve. That spike of sandy peninsula that we refer to as Buttersville once had a small creek on the south end hence the nickname the island. It was once a community, actually several communities I guess, Buttersville, Taylorsville, Seatonsville, Finn Town, all ghost towns now that were once alive with activity from the sawmill, schooners at the dock, fish tugs going in and out. Hard to imagine all of that activity now when you look at Crosswinds Condominiums and the homes on the dunes there. Once there was a home for the lighthouse keepers, Tom McIntosh and A.R. Dibble across from the Coast Guard Station. There was the Foot Ferry, John Johnson the boat builder and fisherman's home. Fishing families during that time included Emil Bishop, Charles and Leander Johnson, Matt Anderson, John Gustafson, Matt and Andrew Borg. DeYouung, Holmstrom, Gustafson, Newberg, Rudstrom, Lindquist, and Hounsel among others had worked to build Fishhouses along the shoreline as well. Mill workers such as John Nyland, John Widgren Andrew Anderson and others had their homes on the island as well. The Mason Oceana Railroad started on the island and Locomotive Engineer Victor Carlson had a home on the dune there overlooking both lakes. There were several dozen buildings and homes, a dance hall, a Sauna, ice houses, and of course the Mills, salt well, cooper shop, shingle mill. Butters and Peter's Salt and Lumber Company were employing about 100 men in 1900 According to an article published in the Ludington Daily News, on March 15th 1955 by Lenore Williams "Living was simple and the fisher folk were busy and happy. There were no modern conveniences. Water for washing and general household use was carried in buckets from Pere Marquette Lake and drinking water was carried from a well sunk in the sand on the Lake Michigan shore. A plank road connected Finn Town with Seatons, Taylorville and Buttersville, all ghost towns now but then thriving lumber settlements to the east of the fisher village on the south shore of Pere Marquette Lake. The fishermen had their own small boats in which they went back and forth to the mainland (Ludington). A grocery firm made weekly deliveries to Finn Town and the children attended school in Buttersville or rowed across the lake to Ludington's First Ward school. From early spring until late autumn Finn Town was astir long before dawn as the fishing boats started early for the long trip out into Lake Michigan to haul in the day's catch and set new nets. Often the sun disappeared below the western horizon before the day's work was done. Many had only sailboats and it would take a half a day to get out into the lake and, if the weather was calm, they had to row out and back. Most of the fishing was for lake trout and the nets would be set five to ten miles out in the lake. Two to three hundred pounds of fish was an average catch of the sailboat fisherman and they were sold for five to six cents a pound. The fish were iced in barrels and shipped by boat to Milwaukee and Chicago. The ice cakes, harvested during the winter on Pere Marquette Lake, were hauled to the shore by teams of horses and packed in sawdust in the three big ice houses on "The Island". If any of our readers have memories or stories to share about the Fishing Industry or the families who lived and worked in Finn Town please do not hesitate to contact me. davep@blackcreekpress.com 231-757-3240

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