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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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Today we are going to take a look at the development of townships in Mason County and their formation, much of the information we are reviewing has come from the 1882 H R Page History of Mansitee Mason and Oceana Counties, and other sources. Of the first three townships, the original 1855 townships were named Pere Marquette, which took in the tier of townships across present day Mason County to the East following the river. Little Sable, primarily the north side of Lincoln Lake to just north of present day Hamlin Lake across Victory, Sherman and Sheridan Townships. Freesoil which took in the top tier of the county and included the townships that would become Grant Freesoil and Mead. In a previous installment we explored Burr Caswell's role in the early development and settlement of Pere Marquette Township's Buttersville peninsula. During those same early years we find Charles Mears, Lumberman making extraordinary progress in opening up the areas to north of the new settlements around the Pere Marquette Lake and river. Charles Mears began by buying land around the areas of Big and Little Sable as early as 1845, and by 1851 he was operating his mill at Little Sable [or Sauble] now known as Lincoln. With the exception of a handful of buildings on the south side of the river most of the newly forming lumber town of Little Sable was built on the north side in Hamlin Township. Another mill had been built to the north of Big Sable about 1846 at what was known as Free Soil Mills, after operating for a short time it burned and was not rebuilt until 1855 by Freeman and Hopkins. So as we look at the formation and development of the County in the 1850's we see all of the main activity surrounding the rivers and waterways. At that time there was not enough population and settlers in the interior of the county to warrant the formation of additional townships. The area began to grow and attract more settlers and increased lumbering. Charles Mears in those early years was the areas largest employer and as his interests grew it became more and more important to him to wrest control away from the county seat at Burr Caswell's farm to the ever growing village at Little Sable. In 1860 Summit Township was organized, the smallest township of the county and formed from Pere Marquette Township. It's early residents included William Quevellion who purchased land there in 1850. Quevillion had been in the area as early as 1835 trapping and trading. Hamlin Township was also organized in 1860 and contained Mear's lumbering village of Big Sable. Charles Mears was very adept at using his influence in the region, many of the early settlers were at different times employees of his as well. By November of 1860 we see the election that removed the county seat from the Burr Caswell farm to the village of Little Sable. Mear's furthered his designs and developments in the county after being elected to the Michigan Senate. He used his influence to change the names of Little Sable to Lincoln [his choice for president] and Big Sable to Hamlin [his choice for Vice president] 1861 sees the formation of Lincoln township squeezed in between Hamlin, Amber and Pere Marquette. Things slowed down for the next few years as a result of the War between the States and it's not until 1867 that we see new activity in the formation of townships that were named Grant, Sherman, Victory and Amber. The first three names being directly attributed to our victory in war and honoring Generals Grant and Sherman. 1868 brought the next division and the formation of Riverton Township, the residents of this area had once before submitted a petition to form a new township in 1867 but were turned down by the county supervisors. Branch Township was designated in 1871 by an act of the legislature. Custer township was established in 1878 from Eden township, [established 1874] both townships had contained a reservation and as native residents moved out, and land was sold the lands were split into the 2 current townships. Logan township was divided from Branch Township in 1903 and is believed to have been named after John Logan the Republican nominee for Vice President in 1884, and Meade township was organized out of Freesoil township in 1910. Although we have briefly touched on each of the townships formed in Mason County we have really only delved into the history of the area up to about 1861. This is a significant time in the County's history as the movement of the County seat to Lincoln, the friction it caused within the county, and Charles Mears growing influence are important factors in our history and development that we will be exploring in more detail. If you have information, stories or photographs that you would like to share with our readers please do not hesitate to contact me. Dave Petersen 231-757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com

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