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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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Little Sable was a big part of the early history of Mason County. The Lands that comprised the village were owned by Charles Mears and he had big plans for the little lumbering town that had sprang up around his sawmill in the early 1850's on what was first called Black Creek. The village was built primarily on the north side of what would be called Little Sable River by 1854 and then changed again in 1861 to Lincoln. Among other accomplishments the village boasted a 3 story boarding house, grist and saw mills, the big store, the docks for the lumber schooners, and a post office in 1855. According to Sand Sawdust and Sawmills by Frances Caswell Hanna " By the late fifties Little Sauble which had been born in 1851 was growing healthily. A dam built where the lake narrowed to form a channel into Lake Michigan now generated sufficient power to run the mills. A frame building near the dam housed the saw mill and a grist mill. The place boasted a spacious well-stocked store building, and a sightly boarding house towered above the cottages of the workmen. White picket fences protected the gardens that ornamented the village yards. Mills, store, houses, and fences were refurbished each spring with a fresh coat of white wash. Big Sauble was four years younger than its sister village but differed little except in size." Trade was good, ships coming in to bring a variety of goods from Chicago for the residents of the area and employees of Mears mills at both Big and Little Sable. When the ships left they were loaded with furs, maple sugar, and lumber products from the mills to supply the ever increasing demands for building materials for the cities. The "Charles Mears" built in 1856 and the lumber schooner "Blackhawk" were two of the vessels that made regular trips to carry mill workers, settlers and their families and goods. In 1855 when the County of Mason was formed Lincoln Township was one of the original three along with Freesoil and Pere Marquette. Even at that early date we can see Charles Mears influence in the naming of the township and the admiration he had for Abe Lincoln the rail-splitter form Springfield Illinois. He didn't have the influence at that early date to have the County seat at Little Sable but by 1860 he also had his mill at Big Sable, many loyal employees, about 1500 residents, and by 1861 he was a Michigan Senator. He used his influence at the time to have the names of Big Sable changed to Hamlin in honor of Hannibal Hamlin, and Little Sable to Lincoln. This was the time that he was also able to secure the popular vote to have the County Seat moved to the newly named village of Lincoln. Things looked good for the frontier village. By 1884 though the town was deserted and in 1891 the township was absorbed into Hamlin, Victory, Pere Marquette and Sheridan. How could this have happened? Why didn't Lincoln Village absorb the fledgling Village of Pere Marquette? Mears originally entered all of the lands surrounding the Big and Little Sable Rivers because the land at Pere Marquette was taken by Joseph Boyden and the lands at Freesoil were taken by Wheeler and Harris Charles Mears looked to have control of all of the harbors north of Muskegon to Hamlin. When James Ludington offered a 2 year lease of the Baird and Bean mill on Pere Marquette Lake that he came into possession of in 1859 in exchange for Mears to open a new channel to create an improved harbor and entrance, Mears agreed. According to Mears' diary changing the channel wasn't so difficult, but this is one of the events changed the balance of power in Mason County. "After retiring at a late hour, left my room and commenced to prepare for changing Pere Marquette river and inquiring about roads, town business and conventions. The following day after breakfast started with team, 25 wheelbarrows and a good number of hands and worked with Pere Marquette hands, 36 in all, during the day and returned at night." The improved harbor and channel allowed Pere Marquette, soon to be known as Ludington to grow, prosper and to out distance it's neighbor to the north. New townships of Riverton, Sherman and Amber had formed in 1867 and by 1870 Charles Mears certainly must have seen the writing on the wall and sold his lands and interests in Hamlin and Lincoln to Pardee and Cook in order to consolidate his business in Oceana County. Ludington Incorporated as a city in 1873, and the vote of the people moved the county seat to the City of Ludington. The Lincoln Dam washed out and in 1884 Pardee and Cook closed the mills. Families moved out and moved on to find work. By the time Epworth was formed in 1894 Lincoln Village had passed into the dubious distinction of Ghost Town. If you have stories or photos you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 231-757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com

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