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Mason County Memories

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david k petersen

The villages of Pere Marquette, Lincoln and Hamlin were probably not much to look at in the early 1860's, indeed even by 1870 in a letter by Delos Filer to the Detroit Free Press about what was then called the Village of Ludington [the general usage of the name of Pere Marquette started to fade after 1864 with the establishment of the post office designated Ludington] he stated that the population was about 1200 people with 800 having settled there in the past year. The population of the County was given as 846 in 1864 but by 1870 was 3,266 By 1860 Charles Mears employed about 500 in his operations, seasonally other men and farmers in the county would also work for Mears in the woods, so he held a great deal of influence in the County so it was no surprise to see the County Seat moved to his seat of operations in Lincoln. Big Sable, otherwise known as the Sawmill Town of Hamlin after the name change engineered by Charles Mears in 1861 was the sister town to the Village of Lincoln. This weeks second picture is a view of the town of Lincoln provided by the Epworth Museum. This is an important early view of Lincoln that shows in detail the boarding house and other buildings. I had wanted to use this in last weeks article but I re-sent the 1890 photo of downtown Ludington showing the Huston Hardware store used in a previous article by mistake. This particular photograph gives us a good idea of what a wilderness lumber town looked like in the 1860's and I think helps us to visualize what the fledgling village of Ludington looked like about 1865 as well. Our second image is a copy of a 1865 map of Ludington drawn from memory by Charles Boerner about 1919 and was used as an illustration in the 1928 Oriole yearbook. According to notations on the original map there was housing for about 150 people. The current streets of the city were laid in to illustrate where the buildings were located. As you can see the newly constructed Filer House was situated north of the Mill and Sawdust Avenue where most of the building and activity was taking place. The Filer House was probably considered in the "boondocks" by 1865 standards. When you look at the sketch of 1865 Ludington, and the period pictures of Lincoln Village the concept of James Ludington platting a village in 1867 seems like an unattainable dream. Yet 1867 is the year that he also brought George Clayton across to the Village to setup a newspaper called the Mason County Record. James Ludington had a plan for the little lumbering town and he used his some of his wealth to provide seed money for many new enterprises that would provide the fertile ground for real growth of a community rather then the boom and bust of a lumber town. The sale of liquor was not allowed, the deeds given for lots specified that no liquors are to be sold on the premises. At one time a rumor that liquor saloon would be started, Ludington's response in the Mason County record stated "There is not a word of truth in it, and so long as I can control the matter I will not allow a liquor saloon to live in the village that bears my name." In the 1882 History of Manistee Mason and Oceana County it was written " Never a public enterprise was started of advantage to the place but that Mr. Ludington's draft for a liberal sum was received as a gift." The Pere Marquette Lumber Company was organized in 1869 and James Ludington sold his property interests to the new firm. By 1873 the year that Ludington was incorporated as a city there were 8 sawmills operating in the county, the city itself had grown to a population of over 2,000 people and the time was right for the vote to carry the establishment of Ludington as the County seat. Over 200 new buildings were erected including the courthouse. A Cornet band was formed, a Library association, the Cemetery Association was formed and property purchased. Prior to that time the cemetery was located south of Ludington on the road to Pentwater, but contained but a few grave sites. An old timer of the area was quoted in the 1882 history as saying " few people died in those days, they had too much to do." Indeed they did have a lot to do, and it is reflected in the growth that occurred in such a short time leading up to 1873 when Ludington was incorporated as a city and the county seat removed from the Village of Lincoln. If you have photographs or stories that you would like to share with our readers please do not hesitate to contact me. I am looking for items related to the formation of each township for future articles and in particular on the Village of Hamlin. Dave Petersen 231-757-3240 davep@blackcreekpress.com

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