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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



david k petersen

Lumbering 1882 In 1882 there were a number of sawmills operating in and about the city of Ludington. The Pere Marquette Lumber Company was organized July 24th 1869. This was just 2 short years after James Ludington Platted the City of Ludington and 4 years before the removal of the county seat from Lincoln Village to Ludington. Had James Ludington's health held up what changes or developments might have been in store for the City, and with his health deteriorating could that have been an influence in his decisions to plat and encourage the development of a lasting memorial in the form of a town that bore his name? Whatever the case, according to the 1882 History of Manistee Mason and Oceana Counties James Ludington sold his property interests to the newly formed Pere Marquette Lumber Company for the sum of 500,000.00 and remained on the Board of the newly formed company. Other members included John Mason Loomis, D.L. Filer, Edward A Foster, and Luther Foster. In 1874 the old Mill that James Ludington had come into possession of in 1859 burned to the ground. This was the mill built by Baird and Bean in 1848 that one could say started it all and was the site of the humble beginnings of what would become the City of Ludington. A new Mill was built on the site that had an annual capacity of 10,000,000 feet of lumber, the company had an estimated 10,000,000 logs on hand and standing timber estimated at 130,000,000 with 50 employees. Another major player in early Mason County was Captain E. B. Ward who as early as 1852 came into possessions of large tracts of land on the Pere Marquette River, and when serving as President of the Pere Marquette Railroad in 1869 actively worked towards the extension of the Railroad to Ludington which arrived in 1874. In 1870 E.B.Ward's north mill was built in what is now Fourth Ward, it was constructed on 55 stone piers that extended well out into the lake, the lands around the mill site were still heavily forested in 1870. The cost of this new mill was 60,000.00 and it was rated to have a capacity of 100,000 feet per day. In October of 1872 Wards second mill began operations, it was referred to as the South Mill and came with a price tag of 125,000.00 it was considered the finest mill in the United States at that time. The operation was extensive, having the mills, a shingle mill, storefronts, offices, 3 scows, 2 schooners, a tug, owning a lumber yard in Chicago and 50,000 acres of and within 50 miles of Ludington. Thee was also the railroad track laid into Lake County with 2 locomotives and 30 cars for use in the lumbering operations. The Ward operations employed about 1,000 people by 1882. E.B. Ward passed away in 1875 and the business passed into the hands of his wife Catherine Lyon Ward who in 1878 reorganized the business with John B Lyon and Thomas Rice Lyon her brother, the business continued under the name and management of TR Lyon Agent. Another sister, Paulina Lyon married Justus S Stearns in 1868. Justus was a Lumber Baron in Both Michigan and Kentucky and contributed much to both communities development. He also donated his home for use as Ludington's first hospital, which was named after his late wife Paulina. Memorial Medical is going to be celebrating it's centennial during the course of the next year. Other lumbering interests in operation around 1882 included Cartier and Filer, who owned the mill first constructed by Vahue Hustis and Company, this mill cost about 25,000.00 to build in 1872 and could handle about 10,000,000 feet of lumber per year. George W Roby arrived in Ludington in 1871 and erected a mill on property he purchased on Pere Marquette Lake in 1873. The Taylor Mill was built by the firm of Sweet and Bean in 1872 on the south side of the lake, Taylorsville is one of our Mason County Ghost towns. In the 1870's though it was the scene of great activity and business. Allen and Goodsell completed their mill in 1882, E.A. Foster and Company operated a shingle mill until 1882 when it was sold to TR Lyon, Danaher and Cartier operated a Shingle mill producing about 250,000 shingles a day. Smith and Foley operated a Shingle Mill originally built by Horace Butters and Company, they had a season production of 250,000,000 shingles and employed about 25 men. As we can see there was a great deal of activity, employment, an business taking place on the Pere Marquette Lake and River in those early years. The business generated from those early mills brought settlers, store owners, tradesmen and others to the little village in the woods and it grew rapidly. Those early lumbering interests and business left their mark on the lands with the removal of what they thought was a never ending supply of white pine and they left their names in many cases in our history, on our progress and development, on the names of our streets and our parks. If you have any photographs or stories that you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at any time. Dave Petersen 231-757-3240 or at davep@blackcreekpress.com

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