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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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An Early Ludington settler was Charles Wing, [1846-1920] who before his death in 1920 began submitting a series of articles to the Ludington Daily News about his memories and life in Mason County. C.G. Wing was involved in many different facets of the life and development of the area, as an attorney, investor, banker, probate judge and more. Here we quote from the series of articles which began in early 1920. "Ludington as it looked on that day from the deck of our incoming steamer was not ideally beautiful, yet it was a busy place and was made to seem tolerable by the genial reception of one person unquestionably glad to see us come. Duncan Dewar, the harbor contractor, with his crew of workmen was waiting impatiently for my arrival in order to be able to begin his season's work of pier extension. He gave us a hearty welcome. He began work the next morning with a crew of perhaps 20 men, framing a crib near the log slide of the Pere Marquette company's sawmill. Mr. Dewar's reputation as a boss over jobs of this character was already well established. No place under him was ever called a soft snap yet good workmen sought his service. His gang often included the pick of the workers. His relations with his men is shown by one incident of the first day. A workman dropped his sledge into the water there some 15 feet deep and ice cold. Mr. Dewar spoke in an under tone to John Hadler, another of his workmen, who stepped promptly from the crib to the dock, stripped himself naked, dove to the bottom of the harbor, recovered the sledge, climbed back on the dock, hustled into his clothes and was at once busy again at his job as before. This was in April. Banks of ice still clung to the piers. The incident was never to my knowledge ever mentioned afterwards. It was not so important as to be worthy of mention. It was all in the day's work. I asked John Hadler in 1919 if he remembered his cold bath in 1873? "Yes," he replied, "Dewar allowed me $2 for that day's work," The going wages were probably $1.50 or $1.75. Mr. Hadler died in 1919. The last crib of Mr. Dewar's 300-foot pier extension was set in August. Long before that time my anxiety as to whether in this line of work, new to me, I should prove competent for the job had disappeared. The length of every timber and place for every bolt was shown by blue print drawings. My part was simply to see that the plan prescribed was followed and to report the measurement of timber and stone and the weight of iron used in the work. In the dredging one measurement of the scows in which the sand lifted from the channel went out to be dumped in deep water gave the number of cubic yards excavated. It was on the part of the contractor that skill was required and Mr. Dewar knew it all by heart. Framing cribs and towing them into position was safe work. The risk was in setting the crib. The requirements were a calm sea and plenty of stone. When the work of setting the crib started there was no stop day and night until it was loaded with a weight of stone sufficient to hold it undisturbed by the force of wind and waves. Against the north side of the north pier where our work was done and where in 1873 the barge, Colin Campbell, moved freely about with a cargo of stone brought from Washington Island, Wisconsin, it is now solid land formed since that time. Even the harbor of Ludington was then a place of comparative activity. The freighting was done by sail vessels and rival tugs towed them in from Lake Michigan and towed them out again when loaded. There was often a race between tugs when vessel was sighted, the first to reach her taking the tow line. The traffic was a one-way traffic; incoming vessels were mostly light. Delos L. Filer was one of any earliest acquaintances at Ludington. He had a habit of walking about the mill yard and dock and sometimes took a seat with me for a little talk. Mr. Filer was then by far the most influential personage of the place. He had already won his financial independence at Manistee where his large interests were then managed by his sons, Warren and Golden, under the partnership name of D. L. Filer & Sons. His interests were also large in the iron works of Filer, Stowell & Co. of Milwaukee. He had come to Ludington three years before as president of the Pere Marquette Lumber company which owned most of the town site and was either through the store, mill or woods in business relations with most of the inhabitants. His favorite theme at that time was the future of Ludington and his plans for its development. His vision of its coming greatness was on a scale not yet realized. Yet there was some visible basis for optimism." End of part one.

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