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Mason County Memories

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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News

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Charles G. Wing Remembers early Ludington Courts and Schools. Charles Wing recalls his early years in Ludington circa 1870's, the articles were published in the Ludington Daily News in 1920 prior to his death. Here we quote from his writings of events that he witnessed first hand. "OUR DESTINY WAS FIXED: In June we found ourselves without any other plan or prospects except to remain as permanent residents of Ludington after my job on the harbor ended. Our first home in the city was the Hanson House, afterwards called the Elliott, then new, with "Pap" Elliott in charge--a very good hotel. Having reached the decision to remain Mrs. Wing and myself started housekeeping in a little house then standing on the northwest corner of Main and Court streets rented to us at $8.00 a month. The establishment was put into operation with about the simple equipment of furniture and utensils often found in a hunter's lodge. The first term of the circuit court held at the now county seat opened September 1st on the second floor of the Pere Marquette Lumber company's store. As the prospective arena of my future professional activity it was naturally of much interest to me and the object of my constant attention. Shubael F. White was the judge. He had been elected in April previous and had since then held court in the other counties of the judicial district which, at that time, consisted of Benzie, Manistee , Mason, Lake, Osceola, and Wexford. White ran as the regular nominee of the Republican party. His competitor, also a republican, was David S. Harley, of Lincoln, running on what the regulars called a bolter's ticket. The estimate held of the candidates in Mason county, where both lived and were best known, is indicated by the official figures of the vote; 677 for Harley, 373 for White. The calendar was made up of four criminal cases, 19 issues of fact and six chancery cases. Samuel D. Haight was prosecuting attorney; Ewell & Wheeler, Fitch & Newcombe, Isaac Gibson, W. F. Kenfield, George Westcott and H. A. Sutherland were the members of the bar. Two names were added to the list before the close of the term. L. B. Gibson, son of Isaac Gibson, was admitted on examination and C. G. Wing admitted on motion and the presentation of his diploma from the law department of the university. "Two more lawyers: What is to become of us?" was our greeting from the Ludington Appeal, a new weekly paper just starting. This term of court left me as a spectator call to all contested trials and as a prospective lawyer at the bar of Mason county in a humble frame of mind. I certainly could not elicit the relevant facts from witnesses and leave untouched the irrelevant as skillfully as Isaac Gibson, for instance, did without apparent effort. I knew some book law and as a student for two summer vacations in the office of Austin Blair at Jackson I had attended at one or two sessions of court, but it is doubtful whether all the time I had previously watched court proceedings put together amounted to the hours I passed in the court room at this session of the circuit court. I then realized that for me, at least, the road to any degree of success in the profession of the law was an uphill and rocky road. Before I could with perfect self-confidence give help as a lawyer to those in trouble, I must pass through a brimstone purgatory of experience. If, at this time, the offer of a very moderate but sure salary for my services had come to me I should unquestionably have accepted it joyfully and without the slightest hesitation. About this time the annual school meeting took place. It was held at the school house on the southwest corner of James street end Ludington avenue. Two city lots were occupied for building and playground. The main discussion was concerning the proposition to bond the district for $20,000 for a school building. The existing building, erected by Edmund Gaudette in 1867 and plenty large enough at the time, was now bulging with children. Enoch W. Marsh and others urged the necessity of more and better room. Dr. George W. Roby, speaking for the mill owners. opposed the measure. Outsiders, he argued, would be kept away from coming to locate here if taxes were high. It was finally arranged that L. H. Foster should add a room to the building, the cost to be $150. The silent opponent, uninvited but present in this discussion and in the public discussion of every project of local improvement of that period, was the recognition of the destructive character of the lumber industry, the profits of which, supporting every voter present, came from the removal of forests, the growth of centuries and irreplaceable. Would there really be any need of school houses after the pine was cut? The doubt in some minds was an honest doubt. Altogether the city schools occupied six rooms and employed seven teachers." End Part 2

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