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Mason County Memories

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Historical events in Mason County History Column Dave Petersen

This past year has been a good one for history and the remembrance of times, days and people long past in our County. The support for local historical events has been nothing short of phenomenal and with the events planned for the Pere Marquette Sesquicentennial we are going to have another opportunity to take part in remembering our past as we look ever forward to our future.

In an old undated clipping I found a quote from a long past Buttersville native Nels Johnson, " The days of Buttersville are days I'd like to live again. If you suffered grief the community shared it with you and nervous attacks were unknown in those days, I believe what gave out first was your back but not your nerves. Nervous attacks hadn't been invented.'

'The folks in Buttersville were very kind they all seemed one family. People worked, stayed home at night and they neighbored with everybody. Everybody was your neighbor and all your neighbors were your friends."

Growing up and living in a small town can bring about that kind of attachment to the people places and memories of the life that was lived there. Buttersville is a ghost town now, a name is left, pieces and scraps remain, stones, bottles, remnants of the lives of the thousand souls that called the little peninsula home.

They had a baseball team and the grove there was a popular picnic spot. We can quote from another old article published in the 1930's about Buttersville. "

"Buttersville grove has always been one of the most popular places for picnics around here. In the early days hardly a Sunday passed without at least one Ludington society going there with well-filled baskets for an all-day outing. Often excursions from Walkerville and other Butters owned towns would come for the day, especially the Sundays when there was a baseball game for there was great rivalry between the towns and their teams."

The peninsula was the home to 4 communities, Buttersville, named after Horace Butters and family who had built the sawmill and also had salt wells. Horace Butters was born in Exeter Maine in 1833 and at the tender age of 11 moved out and on to make his way in the world. His father had been in the lumber business but Horace took his first job on a farm and worked there for four years.

He then went to work logging on the Penobscott River and by the time he was 18 years old he had made his way to Manistee as an employee of J&A Stronach. By the time he was 20 years old he was in charge of a lumber camp and the following year was logging on his own in the pinery. By the age of 41 he was leasing a sawmill and by age 45 was in partnership with R.G. Peters of Manistee. Butters, Peters & Co. was born.

I'm going to save the remaining information on the Peters family for a later article where we can go into more depth about the operations in Tallman and the development of the mills and narrow gauge railroad in Buttersville. The other communities of Seatonville, Taylorsville, both were also lumbering settlements built around the mills, and Finn town, where the local fishing families built there community, sailed their fish tugs and dried their nets. All 4 communities were connected by a Maple Plank road, and by all accounts you probably had to have lived there to be able to tell where one community stopped and the other started.

In the early days of the 1870's and 80's the main source of transportation between Ludington and these villages was by boat, or ferry. Buttersville was a thriving community, about 1000 people lived on the peninsula and there were many others who lived in Ludington that commuted each day to work in one of the mills. All things must pass, and after the mill burned and the Pinery vanished under the loggers ax and saw these communities slowly disappeared. Houses from the peninsula were moved across the ice in the winter and relocated on new foundations, there are some still standing down on Melendy or Danaher streets, if only their walls could talk.

While Buttersville Village may be relegated to the history books the spirit of these pioneer communities live on in their many descendants who are still here in the county, who still feel the connection to the belief that "Everybody was your neighbor and all your neighbors were your friends." The township is celebrating it's Sesquicentennial and they have invited all of their friends to take part. I hope you have the chance to take part in one of the many activities and can help celebrate this milestone event.

If you have any stories or photos you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com

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