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Mason County Memories

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The following account was written by James E. Danaher a former Mayor of the City of Ludington. These first hand accounts gives a rare look into the past and the conditions that the pioneers faced as they worked to establish themselves in a new land. The following is taken from the February 25th 1941 Edition of the Ludington Daily News.

"In the fall of 1866 father, P.M.Danaher, who had been for a year or more under contract to supply James Ludington's saw mill with logs from the forests located adjacent to the Pere Marquette River, wrote mother, who was living in Kenosha, Wisconsin to bring the family, consisting of eight children, and the household furniture, together with a cow, to Pere Marquette. The cow, because cows were few and the only milk to be purchased was from a sail boat when it came for a cargo of lumber.

Mother's brother had a team of horses and a lumber wagon., She induced him to bring the horses and wagon and come with us, as father had written that he could give uncle a job hauling logs in the woods. I drove the cow 10 miles to Racine, Wis. where she was hoisted by tackle and lowered into the hold of a schooner ready to sail across the lake.

Mother and the family came along with the horses and wagon, picked me up at Racine, and drove to Milwaukee, where the family and household goods were stowed away on a steamer called the Joe Barber bound for Manistee, 30 miles north of Pere Marquette, that being the nearest port where steamboats could land.

The harbor of the village of Pere Marquette at that time was nothing but a channel and would accommodate only fishing boats and the like. The lumber from the mill was always towed out on scows and hoisted on board the schooners, which were anchored in the lake. After a stormy passage we landed in Manistee, a sick and tired family, after a short rest uncle, hitched up the horses, bundled all into the wagon, and started for Pere Marquette-now Ludington.

The first day we only reached Freesoil, 15 miles from Manistee. The road was only a trail through the great pine forest, mud, dirt, root holes and water; holes. I shall never forget that I trip. That night the family slept in a wooden shanty in Freesoil. Most of us slept on the floor, without beds or /bed clothing of' any kind. My, it gives me the' shivers still when I think of that cold night. The road from Freesoil to, Pere Marquette was but little better, if any. After a two days trip we landed in Pere Marquette.

Pere Marquette at that time consisted of one saw mill, one store, and a row of shanties, all located on the northeast end of Pere Marquette lake. The street in front of the shanties, where employees lived, was called Sawdust avenue. The entire village the village in any way, was owned by James Ludington, of Milwaukee Wisconsin.

The first school was a small shanty close to the saw mill on Sawdust Avenue. The first teacher was Miss Mitchell, of Port Huron, who afterwards became Mrs. F. J. Dowland. One things to be said for Ludington schools from the very beginning up to the present day, they have been noted for their excellency. One of the great drawbacks to living in Pere Marquette at that time was the fact that the nearest doctor lived fifteen miles away, in Pentwater. Many a time, when someone was ill, I was sent to Pentwater to ask Dr. Dundass to come to Pere Marquette, as there were no telephones in those days, and the roads for vehicles of any kind were impassable a greater part of the time. The doctor would get out his saddle bags, put in some drugs and implements, throw the bags across his horse's neck, and ride horseback to visit his Pere Marquette patients. He surely was loved and appreciated by his patients. He afterwards moved to Ludington and was one of its leading physicians for many years.

In 1868 the Danaher & Melendy,saw mill was erected at the head of Pere Marquette Lake. A few years later E.B. Ward of Detroit, erected two saw mills on the lake. The government appropriated money to build one of the best harbors on the east shore of the lake at Ludington, and the village grew rapidly to a prosperous lumbering center.

Some years afterwards, James Ludington. said to the village authorities, "If you will have the name of the village changed from Pere Marquette to Ludington I will donate $250 believe it was) towards a public library." After a good deal of just criticism and opposition the change was made from the historic name of Pere Marquette and we became the City of Ludington-a name much easier to spell and we had the promise of a $250 library. What a wonderful change from Pere Marquette in those days to the popular summer resort and prosperous City of Ludington of today!"

If you have any stories or photos you would like to share with our readers please do not hesitate to contact me at davep@blackcreekpress.com or 757-3240.

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