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Freesoil's Oldest Resident tells his story in 1948 History Column Dave Petersen

Henry Guensey was reputed to be Freesoil's oldest resident in 1948 and he penned his story for the Mason County Press. Henry was born in Arlington Township of Van Buren County on February 22nd 1857 the third of 6 children. Henry resided on the same farm in Freesoil for 65 years and had been a resident there for 81 years at the time this story was originally published. He was reported at that time as being well known in the area for his woodcarving and reproductions of pioneer life in wood. His carvings included oxen, horses, Indian villages, and all other things related to pioneer living in Mason County.

The following is as it appeared in the June 29th 1948 edition of the Mason County Press. "At Pere Marquette as it was called then we had to pull ourselves across on the new ferry. There was not much there then, a shingle mill without a roof, and Ludington Avenue was water and cattails. We went up through the pine woods to Lincoln, around through the hills were Epworth heights is now. Lincoln was our county seat then and the only grist mill for miles around.

The we went through the woods until we struck Victory Corners. Silas Slat had a little store and Mr. Cheny had a blacksmith shop. Then we cut north across the Lincoln River. Mr. Knapp had a mill there then a half mile north Pete Laguire had a blacksmith shop covered with rushes for a roof. We then turned east and went a half a mile. Some people lived there by the name of Stone, fine people.

We stayed there three days and we had to cut a road through to Jim Parmiteers that being our destination as Mrs. Parmiteers was our cousin. We had to ford the river as there was no bridge. We landed there on October 25th. We stayed one week. Then we got a road through north to the John Haley place where there was a log shanty. He said we could live there as long as we wanted to for he worked in Paget Town and he would have a place to stay when he came home.

So my step father went with him and got a job with the oxen skidding logs. He got forty a month and board. He worked for Horace Butters. He had a store and my brother and I carried what little provisions we had from there. To get to Paget Town there wasn't much road. We had to go to old Stronach Town First then to Stronach as it is called now.

Our main meat was wild meat as it as plenty: food of all kinds and no law against killing anything. The wild Pigeons (Passenger Pigeons) were so thick sometimes you could not se the sun for a long time. That lasted for quite a few years. In the spring and fall of 1870we built a shanty on our homestead that is owned by Albert Thompson now. The roof was of Hemlock bark. We lived in that for five years. Then we built a log house that stands there yet although you would not know it for it is fixed over. It is the only log house standing in Freesoil Township today.

When Gunn Lake was a wilderness in the spring when the ice was melted ten feet from shore. I have seen the Pickerel lay thick near shore. Some would weigh more then thirty pounds. We had no way of getting them, only shoot under them. They would come to the top of the water and float and then we could get them.

In the summer on a hot day you could stand and see deer drinking on all sides of the lake. There was only one trail to get there but those were happy days. Only in the summer we had to carry a brush in each hand the mosquitoes wee so thick the sky would be black with them. We had to have mosquito netting around our bed and a smudge going all the time.

My stepfather took a job cutting out roads four rods wide on M-31 from Baxter Corner to Sugar Grove one mile. Jobs then which we boys had to chop for no one had saws. We did not know how to saw down trees. All were chopped down but they soon learned to use a saw from Pelton Corners or Tupple Corners as it was called then."

Henry went on to talk about the trip to the Grist Mill at Lincoln and how the trip would take them three days and two nights to go and come back home. Today the trip might take an hour on roads that Henry and his family friends and neighbors help to establish and cut out of the Pinery over a 100 years ago. Traffic might get a little slow or congested as we travel about the county but when you're traveling north on 31 out by "Tupple Corners" give Henry a thought and maybe say thank you for all the hard work to help make a path we can all travel down a bit faster then that old team of oxen.

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

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