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Mason County Memories

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david k petersen

History Column Dave Petersen

I've been continuing to pour through old city and county directories to compile a list of businesses that were at each address through the years in Ludington. There's about 70 pages of information so far listing each successive store and it's changes of owners as well as business's at each location. Once completed at least as much as I can complete it the whole document will be available online for researchers to download.

I see such a document as being important to researching when an individual business was at a certain location, how often it moved or changed owners. Also in being helpful in identifying the age of photographs where you might only be able to read some of the store front signs. It also is starting to give some insight into the changes that took place, what type of businesses flourished, withered, and might yet make a comeback, and it's beginning to illustrate how our lives and daily routines changed as well.

Part one of this slightly crazy research venture will have stores from 1900 to 2006, the polk and other types of directories were laid out a little better and included street addreses. Some of the earlier one such as the 1883 directory that I will be drawing from today will require looking a each page of the directory and trying to figure out the address based on descriptions such as Jacobson's Dry Goods Dowland Street, or West end of Ludington Avenue. Why put an address seemed to be the thought, everyone knows where the store is (in 1883 that is)

The ads are more interesting in the older directories and they include more information about the towns. The 1883 Directory gives us some history about Ludington that we will quote from the text.

" The county seat of Mason County is located near the mouth of the Pere Marquette River running from Lake Michigan East along the shore of the Pere Marquette Lake. As a summer resort Ludington affords superior inducements to such are in quest of a pleasant home for the summer months.

" A healthy location, delightfully cool summer weather, excellent facilities for bathing, boating and fishing, being easy of access by rail or boat to Chicago, Milwaukee, or Detroit. Good Hotels combining the comforts of a city residence with the pure health giving lake breeze. It's being extensively patronized as a summer resort is only a question of time.

" There are several good hotels in the city notwithstanding another solid brick to cost nearly 30,000.00 at the corner of Charles and Ludington Avenue; but the delightful location of the Filer House will keep it the favorite for persons desirous of enjoying the full benefit of the lake breeze combined with pleasant surrounding and moderate rates.

"There are three newspapers The Record, (Republican), The Democrat (Democrat) The Appeal, (Independent) They are live prosperous newspapers, liberally supported and ably managed. The Editor of The Record has been recently rewarded with the appointment of Postmaster. A better appointment or one giving more general satisfaction could not be made. It's a case where the office sought the man and fortunately found a very decent one in the editor of The Record. (established 1867)

The Democrat is the youngest but not by any means the least lively of the three. Established in 1878 by E. W. Marsh. By intelligence management and ability it has become one of the best weeklies in the State. The proprietors E.W. Marsh and Louis J. Curott make an excellent working team. While E.W. Marsh conducts the editorial department, L.J. Curott directs the mechanical. In consequence a newsy clean paper greets it's patrons each reoccurring week. Mr. Curott is an intelligent industrious young man as well as a good printer.

"The Appeal was established in 1873 by Hon W. B. Cole Mr. Cole edited the Pontiac Jacksonian. The condition of his health required a residence somewhere on the lakeshore. Selecting Ludington he suspended the publication of the Jacksonian and moved the material to this point where he started the Appeal. Shortly afterwards he was elected to the Legislature where he served one term. Mr. Cole publishes a good paper. In Politics he is Independent, always ready to praise and to condemn as circumstances justify. The management of the paper depends on a great measure on his son, W.B Cole Jr. A good practical printer who keeps the Appeal up to the high standard where W.B. Cole placed it."

Like most publications of the times it paints a rosy picture of the community and it potential for prosperity. In 1883 Ludington was still reeling from a diptheria epidemic which had taken 200 or more lives, many who were children and was rebuilding from the fire that had taken much of the central business district of the town. City Directories are still in production across the nation and they are helpful to the genealogist and the historian in recording our towns street by street and allowing us to rediscover past details of the communities we live in.

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

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