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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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Dave Petersen History Column

There are a number of old books and text on the history of our area, do you have any of them on your bookshelves? One of the first local history books that come to people's minds is the 1882 Book that was published by H.R. page and Company in Chicago. At the time of its publication Mason County was 27 years old. We had some history but not enough to warrant our own book as this one was shared with Manistee and Oceana Counties. It's 11x13 inches and quite a hefty book. One of the entries in this old volume has to do with the Ludington Cornet Band. We quote from it here.

"In the spring of 1872 a long felt want began to manifest itself in an effort to organize a Cornet Band. There was a super abundance of wind power and musical talent waiting to be utilized and an organization was easily and speedily perfected.

" A meeting was held at the office of Justice Shackleton and a stock company formed with a capital of six hundred dollars, divided into sixty shares of 10.00 each. This was early in May, and about the middle of June a set of silver instruments arrived and sweetest strains of Horn Music proceeded forthwith to float.

"The organization was called the Ludington Cornet Band and did valorous service until about 1876, seeds of dissolution began to germinate and in 1881 the organization finally broke up. But one band goeth and another cometh and after pulling through nearly two years without the aid of horn music the city was again enlivened, in the spring of 1880 by the organization of the Serenade Band, which was composed of ten young men.

" This band did splendid service until the spring of 1881 when it consolidated with the Knights Templar Band which had been recently organized. This band existed until last spring when it disbanded."

These type of County History Books blossomed about the time of the nations centennial in 1876 and most are richly illustrated with engravings, an original 1882 Mason Oceana and Manistee History book is difficult to find but they are available at both the Public Library and White Pine Village's Research Room. A reprint of the book was also published and sold locally a few years back.

Another historical record in the form of a Mason and Oceana Pictorial published by W. H. Joyce and Company in 1890 contains some very fine early photographs of Manistee and Mason County. This was published in nine parts with the photographs printed on heavy stock paper and very suitable for framing. They were stapled on the edges and were made to be taken apart and many were which makes finding all nine parts intact difficult. It could also be purchased as a book containing all nine sections but this is difficult to find. The Book was mainly a pictorial although it did relate some historical accounts and information.

Historic NOT-A-PE-KA-GON was a self-published historical account by one Russell F Anderson in 1933 while a student at Michigan State University. Is the name of the book familiar to you? Before the name was changed to Mason County our area was called NOT-A-PE-KA-GON, or river with heads on sticks. This was in reference to the end result of a battle between two tribes. The skulls were placed on sticks lining the river as a warning to others.

This 137 page book gives yet another view and account of the city, in one section young Anderson quotes from the writing of the editor of the Scottville Enterprise about early Ludington.

" Twenty years ago (1874) when the writer first put foot into Ludington it was a veritable pile of sand, slabs, and sawdust: swamps were the only element that lent change to the view, it's public buildings were mere shanties. Everything was crude and devoid of the first elements of civilization. Toughs held a reign of terror; courtesans and debauchees contaminated the atmosphere."

Take a look at the dates that the editorial is referring to and look back at the time of the organization of the Cornet Band in 1872. Here is Ludington, a stump studded swamp comprised of Shanties and a sawdust road, ruled by toughs according to the editor of the Enterprise, but they had a Cornet Band. Every effort to chronicle the history of any area is going to provide us with a view, an individualized perception of the history of the area.

Only by reviewing all the different accounts and facets can we hope to gain a clearer more realistic view of our past. Every account has merit, next week we will explore some of the other publications that tell our story.

If you have any photographs or stories that 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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