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Mason County Memories


"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain


History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



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Sheriff Henry Cole History Column 251 Dave Petersen Henry C Cole was an early resident and settler in Mason County and his families roots are sunk deep in the local soil and in service to the counties residents. Henry was born August 4th 1841 in Sinclairville which was in Chautauqua County New York. He served in Battery M of the First Michigan Light Artillery and is listed as living in Detroit at the time of his enlistment. The First Michigan was comprised of 14 Batteries designated by letters, and Henry C. Cole was a member of Battery M led by Captain Edward G. Hillar of Detroit. The unit was comprised of 145 officers and men and of the 297 men who served in the unit between 1863 and 1865 only three men were killed in action. During those years it was not uncommon for many of the casualties to come from disease and 13 men in the unit were taken by disease. Henry's artillery unit was comprised of 6 guns and they took part in several battles including Chickamauga, and Knoxville Tennessee. After being discharged Henry came to Mason County in 1867 walking from Whitehall with a friend Martin Hitchcock in search of suitable land to purchase to start a homestead. Henry found 80 acres in Summit Township and in 1875 married Olive Beebe. There were four children born to this union, two sons and two daughters. Henry farmed in Summit Township and served on the Board of Supervisors there for 40 years. He also was elected Sheriff in 1898 and served two consecutive terms in that capacity. During the early 1900's being Sheriff was anything but a quiet occupation. One of the Counties worst crimes of the time a triple murder and suicide was committed by Walter Hitchings a month before Henry Cole took office in 1898. When Henry died in 1934 he was referred to as Summit's Grand Old Man and was the oldest surviving Civil War Veteran left in Mason County. He was buried in Summit Cemetery; four other veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic remained. Pic 1 Henry is pictured here in front of the County Jail about 1900. There was much for the Sheriff to do, Horse thieves were loose, stealing teams and buggies, and slot machines needed to be shut down. The news of the day is quoted as saying " There is no more insidious or prevalent gambling evil then playing the machines." Cole put the owners of slots on notice and closed the machines down. Pic 2 In one case the Masse and Moriarity Saloon was broken into and many bottles of the best whiskey and imported cigars were stolen. Later in the day Cole found and arrested six intoxicated men who had taken time out to consume their ill-gotten goods. It was not uncommon for the Sheriff to get into physical fights with the men he was attempting to subdue and bring to the County Jail. Pic3 The Henry Cole farmhouse in Summit Township was originally a log cabin and was covered in siding at the time of this picture. The cabin was donated to White Pine Village in 1975 and has been restored as a replica General Store. Pic 4 The November Gun and Game column in the Ludington Appeal notes that Henry and his son Chester Cole traveled to the Upper Peninsula to hunt. It was popular for many local residents to make that trek each year in search of that elusive buck in the wilds of the U.P. Pic5 Henry an avid sportsman is shown here about 1925 posing with a favorite shotgun Thanks to Charlie Cole for sharing these pictures and information about his Grandfather Henry C. Cole. If you have stories or photographs to share with our readers or can provide additional information on any of the photographs in today's column please feel free to contact me at 757-3240, davep@blackcreekpress.com or mail in care of Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Mi 49431.

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