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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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History Column 274 Part 3 Pentwater History We're back taking another look at the history of Pentwater, this will be our last installment from this local history penned in 1965 by Florence Schrumph. This type of local history is an important glimpse into our past. Along with old letters, diaries, and journals they help us to see a part of our history that lives beyond the pages of the history books and helps us to keep that part of our past alive. We continue with our story. "In 1856 he came in contact with Mr. W. P. Harding. They made the first road out of Pentwater; up Pentwater Lake and up the south branch of Pentwater River to a point called Harding's Landing. They lived there for some time and made shingle bolts. In 1857 or 1858 my father bought land from the Government which is now the Oceana County Farm. My mother and I lived there in a tent and my father worked in Pentwater during the week, for some time. "The wolves would howl every night, and my mother would gather dead wood to make a fire so they would stop. She would practice striking with an ax to see how hard she could hit them if they came too near." One history relates that in February 1855 the first U. S. Mail was brought in with E. R. Cobb the first postmaster. A real post office was not established until later. "In September of that year there were two more houses. There were no settlers in the woods back from the shore. The John D. Brookshes family came that fall. In the History of Oceana County, Mr. Brookshes gives his experiences; "I landed in Pentwater in September, 1855 and began work for Charles Mears. The entire section was then an unbroken wilderness. Cobb and Rector had a little sawmill on the site later occupied by the Pentwater Lumber Company; there were two small houses already built. "I understood Cobb and Rector had been here two years. Mears had just begun his mill, and I worked on that and helped to pile slabs on the edge of the present channel. The old channel was soon dammed up by Mr. Mears, and the present channel was not more than two feet wide and two or three inches deep. It was difficult to get from Mears to Cobb and Rector's for sometimes, on account of the water. I have seen the water so high in Cobb and Rector's mill that they could not saw. I have been sorry I did not take Cobb and Rector's offer to sell me twenty-five acres where the village of Pentwater now stands, for one dollar an acre, and more at the same price, but I could not see money in their stripped pine land, and so bought forty acres in Hart, at seventy-five cents an acre." He also mentions Messrs. Harding, Glover, Schrumpf and Robert McAllister, all apparently working for Mr. Mears. Charles Mears, a Chicago capitalist, had for some time been buying up land all along the lake shore from below Whitehall to points above Lincoln, a town he founded. In 1855 he began building a mill here on the north side of the river, as the channel was then called, well down toward Lake Michigan. The shore line was then about where the Coast Guard station now stands. Through his efforts, attempts were made to clear out a channel. He was the first, also, to put in little slab piers on the north side. The posts of these may still be seen protruding above the water. Here vessels were loaded and unloaded by small scows at considerable expense. He also erected a beacon light on poles. He next built a boarding house just north of the mill and opened the first store in one of the rooms. Later, in 1857, he built a large store just west of the bridge on the property Dr, Lemke recently purchased. The upper part of this store was a large hall, called Middlesex Hall and was the center of all activities for many years. Mr. Mears named his section of the village, Middlesex, after his native county in Massachusetts, thus making the nucleus of two settlements in Pentwater Township. From the records of the Municipal History of Oceana County, a board of supervisors was organized June 1, 1855 with three towns, Claybanks, Stony Creek and Pentwater represented, E. R. Cobb representing Pentwater. At the next meeting in October, 1855, $300 was ordered raised for county expenses, and the county seat was fixed, as far as a resolution of the board could fix it, on the south west quarter of south east quarter of Section 8 of Claybanks, in a place popularly known as "Whiskey Creek." A log jail was erected and used until 1864 when the county seat was moved to Hart. A frame dwelling, which was used as a hotel, also housed the county offices. The establishment of the County seat on the lake shore, no doubt, was because all travel was along the beach. As this point was about mid-way between the two settlements, it seemed a most logical place. Buy why the name "Whiskey Creek"? A quotation from the Oceana County History describes the situation very clearly. "Among the new settlers that came to Claybanks was George Stewart, who lived in a house in the hollow, with a small creek running under it. He opened a kind of restaurant, selling whiskey largely, in the fall of the year he laid in a stock of one barrel, but in the course of the winter he sold out five barrels and still had two barrels left in the spring. As the people were foolish enough to suppose the creek had something to do with it, it got the name of "Whiskey Creek." Pic1 An ariel view of Pentwater showing the lake and channel improved upon by Charles Mears over 150 years ago.

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