by Lafayette P. Deming
L. P. DEMING of Mt. Pleasant is the contributor in this weeks installment of the old-timer’s reminiscences and he relates the hardships of the days immediately following the surrender General Robert E. LEE which ended the Civil War and signalized the beginning of the ear of prosperity and advancement which has been the lot of these United States since that time.
Mr. DEMING was one of the earlier farmers of the section and was engaged in that occupation at a time when hand flails were the tools used for threshing out the small amount of grain raised on the small patches of land cleared. He tells of having three pecks of wheat left out of his first crop. Some difference in that yield and what some of the Isabella growers reap every season nowadays.
He says that the first corn on his place was planted by making holes in the ground with an ax and placing the kernels of corn in the ground and covering over with the foot as the planter moved along the row.
Mr. DEMING was married June 6, 1867, to Miss Ida JOCELYN in Gratiot county. The JOCELYNS were neighbors.
Here’s his story in his own words:
I came to my parent’s home in Lincoln township as soon as I had been discharged from service at the close of the War of the Rebellion, in 1865. My father and mother, Lucian M. and Lucinda (HASTINGS) DEMING, had moved from Eaton county to Isabella a short time previous.
I came direct from Washington, D.C., on an over crowded train and was obliged to ride on the coaches or hang on anywhere with the scores of other boys, all anxious to see the home folks once more. I tramped in home from the nearest railroad station.
I lived at my father’s until the next year when I began making myself a home on the north half of the southeast quarter of section 21, Lincoln. The neighbors joined in raising the logs for the wall of the little house 16 x 20 feet in size, and James GUTHRIE did the finishing, as he was a carpenter.
I had made a clearing of two acres and packed three bushels of wheat one and a half miles on my back to sow the first season. At harvest time, after threshing the grain out on the ground, using a flail, and paying the expenses, I had three pecks of wheat for my summer’s labor. I often failed to raise crops enough to supply the family needs—not wants—and had to resort to various means to secure them. We had to carry flour and other foods on our backs from St. Johns, Salt River or Indian Mills.
Frequently in the winter I worked in the lumber woods, as did many of my neighbors. I recollect very plainly one time having poor footwear. I froze my feet so I was compelled to quit work. When employment was not to be had, we used to hunt for deer, squirrels, etc.
Often visiting parties would meet and talk over their mutual interests and common welfare. Among these friendly people in our section were Henry BEEBE, Mr. FLANSBURG, Perry GUTHRIE, Mr. BRENNER and John MAXWELL, who afterwards served our county satisfactorily for many years as judge of probate. They were always ready to offer any assistance wherever needed. Logging bees, raisings and any other enterprise that required many hands was the scene of gatherings of settlers, many coming miles for the social part that always followed such events.
But, take it all in all, the pioneers reared healthy, happy families, and many of them are now living in the county and enjoying the fruits of their parent’s hard work and privation.
Back breaking history in Isabella county leads the wandered far a field, oftentimes with the result that the trails lead to other counties and cities. In following the byways of the pioneer one comes across a fresh trail that leads to Two Rivers and one of the oldest and most distinguished of Michigan’s pioneers, John Adams DREW, who on Feb. 18, was the honor guest at his home at a birthday party on the occasion of his 91st. birthday. Mr. DREW arrived in Detroit 86 years ago from New York, crossing Lake Erie. He has always been a subscriber to the Enterprise.
Another pioneer, also 91 years of age, is Mrs. GRIMM of Farwell, Route 1, mother of L. GRIMM of route 1, Farwell. She has lived in Isabella county continuously since 1866 in Coe and Gilmore townships. Mr. GRIMM writes that he has a neighbor, also a pioneer, who is but a few months younger than his aged mother. He is John RAWSON, Sr. Mr. GRIMM asks, in his letter, concerning a Mr. RANKIN formerly neighbor of theirs in Coe township, who had passed his 91st. milestone a few years ago.
Mrs. Hannah FRANCISCO, 601 South Lansing Street, is another one of the pioneers of Isabella county who has traveled far along the road of life. She is past 80 years of age and moved with her folks to Isabella county from Clinton county in February 1858. In 1874, she came to Mt. Pleasant and has made her home here since that time.
M. B. DIMON, who lives a mile and one-half east of Fitzpatrick corners is one of the distinguished few and used to carry mail to St. Louis to the train there and took the first issues of the Enterprise out. He has lived in this county 67 years and was a hotel man in Isabella county before Mt. Pleasant was anything but a four corners.
Mrs. Margaret TINKER, living near Remus is another of the pioneers of this section. She is 88 years of age and has lived here fifty odd years.
Mrs. M. A. JOHNSON of Lake, route 1, is over 80 years of age and one of the pioneers, having come to this county in the early days of its settlement.
Dell KENT of Weidman, route 1, who is 71 years of age, came here more than 52 years ago.
Dr. Thomas Hill Maynard
Dr. Thomas Hill Maynard of Clare is our correspondent this week in telling of the days of the unbroken forest in Isabella county and his narrative perhaps will enlighten some of those of our readers who have imagined the life of the physician is one of the easiest and most lucrative in the world. While conditions have changed for the better, these caretakers of the health of the community still give much of their time and knowledge to the care of the sick and well.
Dr. MAYNARD has reached his eighty-second year, and has been in active practice in this section for a period of thirty-six years. He relates in his letter that during the first year of his practice he traveled 2,500 miles. We say traveled, but he tells us he walked the distance. The woods were full of trails and these were made use of by the hardy young physician in ministering to the wants of his clientele.
Money was a scarce article among the few settlers during those early days, Dr. MAYNARD no doubt took out many a fee in grub—that being even more important than money many times. The distance from sources of supply compelled the early inhabitants to depend upon themselves and their guns to a great extent for a livelihood. The farms had not been developed to such an extent that they could be depended upon to furnish a steady supply of food and wild game became tiresome. Wild berries of course furnished the dessert of those days, but even they became a thing that paled on the palate after dose after dose.
The early pioneers believed in the motto of the Three Musketeers, “one for all and all for one.” If one were in trouble or in need of food or clothing the rest were always ready to share with him. Their gatherings were real social affairs, visiting and telling the news of their particular section. Many a story of the experiences of the settlers, if it could now be told, would be more interesting than any news story that falls to the lot of the reporter.
We will now step out of the limelight and let Dr. MAYNARD tell us his story in his own words:
I feel my inability to write up the early history of Vernon township, but will start with my full name, Thomas Hill MAYNARD, M. D., who came from northern Indiana and located in Vernon township Oct. 16, 1888. I was the first physician who located north of Mt. Pleasant. During my first year of practice I walked 1,500 miles in visiting the sick, traveling over trails made by settlers and Indians through the woods.
There was an epidemic of bloody dysentery and it was of a rather grave character. I treated 64 patients, and four of them succumbed to the dreaded disease.
My mind often goes back to those days, and I think how kind the settlers were to each other. We were all in common. When you would meet your neighbor the first thing was a hearty shake of the hand, and the usual question was, “Have you got anything to eat?” I had been short myself for several days and finally got down to seventeen crackers, for supper and breakfast. I ate nine of the crackers and drank a little wet water for supper and went to bed, and in the morning I ate a very hearty breakfast of the remaining crackers.
I was still hungry and financially embarrassed. I started to go to the home of William PHINISEY, and it so came about that I met him. He said, “How do you do, Doc?” After shaking hands he said to me, “Have you got anything to eat?” I am lead to believe that I looked over towards New York City, and said in a rather faint tone of voice, “yes”.
He said, “you look hungry. Come over to the house with me and I will supply you with a little food.” He presented me with some flour and port and potatoes. I was not long in getting home and had dinner.
There were only a few settlers who had once cent of money, but there was not one who would not divide his last morsel of food with you.
Old Duncan CARMICHAEL was the first settler who came in June, 1865. William PHINISEY came in September 1865. There is not now a man and woman living together today who were husband and wife fifty-seven years ago. It is almost an entirely new generation that has grown to womanhood and manhood. Us old settlers took much comfort together; there was no money to speak of with any of us.
I love the practice of medicine, and also like the people here. I have passed my eighty-second year and am still in the harness.
Thanking you for the invitation to make a little showing.
T. H. HILL
Early days of Caldwell
Pioneer activities in the little settlement of Caldwell more than 50 years ago are vividly described in an article sent in by Mrs. Mary RARDEN BATTIN, one of the pioneer residents of the county. Mrs. BATTIN came to Isabella county forty-four years ago the 12th of last March. Her husband, Jerome RURDEN, and Henry BACON opened the first sawmill at Two Rivers, now known as Caldwell. Mrs. BATTIN has taken the Enterprise since 1883.
Mrs. BATTIN writes of the early days of Two Rivers, when she first became a resident of that place.
The first three families around Two Rivers then were A.J. STANSELL, Henry WARD, Samuel CRAFT, and farther west were Seth SMITH, John WOLFE, Theo. HUMMELL and Theo. COOK.
In those days we all joined together to make each one happy and as contented as we could be to keep us from getting homesick. We all had to go to Millbrook for our mail and got it when we got a chance. If we wanted a doctor we had to make a trip there and back, so that there is some difference between then and now, when we can step to a telephone and call a doctor who has a care to come to one’s home in.
We had no fruit but blackberries, which we grew tired of. However, some would taste very good now.
This clipping was printed about 24 years ago and you are welcome to use it. I have taken the Enterprise since 1883.
Mrs. Mary RARDEN BATTIN
Early Days in Two Rivers
A stream of logs was going into a sawmill located a little below the junction of the Coldwater and Chippewa Rivers, on the latter stream 34 years ago. Henry BACON and Jerome RARDEN had come into the northern wilderness with their mill, and were sawing logs for whomever brought the logs to them.
Let us take a peep in the mill and see who is working there. Haley is head sawyer, Ben EVARTS is running the engine, Isaac SEE is the setter, S. O. SMILEY edgeman, Wallace RARDEN, tail edger. Up on the bluff where the village of Two Rivers, or Caldwell, now stands, James CALDWELL had put up a lot hotel, and Fred WIGGINS was running a grocery store. A few scattered dwellings in the clearing complete the picture of this little spot of human activity in the unbroken pine forest.
There was not post office there then. Folks went to Mt. Pleasant, where a branch of the D. & M., now the Pere Marquette, brought mail and supplies.
The town of Weidman was unthought of. Remus was on the map and was served by railroad.
The sawmill ran logs to order. One year Mr. HICKS furnished logs for its output; one year Mr. VANDECAR. S.O.SMILEY scaled for him one year.
In order to help pass the time away the women folks of the little settlement of Caldwell all helped in the cooking for the hotel. And in an occasional evening all gathered at one of the houses and danced till the small hour. SMILEY was fiddler and Mrs. RARDEN accompanied him on the melodin.
There were no fox trots, no hesitation waltzes; it was “balance to your partner,” “allsmond left” and “all hands around”. A waltz came once in a while and a few could dance the Scottische and polka, but for the most of the dances were straight guadrilles.
The sound of rhythmic feet and merry laughter floated on the still air. The snow, crisp and flaky, crackled in the biting cold, while the round moon and the twinkling stars looked down upon this little oasis of merriment in the northern wilderness.
Deer, bear, wildcats and lynx were all about them in the forest. A deer strayed into town one day and scared the SMILEY kid (Glen’s brother who died later) and another youngster so that they fell into a well, and their mothers had an awful time getting them out.
The youngsters went to school in a little shanty where the present school house stands, and here every other Sunday Rev. SEARLES preached. He was a Methodist circuit rider and rode over from Dushville.
Later, about 28 years ago, Mr. CALDWELL established a post office, which was named after him.
The store keepers at various times were Richardson & Allen, Charles L. MOSES, James & Sons, William HEAD, F. M. BAKER, S. O. SMILEY bought a stock of John DREW and has run a store there ever since, the firm now being Smily & Son.
Richardson and Davis afterward put in another saw and shingle mill, about twenty-seven years ago, 100 rods below the first mill on the Chippewa.
Now, where the unbroken forest stood are well-kept farms, beautiful homes, an not a trace of the original pine. All is gone, and in its place agricultural fertility and cultivated fields stretch away on all sides.
The first issue of the Northern Pioneer was issued at Mt. Pleasant, June 7, 1865. O. B. CHURCH was the editor. Terms $1.00 a year.
William H. NELSON, Judge of Probate
John Q. A. JOHNSON, Sheriff
J. A. FANCHER, Isabella Co., Pros Atty, Circuit Court Commissioner and Surveyor
Langdon BENTLEY, Isabella Co. Treas.
Milton BRADLEY, Isabella Co., Clerk
Wallace W. PRESTON, Isabella Co. Register of Deeds
Enterprise February 2
Reuben Bowers located just east of Salt River in 1861, and in 1862 and 1863 worked in the woods, the later years helping to clear Kinney’s land and the camp was where the Ernest Burdick house now stands. For years he drove logs on the river, and is now one of the best men in the city’s employ
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