April 29, 1954
(reprinted from the days when Floyd Mitchell was at the bank and R.E. Roe was at the Messenger office.)
(transcribed by: L. Johnson)
John S. Weidman was born in St. Clair County, Michigan, May 10, 1852. When he was 14, his parents, Evan and Harriet Weidman, settled in Hinton Township, Mecosta County, where they lived until John S. was 25 years of age, attending school and working on a farm, and also working as a river boy for logging camps, in which capacity his duties were to keep the logs going down the Muskegon River. These logs were started in Higgins and Houghton Lakes, then went down the Muskegon to Muskegon Bay, where they were delivered to the 100 sawmills lining its shore.
The river boy had the same duties as a section hand; it was his business to keep the line open. If a log jam occurred, he had to break it and start the logs again.
It was this experience on the logs that turned John S. Weidman’s attention to the lumbering business. In 1876 he bought 40 acres of land in Hinton Township. In 1877 he was employed in lumbering on the LittleMuskegon River and passed seven months in that occupation; then settled on a tract of 80 acres which he had bought for a homestead. He built a frame house and spent five months clearing his farm, then returned to lumbering again on the Muskegon, where he was occupied eight months. He continued lumbering and farming until he had a farm of 600 acres.
When did the dream of larger and still larger lumbering operations take possession of the young man’s mind? We cannot know; but it might very well have been at this stage of his industrial affairs. He visioned great tracts of land then covered with hardwood timber, made over into farming country. He foresaw towns springing up in favored locations surrounded by these new farmlands.
Perhaps (said the Weidman Messenger of Floyd Mitchell’s and R.E. Roe’s time)—but that was a fanciful dream, of course—there might be a town yet to develop that should bear his name. Fanciful? Perhaps so; but stranger things than that have happened. Even this dream might come true.
During the years spent on his farm in Hinton Township, where he ran a small sawmill, Mr. Weidman drew lumber from his farm to Lakeview, and became well known to the lumbering fraternity of the state. Among other customers was a large manufacturing plant in Belding, and a concern in Big Rapids that bought ten million feet of lumber.
He wore lumberjack clothes on his farm, and was at heart really a lumberjack instead of a farmer. He and Mrs. Weidman were frequently invited to meals at the homes of their friends and neighbors. On returning home a conversation something like this would ensue:
“What’s that white thing in your pocket, John?”
(Business of pulling out a white piece of cloth.)
“Why, John Weidman! That’s Mrs. So-and-so’s napkin! You put it in your pocket instead of back on the table!”
“Why, so I did,” John said with a sheepish grin.
Mrs. Weidman had to return many a napkin abducted in that manner.
Mr. Weidman was in Belding waiting for a train, once, and while waiting conversed with two well-dressed representatives of a big refrigerator company. John was dressed in his rough clothes, while the others were well tailored. He was trying to sell them a contract for lumber, but they could not agree on a price. Finally, one of the refrigerator men said.
“We’ll flip a silver dollar for the difference in price.”
In those days folks thought nothing of carrying around a pocketful of these unwieldy coins.
The flip was made, and the roughly-dressed lumberman won. He always won chances like
So the days passed, until the timber on his farm had been converted into lumber. Would he now have the farm stumped and settle down, or had lumbering got into his blood so that other opportunities would beckon him on and on? A chance conversation with a man named Miler, living near Remus, was the deciding factor. Mr. Weidman was not to settle down in Mecosta County. His future lay in Isabella.
HISTORY OF WEIDMAN
(this 2nd part of the history was in the following weeks paper)
Mr. Weidman had heard of large tracts of hardwood and hemlock in western Isabella County. Mr. Miller living near Remus, had been there and had seen this timber. If you are looking for something really big, he said, hereis your opportunity.
Accordingly, with his own farm cleared of timber, the young lumberman came to Isabella County to look things over. It was as Miller had said. There were large tracts of beautiful hardwood and hemlock, one that especially appealed to the prospector, starting at the junction of the Coldwater River and Walker Creek and running to the big hill known as “The Mountain” in Gilmore Township. It looked promising, but it was a big venture.
Here was the arena for a battle with fortune. Many men of lesser ability had passed the opportunity by, but this young lumberman from Mecosta County saw in the situationthe incentive that he needed to spur him on to greater achievement, so he decided to locate at the junction of these streams.
All this territory had been lumbered for pine by the Eddy Company of Saginaw, but the timber they had left was enough to keep a large mill busy for years. The hardwood was especially good on land now occupied (The Messenger said, ‘way back) by Will Warner, George Kunkel, John Faver and many others in northwestern Nottawa Township.
A new mill had to be purchased, as the one on his Hinton Township farm was too small for the work here. He found a band saw for sale in 1893 south of Bundy Hill and moved it to the new site. Workmen had to be fed and housed. Accordingly a dwelling was erected and here the Weidman family lived and the men boarded here. This building is now the Neubecker residence (now Clara Fox’s).
Another need was some sort of a store for those who had families and would live in their own homes. So a small office building was erected on the land that is now the Schauppner yard (Fred Cole’s). In the rear of this building were stored flour and other groceries, and the duties of the bookkeeper, Floyd Mitchell, who came to the new camp in 1894, included waiting on folks who wanted these commodities. This building has been moved, and is now occupied by the printing office of the Weidman Messenger. (And again occupied by the Messenger today.)
With the erection of the mill, work began in earnest. A dam had to be built to make a pond to float the logs in. A railroad had to be built to carry out the lumber. Both these projects were accomplished in 1893. There was always one and sometimes two trains a day. Even as late as 1913 Weidman had one train a day and it carried the mail. On every Weidman Day an excursion train was run from Big Rapids to Weidman.
In order to keep a large saw mill, shingle mill, planing mill and numerous logging camps running, it took large crews of men. These men had to build homes for themselves and their families. Houses were built and Weidman rapidly took on the appearance of a village.
From here on we leave the reprint stories of the old Messenger histories, and give you a sketchy account of a few highlights that have come to our attention.
Oscar Rufner’s father, John Rufner, built the first house in Weidman, Oscar points out, situated back of Leon McArthur’s place at this time. The men worked 12 hours a day at the sawmill, he recalls, six days a week, and Mr. Rufner Senior built the house in his spare time, after work.
Henry Robinson was the first white child born in Weidman, (1897). There were many papooses, it has been pointed out. Marie Dellsworth (Mrs. Walter H. Smith) was the first white girl-baby born here. Mr. Dellsworth was a barber, his shop and home being about where Bill Louisell’s shop now stands. Henry Robinson’s father was Fred, a brother of Ott Robinson.
Royal Gibbs built a large hotel building on what he thought would be Main Street. Later the building was moved to the corner of Main and Third, where it prospered for many years. Eventually two hotels had livery stables doing good business. When the hotel business diminished, Charlie Carr started a livery stable at the corner of Third and Parsons Streets.
Charles Woolworth came to Weidman in 1896 and started a harness shop, which did business until around World War I, when automobiles began driving the horses out of business. Mr. Woolworth moved to Mt. Pleasant, where he took on an auto agency, and of late years he was with Lee Equipment Company, on farm machinery.
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