Some Facts Of Missaukee County In The Early Days

     The urge to move forward beats in every human breast.  Sometimes the path ahead may be clearly marked out, but at other times it may lead through dangerous forests, through rivers and dense fogs.  Every gain that has been made, individually or as a group, has been made at tremendous sacrifice, sometimes of life, again of poverty, then of comforts, but nevertheless the urge to go forward beats in every human breast just the same today as at the time of the early settlement of this county.

     Unfortunately for the student of history, the Indians who occupied this county before the coming of the white men kept no records and his history here is nearly all lost.  In this particular section there was little contact between whites and the red owners, since the latter had ceded their rights and removed from this county before any early settlements were made in this vicinity.

     Mention is made by Alexander Blackbird in his history of the Chippewa and Ottawa Indians that the Ottawas, Chippewas and the Iroquois had at some time or other settled in this county and that a continual warfare was waged to see who would retain possession of what was then known as the most wonderful hunting grounds known to them.  It is related that the Ottawa and Chippewa nations came near going to war once over the slaying in a private feud of a Chippawa by an Ottawa and the Chippawas were finally appeased by a treaty permitting them to share this greatly coveted hunting ground, that thereafter they used it in common and found plenty of game for both; and used what is now known as Missaukee county as their winter home.  In the summer time after the sugar was made from the maples of Missaukee, the Indians went down the river again, and coasted back to their summer home in the lower or upper peninsular wherever their permanent home might have been.

     The name Missaukee taken from an article entitled “History and meaning of the county names of Michigan” by Wm. L. Jenks of Port Huron, Mich., for the Michigan Pioneer and Historical collections Vol. 38, pp 439-478, was named after an Ottawa chief who signed the treaties of 1831 and 1833.  The name itself may be derived directly from a word meaning “at large mouth of river,” or Mississaugua an Indian tribe near the head of Georgian Bay “people of the wide mouth river.”  Missaukee was named by the legislature of 1840 which laid out and named twenty-eight counties completing the division into counties of the lower peninsula.

     The names of sixteen of these counties were changed in 1843, but this county retained it original name.

     The honor of being the first white settler in this county is somewhat disputed.  Some say that the Richardsons were first, while others claim that the Vogels established a permanent home here first.  Never-the-less, according to the enrollment book of the old settlers the honor of being the first white settlers in this county goes to the Richardson family who settled in Pioneer township in 1867.  Mr. Richardson and his family settled on section 26, township 24 north, range 7 west, near the village of Pioneer.  M.D. Richardson was born April 10, 1846 and his wife, Sarah Richardson, was born July 29, 1848.  The Richardsons had two children, A.A. Richardson, who was born May 29, 1873 and Miss Etta Richardson, who was born March 28, 1870.  Both were born in Missaukee county.

     The second family to settle in Missaukee county was the family of John Vogel who settled near what is now called Vogel Center.  Mr. Vogel held several of the county offices and was considered a brave and upright citizen of the county.

     The third family to settle in this county was Daniel Reeder, who was the first settler to settle in what is now Lake City.

     The Reeders were of typical sturdy English Stock.  The father was a bluff square-built Englishman and might have sat for the portrait of the typical Johnny Bull.  The mother was an Englishwoman of a different type, a quaint sweet Quaker lady whose sober dress and quiet “thees and thous” sounded oddly in the ears of the early somewhat rough speaking crowd of pioneers and woodsmen that formed the population of this place in that day.

     The Reeders had six children: Two daughters, Harriet (now Mrs. J. J. Pollard of Forest township, Missaukee county) and Selina (now Mrs. C. Reeder of Erie, Pa.) and four boys, William, Washington, Charles and Daniel.

     Daniel Reeder, founder of Lake City, and one of the first three men to actually locate and take up a residence in Missaukee county was a resident of Missaukee county since he first set foot on it.  The following is a biographical sketch of Daniel Reeder relating the circumstances pertaining to his first visit to the site of this city and was prepared from data furnished by Mr. Reeder himself (published in the Plain Dealer May 19, 1897) and facts given by his daughter Agnes (Mrs. Agnes Ransom of Lake City, Mich.)

     Daniel Reeder was born in Newmarket, York county, Canada, June 24, 1833.  In 1836 the family moved to Oakwood, Victoria, Canada.  On Feb. 15, 1855, Mr. Reeder was married to Elizabeth Bateman and to this union five children were born: Agnes (now Mrs. Agnes Ransom), Orilla (now Mrs. Orilla Ostrander), George E. Reeder of Duluth, Minn., John C. Reeder of Foster, Calif., and Miss Lizzie Reeder who died June 20, 1878.

     In the autumn of 1867, Mr. Reeder came to Big Rapids, Mich., and remained through the winter.  On May 1, 1868, he and four others organized themselves into a company to come to Missaukee county to look for homes.  They came with a team as far as McDonald’s camp on the Clam river, a mile and a half below Falmouth, Mich.  That was the end of the road.  From there they walked, the company arriving at Muskrat lake (now known as Missaukee Lake) May 12 and stayed all night on its bank.  Next day, Mr. Reeder looked the adjoining country over and the party returned to the team.  During that night he fully determined to locate beside Muskrat lake.  In the morning he told his companions his decision, and they laughed at the idea and tried to dissuade him, but without avail.  They divided their provisions, he taking his share and two blankets, and prepared to start when the owner of the team said that he couldn’t see Reeder go alone, so it was arranged with the rest that the latter were to go to Houghton Lake with the team and Reeder and his companions would come back and look Muskrat lake country over more thoroughly.  This was done.

     Next morning both decided to locate here on section six, and at sunrise they departed, Mr. Reeder going to Traverse City on the night of the May 17, 1868, Mr. Reeder, on the 18th located the north half of section six.  From there he returned to Big Rapids on foot (this being the only mode of travel at the time) and met the other four men who had just returned from Houghton Lake with a half a cheese box full of fish.

     June 16th, the five reinforced now by William Reeder, a brother of Daniel Reeder, arrived back at Muskrat lake with the team and wagon.  Next afternoon they cut logs and put up a shanty of about 14x20 feet, one-story high which was the first building of any kind built by a white man on or near Muskrat lake (now know as Lake Missaukee).  In the afternoon they looked up a location for each of the others, but that night two of them decided to go back from where they came, and the next morning three of them started for Traverse City.  On reaching there, William Reeder located his land but the other two went back without locating any.  The brothers, Daniel and William Reeder, remained here during the summer and in the fall returned to Canada, returning here again in October, accompanied by Daniel Reeder’s children and his brother Washington Reeder.

     The following is a narrative of the trip from Canada to Lake City as given by Daniel Reeder’s daughter Agnes (now Mrs. Agnes Ransom):

     Sometime in October of 1868 my father decided to go back to Muskrat lake, so we hurriedly made preparation and left for Traverse City which was the nearest place to purchase any provisions at that time.  We landed in Traverse City on Monday and after getting a good meal and much preparation, buying of provisions, etc., we decided to leave for the remainder of the journey Tuesday morning .  Early Tuesday morning we left Traverse City with a little one-horse cart carrying our provisions, and the children, Uncle Washington Reeder and afther [sic] walking.  It was an interesting trip for some but not for me, as I was not used to walking, and during the day my poor tender feet began to swell and by night they were swollen quite badly so we stopped at Mayfield (about 10 miles southeast of Traverse City) at a Mr. Wilson’s home, staying there Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday.  Thursday morning we again started out on our trip and after considerable walking we decided to camp in the wilderness Thursday night.  Sitting around the fire that night everyone was happy thinking of their new adventure and of the new home we were going to.  Father telling us children all about it and the wonderful lake nearby.

     After traveling all day Friday, we finally arrived at Mr. Richardson’s home in Pioneer township late that evening where we decided to spend the evening.  Saturday morning we left bright and early, the children being all excited thinking of our new home which we expected to reach that day, and about noon we arrived to it.  We were very happy and I remember very vividly of the early settlers who came to our home to get their mail.  Our home being the first postoffice in Lake City, the mail was brought to us by the early settlers who went to get their provisions about every two or three months.

     The first Mrs. Reeder died on April 1, 1865, and Mr. Reeder was united in marriage with Mary Quick on Feb. 29, 1872.  To them two children were born, Martin D. and Louisa.  Daniel Reeder remained in Lake City until his death, April 26, 1912.  He was connected with several of our business enterprises and was a successful agriculturist and business man with a tender heart and a kind word for his people.

(Continued next week)


Some Facts Of Missaukee County In The Early Days

(Continued from last week)

     One of the best sketches of pioneer times in Lake City and Missaukee county was prepared by Mrs. Reeder and read in a paper in 1902 before the old settler’s reunion of that year, and from the paper mentioned are collated the salient facts comprising the county’s history.

     The first survey made of this end of the peninsula was made about the time that Michigan was admitted to statehood  and was under federal direction largely for the purpose it is said of securing a more definite and accurate map of the outline of the lower peninsula and the location of the principal streams and lakes.  At this time, 1837, the nearest trading points at which food and other supplies might be purchased were at Rix Robinson’s Post at Grand Rapids or at a fur traders post on Saginaw Bay.  North of here there was no white man nearer than Mackinac, and no settlement had yet been made on Grand Traverse Bay, but there was an Indian mission at what is now known as Harbor Springs.

     The first survey of the county was made by John Brink, D. S., in May 1837, and a resurvey was made by W.L. Coffinberry about 1853 to 1856.  The first and second homesteads in the county were taken by Mr. A.B. Clark, and a gentleman by the name of Laird, both of whom abandoned their claims before final proofs.  The third was taken by H.A. Ferris, who made final proof but never actually resided on it, and sold it soon afterward.  Mr. W. Richardson was the first who made a permanent home in the county.  The date of his claim being December 27th, 1867, and William J. Morey also homesteaded his land during the same month.

     The first recorded election was held April 3, 1861.  For Justice of the Supreme Court and other state offices, forty-one votes were cast, all Republican.  Of the first county election, the records in the county clerk’s office tell nothing.  All that can be ascertained is that sometime in the spring of 1871 a special election was held at which the following officers were chosen:  John Vogel, judge of probate; Gillis McBain, sheriff; E.W. Watson, clerk and register; Ira VanMeter, treasurer; A. Stout, surveyor.  The circuit judge, T.J. Ramsdell of Traverse City, appointed L.H. Gage of Traverse City, prosecuting attorney for this county, there being no attorney within its limits.

     The county seat was located at Falmouth, a permanent site to be fixed by the voters later.  It is related by the old settlers here that in June 1873 a vote was taken in the county as to where the county seat was to be and that both sides, the Falmouth and Reeder (now known as  Lake City) organizations, brought in or imported a great many of their votes and the Reeder organization won only by about one vote, and a high old time was held in Reeder that night.

     The first board of supervisors met at the Perley farm, about two miles northeast of Falmouth (Pinhook) on June 6th, 1871.  Those present were William J. Morey of Pioneer, James White of Quilna (now known as Caldwell and Bloomfield townships), Daniel Reeder of Reeder, John Vogel of Clam Union and Henry VanMeter of Riverside.  Mr. Reeder was elected chairman.  The salaries of the county officers were fixed by this board as follows:  Clerk, $500; treasurer, $250; prosecuting attorney, $200; judge of probate, $100, and the sheriff, $100 per year.  At this session the Osceola Outline of Hersey was designated as the official paper of the county.  The first general election on record was held in November of 1872  during the Grand and Greeley campaign.  There were one hundred and nineteen national ballots polled, Grant receiving one hundred and eleven and Greeley eight.  On the county ticket John Vogel was re-elected probate judge; Otto Schaap, sheriff; M.D. Richardson, clerk and register; B.C. Bonnell, surveyor, and Thomas T. Caldwell and Addison T. Smith, coroners.

     The first birth that occurred in the county was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Vogel, born June 20, 1869.  The second child to be born in this county was Etta, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M.D. Richarson, and was born March 28, 1870.  The first male child to be born in this county was born Sept. 16, 1871, and was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas L. and Hattie C. Caldwell.  The second male child to be born in the county was William Wallace, born Oct. 14, 1871, and was the son of George and Minnie Wallace.  The first death that occurred was that of Albert Richardson, March 21, 1870.  The first marriage was John Cavanaugh and Miss Caroline VanMeter on March 1, 1871, and was solemnized by the Rev. W. Richardson.

     The first physician was Dr. Moorehouse of Falmouth and the resident attorney was A. C. Lewis, both later moving to California.  The first road was built in the fall of 1867, from the Watson farm to Falmouth, by a Mr. McDonald, and Oscar Noble constructed the first state road through the county, which was called the Houghton Lake State Road.

     The first logging camp in the county was built by W. Windson in 1865, on section 34, township 21 north, range 6 west, on the bank of the Clam river two miles below Vogel Center.  The first pole logging road was built by Paul Lux, Sr., in 1877, running from section 35, township 23 north, range 7 west, to the head of the West Branch or what is now known as the Gerish dam.  It was operated during the spring and summer of 1878 and brought in three million five hundred thousand feet of logs to the West Branch.

     The first railroad for running logs was built by Watson Brothers.  Tom Simpson also built one about the same time in 1876-7, the rails being part of iron and part of wood.  One road ran from the No. 2 farm on the Butterfield to the main Muskegon river.  The others ran to the Clam.  The first passenger road was completed in December 1885, by Mr. Cummer of Cadillac.  In the spring of 1890 the Missaukee branch of the Grand Rapids & Indiana was extended to Lake City.

     The first saw and shingle mill in the county was built by Pearly, Palmer & Company in the winter of 1871-2.  The first grist mill was erected at Falmouth.  The first hotel was also built at Falmouth in 1871 and was managed by John Cavanaugh.  The first deer, bear or wolf killed by a white man in this county was killed by a man by the name of Hicks in 1866.

     A temporary court house was built at Falmouth in 1871.  In 1873 a court house and jail were built at Lake City and in 1883, a new court house was erected at a cost of $10,000.  The new jail was erected in 1886 at a cost of something over $7,000.

     The agricultural society held their first fair in the year 1880 in Lake City, south of the house now owned by William J. Morey.  Since then it has been held on grounds purchased by the society.

     The first postoffice was at the home of Daniel Reeder at Reeder (now known as Lake City) in the spring of 1872.  Mail used to be brought to the settlers in the county by those who made long trips for provisions, and the settlers came for their mail when the trains returned.  The mail averaged perhaps one every two months.  The postoffice was first called Reeder and later changed to Lake City, and the village was platted under that name and incorporated in 1887 as a village with Arlington C. Lewis as the first president.

     The first store was built by John Koopman in October 1869, it being a log house residence and store combined.  In 1879 Mr. Koopman built a store at Falmouth.

     All of the lumber towns were filled with hotels and saloons those days to accommodate the jolly rough lumber jacks.  The little town of Lake City once supported fifteen saloons at one time.  Some of these places were filled with fun and good times but often the fun grew too boisterous and proved disastrous.

     With the coming of the county seat, Lake City began to prosper.  What is now known as Main street was at one time lined on both sides with hotels, tailor shops, restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, saloons and all other buildings that are necessary for a growing town.

     The railroad was a narrow gauge and at first came only to the shore of Muskrat lake at Komoka and the freight was carried across by boat in the summer and by sleighs in the winter, but finally the railroad was built on around the lake and the depot was sited somewhere in the back of Buck’s store (Buck’s store was situated where the Model Bakery now stands).

     At one time the shore of Lake Missaukee was lined with mills and the town supported a handle factory, a shingle factory and other mills.  Some of the mill owners were the Sands’, Kellys’, Clark’s, Inverson, Arbuckle and the Reeder mill.

     In history, as well as in fiction, everything does not run smooth, and Missaukee county had several small fires to destroy some of their historic buildings.  The largest fire in the old times was the fire of July 4th, 1888, which passed off pleasantly in the village of Lake City, and the dance was still going on at Buckley’s hall when the cry of “fire” was raised.  It originated in the pump room in M. Vanarsdale’s saloon building and was believed to be of incendiary origin.  The outside door of this room was fastened open with a stake driven in the ground and the first arrivals report the stake pulled up and the door fastened shut.  The first alarm was given by Mrs. A. Stout, who discovered it from her bedroom window.  The nightwatch was at the dance taking it easy.  The fire spread rapidly north, east and south and G.W. Wood’s hardware store was the only building left on the block in which most of the business of the town was done.

     The following is a list of the buildings burned at that time:  George W. Woods, hardware building, etc.; Mrs. S.A. Philip, small building; Missaukee County Bank, building; Fisher Drug Store, building; S.M. Ardis Dry Goods Store; M. Vanarsdale, saloon building; E. Des Voignes, store building; Will J. Roche’s Drug Store; Wm. A. Minthorn’s two-story building; Gaffney & Owens’ one-story building; J.K. Seafuse’s two-story building; Washington Reeder’s building; George Morrison’s two-story building; A. Stout’s residence and barn; M. Vanarsdal’s residence; Long & Whiteford’s two-story building and Mrs. Hattie Caldwell’s residence.

     Besides the above enumerated losses there were many small losses and nearly all of the boarders at the General Hotel lost some clothing, etc.

 Although some of our nearby counties have lost a good share of their logging days population, it is not so with Missaukee county.  The total population of Missaukee county according to the 1920 census was 9,004.  Approximately half of the population is of Holland Dutch descent, and settled in the neighborhood of the villages of Lucas, McBain, Falmouth, Moddersville and Arlene, while in and around the villages of Lake City, Pioneer, Morey and Merritt the population are mostly of English and Irish descendants with about one dozen families of Finlanders.  Missaukee county has but two families of colored people and approximately five families of Indians, one of which is a direct descendant of Chief Pontiac of the Pottowattomie tribe.  The Detroit Times a short time ago devoted a full page to feature the description and life of this great Indian.  Most of our Indian tribe is living in the southeast section of the county and many of their noble characteristics are gone due to their mingling with the white race.

     Moreover the love of trees, shrubs and flowers possessed by the pioneers has been passed on to the people of each succeeding period and the hundreds of beautiful homes in our county are surrounded by well kept lawns and trees, as well as beautiful shrubbery, shade and the street in front of most cases either gravelled or paved.  Visitors often remark that our little villages are very clean.  It has been the habit of our county for the past years to see that all objectionable sights were removed and that homes, lawns, farms, etc., were kept as clean as possible and the people here pride themselves in having some very fine homes and surroundings for a county of its size.  In Missaukee county we not only have several motorized fire departments, but it has been a custom for years that in case of fire each and every individual goes to the scene of the fire and help put it out in the best manner possible, and Missaukee county has had but two major fires since its organization in 1869.


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