HISTORY OF MOORESTOWN

This paper will be a rewrite of the story of the founding of Moorestown as prepared by me for reading at the first Norwich Township Homecoming held at Moorestown on May 28, 1949, in the school basement. Some portions of the original have been deleted and a few statements found to be not exactly true have been corrected. And some additional information gained in the years since 1949 has been added.

Fred C. Hirzel

To begin with: the reason for the founding of Moorestown was pine timber. The reason for locating Moorestown right where it is was the fact that the land, unlike the usual sand where pine timber grows, was suitable for raising hay, oats, corn and root crops such as rutabagas, carrots, potatoes to provide food for both man and beast. Here would be established "Perry's Camps" and numerous barns to shelter up to at least 20 teams of horses besides cattle which would provide beef; and a "Head Quarters farm" was immediately cleared of the hardwood timber, mostly burned in log heaps, to provide the land on which to grow the crops in a region yet insufficiently inhabited by farmers from which such as was needed could be obtained.

Mr. J. Henry Moores, who owned a large tract of very good pine timber in the area, had been logging on the Clam River and on the Butterfield in 1878-79, and in 1880 Moores was also putting logs into the West Branch of the Muskegon River where in about the N.W. corner of the N.E. of N.E. 1/2 of Section 26, in West Branch Township, he had "Moores Dam," into the impounded waters and the river bank he was already dumping, and in the winter time, "banking" logs. The first big job after spring had arrived and the river ice was out, was the breaking of the rollways and the driving of the logs down the smaller rivers, to, in this case, the main Muskegon River. The "breaking" of the "rollways" was a dangerous, but exciting job to which the men applied themselves as though it was an every day occasion. Wherever any sort of fairly good roads existed or where a logging railroad was, the logging companies sometimes took many people there to see the breaking of the rollways. This spectacle described to me by the late Mr. William Twining, father of Mrs. Clair Bartholomew of Lake City, and is also told in "Michigan Log Marks" by Michigan State University Press. The thunderous roar and even the trembling of the ground under the impact of hundreds of tons of logs rushing down from heights of sometimes up to sixty feet furnished great excitement.

Once the logs were in the river the rivermen with calked river boots, peavys and pike poles and with water released from one or more of the dams followed the logs down to the main Muskegon River. This was not exactly a picnic as many logs would float out into marshes far from the river's course. This necessitated what was known as "sacking". Sacking meant jumping right into the water and pushing the log along, sometimes amid floating ice, to the main channel. When the logs were in the main river, it was a day for rejoicing and it was said of the logs that "The drive is in". And while I have never yet seen the meaning of those words explained, it meant just exactly this: That until that drive was "IN" in the main river, where the "Log Owner's Booming Company" would take over, the men who had done all this work and the contractor by whom they were employed, would get not one cent of pay. And in a bad year of little or no snow and no spring rain, hence no water to move the logs, numerous operators have been reduced to complete bankruptcy.

In the spring of 1881, after the drive was in, Mr. Joel Perry of Big Rapids, a veteran lumberman who had been employed since 1878, by Mr. J. Henry Moores as his woods superintendent came, not to a "hole in the woods", but to a spot in a still unbroken forest on the south edge of Section 23 where he established what for sometime was known as "Perry's Camps". This would not only be the site of Perry's camps but of Moorestown and the Moores' headquarter farm.

As soon as the camps were built, Perry contracted with Walter Gorthy of Norwich, later named Stittsville, to bring his portable saw mill to the camps to cut out timber for a tram road. A tram road was a sort of railroad of which the rails would be sawed wooden rails or poles on which the cars would run, pulled by horses, I have one of those old 3 x 5 inch maple rails on which steam locomotives were finally used, on which it was found that locomotives could not be used on such rails. The rail I have has the grease on it, dropped by the locomotive in 1881, or eighty-five years ago. This tram road having proved a failure, the entire trackage was renewed with steel rails and with the arrival of Moores' first steam locomotive, named the "Josie" on March 10, 1882, hauled in from Fife Lake on heavy sleighs by several teams of horses and by the use of blocks and tackle and wire cable attached to trees, they got up and over the hills after a trip requiring several weeks. Anyone who would go today to see that so-called road would be quite likely to believe that this could not have been done.

News items in the Lake City Journal tell of Mr. Perry's rather frequent trips to his home in Big Rapids for hospitalization, etc. had finally got to where Mr. Moores had to dispense with the services of Mr. Perry and to hire in his stead Mr. Samuel H. Hemphile, also of Big Rapids to come to Moorestown to take over the superintendency of railroad construction and logging operations. Hemphile, in addition to the Moores' teams, had engaged from farmers and other wherever obtainable every spare team in Missaukee County and in the Fife Lake region. He obtained more than a hundred teams and wagons and on one day in June a procession of one hundred teams pulled into Moorestown with one hundred wagon loads of railroad iron unloaded from G.R. & I. Railroad cars at Fife Lake. The need of making haste and of getting that railroad running in the shortest possible time - regardless of expense - was apparent to Mr. Sam Hemphile.

The woods and the skidways in the woods along the railroad were filled with 8,000,000 feet of white pine logs, and Hemphile was very much concerned lest the late start they were getting in putting the logs to the river and afloat toward the saw mills at Muskegon might leave part or all of the winter's cut "high and dry" and subject to the danger of being consumed by fire, or made unmarketable by the action of worms.

This railroad, which in fact was known as the West Branch and Moorestown Railroad, had "Articles of Association" filed with the Secretary of State and according to an article in Lake City Journal dated March 14, 1882, the Capital stock of this Company was $100,000.00, of which 5% had been paid in. J. Henry Moores of Lansing was President of the corporation and owned a controlling interest. At that time there was no railroad of any kind at Lake City and there had not been.

This railroad ran an excursion train of log cars fitted with planks for seats to bring the populace of West Branch to Moorestown to a Fourth of July celebration on July 4, 1882, with everything furnished free by J. Henry Moores.

In December 1882, a second locomotive named "J. Henry Moores" was also hauled in on sleighs from Fife Lake thus doubling the capacity of the road. Mr. Moores logged until May 1887 at which time his timber had all been cut. He sold his railroad and camp equipment, horses, etc. to Edwin P. Stone of Saginaw who moved same into what now is the oil well territory east of Moorestown. Here they began logging, their road connecting with that of Blodgett & Bryne who were lumbering in Crawford and Roscommon Counties. Both Companies put their logs into the Muskegon River at the same place, "The Dump", also known as "The Rollway" and "The Landing".

The pine which Mr. Moores logged off here was among the largest and finest in the state. Stumps, still intact, are mute evidence of this fact. Moores' total cut is believed to have exceeded 250,000,000 feet.

I would like to speak briefly of Mr Moores' character and personality. He was definitely a scholar, a gentleman and a Christian. He was exceedingly accommodating even to the point of injustice to himself. He gave to the City of Lansing a Moores School, Frances Park (named for his wife) and the beautiful Moores River Drive. At the time of his death the Lansing Journal spoke highly of him as a philanthropist and Grand man of that City.

It is indeed interesting to note the extent to which the influence of good and noble men and women of high ideals can lift up the economic, social and intellectual standards of others for generations after the one who sowed the seed is dead and gone. Such a man was J. Henry Moores who for a time conducted a night school on the second floor of his Moorestown store, which at that time was rated largest and heaviest stocked of any in the County. Here the lumberjacks and any others who desired to do so were invited to attend without charge. At such times as Mr. Moores was in the village looking after his business, he personally assisted with the teaching. When he was not here the classes in spelling, English and mathematics were conducted by his store manager and bookkeeper, Mr. Crawford of Lansing. One prominent man in this township has told me that it is his belief that Mr. Moores' influence with his father was the incentive which impelled his father to become a self educated and successful man.

Mr. Moores' widow, Mrs. S. Frances Moores, called on me one day in the summer of 1927. This being the last time she ever saw the place. I casually remarked to her that Moorestown of course wasn't much but that I was born here and that I like it. "Well," she said, "Mr. Hirzel, Mr. Moores always had a kindly feeling in his heart for Moorestown and he often said that he made his first $25,000.00 here."

Missaukee County, including Norwich Township, has in my opinion furnished its creditable and not below average portion - according to its population - of the worth while men and women who are performing well on the Stage of Life both at home and elsewhere throughout the county and abroad. Time will not permit me to enumerate them or to name them even if I could. This Township and this County has produced numerous men and women who have college degrees. We boast of at least one physician; a lawyer or two; several ministers of the gospel; educators; a missionary; salesmen and executives to business both great and small. As an example of what one man born in a wilderness had achieved, I cite one who is not here today and has no kin here. Therefore I can boast of him behind his back. This man was born in 1890 in the J. H. Moores boarding house in Moorestown where his mother was superintending the preparation of the food for the Moores sawmill crew. This boarding house stood on the East side of Center Street about 250 yards south of the intersection with the main street. The name of this man is Clyde E. Weed who joined Anaconda Copper Co. And arose from Vice President of Underground mining operations in the company mines in the Andes Mountains and finally to President and Chairman of the Board and Chief executive officer of his company. Mr. Weed retired in May, 1965.

And I know of no reason why I should fail to mention my own and only brother, William Hirzel. Born in Moorestown in 1887; went to Manila P.I. in 1907 in his 20th year; became Chief Accountant of the Bureau of Public Works for the Government of the Philippines from which position he resigned in 1915. William Hirzel was later (in 1916) employed by the Rockefeller Foundation in relief work in Europe. When the United States entered the first World War in 1917 he was employed as Chief Clerk of the Disbursing and Legal Division of the American Air Forces in France where he served until nearly a year after the 1918 Armistice. He then was employed as Chief Accountant of The American Trading Company, Inc., Exporters and Importers and stationed in Japan where he served for about 22 years becoming President of the Japan subsidiary. During Word War II he was on loan from his Company to the United States Treasury Department where he served for about 3 - 1/2 years in the War Savings Bonds Division. After the War he returned to his company in New York where he became President and eventually Chairman of the board. He is now in semi-retirement after about 47 years service but still attends office two days a week.

Fred C. Hirzel
 
 

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