HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
THE COUNTY SEAT
Section 7 of the act of legislature under which the county was organized fixed the county seat at Vassar until the year 1860, or until permanently located by the supervisors. It was made the duty of the supervisors elected for 1860 to permanently locate the county seat.
For several years prior to 1860, it was apparent that the county seat campaign would be one of more than ordinary interest and activity. Vassar was anxious to continue the shire town, Centerville, now Caro, had been planted with the purpose that it should mature into the county seat, and Wahjamega complacently held its apron outstretched quite confident that it could not fail to catch the golden fruit, should the elements dislodge it from its hold at Vassar.
With so many eager for the fray it could not be expected that the issue would remain unapproached beyond the time prescribed by law; hence, we find that the supervisors at a meeting held January 11, 1860, adapted a resolution as follows:
With all due respect to to the advice of the prosecuting attorney in the case,
Resolved, That the sense of this board is that, under the constitution and laws of the State of Michigan, that this board has a legal right to take action in regard to the removal of that county seat of Tuscola County, as it has in their opinion remained at Vassar until the year 1860, according to the provision of session laws of 1850.
The resolution was adopted by a vote of twelve for the seven against.
At this time the population of the entire county was only 4,855, and the township of Indian Fields had a population of 128 and two competitors for the county capital.
June 18, 1860, the board of supervisors met at the house of Melvin Gibbs, in the township of Indian Fields, that being the place of meeting according to the request of the following supervisors, to wit: John H. Richardson, Alson Greenfield, Thomas Graham, George W. Sorter, Donald McKenzie, Jonathan F. Black, William B. Waldo and George H. Wilcox. On the following day
A resolution was introduced, locating the county seat at Vassar which was lost. A resolution wa then adapted declaring that it was the right and duty of the board to locate and establish the county seat with out submitting the question to a vote of the electors of the county. After defeating a resolution to indefinitely postpone, a resolution was adopted to vote by informal ballot for the location of the county seat each member to designate in his ballot the village plat or section of land for which his vote was intended. The result of the first informal ballot was as follows: Fore Watrousville, 5; Heartts, 2; section 35, Almer, 5; section 16, Watertown, 1; section 3, Indian Fields, 1.
Six informal ballots were taken, the complexion of the vote being changed each time.
At the meeting of June 20, a preamble and resolution were adopted by a vote of twelve to eight, permanently locating the county seat on the southwest quarter of section 34, in township 14 north, of range 11 east, being in the town of Elkland. Subsequently, at the same session a protest was offered and placed on record. The protest set forth that the question could only be legally settled by a two-thirds vote of the board, to be sanctioned by a vote of the electors of the county, and declared the action of the board to be illegal and void, and characterized by a spirit of factious opposition to the true interests of the county. This protest was signed by W. R. Bartlett, C. B. Mills, James Sanders, W. H. Randall, Thomas Briggs, W. M. Rogers, Cortez Gordon, William Hamilton.
A resolution was then adopted instructing the chairman to appoint a committee to purchase a site on the southwest quarter of the section 34, in township 14 north, of range 11 east, for a courthouse, jail, clerks office, or any other county buildings. It was also voted to continue the county business at Vassar, until the necessary county buildings could be procured. The committee appointed to purchase a site were as follows: S. Shadley, George H. Wilcox, J. F. Black, J. H. Richardson and George W. Sorter. This committee were also empowered to hire suitable buildings for the use of the county until proper buildings could be erected.
At the October session in 1860 a resolution locating the county seat at Watrousville, received seven votes for, and fourteen against. The village plat of Richland received thirteen for, and nine against. Ketchums plat on section 8, Indian Fields, received thirteen for, and for and eight against. Other resolutions naming different points in Indian Fields, were voted upon. At a meeting October 17th, the following preamble and resolution were adopted:
WHEREAS, The majority of the board of supervisors for the county of Tuscola, are of the opinion that the county seat of said county is legally located on the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 34, in township 14 north, of range 11 east, therefore,
RESOLVED, That the county clerk, county register, sheriff, judge of probate and county treasurer, are hereby ordered and required to remove to said county seat, with all of the books, papers, vouchers, moneys, goods, chattels, and all other valuable things belonging to said offices, on or before the first Tuesday of February next.
This resolution was adopted by a vote of eleven for and ten against. A resolution was also adopted appropriating $150 to be expended in procuring buildings.
January 11, 1861, it was voted to have a committee of two appointed to be associated with the prosecuting attorney, and to procure good and sufficient counsel to assist said prosecuting attorney in fully and fairly testing the legality of the location of the county site, in case legal proceedings should be taken to prevent the removal of the county offices to the new site. The committee consisted of Thomas Graham and John H. Richardson.
March 27, 1861, the board met at the house of A. Coggershall, in the village of Watrousville. The committee appointed to procure buildings at the county seat, reported that they had hired a building for the term of one year, from the first day of March, 1861, for the sum of $150, and that on their way to notify the clerk, an injunction had been served on them, strictly commanding them not to carry out the instructions of the board in regard to notifying the clerk. The board met June 10th, at Vassar, and at the same place in October.
By this time the new county seat had acquired a name and the next allusion to the place in the official, records designates it as Moonshine. But the name was all that locality ever acquired of the county seat.
The board continued to meet at Vassar, and October 19, 1863, the following resolution was adopted:
WHEREAS, The present county seat in inconvenient and remote fro a large portion of our population, and whereas, justice demands that a more convenient, accessible and permanent county seat be established; therefore,
Resolved, We, the board of supervisors of Tuscola County, believe it to be our duty to select some more central location for a county seat, that the same may be submitted to the people at the next annual election for their approval or rejection.
This resolution was adopted by a vote of eighteen for and three against. The usual number of resolution followed and were disposed of in the habitual way.
October 23, 1863, a resolution was adopted as follows:
Resolved, That in the event the present proposed location for the county see rejected by the people, then, in such case, we, as the board of supervisors, would cheerfully recommend some other point appearing more proper, be designated by some future board of supervisors.
It is not altogether clear that this resolution was intended to accomplish anything, but it was about the accustomed time for something on this question, and an innocent resolution like the foregoing might answer the purpose.
The proposed location referred to was Wahjamega, and upon the question of removing it to that point the electors voted at the spring election in April, 1864, and the result was a majority against removal. Centerville, of course, was opposed to its being removed to Wahjamega, and having defeated that project now bent all their energies toward accomplishing the success of their project.
October 18, 1865, the following resolution was offered by James W. Spencer, of Indian Fields:
Resolved, That the county seat of the county of Tuscola be removed for the northwest quarter of section 7, town 11 north, of range 8 east, and located on the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of section 3, town 12 north, of range 9 east, and the said southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of section 3, is hereby designated as the county seat of Tuscola County; and the said removal shall be submitted to the electors of said county for their rejection or approval at the annual township meeting to be held in April, 1866, and the sheriff of said county is hereby required to post notice as the law requires I such cases.
On motion of J. D. Lewis the board went into a committee of the whole on the resolution, and after deliberating upon it recommended its passage.
The resolution was then submitted to a vote, with the following result:
Yeas- James P. Demerest, Frank C. Edgar, John Anyon Hamilton Hobert, James W. Spencer, William Smith, John H. Richardson, Elijah S. White, James D. Sutton, Lorenzo Hurd, William Medcalf, Hugh Wilson, B. A. Wood, Philo L. King, James Wright Simeon Carson-16.
Nays-DeWitt C. Norton, Charles R Selder, D. P. Hinson, E. G. Godfrey, Hiram Remmick, J. D. Lewis, B. Colvin-7
This was the last resolution fixing a location of the county seat that came before the board.
RESULT OF THE ELECTION
TOWNSHIP WHOLE NUMBER FOR REMOVAL AGAINST REMOVAL
Arbela .. 118 6 112
Almer 99 99 0
Akron 78 77 1
Columbia 60 60 0
Dayton . 78 52 26
Denmark . 80 22 58
Elkland . 38 38 0
Elmwood 32 32 0
Ellington . 61 61 0
Fair Grove 111 109 2
Fremont 65 19 46
Geneva . 21 20 1
Gilford .. 32 6 26
Indian Fields .. 93 79 14
Juniata .. 161 93 68
Koylton . 22 22 0
Kingston . 27 24 8
Millington . 94 5 89
Tuscola 156 104 52
Vassar . 167 1 166
Watertown 55 0 55
Wells .. 12 12 0
Wisner 21 21 0
Total 1681 962 719
The pioneer, published at Vassar, and the only newspaper published in the county at that time, announced the result of the vote upon the question, with the following well-tempered comments:
This settles the question, a fact which we are glad to record. We hear it rumored that an effort will be made at a future meeting of the board of supervisors to designate some other point. We hope this will not be done. Money and time enough have already been spent in discussing this question. The people have emphatically said Centerville will best accommodate the people of the county. We do not believe this, yet the majority have so decided, and we hope this will settle the question. There may be those who have hopes that Vassar will join its interests with theirs in designating a new site. We have only to say to such, Vassar has always steadily voted against removal, and will continue so to do.
If we have erred in judgment as to the best interests of the county, it was from an honest conviction, which is not yet changed. We believe many who voted for removal will yet come to the conclusion that we were rightbut let by-gones be by-gones. The question is settled, the hatchet buried, and we hope never to be dug up. Let every village that has striven for the county seat go about its own business, count the strife at an end, and all will be well. The people of this place extend the welcome to Centerville and trust their intercourse in the future will be fraternal and profitable
June 11, 1866, the board met at Vassar to canvass the vote, and while the canvass was progressing Arnold B. Clark, of Dayton, appeared before the board and objected to the canvass being made, on the ground of illegality in the proceedings of the last board of supervisors, which illegality was alleged to consist in the fact that several parties appeared before that board as supervisors and voted on the question of removal, who were not supervisors, form the fact that the towns they assumed to represent, were not and never had been legally organized; and further, that the votes cast at the last election, on said removal, were, many of the, illegal. The foregoing objections were placed on record. The canvass of the vote was attended with some delays on account of informal returns from some of the townships and the absence of any returns from others. Messengers were sent to the various townships, and a final determination was not reached until June 15.
At the same meeting a resolution was adopted declaring that, suitable buildings having been provided for the county offices, the removal should be deemed to have taken place on that 15th day of June, 1866. A committee consisting of John H. Richardson, Lorenzo Hurd and D. G. Wilder was appointed to superintend the removal of all books, papers, records, etc., belonging to the county, to the place at which the county seat had been located.
Thus after six years of contention and uncertainty the capital of Tuscola County had a fixed abode. Tossed and buffeted by tempestuous strife, it had been borne on billows of fast succeeding resolutions hither and thither, and once anchored in the luminous harbor of Moonshine in the farthermost corner of the county.
The first meeting of the board of supervisors at Centerville, after the determination of the contest, occurred June 18, 1866. At the meeting of June 20th the following resolution was adopted: Resolved, that this board tender their thanks to the citizens of Centerville and to Mr. P. D. Bush especially for their very welcome reception at Centerville. The removal of the books and property of the county to Centerville was made about the first of September.
THE COURT-HOUSE SITE
Mr. P. D. Bush, who was a leading spirit in te movements of Centerville during the controversy, had offered to donate to the county, grounds for its use and also to furnish free of expense to the county, as good a building as it then had at Vassar. October 20, 1865, a bond was executed by Mr. Bush, with the three sureties, for the faithful ferformance of the contract. The frame of a Universalist Church building, which had been put up in the town of Almer, was brought down and located where Mr. J. Staleys abstract office now stands, but was afterward moved to the opposite side of the street, and planted on the court-house square. This building was used as a court-house until the present building was finished, in 1873, when it was moved across the street, and is now used for town and village purposes. More recently the question has been raised as to who the real donor of the court-house grounds was, and it may be well to state, in this connection, that all the evidence confirms the statement herein made, that Mr. Bush donated these grounds to the county, in pursuance of a promise made long before the question of location was finally settled. The records of supervisors proceedings show that it was so understood by the board, and in conveying certain lands to Cyrus Giles, Mr. Bush gave a deed in which he reserved those lots having previously donated them to the county, together with all rights which the county had in the building thereon etc. It is perfectly clear that the lots occupied by the courthouse were donated by Mr. Bush, while those occupied by the jail were donated by the late Samuel P. Sherman.
THE LAST ACT IN THE DRAMA.
Although the location of the county seat was fixed at Centerville, in 1866, and no official action attempting its removal was thereafter taken, yet its permanency was doubted by many, especially those who still entertained a hope of some day living in the shadow of the capital. The people of Centerville did not feel entirely secure in their hold upon it, and were anxious to pin it so securely to the spot that its removal would be practically impossible. In the spring of 1871, Hon. C. P. Black was elected supervisor from Indian Fields, with a hope that he would find a way of ending all uncertainty in the matter. The legislature of 1870-71 passed a law, or rather amended section 106 of the general tax laws, under the provisions of which there was due Tuscola County, upon the settlement of the county treasurer with the auditor general January 1, 1872, $31,564.
After the action of the legislature already referred to, it occurred to Mr. Black that the opportune time for the erection of a
Court-house had arrived, and he set himself about the attainment of that object, and thereby fulfill the mission for which he had been elected. In December, 1871, after having thoroughly investigated the matter, he visited several of the supervisors and secured the signatures of one-third of the board to a call for a special meeting, to take place January 9, 1872. The first business of that meeting was a motion by Mr. Black that the county treasurer be requested to submit a report in writing, showing the state of the finances of the county.
In pursuance of that request, the treasurer submitted a report, stating, among other things, that there was due the county from the , the sum of $31, 564.05; that there was due to townships the sum of $9,094.59, leaving a balance belonging to the county, of $22,469.57.
It was subsequently voted by the board, that the amount of money standing to the credit of the county in excess of the amount due the several townships, was legally a county fund, and subject to the disposal of the board of supervisors for any legitimate county purposes.
Mr. Black then offered the following resolutions, which were adopted:
Be it resolved by the board of supervisors of Tuscola County, that the sum of seven thousand dollars be appropriated out of the moneys received from the State by the treasurer of said county, in his settlement with the auditor general, on the 16th day of November, A. D. 1871, and set aprart to liquidate the debt to E. Morton Esq., on bonds now held by him, and that such indebtedness shall be paid as this board may hereinafter order; and be it further
Resolved, That the further sum of twelve thousand dollars be appropriated and set apart for the purpose of erecting upon the public square, now owned by the county of Tuscola, in the village of Caro, in said county, a court-house, to be constructed after the plans and specifications now I the possession of this board, provided that any three or more responsible person shall, on or before the first day of February next, make and execute a bond to the county treasurer, for the use and benefit of Tuscola County, to be approved by the clerk and chairman of this board, conditioned that they will, on or before the first day of January, A. D. 1873,pay to said county of Tuscola the sum of three thousand dollars, lawful money of the United Sates, which three thousand dollars is to be applied in constructing said court-house; which bond, when so made and executed, may be transferred and used in the completion of said court-house; and be it further
Resolved, That a committee of five persons be appointed by this board, whose duty it shall be, whenever the clerk of said board shall notify them that said bond of three thousand dollars has been properly executed and delivered to the county treasurer, to cause to be erected a court-house on said public square, according to said plan and specifications, and they are hereby invested with full power and authority to perform each and everything that may be necessary for the completion of said court-house, and that they enter upon their duty as soon as such bond is given as a foresaid, and proceed with all due diligence with the work, until the same shall be completed.
Resolved, That the sum of three thousand dollars be appropriated for the purpose of erecting a building on the county poor farm, to be built upon such plans and specifications as this board may hereinafter order.
At a meeting of the board of supervisors held May 27, 1873, the building committee gave a history of the building of the courthouse in the following report: On the 10th day of January, 1872, by resolution of your board, there was placed in our hands for the building of said court-house according to plans and specifications furnished us, executed by Porter & Watkins, of Bay City, the sum of $15,000, consisting of an order on the treasury of Tuscola County for $12,000, and a bond against the citizens of Caro for $3,000 for which we gave you our bond for $20,000, conditioned for the faithful performance of our duty in the premises as such building committee, in and for the proper application of said $15,000, in the construction of said building. The first proceeding of your committee was to advertise to receive proposals for the erection of said court-house, on the 5th day of February, 1872, at which time proposals were received from the following parties, to wit: The proposition of Christopher Palmer and J. P. Shahey for $17,500; the proposition of J. Fisher, of East Saginaw, for $16,196; the proposition of Howell & Ale, of Caro, for $14,000; between which proposals, other things being equal, your committee had no hesitation in awarding the job to Messrs. Howell & Ale, and the adding to the building keystone corbels, over doors and over windows, and of painting of the outside of the walls. We, your committee, entered into contract with the said Howell & Ale, for the erection and completion of said court-house, according to said plans and specifications before referred to, together with the addition above mentioned, for the sum of $14,850, and paid them at the same time the sum of $4,000 on the same, and subsequently, to wit: When the foundation of said structure was completed the sum of $3,000; and further, when the first story was completed, the sum of $1,500; and on completion of the brick work $1,500; and on the completion of the roof and dome $1,000, and a like sum of $1,000 on the completion fo the plastering. On the 26th day of October, 1872, your honorable body passed a resolution that an order for $350 be drawn on the county treasurer in favor of the court-house building committee, to be by them appropriated for the construction of a stucco cornice around the court-room, and chandelier centres put up in the same; also in the four offices below; and to change the finish of the stairs to the court-room, from below from a common box case to a hand-rail and baluster staircase. On the 6th day of January, 1873, your committee received from the treasurer of the village of Caro the sum of $400, which was at the same time paid Howell & Ale on contract. And on the 24th day of February, 1873 , they paid on the same, the above-mentioned county order of $350, together with the sum of $50 received from the treasurer of said village, since which your committee received from said village treasurer the sum of $1,776.57, which has also been applied on said contract, leaving yet to be paid on the contract and the extras above mentioned, as authorized by your honorable body, when completed, the sum of $773.43, and which said amount is now in our hands, the residue received on the aforesaid bond of the citizens of the village of Caro, and ready to be applied in full payment to the contractors whenever your honorable body shall have accepted the building and this our report, and instructed us to do in the final discharge of our duty.
Received cash from county treasurer .$12,000
order on . 350
on bond of citizens of Caro .. . 3,000
Paid Howell & Ale on contract . 14,576.57
Balance due on contract and extras as authorized by
The board of supervisors, when accepted . 773.43
We have further respectfully to report to your honorable body that when the tie come to construct the desks for the judge and clerk in the court-room, in referring to the detail drawings and specifications in the contract therefor, it did appear to your committee that the character and style of architecture came far short of forming a respectable appearance with the general architectural finish of the building throughout, and especially that of the courtroom, and therefore felt justifiable in suggesting to the contractors the propriety of procuring from Messrs. Porter & Watkins such
Detail drawings for the desks as would be fully appropriate and in keeping with style of architecture to the general character of the building, having, at the same time special regard in their structure to the ease and convenience of officers using the same. Upon which suggestion the contractors have acted, and, as they inform us, at an extra expense of $100, with which your committee feel perfectly satisfied, and most respectfully recommend that your honorable body provide for its payment. And in so doing, we feel that we, as a building committee, and you, as the controlling body in the county, in the premises, will be but doing simple justice to two most worthy gentlemen, who in every particular have, to our entire satisfaction, succeeded in erecting a building in every sense equal to the undertaking.
The building committee consisted of Messrs. Alson Greenfield, E. W. Gerrish, R. R. Atwood and James Wright.
The new court-house was then accepted in full by a vote of the board, and its use for county purposes authorized.
The erection of the court-house closed the last chapter in the county-seat history, so far as its location was concerned, and provided the county with a much-needed and creditable building, without imposing any hardship upon the tax payers.
In accordance with the usual custom in new counties, the jail of a neighboring county was used for the confinement of prisoners , until a suitable building could be provided. This county, however, delayed the building of a jail longer than is usually the case. At the October session of the board of supervisors, in 1877, it was voted to build a jail, and to raise the sum of $8,000, on-half by tax and the other half by loan, for that purpose, the question to be submitted to the electors of the several townships at the annual election in 1878. The action of the board was ratified at the April election, and at a meeting of the board, April 24, 1878, a building committee was appointed, consisting of C. R. Selden, L. D. Haines, William McDay, William B. Waldo and James W.Spencer. Bonds of the county to the amount of $4,000 were issued, and May 28, the contract was let to Messrs. Howell & Ale, for the sum of $8,800. The building was erected during the year, and accepted by the board at the January session in 1879. The lots on which the jail was built were donated by the late Samuel P. Sherman.
COUNTY POOR FARM.
This property of the county, comprising 160 acres of excellent farming land, is situated in the south part of Almer Township. The land is under a good state of cultivation, and the buildings are extensive and substantial. The house is a large brick structure, and was built in 1878.