HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
THE VILLAGE OF CASS CITY.
Eighteen years ago on the site now occupied by the Cass City Hotel, stood a small log school-house, one of the first built in the town of Elkland. It had witnessed the toils and trials of the early settlers, the gradual disappearance of the forest and the opening up of farms; and within its wall the minds of many who are now active business men and farmers had received their early training. It soon disappeared, and in its place is a thriving village.
About the year 1866 Nathaniel Clark started a store in a small board shanty on the spot where now stands the store occupied by Wilsey & Stewart. This establishment he shortly after sold to Jesse Fox, and he in 1867 to Laing & Weydemeyer, who for some time continued business in the same building. This was the origin and nucleus of the village, which was platted in 1868 by the estate of John C. Seegar, and called Cass City. The same year a hotel was built by Jesse Fox, and dwelling-houses, stores and other buildings gradually gathered around.
GLIMPSES OF CASS CITY AT DIFFERENT PERIODS.
The reader may obtain a glimpse of Cass City, in the
fall of 1870, from the following sketch made at that time:
"Cass City is a stirring little village in the township of Elkland.. Messrs. Weydemeyer & Laing have a commodious store, and are the only dealers in dry goods and general merchandise n the place. Mr. Samuel Miller has a grocery and provision store, just built. Mr. George Tennant, of the Cass City Hotel, has made decided improvements about his premises. The old hotel building has been moved back, and on the corner where it formerly stood he is erecting a large building for a new hotel. There are two shoe shops: one by Thomas Rowell, and the other by G. Ahr. the new schoolhouse, nearly finished, is an ornament to the place, and speaks well for the enterprise of its people. There is a steam saw-mill doing a good business. Mr. Jesse Fox is putting up a new saw and grist-mill; that will probably be ready for business some time during the winter. Dr. Webber is the only physician in the place. There is no lawyer in the village. There is a furniture shop by L. A. DeWitt, and a blacksmith shop by George B. Hunt. At the forks of the Cass River a steam saw-mill is in operation, but the machinery is soon to be taken out and put into the new mill already mentioned. A new bridge is being built across the Cass River at this point."
Again inn 1879 the following description was made:
"Our village has grown a good deal in the past year, and a good many substantial improvements have been made.
"The Presbyterian society have erected a commodious and comfortable church, the first in the place. The late Rev. Mr. Reid, of Vassar, was the first to advocate the building of the church and great credit is due the pastor, Rev. J. Kelland, and to our liberal citizens for the successful completion of so fine a structure.
"Addition has been built on our school-house for the primary department. Our school is in a very flourishing condition, with Homer E. Gordon as principal, and Miss Sarah J. Dickson as assistant. There is an average attendance of eighty.
"The new dwellings recently erected are M. J. Sills, J. C. Laing, Oscar Lenzner, Jr., R. A. Lutze, John Cassel and the Seegar boys. All good, comfortable frame buildings.
"The business interest of our village is increasing. The following is a list of our business houses and professional men:
"James L. Hitchcock, dealer in hardware, tinware and general merchandise. He is enlarging his store and dwelling to accommodate his increasing trade.
"J. Rowell, boot and shoe shop.
"A. Smith, harness maker.
"Wilsey & Co., dealers in general merchandise, in Tennant's block, do a good and safe business. The success of this firm is due to the managing partner, C. W. McPhail, a Caro boy.
"Mrs. R. E. Gamble, in the same store, has a full stock of millinery and fancy goods, and is doing a good business.
"In the same block Mrs. Jillson and Miss Spitler are engaged in millinery and fancy goods, and dressmaking.
"The Cass City Hotel, George Tennant, proprietor, has been all refurnished, and offers No. 1 accommodations to everybody.
"J. C. Laing, dealer in general merchandise, the pioneer merchant of the village, is doing a larger trade this season than ever before. His gentlemanly clerks, Jim Tennant and J. W. Adamson, are kept busy from morn till night, and his road agent, "Scott," has all he can do to keep enough goods hauled to keep them going.
"Dr. D. P. Deming is doing a fine trade in drugs, notions and cigars. He is also postmaster.
"G. Ahr, boot and shoe shop, is a fixture, and lasts well, being the first shop in the village.
"John Bader, general blacksmith and carriage trimmer. David Spitler, carriage maker, in the same building.
" Lew P. Hall, livery and sale stable.
"Oscar Lenzner, Sr., manufacturer of all kinds of furniture and fancy wood work, organ maker and full of music. His sons, Oscar, John, Frank and Sam, are all excellent workmen.
"Wickware & DeWitt, planning-mill, sash and door factory, and dealers in all kinds of furniture.
"Nash, Laing & Co., Cass City grist-mill. Have an excellent run of custom work.
"John E. Smith has erected a new shop and dwelling.
"Wickware & Waldon, carriage makers, blacksmith shop and contractors.
"R.A. Lutze, general blacksmith, carriage maker and
George W. Hawkins has bought the saw-mill and planer of Wickware & Waldon, and moved it to the river, where it will be in operation in a few days.
"Our professional men are numberous and good. Rev. John Kelland, Presbyterian; Rev. J. G. Sparling, Methodist Episcopal; Rev. J. Lougher, Protestan Methodist; Rev. James S. Deming, Christian. Our staff of physicians are healthy men: Dr. William H. Greene, N. L. McLachlan and D. P. Deming. All appear to be kept busy.
"We have a brass band just organized."
In June, 1881, an account of Cass City was given as follows: "This thriving little town, situated sixteen miles northeast of Caro, is not yet incorporated, being still under township government. Despite some drawbacks, in relation to some of the land on which the village is located, there has been a great deal of building during the past year, and quite recently an addition of village lots was platted and put in the market by J. L. Hitchcock. The main street is unusually wide being six rods is well gravelled and in most instances, the buildings are a few feet back of the street line thus giving the merchants an opportunity to display their goods without encroaching on the property of the public
"As yet Cass City has no brick building, but there will be several erected before the season is over. In order to meet the demand for brick, H. Y. Depew has opened a yard on the point of land between the north and south forks of te Cass River, and expects to burn his first kiln of 100,000 bricks about the 1st of July. He has already been asked to send brick out side and will do so as soon as his business is in smoothly running order.. The first product of Mr. Depew's yard will be used in the erection of a town hall, 30 x 80 feet in size, and two stories high. The plans and specifications are in the hands of Wickware & Waldon who have contracted to do the work for about $3,000. the foundation has also been laid by C. E. Hinkle for a new store, which is to be veneered with brick.
"One of the best known merchants in the northern
part of Tuscola County is J. C. Laing, who for fourteen years has been a
successful business man in Cass City. Besides his business of general
merchandising, Mr. Laing also owns the only flouringmill in the place, now under
the management of Oscar Briggs, formerly of Caro.
"Adjoining the grist-mill is the large planing-mill, sash, door and blind factory, furniture and undertaking establishment of L. A. Dewitt. Mr. E. Davis has a shingle-mill in operation in the rear of Mr. Dewitt's factory. Next comes the general store of William Wickware, then the wagon and blacksmith shops of William Bentley and Charles Spitzler. P. R. Weydemeyer is engaged int he hardware business; A. D. Gillies, general merchandise; S. C. Armstrong, furniture; J. F. Hendrick, jeweler. The postoffice is located in the drug store of Gordon & Weydemeyer. Wilsey & McPhail are extensive merchants in the center of the village, and adjoining are the livery stables of R. Clark and L. Hall. Next come the tin shop of F. E. Austin and the general store of J. L. Hitchcock. W. B. Anderson, also has a general store. The only meat market in the place is kept by Schwaderer Bros. Thomas Rowell has a shoe shop, and the only hotel in the village is kept by George Tennant. Adamson & Fritz have purchased the drug store of Dr. Deming. Wickware & Waldon have a wagon shop, and R. A. Lutze and John Bader have a blacksmith shop. The latter also carries on wagon making. Oscar Lenzner has a cabinet shop and F. H. Hunt has a grocery and notion store. There are also a photographic gallery, millinery store, barber shop, etc.
"Cass City has a good school under the charge of Prof. Gordon who is also postmaster and senior partner in the firm of Gordon & Weydemeyer. There are two church buildings, Methodist Episcopal and Presbyterian. A Baptist society has just been organized. The Methodist society, with only twenty-six active members, has erected a neat and commodious house of worship. The Presbyterian Church building is one of the attractive features of the place. The society is in a flourishing condition under the ministration of Rev. Mr. Kelland.
"Cass City has taken several steps forward during the past year. It is a very peaceable place, and this fact may be the reason why no lawyer has ventured to pitch his tent here. The three physicians of the place are Drs. Deming, Smith and Green. As yet the town has no bank, and as the postoffice does not issue money orders the financial transactions of the place are not attended with as much convenience as might be desired."
Since the above was written, a long step forward has been taken by the village. The crowning event is its history, and the one on which glowing anticipations of future growth and prosperity are based, was the advent of the first railroad, the Pontiac, Oxford & Port Austin Railroad. Under the inducement of a handsome bonus of $6,000 and right of way contributed by public spirited citizens of the town and village and liberal aid from other localities along the projected line of the road, the work of construction was commenced about two years ago, and after a period of anxious waiting and longing expectation the sound of the track-layer's sledge and the whistle of the locomotive were heard.
November 18, 1882, was an eventful day in the history of Cass City and one of general rejoicing among the people, who for the year last past had been anxiously expecting a railroad. This day was to bring them the track and the first engine of the Pontiac, Oxford & Port Austin Railroad. About 9 o'clock A. M. the engine appeared in sight around the bend to the north and west of the locomotive crossed the east and west road. A committee of ladies and gentlemen appointed at a meeting held a few days previously had made preparations for a grand reception and entertainment of their welcome guests, and at noon Messrs. P. R. Weydemeyer and W. L. McLachlan, on behalf of the citizens, invited the men employed on the construction to dinner. A procession was formed, and, headed by the band, marched to the town hall, where a bountiful repast awaited them. when the railroad men had satisfied their appetites, the crowd who had assembled to celebrate the day gathered around the tables, over three hundred people dining in the hall. Before returning to the work, the men formed in line in front of the hall and gave three hearty cheers for "the ladies of Cass City," three for the "prosperity of Cass City" and three for "the band." That day track was laid to the depot grounds. A flag was displayed during the day on the flag-staff of the town hall. Business was generally suspended, and all gave themselves up to the celebration of the auspicious event.
Under the impetus of this new connection with the outer world opening up new facilities for traffic and business enterprise, a "boom" has commenced, not only spirited, but bidding fair to be permanent. Many new buildings, both business and dwelling houses, have been constructed; many others are under way, among them several business blocks of brick; two new churches, viz., of the Baptist Society and Evangelical Association, are in course of construction, and on every side is heard the sound of the ax, hammer, and other tools of the workman.
The Cass City Enterprise, published at Cass City, has entered upon its third volume. It was established by Berry Bros., who were succeeded by Kelland & Laing, the present proprietors. The Enterprise is liberally sustained and is ably conducted.