HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
VILLAGE OF WAHJAMEGA
This is an unincorporated village on the Caro branch of the Detroit & Bay City R. R., in the town of Indian Fields. More particularly its location is described as being in the northeast quarter of section 19 and northwest quarter of section 20, township 12 north, range 9 east. It had its origin in the lumbering operations of Heartt and Stuck, and dates back to the building of their mill in 1853, as already mentioned in connection with the early settlement of Indian Fields.
Mr. Heartt came to Wahjamega first in June, 1852 when this section was literally a howling wilderness, but did not locate there until in the same month of the following year. At that time he formed a partnership with Charles Suck, who had partially improved a favorable site for a water mill, and some 1, 500 acres of pine land were purchased as a basis for a lumbering business. Mr. Heartt had been ten years in business at Ypsilanti, and on converting his property into cash found that he had $4,000, and that amount was the foundation of his present fortune. The partnership lasted but two years, Mr. Heartt succeeding to the business. At that time there were no defined roads leading form Vassar to the place, and ordinarily an entire day was consumed in covering the thirteen miles with a loaded wagon. An ax and chain were a part of every wagon equipment, as very often it was necessary to cut out a new road owing to obstructions, and very often the teamster had to remain over night by the roadside.
The tract of land purchased at the outset was mostly timbered with pine, and Mr. Heartt for years had little idea of ever making
agricultural use of any considerable portion of it, as the soil was rather forbidding. The milling operations in the course of tie removed the pine, and about eleven years ago he turned his attention to agriculture and stock raising with marked success. The water mill has two upright saws, and up to the time of the great financial revulsion the lumber was rafted to Saginaw and sold. After that period Mr. Heartt did not consider the business very profitable and suspended rafting operations. The products of the mill now find a ready market at home.
Sixteen years ago Mr. Heartt commenced farming on a small scale, but in 1872 he made it a business. At that time he had quite a large clearing about the mill, but it was heavily stumped with pine stumps, and since that he has thoroughly stumped upward of 300 acres, and at present has 600 acres of what may be termed plow land.
He established the first store in this section in 1853 and has continued it up to the present time. In 1859 he converted a portion of his saw-mill into a grist-mill.
The postoffice was established about the year 1859 with William A. Heartt as postmaster, which office he has held ever since.
The chief peculiarity of this place is its name, which is coined from the initials of the names of six members of the Heartt family: “Wah” of William A. Heartt, “J” of Josiah, “A” of Alonzo, “M” of Margaret, “E” of Eliza, “G” of George and “A” of Amelia. The object of framing and adopting this unique name was to obtain such a definite and distinctive title as would preclude any reasonable probability of confusion of mails.
During the memorable county seat controversy which lasted from June, 1860, until April, 1865, this place was a candidate for it location and was several time designated by the board of supervisors. Having in view the possibility of sometimes becoming the capita of the county, Mr. Heartt in March, 1864, made and platted a village. The county seat went to Caro; and Wahjamega, in common with the other unsuccessful candidates, was left to view from afar the coveted prize.
In 1878 it became a station on the Caro branch of the Detroit & Bay City R. R. The business of the place is confined principally to the various business enterprises of Mr. Heartt.
William A. Heartt was born at Troy, State of New York, in the year 822, and lived there until eighteen years of age. He then removed to Detroit and was clerk in a general store for about three years. From there he went to Ypsilanti and engaged in the mercantile business, which he continued ten years. From there he came to Tuscola County, as already stated. He was married in 1858 to Miss Martha B. Horton, of Ypsilanti, who was formerly of Whately, Mass. Her parents removed to Michigan in the year 1836. The father of Mr. Heartt settled in Michigan near Ypsilanti in 1845, where he lived until his death, which occurred in 1868.
Mr. Heartt has been prominently identified with all the general interests and progress of Tuscola County for thirty years, and one of its most successful business men. His landed interest in the county amounts to about 8,000 acres.
DANIEL D. DOPKING, deceased, was on of the early settlers of
Tuscola County, having first come to the county in 1851. He was a native
of Jefferson County, New York, and was born February 15, 1826. His parents
emigrated from tat State to Michigan in 1832, settling on a farm in the townshp
of Rose, Oakland County, Michigan, and there Mr. D. passed his early ears.
On coming to this county he pre-empted, under the then existing laws, 160 acres
of land in the township of Indian Fields, being the northeast quarter of section
17. He then returned to Rose Township, Oakland County, where his father
was engaged in farming, and on the 22d of October he led to the altar Mrs.
Mariette A. Ingraham, daughter of a farmer in the adjoining township of
Springfield. On the 11th of November Mr. and Mrs. Dopking started for
their home in Tuscola County, their conveyance being a wagon drawn by an ox
team. The first night they stopped at Flint, the second night at Tuscola,
the third day reached Wahjamega in a soaking rain storm and a sea of mud.
On arriving at the latter place circumstances necessitated a change in his
plans, and he took a contract for getting out timber for Charles Stuck, the
proprietor of the milling privilege at that point, and in March following he
built a small shanty on his land, moved into it and commenced the work of
improving his purchase. The first year he cleared five acres, and during the
succeeding three years his improvement was very small, as he was obliged at
frequent intervals to go out to work, in order that himself and familly might be
provided with the necessaries of life. At the end of three years of
miscellaneous toil he found that he could afford to confine his labor to the
farm, as it was then sufficiently improved to furnish him a living, ten acres
having been put under the plow.
Previous to his coming to Tuscola County Mr. Dopking had learned the trade of a cooper in New York, having gone back to his native State when he was about twenty-one years of age. On his return to Michigan he worked at his trade for some time at Rochester, Oakland County. But his inclination tended to farming, and he relinquished the coopering business.
Mr. Dopking commenced his farming operations under peculiarly discouraging circumstances, and to a man possessed of less energy and grit the prospect before him would have been dark, indeed. He had faith in the quality of the soil, and was satisfied with the location, and he resolved to stick to the place as long as a living could be eked out. Though Mrs. Dopking's life at her father's home had been surrounded with all the comforts incidental to the life of a well to do farmer, she never flinched from the struggle, and very often cheered her husband on to renewed effort. There were no roads to speak of in the immediate vicinity of the farm, and but one road leading to Vassar from Wahjamega. During certain seasons of the year this road was well nigh impassable, and the few settlers found it difficult to transport such necessaries as could not be obtained at Wahjamega. Everything raised on the farms had a ready market at the highest prices, as the lumbermen operating on the Cass River were glad to purchase of the farmers and save transportation. On leaving Oakland County Mr. Dopking had mapped out his future course in his mind and on paper, but his prospects were completely blasted by inability to obtain food for his cattle. He expected the first winter to chop some six acres and put it in condition for cropping that year and figured that he could raise enough millet and oats to tide him over the next winter.
But with the money received for his services in looking up pine land and the proceeds of his surplus crop, Dopking got along passably, and after the first three years had glided by he realized that his farm amounted to something.
Being a thoroughly practical farmer his crops resulted finely, and the rich quality of the soil was a source of much comfort to him.
Mr. Dopking lived on his farm for thirty years, and at the time of his death, which occurred April 23, 1882, had made for himself and family a comfortable, pleasant home; one which it would seem that he out to have enjoyed to a ripe old age, considering the labor and trials he went through in building it up. He was only fifty-six years of age at the time of his death.
Mrs. Dopking, who survives her husband, is a well-preserved lady, and bids fair to live many years yet. After his death she rented her farm and bought a dwelling in Caro, where she lives with her youngest daughter, Miss Etta, and youngest son, Luther I. The eldest son, William D., lives on a farm in Indian Fields., and the eldest daughter is Mrs. John Beach, of Cass City.