HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
TUSCOLA COUNTY PIONEER SOCIETY
has an unusually large number of enterprising and intelligent pioneers who have
a true conception of their duty to posterity in transmitting the story of early
settlement experience and development.
For purposes of mutual enjoyment and co-operation in this work, it was
decided to organize a county pioneer society.
On the 4th day of December 1873, a few gentlemen met at the office of Hon. B. W. Huston, in Vassar, pursuant to notice, inviting the early settlers of Tuscola County who had been residents of the county twenty years or more to be present and consider the propriety of forming a pioneer society. A committee was appointed on permanent organization, consisting of William H. Harrison, f. Bourns, P. McGlone, Sabin Gibbs, David June and Samuel Atwood; also a committee on by-laws, consisting of W. A. Heartt, T. North, D. G. Slafter, L. D. Haines, C. R. Selden, D. P. Hinson.
The next meeting was held at Vassar, January 15, 1874, when the society was fully formed. The constitution adopted was in part as follows:
ART. 1. The name shall be the Tuscola County Pioneer Society.
ART. 2. The object of this society shall be to retain and hand down to those that come after us, incidents and matters of interest in the early settlement of our county and to re-unite in social and friendly association as many as possible of the early settlers, who in their zeal or judgment saw in the location, soil, timber and other natural advantages sufficient to hope for the building up of a rich and prosperous county. And now, after twenty years or more since some of us pitched our tents here, we desire to form this union for the object above expressed.
ART. 3. The officers of this society shall be a president, a vice-president from each town in the county, a secretary and treasurer, with an executive committee composed of the above named officers, of which committee seven may constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
ART. 4. Every person who subscribes or may subscribe to this constitution, and has been a resident of this county twenty years or more, and pays to the treasurer of this society the sum of fifty cents per annum in advance, will be entitled to membership, unless otherwise ordered at a meeting of this society. The fee of life membership shall be $5.
The constitution was adopted unanimously and signed by the following persons, with the year in which they became residents of this county: 1835, Edwin Ellis; 1837, Lovira Hart; 1837, W. H. Harrison; 1840, John L. Miller; 1849, T. North; 1849, John Popp; 1850, J. D. Smith, Chancey Firman, George H. Smith, C. R. Selden, Sylvester Black, T. H. Lake, E. E. Brainerd; 1851, William Johnson, A. N. Rowland, William Butler, M. D. North, P. McGlone, Thomas Martin; 1853, James Gould, F. Bourns.
The officers elected were as follows: President, Townsend North. Vice-presidents: Lovira Hart, Tuscola; H. G. Hinkley Arbela; F. Bourns, Vassar; P. McGlone, Juniata; William A. Heartt, Indian Fields; David June, Almer; Samuel Atwood, Millington; Lovias Hinson, Fair Grove; C.R. Selden, Denmark; Abraham Vandemarrk, Akron; H. C. Marvin, Columbia; T. W. Briggs, Watertown; William Turner, Fremont; Lorenzo Hurd, Dayton; John D. Hays, Gilford; S. S. Carson, Wisner; D. W. Leonard, Geneva; James Wright, Wells; Joseph Dodge, Ellington; E. S. White, Elmwood; J C. Laing, Elkland; William S. Brown, Novesta; A. R. King, Kingston; Alexander Hunter, Koylton. Secretary, William Johnson, Vassar. Treasurer, W. H. Harrison, Tuscola.
Subsequently other names were added among which were those of John V. Harrison, E. Davis, James H. Davis, Dennis Harrison, Sarah Harrison, Electas B. Harrison, Daniel W. Harrison, Martin L. Miller, E. W. Perry; all of whom settled in the county prior to the year 1840.
The first reunion was held at the village of Tuscola, August 19, 1874. These reunions are held every year and are uniformly well attended.
The officers in 1883 are as follows: President, Lovira Hart; secretary, Dr. William Johnson; treasurer, John Baker.
There are about two hundred and fifty members. The death roll, however, is being lengthened and the time is not distant when the fathers and mothers of Tuscola will have passed away and the story of their pioneer life can then no longer be gathered from their lips.
The following persons have been president of the society: Townsend North, J. H. Richardson, W. H. Heartt, W. H. Harrison, W. M. Rogers, Lovira Hart. Dr. William Johnson has held the office of secretary since the organization of society.
Annual reunions have been held at Tuscola, Vassar, Watrousville, Wahjamega, Caro, Millington.
The death roll contains the following names: Edwin Ellis, William Butler, Thomas Martin, C. C. Stoddard, Calvin Lee, Samuel P. Sherman, Jacob Winchel, Rev. I. J. B. McKinney, J. A. Hamilton, Ebenezer Davis, David Atwood, Dennis Harrison, Orville Gillett, E. B. Harrison, Paschal Richardson, Daniel D. Dopking, E.W. Perry, James Johnson of Vassar, Owen Pierce, William Fenner, Andrew McFarlin, J. G. Belknap, J. H. Hopkins, Daniel Kenyon, Alva Andrews, Lucinda Gorton Parsis G. Slafter, John A. Hayes, Hervey Harrington Henry S. Russell, John Walton, A. J. Rogers, J. D. Smith, A. Cottrell, James Johnson of Tuscola, Mrs. Parsis Slafter, Hugh Maxwell, King Allen, Ezra Tripp, D. P. Hinson, Joseph Hall, Mrs. Henry Goff, Willard Honsinger, Mrs. John Miller, Mrs. Ebenezer Davis, Mrs. Alfred Tivey, Horace Parsell, William Wilcox, Mrs. Sarah Allen, Mrs. James Luce, John Chamberlain, Robert Wilmot, William Ward.
COUNTY AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY
January 27, 1866,
were filed in the office of the county clerk the articles of association of
“The Tuscola County Agricultural Society.”
The objects of the association as therin
stated were “the encouragement and advancement of agriculture, manufactures and
the mechanic arts, by means of annual fairs, and the distribution of useful
knowledge upon these subjects. These
articles were acknowledged January 8, 1866, and were signed by thirty-one
citizens of Tuscola County. The meeting
to effect an organization, had been held January 8th at Vassar, at
which forty-five persons were present, and the following officers had been
elected: William King, president; J. D.
Lewis, secretary; A. P. Cooper, treasurer.
Executive Committee. – Price Camprell, Fair Grove; B. A. Wood, Juniata; William McPhail, Almer; T. North, Vassar; E. E. Godfrey, Fremont.
Auditors.- B. W. Huston, Jr., Vassar; Joseph Gamble, Indian Fields.
Vice-Presidents. – R. S. Weaver, Juniata; C. C. Stoddard, Fair Grove; J. Sanders, Denmark; D. M. Orr, Almer; S. R. Cross, Indian Fields; H. Hobert, Gilford; M. V. Kellogg, Vassar.
The executive committee held a meeting at Watrousville in April and decided to hold the annual fair at that place for the term of five years, on the condition that the citizens of the place super-intended the fitting up of the grounds and donated to the society the sum of $250, which together with a like sum from the society, should be expended in preparing the grounds for the fair. This
proposition was accepted. A lot containing eight acres was leased of P.
McGlone, and the work of making the necessary
improvements begun at once.
The first fair was held October 4th and 5th, 1866, and was considered a pronounced success, although preceded by several weeks of wet weather. The number of entries was 280, and the receipts $522.35.
The second fair was held October 1st, 2nd and 3d, 1867. The total receipts were $668.50, and the list of members had increased to 500. The receipts from all sources during the year were 819.49, and the total amount paid out was $784.80. The secretary’s report for 1867 states that 156,000 bushels of wheat were raised in the county from 10,000 acres of ground. Of corn it was estimated that 210,000 bushels were harvested from 6,000 acres. The manufacturing interests of the county were reviewed as follows:
“The manufacture of our county are lumber, shingles, farm implements and leather, to which we shall soon add woolen. There are upwards of twenty sawmills in the county, producing 10,000,000 feet of lumber annually, and perhaps as many shingle mills, producing as many million shingle, besides a large amount manufactured by hand. At Smith & Graham’s basket factory, Vassar, 14,000 baskets have been made during the past year, besides a large quantity of woolen bowls, patent grain sowers, clothes reels, bed springs, etc. This establishment in the busy season employs eight men. There are two foundries in the county, Meehan’s, at Vassar, and Parker’s, at Centeville. These are employed chiefly making plows, cultivators scrapers, and some of the simpler kinds of machinery. The manufacture of new work and repairing at the Vassar foundry has amounted to $6,000 during the past season. One of the most successful establishments in the county is the tannery of Barker, Ripley & Co. This firm have tanned during the past season 400 sheep skins, 400 kips, 1,000 calf skins and 3,000 cows hides. They peeled for use 350 cords of bark, and constantly employ one team and six men. The capital invested is supposed to be not far from $10,000. This business is undoubtedly one of the most remunerative that can be prosecuted in the county. The immense quantities of bark and other facilities which our county offers ought to induce others to embark in this business. There is a tannery at Centerville and another at Tuscola which does a good deal of business, but we are not apprised of its full extent.
“During the past season Townsend North commenced the establishment of a woolen factory at Vassar. The immediate desideratum aimed at was to furnish the people of the county wool carding facilities, without the expense and trouble of going abroad. This was accomplished and about 11,000 pounds of wool carded.
“Machinery has also been imported and set up for coloring fulling, dressing and pressing cloth, and considerable work of this kind has been very satisfactorily accomplished.”
The third fair was held September 29th and 30th and October 1st, 1868. Number of entries, 353, and total receipts for the year, $866.37. Total expenditures, $702.57. The wheat crop for 1868 was estimated to average twenty bushels per acre, corn forty bushels, and oats forty bushels. The season as a whole was considered favorable.
The season of 1869 was reported as being unfavorable to farming. Wheat averaged about eighteen bushels per acre, corn was a partial failure, but oats good, averaging thirty-eight bushels per acre. The annual fair was held October 7th and 8th. Number of entries. 538: receipts for the year, $970.55, and balance of cash on hand, $154.70.
In 1870 the society purchased twelve acres of ground one mile north of Watrousville, for which seven hundred dollars was paid. The fair was attended with good success. The principal feature of the season was the prevailing drouth.
The season of 1871 was reported by the secretary as being favorable for farmers. The average yield of wheat was estimated at twenty bushels to the acre. A new cheese factory at Unionville and a foundry at Watrousville were reported. Of the loss to farmers by forest fires he said:
“A few buildings were burned, but aside from the timber the greatest loss to the farmer is undoubtedly in the destruction of fences. Buildings and fences will soon be replaced, and we may hope that the loss of timber may eventually result in bringing a greater of acres of our rich soil into cultivation, confirming in some degree the truth of the old adage, that ‘ there is no great loss without some small gain.’”
The annual fair was held on the new grounds at Watrousville, October 3d, 4th and 5th. The receipts were about the same as the year previous.
The season of 1872 was diversified. Wheat in the northern part of the county was nearly a failure, but fair in the southern towns. The average yield was about fifteen bushels per acre, though of inferior quality. Corn was good, averaging forty bushels per acre, and oats about the same. The fair was held September 25th, 26th and 27th, with usually good success.
The season of 1873 was reported as void of any unusual feature. The spring was late and the summer dry, followed by a wet and stormy autumn. Wheat was of uncommonly fine quality, and the average yield about twenty bushels per acre. Oats were below the average and potatoes a poor crop. A new hall was built on the fair grounds at a cost of nine hundred dollars. The annual fair was reported as one of the most successful ever held. The entries numbered 587.
The report of the year 1874 states that the season was one of unusual dryness. Water became so scarce as to cause great inconvenience. The average yield of wheat did not exceed fifteen bushels per acre. Oats yielded about forty bushels per acre. Hay was an average crop. The annual fair was reported successful.
The fair in 1875 was held late in September, and with respect to receipts and number of entries was in advance of the previous year. The season generally was more favorable to farming than that of 1874.
The season of 1876 was not favorable. Wheat averaged about fourteen bushels per acre, corn about thirty bushels, and oats were below the average. The fair was held September 27th, 28th and 29th. Number of entries, 677; total receipts during the year, $1,008.76; members of the society, 434.
Secretary Hayes, in his report for 1877, said:
“The year 1877 commenced with a cod January, followed by a warm, dry February. March, as usual, was cold and stormy, and April warm and pleasant. The first half of May was cool and dry; the latter part of May and first of June dry, and changeable from cool to unusually warm. July and August were favorable to the growth of nearly all kinds of grain. All products were an average or large crop. Our people are awakening to the fact that poor farming don’t pay. Wheat is being more extensively cultivated than all other grain crops combined. The average yield per acre was about twenty-five bushels, and of good quality. Tuscola County harvested the past season 21, 400 acres of wheat. If we are correct in our estimate of the average yield per acre, it gives us a total for the county of 535,000 bushels. We cannot compete with the older settled portion of the State, in number of acres sown or bushels raised, but north of the four southern tiers of counties, Tuscola County stands at the head.
“There are only
two cheese factories in the county; one at or near Mayville, and the other at
The fair of 1877 was held September 26th, 27th and 28th. Number of entries, 826; premiums awarded to the amount of $547.10; number of members of the society, 701.
In his report for the year 1878 the secretary estimated the average yield of wheat to be about fifteen bushels per acre; oats and corn below the average. With reference to the society he said:
“During the past year we have added to the number of horse stalls, extended the cattle sheds, and constructed comfortable seats near to and facing the ring for exhibition of stock.
“We are free from debt, with a small surplus on hand.”
The fair was held on the first three days of October, with unusually fine weather throughout. The sale at the treasurer’s office of 700 family tickets, makes a good showing and a grand record of the Tuscola County Agricultural Society.
The annual fair for 1879 was held the 1st, 2d and 3d of October. The attendance was large and the entries numbered about twelve hundred, far exceeding any previous year. The society expended about $175 in improvements on the grounds. The secretary in his report says that the spring was early and about the 10th of May a severe drouth began. Fires spread over the forests but the damage was not general. June ran to extremes in heat and cold, mercury being at freezing on the 7th, and up to ninety-two degrees on the 29th. July was changeable, and a frost the 17th of August killed buckwheat, corn and vines in several localities. Wheat averaged about twenty bushels per acre of fine quality; corn was below the average, and oats a fair crop.
The season of 1880 was not marked by any remarkable features. The crop of wheat was fair in quantity, but rains during harvest time reduced the average in quality. Oats and corn were good.
The fair in 1881 was held on the 5th, 6th and 7th of October, being nearly a week later than usual on account of the district fair at Saginaw. The weather, with the exception of being cool in the morning, was remarkable fine throughout. Nearly 1,200 entries were made. 790 membership tickets and 2,500 gate tickets were sold.
In speaking of the season of 1881 the secretary said:
“The past year will long be remembered as one of unusual dryness. At first the growing crops and vegetation of all kinds warned the farmer that it was getting dry. And it continued, bringing to our minds the language of the young grammarian-dry, dryer, driest. This was followed by streams, wells, and springs giving out that had never failed before, occasioning great inconvenience on account of the scarcity of water for stock and other purposes. Many have deepened their wells, and some obtained flowing wells which will undoubtedly be a lasting blessing, especially in seasons like the past.”
Wheat was reported a poor crop, the yield being not more than ten bushels per acre. Corn was also poor; oats were about an average crop.
The fair of 1882 was held on the 4th 5th and 6th of October, with weather more like July or August than October. The entries in Division A were 250, in Division B, 171, in Division C, 1,123, and in Division D, 77, making a total of 1,621.
The wheat crop was reported as being above the average: corn and oats good, though oats and wheat were damaged by excessive rains in August.
The question of location has been one of annoyance to the society, and its prosperity has been endangered by the organization of district societies. The secretary alludes to this matter in his report of January, 1883, as follows: “There are some very good reasons why the fair cannot be successfully kept up in its present locality. When we think of the many county and district societies that have met with failures within the last few years, and others that are struggling under a heavy indebtedness, we are inclined to think Tuscola County cannot sustain more than two fairs, and we have at the present time three organizations of this kind, with good prospects for another, if the old society retains its present locality. Caro, only seven miles above us, having convenient grounds, well fenced, with commodious buildings, is in good shape for holding fairs; and Vassar, only a few miles below us, will soon be prepared to vie with Caro. The question then will be, or now is, can the old society stand between and compete with the two new organizations?”
The treasurer’s report for the year 1882 show a balance of cash on hand amounting to $264.41.
It was decided to remove the fair to Vassar. Favorable arrangements were made for the use of Recreation Park, and the work of fitting up buildings, etc., is in progress during the summer of 1883.
OFFICERS OF THE SOCIETY.
YEAR. PRESIDENT. SECRETARY. TREASURER
1883 Wm Johnson. E.B. Hayes. John M. Cole.
1882 Wm. Johnson. E. B. Hayes John M. Cole
1881 Wm. Johnson. B.B. Hayes John M. Cole
1880 Wm. Johnson. E. B. Hayes John Walton
1879 Wm. Johnson. E. B. Hayes. John Walton
1878 Wm. Johnson. E. B. Hayes John Walton
1877 Wm. Johnson E. B. Hayes John Walton
1876 Wm. Johnson. E. B. Hayes R. C. Burtis
1875 Wm. Johnson. C. C. Stoddard R. C. Burtis
1874 Wm. Johnson C. C. Stoddard R. C. Burtis
1873 J.Q. A. Burrington C. C. Stoddard R. C. Burtis
1872 C. R. Selden. C. C. Stoddard R.C. Burtis
1871 Townsend North C. C. Stoddard R. C. Burtis
1870 Asa B. Weaver C. C. Stoddard R. C. Burtis
1869 Asa B. Weaver C. C. Stoddard R. C. Burtis
1868 B. A. Wood J. D. Lewis R. C. Burtis
1867 Wm. King J. D. Lewis R. C. Burtis
1866 Wm. King J. D. Lewis A. P. Cooper
COUNTY TEMPERANCE ALLIANCE.
The Michigan State Temperance Alliance, on the 31st of August, 1881, appointed Rev. E. B. Sutton its county agent. On his invitation, Capt. J. C. Bauticue visited the county in January, 1882, organizing the first branch on the 9th, at Ellington, with twenty-three charter members. He visited Caro on the 10th, Watrousville the 11th, and Vassar the 12th. Some twenty township organizations were rapidly formed by him, after which a county convention was called, to meet at Caro. At this convention Rev. E. P. Clark was elected president of the County Alliance; John Staley, Jr. secretary, and Rev. E. B. Sutton, treasurer. A vice president was elected from each township in the county. The organization at present numbers some six hundred members, and is a powerful factor in temperance work through the county.
May 26th, 1882, about seventy ex-soldiers met at the courthouse, in the village of Caro, and arranged preliminaries for the organization of a society to be known as the Tuscola County Association of the Soldiers of the War of 1861. At a subsequent meeting, an organization was completed by the adopion of by-lows and the election of officers. The by-lows provided that any honorably discharged soldier could become a member of this association by subscribing the roster, giving age, rank, company, regiment, and residence, and paying to the secretary the annual due of twenty-five
cents. The time
for holding meetings to be the last Tuesday in April, in each year. The officers elected were a
President, Col. J. H. Richardson.
Vice President, Capt. J. J. Wilder
Treasurer, Maj. B. W. Huston.
Secretary, Sergt. N. M. Richardson
Chaplain, Private J. M. Getchel.
Surgeon, Capt. D. S. Stevens.
The association has a membership of about one hundred. The officers in 1883 are the same as those first elected.