HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
THE VILLAGE OF TUSCOLA.
In the spring of 1848, Col. John H. Richardson and his brother, Dr. Paschal Richardson, arrived in Tuscola. They found ten or eleven families in this part of the county. There were the saw-mill, tannery, and the dam across the river. This about completes an invoice of the population and industries of the county at that time.
Col. Richardson furnishes us with a retrospective view, as follows:
“In the spring of 1848, I landed in Tuscola County, with the expectation of making my future home here. I arrived in the spring, and found a small band of farmers struggling to make themselves comfortable. That little band consisted of about nine families; they had chosen their locations and had made some improvements, little patches of corn and wheat and potatoes. They seemed to enjoy the life of the pioneer. All seemed happy in their avocations, and appeared very much interested in the arrival of strangers from the outside world; were full of hospitality and were very anxious that strangers should know of the wealth and see some of the beauties of this county. I confess I was completely captivated
by their friendly interest and the undeveloped beauties which surrounded me. Looking up toward the tops of the tall forest trees, such as the oak, the sugar maple and the pine, all so useful and so plenty in this county at that early day, I found almost everything so different from what had been represented to me when I first landed in Detroit. The representation made to me at that time was, a cold and barren soil, fit for no one but Indians, half-breeds and trappers. I was happily disappointed in not finding moss on the bodies of the trees from top to bottom, and the lower branches touching the ground. I found the early settlers of this county most beautifully located upon the banks of the Cass River, upon good, clay loam soil, with every prospect of securing a competence. I became satisfied, after a few days prospecting, that I could not do better than select my location and commence operations. I immediately did so, and then wrote on for my friends to come, and they kept coming, one after another; and they had some friends and would send for the; and so the number of families kept increasing, and has continued to do so until now. The forest trees kept disappearing before the sturdy arms of the pioneer, and beautiful orchards of mixed fruits and waving fields have taken their place.
“And so Tuscola County of 1848, with its new developed resources, its dark woods, its bridle paths, and Indian trails, and log cabins, has passed away, and now beautiful villages, palatial dwellings, broad and rich fields of wheat, oats and corn, and most of the different varieties of fruit, enough for home consumption and a large amount yearly for export, leaving good profits in the hands of the operators, is the recompense of the inhabitants of Tuscola County.
“Tuscola County was attached to Saginaw County for judicial purposes, and remained so until 1850, when an act of the legislature was passed, organizing Tuscola County, where there was but one organized town and that was the township of Tuscola. About that time Messrs. North & Edmunds located at Vassar, and commenced building mills; and the inhabitants commenced settling around them, coming in on the trail of the little band located on the banks of the Cass River, at Tuscola. And so from the few inhabitants of 1848 and 1850, Tuscola County has advanced to its present position, having in 1880, according to the census, a population of upward of 25,000. Not only has the face of the country been improved, but the stock has changed for the better in as great a ration as our farms. When we look to 1848 we see the cattle running in the woods with the tinkling bell upon their necks. A small ox sometimes a pair of bulls or a steer and a heifer yoked together constituted the teams of the country. The hogs running half wild, with jewels hanging to their chops and necks, constituted the pork family. Compare the past with the present: then the hay ricks and scanty crops, now the well-filled frame barns; from the trails and log causeways to well constructed turnpikes; form the ox team and two-wheeled cart and sled we have now beautiful horse teams and top carriages; and from the small native cow we have changed to the well-bred imported stock.”
BEGINNING OF GENERAL PROGRESS.
The two Richardsons purchased the mill property and water power of Mr. Ripley, and completed the dam.
In 1849 the Slafters came, and Townsend North began operations at Vassar.
In 1850 William Harrison started the first mercantile business done in Tuscola. His cash capital was $16, and his first purchase of goods amounted to $116. He bought his goods of Daniel H. Eaton, of Saginaw, and brought them in on a wagon. His salesroom was in his dwelling-house.
During the year 1850 Col. Richardson built the big store, still standing, and opened the first regular store in the county. The postoffice was moved into it, and Dr. Richardson was postmaster.
The features of a village now began to appear. This was the gateway through which every one had to pass in going from Saginaw up the Cass River. People swarmed in to buy pine lands, and for several years following 1850 settlers poured into the county rapidly. They were lively years for Tuscola Village.
The village was platted and its future looked promising.
In 1854 the Cass River House was built by John Currey, and called the Currey House. About two years later Dennis Harrison built the Tuscola House, and in 1857 Dr. William Johnson, now of Vassar, moved into it, and served the public in the double capacity of physician and landlord. During 1854, Mr. Philo B. Richardson arrived and engaged in the mercantile business.
The mill property and water has remained in possession of the Richardsons, but a sash, door and blind-factory and a woolen-mill have succeeded the saw-mill and tannery.
The postmasters at Tuscola have been as follows: Ebenezer Davis, Dennis Harrison, Dr. Paschal Richardson, William Harrison, Sabin Gibbs, P. B. Richardson, Horace E. Harrison and Dr. Shoff. The office was atone tie called Worth, but afterward changed to Tuscola.
The village is located on section 28, and was platted in 1850. It has one of the finest natural locations on the Cass River, but having no railroad connection it has retrograded rather than advanced.
The first bridge across the Cass River at this point was a rude affair, built by the State. The first permanent bridge was commenced by Dennis Harrison and E. W. Perry, and finished by the latter. The present magnificent iron bridge is the finest improvement the town has ever made, and it was largely due to the efforts and good judgment of Hon. D. G. Slafter that it was secured. It was built in 1877 at a cost of $7,000.