Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collection

Vol 3 1879


Tuscola County



By William Johnson, Secretary of Tuscola county Pioneer Society.


February 5, 1880



     The following is a brief memorial of our late esteemed townsman, Mr. James Johnson of Vassar, Tuscola county, Michigan, who departed this life at his residence in Vassar on Monday, March 10, A.D. 1879, in the 45th years of his age.  Mr. James Johnson was born in the town of Pittsford, Monroe county, New York, on the first day of September, A. D. 1834.  He resided at that place until the autumn of 184, when his fatherís family emigrated to Armada, Macomb county, Michigan, with whom he lived till the year 1853, when he came to Vassar.  After serving as a clerk in the principal dry goods store of the place for two or three years, he purchased a drug store, and soon worked up a good and profitable business and became a careful and competent druggist, which business he closely pursued until his death.  In the year 1863 he married Miss Mary E. North, eldest daughter of Hon. Townsend North of Vassar, who survives him, and by whom he had four children, two sons and two daughters, all now living.    He was a person oof excellent moral character, and of the strictest integrity, respected by all his acquaintances, and held in the hightest esteem by his neighbors and numerous friends.  His death was a severe loss to his beloved wife and children, as well as to the community in which he was so well known.  Mr. Johnson was a member of Tuscola county Pioneer Society.



From the Vassar Pioneer.


     At the pioneer meeting in this place on Thursday, January -, 1881, Mr. L. Hart, of Tuscola, exhibited a steel-trap with this history:

     The trap was made by a brother of Mr. Hart while residing in the State of New york, some forty-five years ago, and is considered a fine piece of workmanship, strong and made of the best steel.  It was given by the make to his brother, L. Hart, when soon after he removed to Michigan, thinking it might be of service in the wilds of the West.  Mr. Hart located on a farm in the township of Tuscola, where he no rededs, over forty years ago.  The country was then a wilderness and infested with wolves.  Mr. hart caught in the trap the first wolf caught in Tuscola county, and several afterwards about the same time.  He had again set the trap for another of those pests of the early settlers in the woods not far from his house, on the spot where now stands the residence of E. W. White.  It was fastened to a heavy clog of wood, but it disappeared suddenly, and nothing more was heard or known of it until about forty years afterwards, when it was discovered by a man chopping in the forest near Mt. Morris, Genesee county, some thirteen miles distant, suspended in the crotch of a tree thirty-six feet from the ground.  When the tree was felled, the trap was discovered, released from its long captivity, and borne home in triumph by the sturdy axman as a lawful prize.

     When found, the chain attached, and which was wound around the tree, was concealed from sight, being completely grown over and embedded in the growing wood and bark.  The trap haning on one side of the crotch, and the ring at the other end of the chain dangling on the other side, were all that was exposed to view.  Speculations as to the manner in which it came there may have ample scope; but the most natural theory seems to be that some powerful animal must have carried the trap and clog up the tree to the crotch, passed around the tree and through the crotch again, thus winding the chain completely round the body of the tree, and shortening it so as to be unable to extricate itself from it perilous situation, and there hung until it died of starvation, and its flesh and bones decayed and dropped from their imprisonment, or were devoured by ravenous beast or birds.  When discovered, some months ago, no traces of its victim remained, save some little bits of hair between the jaws of the trap.  The clog must have perished in like manner.

     The astonished discoverer cut off a section of the tree containing the crotch and imprisoned trap, and took it home for exhibition, but its history was involved in mystery.  At length it came to the knowledge of Mr. hart, who recognized it at once as his trap, which he had set near his house forty years before; and his brother, who had also came to Michigan, knew it to be the identical trap that he made in New York State, as already stated, and gave to his brother.

     What kind of an animal it was that was caught in it, and carried it off bodily, with the heavy clog attached, and to so great a distance, is mere conjecture.  It must have been one of great strength, and may have been a lynx wild cat, or some other powerful beast.

     The section of the tree exhibited by Mr. Hart, and containing the trap shows it to be beech, and the main trunk is about five inches in diameter, while the branch is some two inches across.  A hole is cut in the body which reveals the chain embedded an inch or more beneath the other bark.  Mr. Hart proposes to prepare a more full account of this most singular relic of the past, to be attached to it.


© 2006  of  transcription and digital photographs by Carol Szelogowski

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