HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
VILLAGE OF CARO
Caro is the county seat of Tuscola County, and is located on section 3, in the township of Indian Fields. It is surrounded by a rich farming country, which contributes liberally to its commercial prosperity and social progress. The geographical position of the village is near the center of the county, and it had its origin in the idea that it might some time become the county seat. Previous to 1869 it was designated by the name of Centerville.
The first settler up on any part of the present site of the village was the late Samuel P. Sherman, who entered the north half of the northwest quarter of section 3, September 8, 1852 and December 2st of the same year entered the south half of the northwest quarter. Only two entries were made in this section prior to September, 1852. And they were for lumbering or speculative purposes. A brief sketch of the first settler upon the site of Caro seems appropriate in this connection, and we give it as follows:
The late Samuel P. Sherman was born in Williamstown, Berkshire County, Mass., March 4, 1805, and died January 1, 1883. When four years of age his parents removed to the State of New York. He was married at Lyous, Wayne County, New York, October 3, 1824 and moved to Southfield, Oakland County, Michigan in 1828. For a time prior to 1852 his son, William E. Sherman, worked at lumbering on the Cass River, in the vicinity of where Caro now stands, and was so much pleased with the appearance of the country that he reported his impressions to his father who visited the locality in 1851 and decided to take up again the life of a pioneer. September 8, 1852, he entered sixty-three acres in the northwest quarter of section 3, in the present town of Indian Fields. September 9 he entered eighty acres in the southwest quarter of section 4, and December 1st of the same years entered eighty acres south of his first entry. In 1852 he removed to Indian Fields, and was the first settler on section 3, now the village of Caro. Mr. Shermans history during the last thirty years of his life is closely identified with that of the village of Caro. Mr. Shermans history during the last thirty years of his life is closely identified with that of the village of Caro. He was a man of generous deeds and strict integrity in all his business relations. His kindness of heart and liberality were proverbial. He was the first clerk of the township and the first justice of the peace. The second township meeting of Indian Fields was held at his house. In the earlier years of his life he was a member of the Methodist Church, but for the last forty years had been connected with t-----rsalist Church, and was largely instrumental in securing an organization of that society in Caro, as is manifest in the history of that society given elsewhere in this work. On the morning of January 1, 1883 he started to walk to the depot to procure a ticket for his wife, who expected to leave for the East during the day. When about half way to the depot he was seen to fall on his face and by the time he was reached life was extinct. His first wife died in 1869, and he had married a second time. The children living are William E. Sherman, Mrs. William McPha-, Mrs. A. P. Cooper, Mrs. E. A. Marr, Mrs. George Gage and Mrs. Joseph Gamble.
THE FIRST OF CENTERVILLE
The Legislature of 1856-57 authorized the building of a State road from Bridgeport, in Saginaw County, to Forestville, in Sanilac County. This road extended through section 3, in the township of Indian Fields, and that part of it was opened late in the fall of 1857. The work of brushing and clearing was done by E. P. Randal, J. Blakely, Alexander Belmer, Lewis Richards and his two sons, and Horace Parsell. This work was done in December, and the first team over the road was driven by Mr. C. R. Selden, present treasurer of the county, who was at that time hauling supplies for a lumber firm.
In 1858 Melvin Gibbs, who had been keeping a hotel in the old log house built by Samuel P. Sherman, put up a frame building, still standing at the corner of Almer and Frank Streets, and used it as a hotel. It was known as the Gibbs House, and was the first hotel built on the site of Caro.
In 1859 William E. Sherman, who had been living in Juniata, removed to this point and built a hotel near where the postoffice building now stands. There was a small building on the ground, built the year previous which he enlarged, making a building 30 x 40 feet in size and two stories in height. He gave his hotel the name of Centerville House, and from that the locality took its name. Mr. Sherman reasoned that being near the center of the county, this point was a good location for a town that would have more than an equal chance of securing the county seat.
At this time S. P. Sherman, Melvin Gibbs, Charles Austin, Chester Briggs, William E. Sherman, Peter D. Bush and N. G. Alvord, were about all the residents of the neighborhood.
Mr. Sherman purchased a stock of groceries and calico,
amounting in value to about $50, and kept them for sale in the bar-room of the Centerville House, and thus started the first store in the place. He also used to handle the mail, carrying it to and from Vassar and Watrousville, until the Burnside postoffice was established.
The first blacksmith shop was started by L. D. Welch, who is still carrying on the same business in the village, and is consequently the pioneer blacksmith of Caro. Mr. Welch came here in the spring of 1861, and built a temporary shop about where D. A. Horners drug store now stands. He also built a shanty to live in on the lot where his present residence stands. During that summer he built a permanent shop on the State road. He is still hammering away on the anvil chorus begun in the solitude of Centerville.
In the spring of 1861 Mr. Sherman put up a small frame building, about where the Wilsey Block now stands, and moved his stock of goods from the hotel into it. A man named Bates purchased the hotel, and it was kept for a time by a Mr. Foster, and in the spring of 1863, Alfred Weldon moved here from Saint Clair County, and kept the hotel a year. He then moved to Richland, in Almer, and built a mill that had been begun by E. P. Randall and J. Blakely. In the spring of 1864 S. R. Cross took the hotel property and rebuilt the hotel and kept it for several years.
The second store in the place was started and kept by Joseph Gamble. The building was put up in 1861, and it is now part of the bakery building on State Street.
The first physician in the village was Dr. Palmer, who came about 1862. Prior to that time Dr. Dickinson of Almer, had been the only physician in this part of the county.
The first church building in the place was built for Universalist worship, by Samuel P. Sherman, in the summer of 1861. It was used for religious worship by other denominations. Its mission has long since changed, and it is now part of a saloon building on the corner of State and Burnside Streets.
Among the early preachers who ministered to the spiritual wants of the community was a young man of fiery zeal and demonstrative inclinations. At times during his labors here strange sounds would be heard issuing from the poplars scattered through the burnings back of the village. The villagers were puzzled to account for the cause, and finally a delegation of boys visited the locality from which the unaccountable racket proceeded. Approaching the thicket with caution, they discovered the young preacher threshing wildly about among the underbrush, and delivering his sermon for the coming Sunday to the nodding poplars. The curiosity of the people was appeased, but the minister finding that his sanctuary was invaded, discontinued his rehearsals, and the eloquence of the young divine resounded no more through the burnings.
YEARS OF STRUGGLE.
The years between 1861 and 1866, made an exhausting drain upon the energies of the people of Centerville. While the country was fighting battles for the preservation of the Union, Tuscola County was the battle ground of numerous and exciting contests over the location of the county seat. In that struggle Centerville was enlisted without limit as to term of service, and its captains slept with their armor on. The history of this contest is to be found elsewhere in this work.
THE HOPE OF CENTERVILLE REALIZED
The final triumph of Centerville in the county seat controversy was the event that shaped the destiny of this aspiring village, and fulfilled the ardent expectations of such of its people as had labored long and unremittingly to accomplish that purpose. The board of supervisors, at the October session, in 1865, voted to remove the county seat from Vassar to Centerville, and that action was subsequently ratified by the electors of the county. The population of the entire township of Indian Fields at that time could not have been over 400, as the year previous the census returns reported it at 249. Section 3, now the corporation of the village of Caro, contained the following inhabitants and buildings: Beginning at the lower end of State Street, at the southwest corner of the village, was a house occupied by Daniel Delling. A few rods to the northeast was the house of Lewis Miller, on the opposite side of the road; the next building was the district school-house, afterward sold and converted into a dwelling; next were the mills, and beyond the house of William E. Sherman. S. R. Cross kept a hotel about were the postoffice no stands, and opposite was a small store kept by J. C. & Charles Montague, a portion of the building being occupied by them as a dwelling. Melvin Gibbs kept a hotel called the American House north of the Montague store, on what is known now as Almer Street, while opposite was the store of Joseph Gamble, who lived in the upper part of the building. North of that and near by, lived L. D. Welch, in a shanty. Not far away lived S. P. Sherman, and east, on what is now Frank Street, lived Charles Austin. Following northeast from S. P. Shermans was the house of M. B. Gibbs then X. O. Smith, and opposite, the hose of Horace Montague. The next house was that of P. D. Bush, and with that the enumeration of Centerville in October, 1865, ends.
In December, 1865, P. D. Bush, S.P. Sherman, Melvin Gibbs, S. R. Cross and Charles Austin, made and platted the village, and soon commenced selling lots for building purposes. Theretofore the land had been worth about $15 an acre, and the first lots were sold at from $15 to $25 each.
In the spring of 1866 the frame of a Universalist Church was moved down from Almer, and preparations made for the reception of the capital, as narrated on another page. That spring and summer witnessed quite an immigration and considerable building. So flattering were the prospects that early in the summer William E. Sherman platted about fifty acres as an addition to the village. Up to September, 1866, no new streets had been opened, and building was confined to the State road and quarter-line roads. In September Mr. J. W. Spencer broke ground for his dwelling-house, where he now lives, and in October, John Kelsey commenced building a house on Burnside Street.
It should, perhaps, be noted that Centerville had its salt and oil epoch, and slight attempts were made for both, but without success.
THE CARO POSTOFFICE
About the first mail carrier to bring mail into Centerville was Mr. William E. Sherman, who used to bring it from Vassar and afterward from Watrousville and distribute it from his counter in the old Centerville House. The mail then amounted to perhaps a hat full, provided always the hat was not to large. About 1861 a rival to Centerville appeared upon the bank of the Cass, about a mile distant in Almer Township, called Richland, and a postoffice called Burnside was established there, and E. P. Randall was postmaster. The mail route then extended from East Saginaw to Sand Beach. At that time, when the mail carrier passed through, the important fact was circulated throughout the neighborhood, and in the meantime a boy on horseback was sent to Burnside for the mail, which he brought in his pockets to the store of DeWitt C. Bush, that being by common consent the general rendezvous. The boy piled the mail on the counter, and the sacred pile was as safe as though it had been locked within government vaults. Each one who came to the store assorted the mail to suit himself, and made his or her own selections.
In 1866 it was thought that the neighborhood should have a
postoffice of its own, and during that year one was established at Centerville, and named Tuscola Center.
The first postmaster was one Zenas Cook, a Universalist minister. He built a shanty near where Mr. Horners drug store is now situated, and gathered in cigar boxes from the neighborhood stores for the equipment of his office. Mr. Cook continued in office about a year and was succeeded in September, 1867, by Farley Craw, the present incumbent. Mr. Craw removed the office to his store. The salary of the office at this time was $96 a year, and the mail was brought three times a week from East Saginaw. Mr. Craw was a man of great enterprise and made a spirited and successful effort to build up the office. He so increased the business that during his first year he earned $400, but the salary remained the same as before.
October 1, 1868, Mr. Craw succeeded in securing a daily mail, and the salary of the postmaster was increased to $400. In June, 1869, the name of the office was changed to Caro, and the following July the office was made a domestic money order office, which was a great convenience as there were no banks in the village at that time. The amount issued in money orders prior to the establishment of a bank has reached $60,000 in a sing year. October 1, 1872, the salary of the postmaster was increased to $90 per annum, and after that time, by a ruling of the postoffice department, any further increased in salary must arise from commission on the increased sale of stamps. The salary remained the same until September 1874, when the system of fixing salaries so changed that the salary depended upon the amount of stamps sold. September 25, 1879, Caro was included in the list of postoffices known as Canadian money order offices. January 1, 1880, the office was made third-class. The salary in 1883 is $1,500 per annum. There are three daily mails, and the money order business amounted to about $19,000 in 1882. The office is kept in a building erected for that purpose by Mr. Craw in 1878. Mr. Craw is a veteran in the postal service, and has always been very popular with the public. We append a brief personal sketch of him as follows:
FARLEY CRAW was born in Berkshire County, Mass., from where his parents removed to Oneida County, N. Y., when he was three years old. From there he came to Michigan in 1845, settling in Oakland County. He was elected a justice of the peace in Oakland County, also in Tuscola County after his removal here, his term of service in that office in both counties amounting to twenty-four years. During his residence in Oakland County he was appointed postmaster at Davisburgh by President Lincoln, holding the office until shortly before Andrew Johnson became president when he resigned. In 1866 he came to Tuscola County, and in 1867 was appointed postmaster at Tuscola Center, now Caro, and still holds the same. He was also at one time a director of schools. He has been engaged in the mercantile business, also farming. He is married and has a family of eight children.
CENTERVILLE IN 1868
In the summer of 1868 the village of Centerville was described as follows: Centerville is situated near the geographical center of Tuscola County, a short distance from the Cass River, in one of the most beautiful and healthy locations in the State of Michigan. It is about thirty miles east of Saginaw and nearly the same distance in the same direction from Bay City, sixteen miles northeast from Vassar, eight from Watrousville, and twelve from Unionville the latter a town in the northern part of the county, about six miles from Saginaw Bay. The mail arrives daily from Detroit and Saginaw, and traveling facilities by railroad and stage enable the traveler to make the trip comfortably to and from the metropolis of the State in one day. The first permanent settlers were Samuel P. Sherman, William E. Sherman and Melvin Gibbs. The excellent quality of soil and the advantages of location which the place possessed indicated to these gentlemen what its future might become if industry and enterprise but seconded the advantage which nature supplied. No better farming district can be found than is comprised in the surrounding district, a fact which has contributed mainly to give Centerville the growth and importance to which she has attained. The soil is well adapted to the culture of all cereal crops, but especially to winter wheat, which is raised of a quality not to be surpassed. Fruits of almost all kinds do finely. Apples, pears, peaches, cherries, plums, grapes, with a large variety of small fruits, are successfully cultivated, though transplanted from foreign districts, while many kinds of fruits are indigenous to the soil. The timber most abundant is maple, beech, bass or linden, and oak. There is also some hemlock, cedar and elm, and occasionally large and very valuable tracts of pine are still found, although a great part of this valuable timber with which large districts were formerly encumbered has already been removed by the enterprising lumbermen. The surface is rolling and beautiful and well calculated for pleasant homes. Land can be purchased for fro $5 to $15 per acre. Improved farms with goods buildings from $30 to $50 per acre. Frosts are not as prevalent as in places more remote from the lake. The market is excellent; all kinds of farm produce obtain a ready and high price. Large amounts of feed are, each winter, consumed in the pine forests up the river, while Saginaw at the same time stands ready to take all the surplus products at good prices. The village was platted in November, 1866, shortly after the people of the county had decided by a large majority on a popular vote to make Centerville the shire town of the county. Previous to this time the county seat had been at Vassar. Since this event-important in its influence on Centerville-the town has grown from a mere handful of houses, occupied by perhaps a dozen families, to a town of about 500 inhabitants. It has a beautiful Union school-house, 40x60 feet, two stories high, which was erected at a cost of nearly $5,000. It will seat 275 scholars. An efficient teacher from the State of New York has charge of the school at present, under whose management it is in a prosperous condition. A printing-office, just established, issued its first edition of the Tuscola Advertiser, as it is called, last week- August 21. It is a neat seven-column paper, whose appearance is decidedly creditable and is a compliment to its manager, who is both publisher and editor. The village contains one flouring-mill, one saw-mill, a planing-mill, sash and blind factory, a tannery, a brewery, a foundry, four hotels, four dry goods and grocery stores, two drug stores, one hardware store, one feed store, two boot and shoe shops, one cabinet-ware house, two harness shops, three blacksmith shops, and one livery stable. There are Presbyterian, Methodist and Universalist societies; two physicians attend the sick; a single office looks after the insurance and real estate trade. As yet no lawyer has located at Centerville; an inviting field is here opened to some talented and enterprising young man to embark in this profession. The best of clay is found in abundance, and a brick-maker is among the articles much wanted. There are numerous kinds of business not yet introduced, and a good opening is here offered for a variety of vocations which can be profitably conducted. All things considered beauty of location, healthfulness of climate, excellence of soil, its adaptation to the raising of fruit as well as all kinds of farm products, with her unsurpassed markets, Centerville promises to rival her sister villages in extent of influence and business and in general prosperity.
CHANGE OF NAMES
Confusion and annoyance were continually experienced on account of two different names for the village and postoffice, and
December 30, 1868, a meeting was held at Phipps Hall for the purpose of considering this, among other things. M. D. Orr was chairman and H G. Chapin secretary. Mr. William E. Sherman stated the object of the meeting, and it was voted unanimously that some change should be made. An informal ballot was taken to ascertain the preferences of the citizens as to a name. Twelve names were proposed, six of which were found in the postoffice directory, and therefore not entitled to consideration. Another ballot was taken and twenty-six votes cast, as follows: Novesta, 13; Alvana, 8; Alcor, 2; Eagle Point, 2; Fontana, 1. A formal ballot was taken and forty votes cast with the following result: Novesta, 25; Alvana, 8; Latusco, 6; Alcor, 1. It was then unanimously voted that Novesta be the name of the postoffice and village. A committee consisting of E. W. Gerrish, F. Craw and W. E. Sherman were appointed to prepare petitions and obtain signatures to be sent to the postoffice department and to the representative in the legislature. Before anything was accomplished the board of supervisors organized a new town, calling it Novesta, and the village god-fathers suddenly found themselves without a name. Another meeting was held to select a new name, which resulted in the choice of Caro. This name had been suggested by Mr. William E. Sherman, who abbreviated Cairo, in Egypt. He probably deemed it prudent, in view of the future necessities of the growing village, to make as light a draft as possible upon the alphabet. In February, by act of legislature, the name of the village was changed to Caro, and the following June, by order of the postmaster general, the name of the postoffice was also changed to Caro.
In April, 1869, the village of Caro contained twenty-seven business places, as follows: At the lower end of State Street were the flouring and saw-mills of Gamble & McPhail. It was not unusual to see heavy loads of grain, that had been hauled a distance of thirty miles, to be ground at this flouring mill. Nearly opposite the mill was the tannery and harness shop of Dickinson Bros. Then came the furniture establishment and planing-mill of Howell & Ale; Montague & Sherman, general merchants; S. R. Cross hotel; Gamble & McPhail, general merchants; Washburn & Jameson occupied the old Bush store; D. Campbell, dealer in boots and shoes; A. P. Cooper, proprietor of the Caro livery stable, Caro & Vassar and Cass City stage lines; Tuscola Advertiser, printing office, H. G. Chapin, proprietor; Empire saloon, by George Sayers; James West, barber; E. Belmer and J. N. Mertz, blacksmith shops; C. L. Taggett, wagon shop; A. M. Judd, jeweler; F.Craw & Co., general merchants; Miles & Nettleton, dealers in groceries, provisions, etc.; J. W. Spencer, general merchant; J. Phipps, druggist; R. Whiteside, merchant tailor; Caro foundry, J. J. Packer, proprietor; S. S. Utter, hotel; Tuscola Exchange, W. T. Riley, proprietor; Bush House, William Loomis, proprietor; John Franklin, harness shop; H. D. Mendelsohn & Bro., clothing. There were also a meat market and a bakery.
Among the advertisers of that time, the firm of Craw & Co. appears to have been the most poetic; and Caro maidens of 1869 were thrilled with bewitching refrains like this:
if you want to get a beau
Buy a nice dress of Craw & Co.
CHANGES OF THREE YEARS
Some of the changes which occurred in Caro between August, 1868 and November 1871, are indicated in the following table:
No. of dwellings .. 58 108
No. of dry goods stores and groceries .. 4 4
No. of drug stores . 2 2
No. of grocery stores . 2
No. of furniture stores .. 1 2
No. of jewelry stores . 1 1
No. of millinery stores .. 2
No. of clothing stores .. 1 3
No. of hotels 4 4
No. of shoe stores .. 2
No. of printing offices .. 2
No. of photograph galleries 1
No. of harness shops 1 2
No. of meat markets 1 2
No. of foundries .. 1 1
No. of saw and grist-mills . 1 1
No. of planing-mills .. 1 1
No. of sash and door factories . 1
No. of wagon shops . 1 2
No. of blacksmith shops .. 4 3
No. of marble shops .. 1
No. of saloons . 1 2
No. of new business places built . 17
No. of physicians . 2 3
No. of lawyers 4
No. of organized churches .. 1 3
No. of lodges .. 2 1
No. of schools . 1 1
No. of church buildings and halls . 2
Population, about .. 180 500