Pioneer Life In Ottawa County
(Nunica, Crockery Township Area)
By H. B. Jennings
Written in 1906
In writing of pioneer life in this part of Michigan, I will say that there a few old settlers left. Among them I may mention Mrs. John H. Davison. She was postmistress in 1855, and still lives on the same farm, one mile south of Nunica, on the banks of Crockery Creek, on the old Grand River Road. She is passing her declining years with her daughter, Mrs. Wealthy Palen. Her husband died some fifteen years ago.
In those days the mail was carried from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven by a Mr. Hanners, most of the time on horseback, about once a week. He went down on Monday and tried hard the rest of the week to get back, and when Deer and Crockery Creek were on the rampage our mail would not show up for several weeks.
At that date there were five old settlers on Crockery Creek, viz: John H. Davison, William Hathaway, William, Thompson, Henry Pennoyer and Sidney Lawrence. The last named had a watermill four miles north of the river road. All of these men have passed away.
One of the most noted places on Crockery then was the Hunter settlement east of the creek on the River Road, which comprised the following settlers Sim Adams, T.F. Hunter, A. Bartholomew, A.W. Taylor, George Smith and S.O. Hunter, who had seven children Jane, Hiram, Silas, Seth, Josephine, Charles and Isabelle. Uncle Silas, Charles and Silas, Jr. (Tip) were all good violin players and Uncle Silas’s latch-string always hung on the out side. We all made his log-house our stopping place for amusements, we could dance one set in the kitchen and another in the front room. I do not think there was a week passed in twenty years that we did not dance at that dear old pioneer log cabin home, and Aunt Sally Hunter never had an empty cupboard, for there was always enough to feed the visitors that were constantly making her home their headquarters. Let me say, God bless those good people who cleared the wilderness and made those fertile lands "blossom as the rose" and paved the way for coming generations.
Of all those that I have mentioned in the Hunter settlement, only three are living today, Silas Hunter of Coopersville, Mrs. Josephine Hancock of Muskegon, and Mrs. Jane Putman of Beaumont, Texas. Wife and I came among them perfect strangers, but they gave us a hearty welcome. They always had a place in their social circles for Robert and Mary, and as we were young and fond of dancing, the acquaintance soon ripened into mutual friendship. We had left our childhood home and classmates and had found new friends in the wilderness, that we soon learned to love just as dearly as those we had left behind. And today, after fifty-one years since we first met them, we still cherish and revere their memory.
Among the pioneers of that day, I may mention one whose memory must live forever, Ariza Bartholomew, who furnished two sons and three son-in-law for the Civil War. Almond Landon and Ariza Bartholomew, Jr., sleep in sunny Tennessee, and William Bartholomew came home and died of his wounds. John Castle was one of that family who returned from the war. Orange Jubb also returned, a cripple, losing a limb in Sheridan’s charge in the Shenandoah Valley, and died last spring at his home in Nunica. The G.A.R. Post at Nunica was named in honor of Mr. Bartholomew. His two daughters, Mrs. Lucinda Jubb and Mrs. Amanda Castle, and the latter’s husband, are resident of Nunica.
The Indians were quite numerous in this locality in 1855, and their wigwams lined the of the Q-wash-te-nong (Grand River) and Crockery Creek. Their tom-toms could often be heard al all hours of the night in the spring time, when on a pow0pow and filled with white man’s firewater.
Here a few names of Indians who hunted in Ottawa County at that time:Na-do-wasm, Chin-quash-a-kan, Black Bid, Ah-moor-nis-so-was-noa-en-abic, in English , Seven-Day Snake, Cobmo-sa.
Orange Jubb and myself were fond of hunting, and one day while journeying thru the woods we spied some squaws boiling sugar. They saluted us, "Bis-shoo che-mo-ka-man ne-she-shin," meaning "How do you do, white man, Good?" Mr. Jubb was fond of maple sweet and so was I, and we knew enough on squaw talk to understand that we were welcome to help ourselves. One of the forest maidens handed each of us a tin cup and we made a paddle for each of us to eat with, but just then the kettle that was doing the sugaring off commenced to boil over. But the dark lady of the wild wood was equal to the occasion, for she slipped her hand inside of her blanket and brought forth a chunk of deer tallow, and biting off a piece as large as a hen’s egg, she threw it into the kettle and the turmoil in that rebellious pot instantly subsided. Orange and I laughed at this performance and he said, "Bob, that tallow was half skunk’s grease, for I can smell it. Can you eat it? I replied, "Yes, Orange, surely; let’s eat it." We then did justice to the squaw’s sugar, and for many years after we would joke each other as to who ate the most of it.
The mosquito was one of the most tantalizing plagues we had to contend with in those days. They never went off to sleep like other living things, but always kept wide awake from early spring until the falling of the leaves. It would be impossible to describe their mean and cunning ways. The settlement never ate their meals without placing a smudge under the table, and then the pesky "skeeters" in order to get out of the way of the smoke, would often crawl up our pants legs and proceed to make things very uncomfortable for us. In order to sleep nights everybody had to rig up curtains of the mosquito netting around their beds. To protect the cattle, the farmers would take their teams and haul logs onto the cattle’s sleeping ground, and burn them at night. The cows would stand in the smoke chewing their cuds, while the farmer would be busy trying to extract the lacteal fluid. The mosquito was always hungry, cunning and war-like, and when he attacked you in front and got defeated, he was always sure to charge the rear and put in his best licks. Wherever he was there was apt to be "something-doing".
In 1855 four-fifths of Michigan was nothing more than a zoo or deer park, and the fathered species of game birds, such as ducks, geese, turkey, grouse, and partridges were numerous. The bayous along the rivers and creeks were alive with mallards, which in the springs and falls were so numerous that you could walk on them if they would let you. Whenever the beech-nuts were plenty, the wood pigeons were so numerous that my description of them may seem like fiction to the reader, but, like George of old, I cannot tell a lie. They were so thick at times in their flight that you could not see the sun--that is, if it happened to be a cloudy day. To speak the truth, I have seen ten acres of woodland covered with the little beauties.
Pigeons never feed near their nesting grounds. When nesting at Pigeon Creek, south of Grand River, they would fly sixty miles north for their morning meal. Reader, how would you like to walk that far every morning for your breakfast? The male bird sits on the nest while the female took the morning fly, and when she returned in the afternoon, the male bird would take his flight. Nature teaches them this. They always leave plenty of territory with mast to feed their young, for when the latter first leave the nest they were so fat that they could not fly a quarter of a mile without alighting on the ground, and many thousands were drowned by falling into the Grand River. The young birds would remain with us most of the summer, but soon became poor in flesh after leaving their nests. In the fall, when the new crop matured, they would become quite good eating again.
The pigeons, like the American Bison, has become extinct by the relentless hand of man, who should have been their protector instead of their destroyer. In the seventies we had a legislature that failed to make a law to protect the pigeons, and the pigeon hunters with nets soon destroyed one of America’s finest game birds.
In 1880, when I was selling goods in Holton, Muskegon county, I wrote a letter to John B. Perham, of Spring Lake, who was a member of the legislature, at that time, and I told him if there was not some action taken in the matter the pigeons would be destroyed. He did endeavor to introduce a bill to save them, but his wise body of lawmakers considered pigeons of minor importance and they did not feel justified in using their valuable time in saving the lives of the birds, but left them to perish.
In 1876, wrote to one of Michigan’s fish hatchery for ten thousand eels. And one day in June I received a message to watch out for them as they were shipped from Cohoes Falls, where they were caught with dipnets. My life-long friend, Orange Jubb, was on hand with horse and rig, and one fine June evening we started with our small fry. I planted about three thousand at the Crockery Bridge on the Grand River, which was Jubb’s Bayou. There I procured a boat, took my canoe of young snake lets and with tender care planted them in their western home in one of the finest bayous on Grand River. I did not remain there long enough to have the pleasure of landing one of my black beauties, but have been told by those who caught some that the bayous in that vicinity were alive with eels.
This Pioneer history would not be complete without an occasional anecdote to brighten its dull pages. In the summer of 1858, my friend Orange Jubb, was stopping with me, and one night we were called from our slumbers by a loud rap at the door. I arose and went to the door and there stood Orange’s brother. He was somewhat excited, but said Mr. Flanders was very sick and wanted me to come over as soon as possible. I told Henry I would do his bidding. Mr. Flanders lived on the forty acres adjoining to mine. Orange and I hustled into our blue jeans, and soon, with no hats on, unkempt hair and bare feet, we were ready to perform an act of mercy. We did not resemble the M. D.’s of the present day, but we did a splendid job.
When we arrived at the house we found his temperature running pretty high. I could not time his pulse because there were no clock in the house, so we guessed that there were too many beats to the minute. I ordered him to run out his tongue, which he did in good shape. It was badly coated. I consulted with Orange, and we decided that it was a bilious attack of the worst form.
I was very fortunate, for I had in my house, at that time, one of Dr. Chase’s receipt books, which I always carried in cases of emergency. I looked over it’s pages, while my patient groaned, and my assistant and I thought an emetic a proper and safe remedy. I found in Dr. Chase’s book that thoroughwort tea would produce the desired effect. We found a bunch hanging on a peg which projected from the wall, and set it to boiling. When properly steeped, I administered one pint to my patient, with no other result than a rising pressure and enlargement of the abdomen. In five minutes I administered another pint, which also produced no nauseating effects, only rising pressure.
Orange took me out doors for consultation, and said he had a navy plug of tobacco in his pocket and we had better try that. Flanders was not a user of the weed. I dropped part of that plug into the tea and in a few minutes it gave the beverage a dark rich glow, like New Orleans molasses. One pint of this mixture was given at once. The result was a still higher pressure, about 75 pounds to the square inch, and a balloon-like appearance of the abdomen. I then told my partner to watch out for there would be a change in the next five minutes: It would either blow-up or blow-out which proved true, for he threw everything up but his boots, and we carried out a pail well filled before we got the bilious matter all out. We then left our patient quite comfortable and went home at 3 p.m.
I afterward drew a tooth for the same man with turnkeys. I twisted so hard before it came out that he carried his head one-sided for two weeks after the operation. I was called "Dr." Jennings for a long time after that.
On one of my hunting trips one day in winter I killed a deer, west of Lawrence’s Mill. I removed the entrails and then started for Wm. Thompson’s mill, some three and a half miles away, and when I struck the state road bridge I was just about played out, for that deer dragged heavy thru twelve inches of snow. I then took to the creek until I got about twenty rods below the bridge. I found a water beech which leaned over the ice and I hung my deer on that and went home. In the morning I returned for my deer, but when I arrived at the place I found that the wolves had scented my deer trail, which had left blood on the snow, and had followed it to my meat. Not one bone or piece of hide was left, ut for ten rods the ice was covered with deer hair and streaked with blood.
In referring to Grand River in its palmy days of pine lumbering, I will speak of Steele’s landing, which has since been changed to Lamont. Mr. Steele was the first man, I believe, to establish a steam flouring mill at that point. The place was named after him. He was killed by the bursting of a millstone, and was found torn to pieces in his mill. Miner Hedges was his successor in the mill business. He also established a large mercantile business in connection with his milling interests, and was considered one of the solid business men of Ottawa County in those days. He has a sister still living near Nunica, Mrs. Horace D. Scott, who with her husband is passing her declining years on the farm where they lived for more than forty years with their children, all in good circumstances and settled near the old home. Mr. and Mrs. Scott, surrounded as they are with peace and plenty, are enjoying the blessings of a ripe old age, and I hope the grim reaper will spare them for many long years to come.
Now let the reader accompany me down this beautiful river until we reach Robinson landing. This is one of the most beautiful places on the river made so by nature, with large native oaks that shade the grounds, which are perfectly level and rise some ten feet above the surface of the stream. Here also is one of the largest near the river’s margin and boils up from the clean gravel beds beneath the surface. This is the favorite watering place for all steamboats and other craft that navigate the river. The Indian tradition says that this was a village site of the Ottawa’s for thousands of years before the white man’s axe was heard sounding the death knell of Michigan’s "tall whispering pines", that grew in the immediate vicinity.
In early days the birch bark canoes were numerous along this river front, and the Indians lay resting in the shade after quenching their thirst at the spring, but today the white man tills the soil and the red man and his birch canoes have disappeared forever.
Ira Robinson purchased all the land in the vicinity of the landing, and settled on it about the same time his brother Rix came onto Grand River. Robinson township was named after him. He built a log house near the spring and for many years it was the resting place for the river men and settlers who always went away with full stomachs. Aunt Phebe, like Aunt Sally Hunter always had a full cupboard, and was called one of the best cooks in the Grand River Valley. Uncle Ira and Aunt Phebe were both fond of company, and the river men used to say that Uncle Ira could talk sweat out of a pine knot.
They had three children, Ranson, Ira, and Abba. Ranson went to the Civil War, and after spending three years in the conflict and hardships of a soldier’s life, he came home without a wound. But the hardship of war had left their mark on him, for he was not the rugged fellow on his return, and if he doesn’t draw a good pension it is because he has been neglected by the government.
Ottawa Center lies on the opposite side of the Grand and three-fourths of a mile above. This was quite a lumbering point in early days. Benjamin Smith built a steam mill here and the writer of these articles ran the saw there for several years. Smith went to the war as a captain in the Second Michigan Cavalry.
But few of the old landmarks are left to mark the locations of the old mill, store, or boarding house. A few of the old settlers still survive. Mr. and Mrs. Sam Smith, Mrs. Upton, Mrs. Blakeslee, Lucius Barringer, and Isaac Hodges. most of those whom I once knew there have gone on their last resting place in a cemetery that lies nearby. In life they were neighbors and in death they slumber side by side. Peace to their ashes.
Grand River in 1855 and 1856 was truly a business stream. The streamer Algoma, Empire, Michigan, and Olive-Branch were running then. The last named was a stern-wheeler, built after the style of the boats which plied the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and was the finest boat on the Grand. The other boats were small affairs of light draft and could fun on a heavy dew, but the Olive-Branch with Capt. Shoemaker in command, was the favorite. It created a feeling of jealousy among the small boats and the big fellow, the Empire, was placed on the same run with the Branch, and racing between them was the order of the day the whole summer thru.
All the lumber cut at that day on the Rogue and Flat rivers was rafted and run their winter’s cut, and from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven there was seldom a day that, from our point of observation, there was not a lumber raft in view. Most of them carried musical instruments, such as violins, banjos, and accordions. Some had fine singers and good on a break-down and often on a summer evening we mill hands would step into a boat and row out to the raft, where the livid glare of the pitch pine fire lit up the weird scenes of river life. We would spend hours in their company and they were at all times willing to amuse us with music, song, and dance. But the passing of the pine was a funeral note to that happy-go-lucky, careless, reckless, uncouth, "any old way", kind of life on the river, and the lumberjacks day was ended.
The clay deposits on the bluffs at Ottawa Center will some day be very valuable. In 1868, I filled a barrel with it and sent it over to the brickyards on Spring Lake bayou, and had a friend of mine make it into bricks. They were fine colored, white and cream, and were as fine a building brick as you can find in the state. To test their durability I placed some in water and some inn sun and storm for a period of two months to ascertain if there was any lime deposit that would flake or burst them open. At the end of the test I took them out of the water and found them all whole, and when I knocked them together they had the ring of steal about them. There is plenty of dead pine back from the river at that point to burn brick for many years to come, with good shipping facilities by river to Grand Rapids or Grand Haven for nearby markets.
The Ottawa’s made their wigwams from flags plaited and stitched together in a very artful manner, so as to turn the wind and rain as well. Each mat was made ten or fifteen feet long and about three or four feet wide. In order to erect a tent of this kind, they cut a number of poles which they drove into the ground in the form of a circle leaning inwards. Then they spread the mats on these poles, beginning at the bottom and extending up until near the top, where they left a smoke hole about four feet in diameter. They lashed sticks with hooks on the end to hold the kettles on. These were lashed with bark to the cross sticks. On the cross sticks they hung their moccasins to dry when they came in from a hunt. The fire was made in the center. The Indian makes a small fire so he can get close to it. He says, "White man make big fire, can’t come near it." The Indians spread their mats and skins all around the wigwam on the inside, of corse. Sometimes the squaws gathered a quantity of leaves, placed them on the ground and spread their mats on top. That made a swell bed. Then they laid down with their feet toward the fire, much the same as the spokes of a wheel, calling the fire the hub. Thus the red children of the forest passed the cold nights in winter, with the mercury hovering around zero. I have frequently stood by their fire and looked around at their sleeping forms. You could not tell the bucks from the squaws, for male and females wore their hair in long braids down their backs. There they lay the big bucks and the old, wizened faced pipe-sucking squaws, the forest rovers, the papooses and the dark-skinned forest damsels-in the arms of Morpheus, in one big mix-up.
I often called on them to buy their deerskins, which we cup up for string leather to sew the belts in the lumber mills with.
When they had their pow-wows, one or two men were detailed to keep sober. This was always observed to the letter for the sober ones would go a long way from the wigwam and hide all the guns, knives, tomahawks, and ammunition, for sometimes they had some desperate fights and if they had their knives they would cut each other’s hearts out. I often saw five or six in a bunch locked together, trying to punch and bite each other, and they invariably came out with black eyes. It generally took about three days and nights to wind up a good pow-wow and the only thing then that stopped them was they had no more fire water. Such was Indian life along Crockery Creek fifty years ago.
In 1870 and 1871, the Chicago and Michigan Lake Shore Railroad was constructed thru the central portion of Ottawa County from Holland north thru the towns of Olive, Robinson, Crockery, and Fruitport thru to Muskegon. This soon put a new life into the timberland portion of the county, and thriving villages sprang into life. Blendon, Olive, Robinson, Spoonville, Nunica, and Fruitport were all prospering and the road was doing a good paying business under the management of A.H. Morrison, when the Michigan Central Company loaned the portion of the old D. and M. road from Grand Rapids to Nunica and then on the new Chicago road to Muskegon, thus getting an outlet to Lake Michigan. But Mr. Morrison became unpopular with the company, altho he had been the main promoter of the road from the start to finish, and was averse to the road going to Grand Haven at any time. Under a feeling that injustice had been done to him, he sent in his resignation, and a Mr. Kimball was given the superintendence. Kimball drew a salary of $10,000 a year, and cut his section men’s pay down to 80 cents a day. We all felt sorry at the time for the poor hard-working Irish lads who had families to support.
Grand Haven, at that time, had a stub road for its southern outlet which ran from Allegan to Muskegon. Many Grand Havenites felt sore to think the Chicago road had gone the route it did and left them out in the cold, and under a feeling of selfishness, they were willing to sacrifice the small towns for self interest.
The first illegal act of Kimball was to cause a switch to be taken up at Spoonville, which had been in use ever since the road was in operation. Mr. Morrison had built the side track to Spoon’s mill and had given the railroad’s guarantee of its perpetuity. Mr. Spoon was a very popular man with all who knew him, and this snub from Kimball made the latter very unpopular with shippers. Mr. Spoon shipped his lumber by vessels in summer, and by the Chicago road in winter.
Kimball was a man who believed in the maxim of destroying the small fish and saving the large. He made himself instrumental in the purchase of an Allegan road which ran thru Grand Haven, and then leased the right of way over the D. and M. bridge at Ferrysburg, and started his trains over the new route to the delight of the people behind the sand dunes, but what shall I say of the feelings of the men of small means who had invested their capital in business and in the purchase of village lots and other property, such as mills, etc. could they look on with complacency and see their property ruined by this operation?
They all said, at that time that there was no law that could allow the road to be removed, but Kimball understood how to steal a railroad much better than those poor, honest people understood how to preserve it. In the Spring of 1880 about midnight one Saturday night, one train backed up from Holland and one from Muskegon and met on the bridge over Grand River and the work of stealing the road commenced. By Sunday morning they had such a large portion of the rails taken up, that nobody made a move to serve an injunction on them. It was a hard blow to the pioneers of the central portion of Ottawa County, and is felt to this day.
The people along the line were charitable enough, but to wish Kimball in Hades, but when, shortly after he died, someone said he had sent back to earth for his summer clothes and some ice, those poor men he had ruined did not shed a single tear.
In dealing with this railroad steal, I have no conscientious scruples: I state facts. Kimball’s operations ruined on of Nunica’s finest industries. He caused the withdraw of the Grand River Valley trains and then took up rails on the long "Y". thus compelling Chris Christenson to haul his chairs by teams to be shipped to all points. Christenson shipped many carloads to Stockton, Calif. He told me that that competition between himself and Grand Rapids parties was close and his margin small, but said that Nunica lumbermen kept his mill running and he could cut his own stock and live. He hired expert workers in his factory and filled every house in town, boarding houses as well. After the iron rails were taken from his mill switch he tried using wooden ones, and loaded one car, but when his team started it, the car went thru the wooden rails, and he was compelled to unload his goods, haul them to the Junction, and then jack up Kimball’s car and haul it to the switch on the main line. His patrons in all parts found fault with his tardiness in filling their orders, it lost him trade and finally sent to the wall one of Nunica’s best business men, and destroyed forever the manufacturing of chairs at Nunica.
But the tyrant was not satisfied yet. He stole the Chicago and West Michigan Railway and left a once thriving village with one railroad instead of three. Could Nunica have kept its three railroads it would have had today a population of 3,000 of more in place of its present number. John Spoon sued the company and beat it in the United States court in Grand Rapids for several thousand dollars.
In my reminiscences of early days on Grand River, I must bring forth a class of men whose unpolished ways may seem rough and uncouth to the present generations. They were men with rough exteriors and, like the sailor when in port, they sometimes painted the town red. These men represented most of the western states. American born and of a tough, hardy class that know not fear, they were always ready to exchange the labors of the oar for a scrap with any man that had the sand, exposed all summer to the reflected rays of the sun, they became the color of Indians.
When they arrived at Grand Haven, where numbers of them met together for diversion and frolic, their assemblages were often riotous and lawless to extremes. Then the civil authorities would take the matter in hand and rush some of the joyful ones into the "coop". But Grand Haven, to her honor, was never hard on the lumberjacks and river men, and usually let them off with light fines or suspended sentences.
The river men always made good times in the Haven. The rafts usually tied near Peter Labell’s (he kept the ferry-house near the present bridge between Millpoint-Spring Lake and the Haven).
The lumber always became dirty, a slimy dark substance always gathered on it, and this the lumber pollers had to wash off, and then pull out the lumber and pile it up just like wood. This employed many men from spring until the chase navigation. Then another class of workmen got big pay for shoving lumber to load vessels, 25 to 35 cents an hour. The sawing of pine did seem to civilize the men in a measure, for the wildest men were on the log runs.
When the big log drivers used to come into Muskegon there was generally "a hot time", no law or order the river men ran the town. Sometimes they would take a coil of rope and a new plow from the front of a hardware store and often a hundred men would take hold of the rope. With one man at the beam, they would plow Western avenue from Pine street to the Occidental Hotel all up in fine shape and sometimes plant a good portion down in beans, On White River, a short distance north, whenever a bridge bothered in the past they would shove off a couple of planks from the center, then a couple of the men would jump onto the stringers and soon chop them off and the bridge would float away with the logs to the discomfort of the settlers.
Some of our readers may ask, could not the law put a stop to this law breaking? There was no person who could devise a method at that time, and even in late years in a "strike" in Muskegon, the town had to call on the state for aid./
In the summer of 1881, Muskegon witnesses one of the worst strikes, from a financial point of view, that ever occurred on the shores of Lake Michigan. This strike bore fruit for the labor men all over the world. There was at the time between forty and fifty lumber and shingle mills at that point, employing over 4,000 men. Under the old regime the men were compelled to commence work at 6 a.m. and quit at 6 p.m. allowing thirty minutes for dinner. This made an 11 ½ hour day. The men struck to make 10 hours a day’s work, with no reduction in wages. The mill owners demurred and would not listen to reason, but sent to other large towns like Bay City and Saginaw for men to fill the places of the strikers.
The strikers said they would not kill the goose that laid the golden egg, but would let the old bird sit for a time. They took the main driving belts off, and served their ultimatum-that no more sawdust would be made until justice done them.
The mill owners sent the new crews to the mills, but the four thousand striking lumber butchers, many of them with corks in their shoes and their clothes besmeared with pitch, walked into the mills and asked the men if they were looking for trouble. The old hands then shut down every engine and ordered the "scabs" out of the mills. Then the scrap commenced, but did not end in much bloodshed. All the new men who did not leave the premises were thrown into the lake, and the cool bath reduced their ardor for they saw at once that they were up against a bunch of resolute men who meant business.
After this, as they continued to prohibit the running of the mills, the Mayor read the riot act to them, and telegraphed the Governor for State Troops. The strikers formed a line four abreast and paraded the streets, accompanied by two bands of music, and with flying banners with the mottoes marked thereon, "Ten Hours or No Sawdust".
Several companies of State Troopers came and bivouacked on Western Ave. but the strikers continued their daily parades and would not allow a wheel to turn in any of the numerous mills that lined Lake Michigan. The troops and the strikers became the best of friends, and many of the soldiers when off duty were invited to the homes of strikers, where a social glass of that which made "Milwaukee famous" was often indulged in, and a friendship sprang up between the two factions and continued to the end of the strike. But the taxpayers of the city set up a howl about having to pay so many soldiers to protect rich men’s property, and the dissatisfaction spread until the soldiers were sent home.
The mill men the procured the Pinkerton Force from Chicago. They came loaded with carbines and Navy revolvers, and kept guard up at the sorting. But this was a bluff, and at last ten hours was declared to be a day’s work and the big strike was declared off.
In the summer of 1857, there was not enough crops raised in the town of Crockery to feed its inhabitants. The people were industrious and hard workers, but were poor. They had their land paid for, but had small clearing. The lands were first class hardwood timber with clay soil. The pioneers had to live, so had to clear the land.
They would get some logs in and with the proceeded thereof would get some supplies to keep the wolf from the door. Then they would cut down and prepare a few acres for logging, and then have a bee and the whole neighborhood would turn out. They were just as punctual to attend a logging bee as they were to attend a funeral, and did not feel half so sad. After the bee and a good supper, then the dance which almost invariably lasted until the morning. There was no "wee small hours" for them fellows. It was all night and then go back to work, just as though nothing had been doing. The Hunter boys, Charles and Silas, played music for years. Sometimes Uncle Silas, their father, would assist the boys, and when the three struck up "Money Musk" or "The Opers Reel" or "The Irish Washerwoman" you could hear some of those cowhide boots rattle to beat the band. The men all wore the boots in those days and women did not object.
Winter set in suddenly in 1857, and Wm. Thompson, on whom many depended for winter supplies, had his schooner "Henderson" frozen in at Grand Haven, loaded with lumber for Kenosha, Wis. (there were no railroads then. Grand Rapids had to team her goods from Kalamazoo, what she did not get by boat on the river.) It looked as though we would have to live on leeks and brouse for a living that winter. But one day the weather changed warm, the ice gave way, and Thompson employed Capt. Pete Taft to make the run for $40, Thompson to furnish the crew.
They left the port of Grand Haven with an east wind which followed them to Kenosha, and by the time they had the cargo of supplies aboard, the wind had changed to the west, Capt. Taft had the boats sails run up and the old "Henderson" started for Grand Haven. The captain said afterwards that it was the quickest trip he made that season. The boat did not, however, stop at Grand Haven, but sailed right up river to Spoonville, where it was warped thru the slip and laid up in front of Spoon’s store to rest for the winter. Then there was rejoicing for we all had a plenty.
One of those hardy pioneers who helped make Ottawa County "blossom as the rose" was Oliver P. Gordon. He was born in Sciots, Clinton County, N.Y. and was a millwright by trade. He came to Ottawa County in the spring of 1856 and worked at his trade at Mill Point-Spring Lake now.
Mr. Gordon was so well pleased with Michigan and its advantages that, after spending the summer in this new Eldorado, he returned to New York State, sold his splendid farm there, and then with his family came back to Ottawa County and settled in Lamont, where he followed his trade until the spring of 1863, when he purchased the Joe Hathaway farm in the town of Crockery.
The farm consisted of eighty acres of hardwood land, mostly in a wild state, and he was compelled to put a large amount of his eastern capital into improvements. He built a fine residence, a good substantial barn, and other buildings, and in the meantime cleared the entire eighty acres of its timber. He had just got his farm in good state of cultivation, with a most pleasant home to call his own, and with his faithful wife and children had commenced to enjoy those, his halycon days. But they were of short duration, for an evil day was at hand.
One pleasant day in August, 1870, there came a gang of surveyors, who struck Gordon’s farm on the southwest corner and ran a line diagonally across the entire eighty acres coming out at the northeast corner of the north forty. This virtually ruined the farm, and the owner objected in all kinds of ways, but was obliged to submit to the inevitable. Three men were appointed to appraise the damage, but Mr. Gordon did not realize one-half the value of the damage that was to be done to his home. They made a long but in making grade and in wasting the dirt they covered great portions of his land outside of the right of way. He sued the company in the circuit court for damages and got a judgment of several hundred dollars. All his old neighbors were pleased with the decision, he writer of this article to be included
Mr. Gordon was a man of iron constitution, and though small of stature could endure more than most men. He was always at work and never knew what the word fatigue meant, he was a good neighbor, seldom borrowing, but always willing to lend.
He had a large family of children, six boys and five girls, of whom three are dead, Belle, Mabel and Richard. The oldest son William Gordon, is superintendent of the poor, in Muskegon County. He married one of Crockery’s fairest daughters, Miss Minnie Lawrence, who has a large circle of admiring friends in Ottawa and Muskegon Counties. She was a daughter of Sidney Lawrence, one of the early pioneers of Ottawa.
Mr. Lawrence built a mill on Crockery Creek in early days, and owned a large amount of pine land from which he supplied his mill for over forty years. He also owned a large tract of first class farm land at his mill. His son, Edward Lawrence, now owns the old homestead. Another of his daughters, Lizzie Lawrence, married Ariza Landon, a young man of some means and with bright prospect of a long useful life. But, "Man proposes and God disposes" and Mrs. Landon was left a widow in her early married life.
Sidney Lawrence was one of Crockery’s best men. He had ample means and always gave every man a square deal, and his word was never doubted. He as township supervisor for several years, and his good judgment in making the assessment always gave the best of satisfaction to taxpayers. But he and his kind, loving wife have both passed to that land of perpetual joy where sorrow never comes, and, like Oliver P. Gordon, have left children who are honored and respected citizens.
George, another son of Mr. Gordon’s, owns a farm at Monteith. The next son, Fred, has been supervisor of Crockery Township for the past three years, and owns the old Gordon homestead. Another son is a prospector in the Klondike, and I shall have more to say about his life and hair breadth escapades in a future article. Etta, the oldest daughter, married Emery Richmond, who has run a locomotive on the Pere Marquette for the past twenty-five years. Mr. Richmond, being a temperate man and Etta a provident and saving housekeeper, they have amassed a good comfortable income, and reared a family of two beautiful daughters. They lived in Grand Rapids and own several fine residences in the furniture city. The other three daughters were among our most popular young ladies. Mr. Gordon and good wife have both passed to their rewards in a better land, leaving behind them a family of children who are an ornament to society.
Michael Carpenter, of Nunica, deserves to be classed as one of the early settlers of Ottawa County. Mike, as he is familiarly known, has a history that is seldom equaled.
He was born in the Emerald Isle, and when but a small boy, his parents with their only child and worldly effects concluded to bid adiou to the per green shore and sail for America. They shipped for New York with many others, but when in mid ocean cholera broke out on board the ship and great numbers perished, and among the victums were Mike’s father and mother.
Poor Mike, then only a small lad, stood by and looked and saw his parents buried at sea, where no marble slab could ever be placed to mark their past resting place, into the dark blue waters of unfathomable depth. He has left an orphan on the face of the deep. The Captain and ship’s officers were very kind to him during the rest of the voyage, and after the ship had arrived in New York it laid in quarantine for a long time.
Mike was at last allowed to enter the city of New York, and after seeing the sights in America’s great metropolis, he made his way to Buffalo, after remaining there a few years he went to Chicago, and in fall of 1856, came to Michigan, and engaged with William Thompson in the lumber business in Crockery Township.
After a few months labor, he concluded to try his luck on the Mississippi and with this idea in mind he settled up his accounts with Thompson drew $45., the balance due him, and placed it loose in his pocket. After bidding farewell to his new friends, he started for the steamboat landing, at that time, on Seth Vbelza’s marsh, just below where Spoonville had since been reared. It was all timber then from Thompson’s mill to the boat landing, and Mike took the trail thru the woods. He was an inveterate user of tobacco, and his hand went often into the pocket that contained the $45, and his tobacco as well. On arriving at the landing his roll of bills was not in his pocket, and he started back along his trail, as near as he could, but that roll of bills did not show up. Thus Carpenter’s life was changed at once. His guardian angel had apparently decreed that he should remain in Crockery and he engaged for the second time with Mr. Thompson.
After working two years, he purchased eighty acres of good hardwood and, his present location. He was married to Miss Ann Welch, in Nunica, in 1859. He built a nice comfortable home the same year, and with his good life commence the voyage of married life in a home their own, where they have remained ever since, and raised a family of children, who, at present, are two man and womanhood grown, and well-to-do in life. After forty-seven years of married life both Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter look remarkably young for people of their age. May they never know heartache or sorrow, is my desire.
Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 29 March 2009