History of Port Sheldon Township

In 1835, a group of Eastern leaders formed the Port Sheldon Land Company. This company bought six hundred acres of land for $900.00 to build a city. They spent a fortune laying out and building a boom city near Pigeon Creek. The first post office opened in 1838, as did the Ottawa House, an elaborate hotel. The manager of the hotel boasted, "This house will be furnished in a style not surpassed by any house in the country." Distinguished visitors came from all parts of the world.

Four main causes, however, brought the fall of Port Sheldon. The first and probably most important was the Panic of 1837. The second was its poor location. It was not in the direct line of communication between the Atlantic and the fast growing West. Third, the harbor site was very poor, and sand was continually shifting to fill the harbor. Finally, low morale and work ethic. The community only functioned as long as the company poured in borrowed money. As soon as the town had to live on its own strength, it failed.

By 1890, most of the virgin timber had been cut. Logs no longer floated down the river, and sawmills were idle. Small communities dwindled or disappeared. About 1916, people became alarmed. Thirty-five thousand trees were planted throughout the area. This was called the Harlem Sand Blow Project. Increased soil erosion made farming impossible. Pine seedlings were planted to control sand-shifting. Later, as the trees matured, a ready market for Christmas trees was found.

By the 1930s, strawberry, raspberry and blueberry growers moved into the township. They found the land suitable for these crops, and today several hundred acres are planted in these fruits.

VENTURA. The boundaries of this community would be approximately New Holland and Ransom Street, Lake Michigan and an irregular line on the east about one mile from the Lake Michigan shore. The place was also known as Davisville, but given a post office as Ventura on July 30, 1862. Little remains today because much was destroyed by fire. The Ventura School and the Baptist Church still carry the name.

WEST OLIVE. This village was platted by R.M. Paget in 1870. The post office was opened in 1870 with John Hanchett as its first postmaster. This community was given a station of the Chicago and Western Michigan, now Pere Marquette, Railroad in 1884. By 1906, West Olive boasted a church, a school, a pickle factory, millinery and two general stores.

During the early 1900s, one of the most loved and needed persons in the area was Mrs. Martin Berkompas or "Aunt Jen." She delivered over one hundred and twenty babies without the aid of a doctor. The State of Michigan had given her a special permit because of the shortage of physicians. When there was illness or a death, everyone called on her.

Most of the social life centered around the depot, post office, and general stores. Coal and gasoline were shipped in. Grain, pickles, bark and logs were shipped out. Two trains a day carried passengers and mail. Port Sheldon Township was officially organized April 7, 1924, breaking away from Olive Township. The majority felt they were not being properly represented, since township officials were from the more heavily populated eastern farm area.

Transcriber: Leslie Coulson
Created: 15 November 2005
URL: http://ottawa.migenweb.net/twprecords/ptsheldon/history.html