Gladwin County, Michigan
HISTORY of Gladwin County
Gladwin is one of the newer counties of Northern Michigan in point of settlement and development. Although the first settlers, most of them lumbermen, located about 1863 at the forks of the Tobacco and Cedar rivers, branches of the Tittabawaasee, in the south western part of the county at what is now Beaverton, there were few permanent residents even at the organization of the county in 1875. Its continuous history really dates from that year and period.
Gladwin County Physically
Gladwin county lies west of Arenac and far enough from Saginaw bay so that its early settlement depended on the lumber industries rather than the fisheries or lake commerce. The natural key-note to its success in that regard was the Tittabawassee river, its main branches, the Tobacco. Molasses and Sugar rivers, and numerous minor streams. The first named, so famous for its output of logs in early times, courses through the central part of the county, north and south - the Molasses and its tributaries in the eastern part, the Sugar in the northwest and the Tobacco in the southwest, joining the Tittabawassee at Edenville. just over the southern line in Midland county.
The Cedar, a rapid, clear stream, rises in Clare county, drains the western townships, passes through Gladwin, the county seat, and, with the north, middle and south branches of the Tobacco, forms a junction at Beaverton, or as it was first known, Grand Forks. This locality was the gateway for the first settlers of Gladwin county. The county is also sprinkled with pretty lakes, especially in the northern part. A few miles from Gladwin is Sage lake, about a mile either way, and along the line of Gladwin and Ogemaw counties is the group comprising Indian, Elk, Frost and Campbell lakes, ranging in size from forty acres to half a section, but all being naturally stocked with fish and many of them supplied from the state fish hatchery. Deer and other game also abound in many parts of the county, so that the fisherman, the hunter and the lover of out-of-doors in general have constant occupation and enjoyment.
Originally a large portion of Gladwin county was heavily timbered, but its densest growth has been removed by the axe and saw of the lumberman. Quite a large amount of forest products is still handled, albeit the remaining timber is usually worked up into manufactures rather than shipped away as raw lumber. This clearing away of the heavy forest growths is to the advantage of the present day agriculturist and live-stock man, who wish at once to realize from their crops and stock - and this class are in the heavy majority.
The surface of the county is gently rolling, not enough to interfere with tilling the soil, but sufficient to give the country, when cleared, a picturesque appearance and show off the land to excellent advantage. The soil is clay, sand and gravelly loam, noted for its fertility and the ease with which it can be worked. Wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, potatoes and all kinds of vegetables flourish, while small fruits of all kinds are a sure crop. The numerous rivers, creeks and springs throughout the county furnish an abundance of water for domestic and stock purposes, and guarantee rich forage for live stock.
During the past few years a good deal of attention has been paid to stock raising in the county and with the most satisfactory results. Common Hungarian and millet grasses grow luxuriantly, and even that which grows in the forests furnishes good grazing for stock during the summer months.
Increase in Population
While the population of Gladwin county for the past twenty years has not progressed by leaps and bounds, it has been steady, and the census figures show that it has enjoyed a larger percentage of increase than most of the counties classed as "interior:"
First Settler and Settlement
Marvil Secord, whose death occurred in October, 1886, at his old homestead at the Forks, now Beaverton, was the first settler of Gladwin county.
He was then within a few days of his eighty-fifth birthday, vigorous in health and active up to the time of the accident which was the direct cause of his death. He had spent most of his life in the woods, but was so popular and straightforward that after he came to Gladwin county and had passed his eightieth year the lumbermen and citizens forced him into several offices which he honored. The Gladwin County Record, to which much credit is given to the following historical sketch, published an interesting biography of this interesting old pioneer, from which the author makes liberal extracts. Mr. Secord was born at Brantford, Ontario, October 16, 1801, and came to Michigan with his father, mother and family at an early age, removing from near Hamilton, Canada to Ann Arbor, and thence to Owosso, Shiawassee county, of which place he was a resident many years, and where he was married four times. His third wife, who came with him to Gladwin county, died in 1881, from the effects of a fall from a bridge upon hard ice. He was thereafter married to a Mrs. Cynthia Hoffman of Sterling.
Mr. Secord's early life was spent with his parents in the usual life of the frontier. When a small lad he accompanied his father into one of the Indian wars of the northwest, in which he made himself useful in various ways. At Owosso. Shiawassee county, for a long period he was engaged in conducting on a large scale a gunsmithy and wagon and carriage shop, upon which business the war and the Jackson wagon works (which manufactured wagons cheaper than could be done elsewhere) brought disaster. Mr. Secord therefore determined to change his location, and, with his family, he went from Owosso to St. Charles by wagon and by steamer "Little Nell" to Saginaw; thence to Midland upon the then noted steamer "Belle Seymour."
Midland at that time was a small hamlet. J. S. Eastman kept a small trading post on the dock at the lower bridge, and John Larkin and G. F. Hall were rival landlords. At or about the same time, John Eastman also kept a store on the site of the present Star Mills. Mr. Secord here met with an accident, a dog biting one of his hands so he could not use it. Here, after some persuasion, he hired two Indians to take himself and family to "Dick's Forks," upwards of thirty-five miles distant, and after a week's hard journey in a canoe, they landed at their destination.
The route at that time was an unbroken wilderness. At Edenville, then generally known as "16," David Burton and Jacob Hagar had located, and John McMullen opened a lumber headquarters which was merged into a hotel, near the site of the present Axford House, soon after. A lumberman from Maine named Led better, had commenced operations in the vicinity of "16," but no logs had been run north of that locality.
In September, 1861, in the manner narrated, Mr. Secord and family, consisting of his wife (formerly Mrs. Goodwin, whom he had married the year before), his daughter Julia, son Seth, and three step- children, landed at Dick's Forks, so named from the fact that a man named Dixon owned the land there, and surveyors had cut the name on a tree, located at the junction of the Sugar and Tittabawassee, on section 28, town 19, 1 east. Hunters had reached this point before, but only a small number. Mrs. Secord, his wife, was the first white woman, however, who had come to this county. She was a woman of many noble qualities, intelligent, refined and heroic. Here she assisted her husband to build up a pleasant home, where during many years, with his family he was "monarch of all he surveyed," only a small number of settlers penetrating the county for quite a number of years.
The occupation of hunting and trapping, which Mr. Secord followed during the first three years of his residence at Dick's Forks, was at that, time quite lucrative, and he thereby averaged $900 annually during that period, in one year reaching $1,150. During his second winter in the woods, while fifteen miles from home, he accidentally shot himself in the ankle, and was carried home on a litter. A doctor was brought from Midland, but he was unable to extract the ball, which was never taken out. Mr. Secord related many interesting anecdotes of his experience in the woods. Dogs brought into the neighborhood by outside hunters usually came up missing, and 'twas said they had been caught on Secord's "sharp sticks:" besides many fictitious tales were told in relation to the old hunter.
In 1863 the pioneer entered the homestead upon which he resided until death. About that time in the vicinity of the Forks, the first lumber operations were commenced. Pearson & Craig, partners, the former from Buffalo, the latter from Maine, with Sam Sias of Midland, as foreman, were the first to lumber in that locality. Marsh hay at this time became a valuable commodity, bringing $40 per ton, and Mr. Secord spent the summer season in cutting hay and the winter in trapping. With assistance of his boys and hired help, he sometimes earned $600 per year from the hay, besides quite a snug sum from trapping.
Mr. Secord was somewhat of a genius in mechanical arts, and at an early day invented and manufactured a single barreled, muzzle loading gun, with which he shot twice with once loading. This was a number of years before the famous reloading guns appeared. The old hunter and farmer was slow to push forward for official positions, but his popularity with the lumber boys, who were wont to stop at his place and delighted to do him honor, as well as the cordial feeling held by many permanent settlers, placed him in the offices of supervisor of Gladwin township and judge of probate of the county by decisive majorities. These offices he filled when upwards of eighty years of age with good judgment and clean hands. The deceased was of a hospitable and generous nature, and thereby made many friends. Although he had for so many years led the wild life of the woods, he retained a veneration for sacred subjects and during his last years was not ashamed to be known as a Christian. It is certainly no discredit to Gladwin county to acknowledge Marvil Secord as her first settler.
Gladwin, the County Seat
Prior to the late seventies, the settlements in Gladwin county were few and far between, the most pretentious being that at the Grand Forks. But about 1876, after the organization of the county and the fixing of the seat of justice nearer its territorial center, several settlers located at the village of Cedar, as Gladwin was first known. Among the first were Warren T. Johnson, James A. Wright and James A. Ells, with their families, and even as late as the spring of 1878 theirs were the only permanent households established on the present site of the city. To these were soon added the families of Isaac Hanna and C. C. Fouch.
School District No. 4, which included the present city and territory as far away as the Van Valkenburg, Busch and McGregor farms, was organized May 25, 1878, by the school inspectors of Grout and Gladwin townships. When Gladwin was incorporated as a city in 1893, the limits of the school districts and the municipality were made uniform.
The first schoolhouse was built by Isaac Hanna in the fall of 1878. It was a one-room, frame building, sixteen by twenty-four feet, and fulfilled its purposes until 1883, when a four-room structure replaced it. Gladwin's third schoolhouse was completed in the winter of 1906, at a cost of about $25,000. This Central or Union school building is a two-story brick structure, well built and attractive. The present attendance is thus divided: High school, 91, and grammar grades, 200.
It is interesting to know that the first religious services in what is now the city of Gladwin, were conducted in the printing office of the Gladwin County Record, on March 31, 1878, by Rev. I. C. Smallwood. The first church to be built in the county was the Methodist, at Gladwin, the cornerstone of which was laid May 9, 1883. A few years afterward Presbyterian and Catholic houses of worship were erected. There are now in existence -Methodist, Catholic. Episcopal, Free Methodist and Protestant Episcopal organizations.
Gladwin was incorporated us a village in 1885 and has been a city since it is provided with thorough systems of electric lighting and water distribution and, as has been seen, has all the educational and religious privileges required by all progressive and moral communities. Its industries and trade partake both of its earlier lumbering days and its later period of development growing naturally from the agricultural advancement of the county. This statement is practically illustrated by the operation at Gladwin of saw, planing and flour mills, a basket factory, veneer works and grain elevator, and the fact that the city is quite a receiver and shipper of grain, flour, produce and live stock. The local trade and outside commerce are moved through two good banks, and the Michigan Central Railroad furnishes the transportation conveniences.
Gladwin has a substantial and convenient courthouse for transacting the official business of the county, and since 1910 has been provided with a secure jail and comfortable sheriff's residence. It has a neat opera house, a number of well furnished lodge halls, and has made ample provision both for the maintenance of law and order and the social enjoyment and educational and religious well-being of its people.
As stated, Beaverton was formerly known as Grand Forks, from the fact that the original lumber camp was located at the middle, north and south branches of the Tobacco and Cedar rivers. It is nine miles south of Gladwin, the county seat, and is the terminus of a spur of the Pere Marquette road which runs southwest to Coleman, Midland county. The county board incorporated it as the village of Beaverton in 1896, and it became a city in 1903. Beaverton's appearance, with its electric lights, substantial public school, neat churches and houses, and well-built stores, is attractive and reassuring as to its present and future prosperity. It has a sawmill, a manufactory of shingles, laths and posts, and a grain elevator. The same plant which furnishes electric lighting also supplies the city with good water. One could go far a field in Northern Michigan and fail to find a pleasanter, busier or more healthful little city than Beaverton.
[Source: "A history of Northern Michigan and its People" / by Perry F. Powers ; assisted by H.G. Cutler. Author: Powers, Perry Francis, 1857-1945]
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