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[Note: when you read "the present township officers are" keep in mind that this apparently means in the year 1899.]


Previous to the year 1837 the territory included within the boundaries of the prosperous commonwealth of Michigan was known at the "Lake Country." In this year the Wolverine state was admitted to the union. Three years prior to that time her whole population numbered but 87,278 persons. The history of the earliest settlements in this county is fully set forth in the first pages of the anniversary number. Until 1840 Mackinaw county included all that part of the lower peninsula of Michigan lying north of Mason county and also a large part of the upper peninsula. The rest of this shore as far south as Allegan was Ottawa county. In 1840 this vast territory was divided up and laid off into counties, and then for the first time Manistee county had a local habitation and a name, and for judicial purposes was attached to Mackinaw county. The legislative act creating Manistee county is as follows:

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the state of Michigan:

Section 9 That portion of the state lying in towns 21, 22, 23 and 24, north, and west of the line between ranges 12 and 13 west, shall be laid off as a separate county, to be known and designated as the county of Manistee.

Approved April 1, 1840."

In 1846 it was attached to Ottawa county and the county offices were at Grand Haven. In 1851 the county was attached to Oceana, Middlesex the county seat, and in 1853 to Grand Traverse, to which county it remained attached until the spring of 1855, when Manistee county was formally organized by an act of the legislature, as follows:

"Section 1. The People of the State of Michigan enact, That the county of Manistee shall be organized, and shall comprise townships 21, 22, 23 and 24 north, of each of the ranges numbered 13, 14, 15 and 16 west, and fractional townships 21 and 22 north, of range 17 west; and the unorganized county of Wexford is hereby attached to the said county of Manistee for judicial purposes.

Approved February 13, 1855."

The early history of Manistee county presents the usual aspects of pioneer life in a rough and undeveloped country. All of the hardships which early settlers anywhere have undergone have been a part of the common experience of our pioneers. That they possessed the requisites for successful encounter is evidenced by their achievements, deed which have made Manistee known to all the world.


When Manistee county was organized in the spring of 1835 it was divided into three townships, Manistee, Stronach and Brown. At present there are twelve, all so situated that their interests center in the city of Manistee.


The township of Onekama was erected in the fall of 1866. The first town meeting was held the following April at Portage. N.P. Pierce, H. Hillard and J. Hillard were the inspectors and the first officers to be elected were: Supervisor, E.P. Bates; clerk, Joel Guernsey; treasurer, N.P. Pierce; commissioners, Amos Pierce, S.W. Patch, Josiah Hilliard; school inspectors, E.P. Bates, J.J. McKnight; justices of the peace, S.W. Patch, David Godfrey, Franklyn Taylor; constables, Henry Wilson, John Wright, Oscar Hull and August Zozel.

The township contains about twenty-two square miles, includes Portage lake and has a frontage of six miles on Lake Michigan. The present township officers are: Supervisor, Joseph Werie; treasurer, W.W. Davis; clerk, George Upton; highway commissioner, Ed Solomon; justices of the peace, J.D. Padden and Charles A. Conklin. The first settler in Onekama was Nathan P. Pierce, who built a house near the north shore of Portage Lake on a tongue of land between two beautiful clear creeks.

A saw mill was soon built beside on creek and a grist mill beside the other. The saw mill was of the old "up and down" sort, and was reported to have been run so rapidly that the saw went up in one day and came down the next. The township was heavily timbered and much of that around the lake was owned by Mr. Lay of Hannah, Lay & Co., and later by H.H. Porter & Co., who built an "up-to-date" steam saw mill on the original outlet of the lake near its mouth on the shore of Lake Michigan. Meanwhile many settlers took lands around the lake. Later a magnificent channel 400 feet wide and 14 feet deep was excavated across the narrow neck of sand between the two lakes, making the beginning of what is now the United States Government's Harbor of Refuge.


This township embraces thirty-five square miles of the best land in the county. There are a large number of excellent farms in the township and many of the farmers have accumulated a handsome property. During the winter of 1864-64, the tract of land including the present towns of Bear Lake and Pleasanton was set off from the Browntown region as the town of Bear Lake.

The officers elected at the first election held in the spring of 1865 were: Supervisor, S. Anderson; clerk, H.N. Hanaford; treasurer, D.E. Sibley; justice of the peace, H.A. Austin; highway commissioners, A.A. Cooper, R.F. Smith, William P. Robert; school inspectors, G.R. Pierce and Jerome Hurlburt; constables, James P. Robert and Hiram Walker; directors of the poor, J.B. Mason and Darell Hollister. Russell F. Smith is supposed to have made the first beginning in what is now Bear Lake village in 1863.


This township is located south of Manistee in the extreme southwest portion of the county. It embraces about thirteen square miles with a frontage on Lake Michigan of four square miles. It is bounded on the north by Manistee, on the east by Stronach, south by Mason county and west by Lake Michigan.

Filer township was organized in 1868 and in the same year Filer City was platted. The most important interests in the township are those of the firm of D.L. Filer & sons, from which the township and Filer City derive their names. A full account of the operations of this firm will be found in the industrial pages of the Anniversary Number. The officers of the township are: Supervisor, Joseph Adamski; clerk, J.F. Rosenow; treasurer, John Majinski; justice of the peace, M.H. Van Antwerp; highway commissioner, Andrew Holewenski.


This was one of the original townships into which the county was divided at the time of its erection in 1855. At that time it embraced nearly or quite three-fourths of the entire county. At the present time it is next to the largest town in the county embracing 108 square miles. In the years 1853-54 several families pushed their way into this locality and founded homes. Among the early settlers were: Henry L. Brown, Oliver Miller, Charles Danforth, James O'Neal, Stephen Smith and Harvey Cour.

The first town meeting was held in the spring of 1855, and the following officers were elected: Supervisor, Stephen Smith; town clerk, H.L. Brown; treasurer, Oliver Miller; school inspectors, Oliver Miller and Harvey Cour; justices of the peace, Stephen Smith, Henry Sargent, Harvey Cour, James Siverly; commissioners of highways, Oliver Miller and James O'Neal; constables, Murdock McNeal, Edwin Secor, John Shores and Richard Flanders. The present officers of the township are: Supervisor, Peter Schneider; clerk, Horace Kerrey; treasurer, Henry Deitz; justices of the peace, J.D. Maxted and E.V. Potter; school inspector, Ferdinand Able; highway commissioner, Albert Tomke.


C. Churchill was the first man to settle in this township. He came in 1866. He was followed by the Lever brothers, S. Evans, J. Rinard and D. Boyd, with their families. At a special meeting of the supervisors held in January, 1870, inspectors were appointed for the first election which was held at the house of John Wilson the following April.

The officers elected were: Supervisor, J.D. Bond; town clerk, J.H. Winters; treasurer, G. Lever; school inspector, O. Lackey; justices of the peace, W. Pope and L.F. Hall; highway commissioners, P. Hower, B. Yates, J. Wilson and H. Farnsworth.

The first school in the township was taught by Mrs. Jennie Pope. The town is located in the eastern part of the county, and embraces thirty-six square miles. The land is generally rolling, heavily timbered and well watered. The soil is heavy clay loam and sand loam, and some of the best farms in the county are found in this section. The present officers are: Supervisor, W.S. Hower; clerk, J.F. Cook; treasurer, E.E. Brimmer; justice of the peace, Sydney E. Cook; highway commissioner, James Gibson.


Manistee is one of the three original townships, and its early history is inseparably connected with the history of Manistee City and county. It is bounded on the north by Onekama, east by Brown and Stronach, south by Filer and Stronach and west by Lake Michigan. The township contains thirty-five square miles. The city of Manistee is located in the southwest corner of the township. The present officers are: Supervisor, Emil Gentz; clerk, Felix Rodgers; treasurer, Edward Lonergran; highway commissioner, Paul Wisniewski; justice of the peace, M.B. Loomis.


Maple Grove is bounded on the north by Springdale, east by Marilla, south by Brown, and west by Bear Lake. It was organized in 1878. The town embraces thirty-six square miles; the soil is clay and black loam. Bear Creek and its tributaries traverse the town. The present officers of the township are: Supervisor, O.C. Ford; clerk, Henry J. Sanders; treasurer, Emerson Danforth; highway commissioner, George Dennison; justice of the peace, W.K. Williamson and Wm. W. Tanner; member board of review, C.D. Haines.


The town of Stronach is one of the three original towns into which the county was divided at the time of its organization in 1855. The town was formally organized at the store of James Stronach, April 2, 1855, and the following officers elected: Supervisor, Andrew C. Sherwood; clerk, John Stronach; treasurer, Adam Stronach; justice of the peace, Elden S. Bryant and Horace Butters.

The town is the largest in the county embracing 137 square miles. The land is mostly a sandy loam, and is watered by the Little Manistee river, Pine creek and the South Branch river. The present officers of the township are: Supervisor, Herman Raske; clerk, Fred Block; treasurer, Herman Matchtosky.


The township of Cleon was erected by the board of supervisors at their annual meeting in October, 1868. It is situated in the northeast corner of the county, being town 24 north, of range 13 west. The first annual meeting was held at the home of Thomas N. Copely, the first Monday in April, 1869. M.P. Grinnell, E.A. Gilbert and Jacob Sears were inspectors of election. The town was subsequently set off to Wexford county, but was re-united in 1881. The present officers are: Supervisor, Jasper Park; clerk, Fred Crawford; treasurer, Frank Stiner; justice of the peace, Alonzo Chubb; highway commissioner, Samuel Griner.


This township, which contains thirty-six square miles, was erected in 1870. The first election was held at the residence of Titus Glover the first Monday in April, 1871. The officers were: Supervisor, John W. Cowgill; clerk, Wilson S. Reed; treasurer, Titus D. Glover; inspectors, J. Marshall and Wilson S. Reed; directors of the poor, Lewis E. Hale and William W. Ball; justices of the peace, John W. Cowgill and P.B. Fisk; highway commissioners, George S. Cowgill, Lewis E. Hale and P.B. Fisk; constables, Augustus C. Cowgill and Robert C. Burling. Eight votes were cast, every elector receiving an office.

The first settlers came about 1866. Among them were: S.M. Sears, William W. Bell, J.J. Snyder, Wallace Pratt, August Deering, Louis E. Hale, John W. Green, Dennis Smith, William R. Hopkins and Mr. Latherwell. Springdale township received its name from the numerous ever-flowing springs which abound in this locality and which add to the beauty of the surrounding farms and the fertility of the soil.

H.W. Boyd moved to this township about thirty years ago from Indiana with a yoke of oxen. He got his supplies from Manistee, paying twenty-five dollars per barrel of flour. The first school house was built about 1880. The present township officers are: Supervisor, B.F. McCumber; clerk, F.E. Burke; justice of the peace, Wm. Bradly; highway commissioner, Wm. D. Green; treasurer, Karl Kortz.


This town is bounded on the north by Benzie county, east by Springdale, south by Bear Lake and west by Arcadia. Until 1863 this township was an unbroken wilderness. About that time Rev. George B. Pierce, a retired clerygman, and B. Sibley settled in the township. Other early settlers were: B. Gale, Henry Erb and James M. Allen.

The soil is a light, sandy loam, easy of cultivation and well watered. The present officers of the township are: Supervisor, John Lumley; clerk, Frank W. Brown; treasurer, John Wass; justices of the peace, O.F. Holden, Richard Chambers; highway commissioner, Charles Snider.


This township is situated in the northwest corner of the county, embraces about twenty square miles, and has a coast line of six miles. The first settlement dates back to the fall of 1866. The first township election was held in April 4, 1870. The following are the names of the officers: Supervisor, W.H. Cotton; town clerk, W.H. Ross; treasurer, J.D. Padden; highway commissioners, M. O'Rorke and J. Norton; school inspector, S. Calkins; justices of the peace, S. Tondu, W.L. Dempster, H. Bowen and H. Chapin.

The flourishing villages of Burnhamville and Arcadia are located in this township. The present township officers are: Supervisor, Howard E. Gilbert; clerk, John Willard; treasurer, Joseph Gable; justices of the peace, George A. Sweetnam, George Conway; highway commissioner, Wm. D. Irwin.

from the book: "The Salt City of the Inland Seas: Historical and Industrial Record of the Great Salt City" Originally published as an anniversary edition of the Manistee Daily News, May, 1899. Page 68.

The above material is owned by and was contributed by Cathy Burnsed (, 1997.

Copyright2014, Norman M. Vance

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