Genealogy Trails

Crawford County Michigan

History of
Crawford Co MI


A History of Northern Michigan and its people
Perry F. Powers & Harry Gordner Cutler 1912

Crawford county, which must not be confounded with the Crawford county of 1818, was originally named Shawono, from a noted Chippewa chief who lived many years at the Sault, was doubtless personally known to Schoolcraft and who, in behalf of his people, signed several of the treaties with the United States, or possibly from a Potrawatomie chief of the same name who was a party to several of the Indian treaties with the United States. The word Shawono means southerner and the same word is found in the name applied by others—not themselves—to the tribe known as Shawnees. It is somewhat uncertain for whom this Crawford county was named. To the legislature of 1843, which made these changes in the names, there was presented a memorial by Jonathan Lamb, of Washtenaw county, praying that if changes in name were made one of the counties should receive the name of Crawford and the petition was granted. The former Crawford county, by the act of congress establishing the Territory of Wisconsin in 1834, had ceased to be a part of Michigan, and whether the new county was intended to restore the same name or to perpetuate the name of Colonel William Crawford, who was captured by the Indians and burned at the stake near Upper Sandusky in 1782, is now rather difficult to deter, mine. The original petition has not been preserved, but evidence based upon family tradition seems to render it reasonably certain that Mr. Lamb’s desire was to commemorate the Colonel Crawford of tragic fate.

Crawford county comprises the southern portion of the great watershed of Northern Michigan which turns the head streams of the Manistee and Au Sahle rivers toward Lake Huron on the east and Lake Michigan on the west, and the main features of its early settlement are similar to those of Otsego to the north. The lumbermen made the country at first slid they are still largely in evidence. Originally the greater part of the county was covered with a heavy growth of white and Norway pine, maple, beech, birch and hemlock.

Crawford county is located in nearly the geographical center of the north half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The surface is just rolling enough to be pleasantly diversified, but rarely hilly so as to interfere with any kind of farm machinery. The Au Sable river and tributaries, traverse all parts of the county, offering an abundance of water, providing fine sites for live-stock ranches and. incidentally, furnishing sonic of the best trout fishing in Northern Michigan. A few miles from Grayling, rear the west line of the county, is one of the natural reservoirs, or little lakes, from which issue the headwaters of the Manistee.

The Michigan Central is the chief iron-way of Crawford county, the only other line within its bounds being the Detroit & Charlevoix, which operates about a dozen miles of road from Frederic to the northwest, Grayling, the county seat, is the only incorporated village. The soils of nearly one-half of Crawford county are composed of gravelly loants and will produce every standard crop. They are often spoken of as beech and maple or hardwood lands, but on much of this character of soil the original growth was pine. Thousands of acres of these lands and now available for settlers. Another class of soils comprise the sandy loams, from which heavy growths of pine have been removed and replaced by second growths. Clover, potatoes and all kinds of root crops thrive therein. The so-called “plains” soil is the home of the native grasses and the delight of stockmen, who are founding profitable cattle and sheep ranches in many sections of the county. One feature of the soils of Crawford county is the comparatively small area of swamp or lowlands, this being almost confined to narrow strips along the streams, which, with proper drainage, can also be made productive.

All of the Crawford county soils excepting the light sands arc good potato lands. Clover seed, although it has been raised but a few years in this section, is now generally known as “the money crop.” Fruit raining is making rapid stride*, apples being especially prolific and finely flavored.

Other features which enter into a proper estimate of Crawford county are thus set forth in a booklet lately issued by the hoard of supervisors: “Two hundred thousand people annually come to Northern Michigan for health. rest and recreation, and Crawford county receives her share. The high altitude of the county, on the very crest of the watershed of the Lower Peninsula, precludes any possibility of malaria and undoubtedly contributes much to the bracing and salubrious quality of the air. The forests of pine and other timber undoubtedly do the same. Many farmers, so unfortunate as to have invalids in their families, have located here largely because of the climate and have found health for their people. Here the wonderful health-giving qualities of the climate and air are assisted by special opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation. The cold, clear spring water of the Au Sable river and tributaries affords the best brook-trout fishing in the country, and there are also spring lakes stocked with Mark bass and other game fish. As far the wild game is concerned, the great stretches of second-growth timber on the cut-over lands, afford better feed and better protection for deer and other wild game than did the original forests, and they have held their own in recent years in spite of the fact that hundreds are annually shot by settlers and sportsmen.


The population of the county as shown by the figures of the United States census bureau for the past three enumerations is as follows:



Grayling, the county seat, was settled in 1872 and incorporated as a village in 1903. It is a neat, well-built, busy place, the center of trade both of a large produce region and a considerable lumber country. Located on the main channel of the Au Sable river and at the junction of the Twin Lakes branch of the Michigan Central with the trunk line, Grayling has connection with the best lumbering regions of northeastern Michigan and with the markets of the state north and south. The village conducts its financial operations through the Bank of Grayling, whose responsibilities and estimated at $500,000. She enjoys thorough systems of electric lighting and water supply and has a graded and well- organized union school. Her handsome courthouse, neat opera house; several churches—the Catholic. Danish Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Protestant Methodist—and the Grayling Mercy hospital, with its $25,000 building, all stand as evidences of a substantial, social, moral, charitable and religious community.


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