Columbiaville (Marathon Twp.)

Lapeer Co MI

Columbiaville, MI (Michigan Central Depot) (1910) - Contributed by Paul Petosky

History of Columbiaville MI
(prominent men and pioneers) - Pg 139 - H.R. Page & Co. Chicago 1884

This is an incorporated village located on the Flint River, and on sections 28, 27, 83 and 34.

The first settler on the site of the village, was Levi D. Cutting, who is still a resident of the place. Mr. Cutting was born in the town of Nashfield, Vermont, in 1820. When fifteen years of age he moved with his parents to Junius, Seneca County, N. Y., and afterwards to Hartland, Niagara County. In the fall of 1847 he removed with his family to Marathon and settled where Columbiaville now stands. Mr. Cutting was married in 1842 to Eliza M. Warner, of Niagara County, N. Y., who died in Columbiaville, January 29, 1872, leaving one son. He married his present wife, Abigail M. Hopkins, November 12, 1875.

Mr. Cutting’s journey to his new home was attended with severe hardships. Their only child was sick and the latter part of the journey was brought upon a pillow, and carried in its father’s arms. The last twelve miles he traveled on foot carrying his precious burden. Bridges were then unknown in this region and with his child in his arms he waded across the Flint River.

When he arrived here, a solitary shanty, which had recently been built by a man named Fineout, was the only sign of human life that was visible. Fineout remained but a short time and then left the place. Mr. Catting built a shanty and thus established the first home in the locality. Here he has remained to the present time, and has now a home in a pleasant residence in a thrifty village.

The next movement in this locality was the erection of a sawmill on the bank of the river. George and Henry Niver had located a large tract of pine land in this region, and planned to manufacture it. into pine lumber. They lived at Copac, Columbia County, N. Y., and Palmer Niver, as their agent, came here to build a mill. The firm afterward became Niver Shaffer. The mill was built in 1848-'49. It was a water mill and is still standing, but its wheels have ceased to revolve, and its days of activity are probably in the past.

The operation of the mill called together a few men and a little settlement was began. The Nivers kept a few groceries for the accommodation of their men, and a blacksmith shop was started. About this time, a young man named William Peter was working on a farm in Columbia County, near where the Nivers lived. He was receiving four dollars a month for his labor, and the probabilities of accumulating a fortune at that rate did not satisfy his ambition. He was a young man of industrious habits, and had an idea of seeking better chances for making money than he then had. He engaged with the Nivers to come to Michigan and work in their saw-mill, which he did.

In 1852 he concluded to engage in business for himself and built a store building, which is now occupied by Henry Hurt & Co., hardware merchants. In that building he opened the first store in the place. Mr. Voter married a daughter of Ephraim Clute, and their pioneer residence is described by Mr. Peter as being a house with a kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, parlor and pantry, all in one room. This was the beginning of Mr. Peter’s business career which has since been remarkable in its continuous success. The entire property at Columbiaville finally passed into his possession, and his business interests have largely built up the village. In 1870 he removed to Toledo, where he now resides, although his interests here continue. From a laborer at four dollars a mouth he has become one of the wealthy men of the land, his fortune reaching into millions. This but shows the possibilities that are offered to young men in this free land, where the race for fortune and fame is open to all.

Soon after Mr. Peter started his store, Alfred Pettit, built a small wagon shop and worked in it for a short time. Not long after this Reuben McArthur erected a building for a store but did not use it. It was sold to John and Peter Van Dyke, who enlarged it and fitted it up for a hotel. They kept it awhile and sold to a man named Farrel, and it was called the Farrel House. The name was afterwards changed to the Columbiaville Exchange. It is still kept as a hotel, the present proprietor being Elson Wait. About 1854 a postoffice was established, and the name Columbia was suggested by the Nivers, after their native county. There being another postoffice by that name in the State, some other title had to be given. Determined not to part with the one first suggested, they added the ville and thus secured for the place a patriotic and ponderous title. The first postmaster was Chancy Maxfield. He was succeeded by L. D. Cutting. Postmasters since then have been L. H. Congdon, Dennis G. Lawrence and J. L. Preston. For about twelve years Mr. Peter's store was the only one in the place, and but little change occurred in the general complexion of the neighborhood The next step forward was in 1881, when Richards Bros, built a grist-mill, the first one in the town of Marathon. This was a water mill and was operated by them a number of years. It is now standing an idle companion of the old saw-mill on the bank of the river.

Soon after this, Thomas McDowel built a store and carried on general merchandising, and was followed by Dr. L. H. Congdon. About 1865 the Protestant Methodists began to have regular worship and built a parsonage. The first resident preacher was Rev. Warren. In 1880 this society erected a neat house of worship.

A Baptist society was next formed but they have never built a church, and do not hold regular meetings.

The Marathon Association started in 1860, and the first preacher was Rev. Mendenhall. In 1880 a house of worship was begun which has recently been completed, and is called “The People’s Church." Rufus Pierson is president of the association and E. A. Brown, treasurer.

The first physician in the village was Dr. John Deming, who came from Oakland County. The next was Dr. L. H. Congdon now retired from practice and living near the village. Dr. W. B. Hamilton, present county treasurer, practiced here several years. Drs. Chamberlain and A. W. Carey were here a short time. The present physicians are Drs. John Wilson and Chester Carey.

The first school in the village was taught by Eliza Griggs in a little shanty on the hill, called the Norwegian shanty.


Etna Lodge No. 301, I. 0. 0. F., was moved from Otter Lake to Columbiaville. It was instituted in 1877. Meetings are held every Saturday evening. Officers: N. G., 8. M. Colvin; V. G., Geo. E. Taylor; R. S., Andrew Brown; P. S., N. J. Markle; Treas., W. H. Hurt.

Columbia Council No. 89, Order Chosen Friends, was organized in March, 1882, with forty members. First officers: P. C. C., E. W. Gilbert; C. C., Harris Edgerton; V. 0., Henry Bristol; Sec., A. A. House; Treas., Dr. John Wilson. Present membership, forty-eight; officers: C. C., Alex. Johnston: V. C., John Cox; Sec. Geo. E. Taylor; Treas., Dr. John Wilson; prelate, A. M. Cutting.

K. 0. T. M,, Security Tent No. 70, was organized January 5, 1883, with twenty-three members. Meetings are held the first Tuesday evening in each month. Officers: Commander, J. L. Preston; F. K., W. H. Hurt; Lt. Iv., Geo. E. Taylor; R. K., W. H. Swift; Seargt., N. J. Markle; P. C., Bison Wait.


March 16, 1883, the above named association was formed and the following officers elected: President; E. W. Gilbert; vice-president, A. Johnston, Sr.; clerk, E. A. Brown; treasurer, Ephraim Clute; directors, Win. Peter, R. Pierson, John Clark, Geo. E. Taylor, C. H. Clute.

The grounds chosen are to the northeast of the village of Columbia ville about half a mile, and are beautifully situated. Nature has done much in the way of delightful shade trees, and the undulating nature of the ground adds greatly to its attractions. J. J. Watkins, surveyor of Lapeer, has surveyed out the lots and laid out the walks, drives and avenues in such a manner as will render the cemetery the most attractive in Lapeer County.


The village was incorporated by art of legislature in 1879. Hon. J. B. Moore of Lapeer, representative at that time, had the matter in charge. The first meeting of trustees was held March 24, 1879. The first president of the village was George Reed, who held the office two years. He was succeeded by Robert Armour, still in office. The clerks of the village have been as follows: D. A. Brown, Harris Edgerton and George E. Taylor. Trustees in 1888: Alexander Johnston, Sr., E. W. Gilbert, E. A. Brown, Dr. John Wilson, A. L. Peabody, William Hollenbeck.

The Rescue fire company completed its organization in August, 1883. Alexander Johnston, Sr., is chief of the department,William McKerwin, assistant; Dr. John Wilson, secretary.


Columbiaville has enjoyed its greatest prosperity since about the year 1878. In 1877 Mr. Alexander Johnston erected a saw- mill which is employed in cutting lumber for William Peter. In 1879 Mr. Peter erected a large steam grist and flouring-mill, near the railroad track, with a capacity of about one hundred and thirty barrels of flour a day. In 1880 he erected a handsome two story brick block, which is occupied with his store and business offices. The Columbiaville planing-mill is located on First Street in the village of Columbiaville, and was built by Alexander Johnston, Jr., in 1882. It is a brick structure, has a frontage of one hundred feet, and a depth of eighty. Its motive power is steam, and about fifty employes are engaged in the building. Bash, doors, blinds, moldings, flooring, siding, ceiling, etc., arc manufactured. The products of the factory are shipped to the East and up the northern extension of the M. C. Railway. For shipping purposes the establishment is very conveniently located alongside the track of the D. & B. C. Railway, with which it is connected by side tracks. The Columbiaville News is a well edited local newspaper, started by John R. Beden in August, 1888. Mr. Beden is a journalist of many years’ experience, and his paper bears evidence of ability and enterprise. It is an eight column folio, and is published Thursdays.

The business of the village in September, 1888, may be summarized as follows: Two saw-mills, one of them employing fifty men; two planing-mills and sash, door and blind manufactories: one stave, shingle and heading manufactory; one flouring and custom mill; one grist-mill; one foundry and machine shop: one brick yard; four dry goods and general stores; one hardware store; two drug and grocery stores; one furniture store; two hotels; two wagon shops; one agricultural implement store; one bakery and grocery store: one harness shop; three blacksmith shops; three shoe shops; three millinery stores; one fancy goods store; two meat markets; one photograph gallery; one barber shop and one printing office and weekly newspaper. Besides these there are two doctors; one insurance agent; three painters; seven carpenters; three secret societies; one hand; one tire company; one architect; one justice of the peace; two notary publics; two sewing machine agents; four dressmakers and five stone masons.

Plans are perfected for the erection of a large woolen-mill, which is expected to be in operation during 1884.


Ephraim Clute, the first actual settler in the township of Marathon, was born in 1804 in the town of Saratoga, Saratoga County, N. Y. He was raised on a farm and lived in various parts of the State until 1836, when he came to Michigan, locating in Marathon, where he had bought laud of the United States government. His farm comprises 160 acres, is in sections 82 and 33, township 9 north, range 9 east, and is one of the finest in the township. In 1878 he became a resident of the village of Columbiaville, but still continues the management of his farm. He served two terms as supervisor, and was town treasurer a number of years. He is now, 1883, treasurer of the village, also treasurer of the "People's Church” association, and the Riverside cemetery. He was first married in 1833 to Miss Adelia Phillips, of Wayne County, N. Y., by whom he had three children, one only of whom, a daughter, is now living. She is the wife of William Peter, Esq. The first Mrs. C. died in 1842, and in 1848 he was again married to Miss Maria Gifford, a native of eastern New York. They have two children, a son and a daughter.

Alfred Burgess was born in 1831 in the County of Essex, England. He learned the trade of fanning-mill maker. Was engaged in that and the furniture business at St. Osyth, near the city of Colchester, England. In 1856 emigrated to the United Suites, worked for a time in Schenectady, N. Y., and then went to Burford, U. C., now Ontario. In 1858 bought some land in Watertown, Tuscola County. Farmed there and in Kingston, same county, also manufactured fanning-mills. In 1860 he came to Marathon Township, where he engaged in farming and was also a fanning-mill maker. Was in the butchering business for some fifteen years, relinquishing that to his son, who now carries it on in Columbiaville. In 1876 he opened a cabinet making, furniture and undertaking establishment in the village. He was elected a justice of the peace in 1877, and re-elected in 1881. When the village of Columbiaville was incorporated in 1879, he was elected assessor, and every year thereafter, has been re-elected, his last re-election being in the spring of 1883. Has been married twice, the first time to Miss Sarah Barton, of Bentley, England, by whom he had four children. She died in 1874. In 1875 he was again married to Miss Susan Parkhurst, of Deerfield, Lapeer County, Mich.

Robert Armour was born in the County of Armagh, Ireland, in 1827. His parents left that country when he was a few months old, and went to Glasgow, Scotland, where he lived until he was thirteen years of age. In 1810 they emigrated to Canada. They rem lined in Montreal a year, and then removed to Mount Vernon, in Brantford County, Ontario. In 1870 he left there and came to Lapeer County, residing for a couple of months at North Branch, and then making Columbiaville his home. While in Mount Vernon he learned the trade of a shoemaker, which calling he has since followed. In 1881 he was elected president cf the village of Columbiaville, and re-elected in the years 1882-’83. Is a married man and has a family of nine children, two of them, however, being the children of his present wife by a former husband.

Alexander Johnston, Jr., was born August 21, 1851, at Chatham, Ontario, and came to Michigan with his parents in 1868. He lived for the better part of the time up to 1877 at Lapeer. In 1877 he had a shingle-mill near Elm Creek in Deerfield, of which township he was clerk for two years. Was in a sash, door and blind factory, at West Bay City for over two years, and built and operated a similar establishment at Oxford, Oakland County. Came to Columbiaville in 1882, where he has built, a large brick, sash, door and blind factory, in which are employed some fifty men. He was married in 1881 to Miss Mary Warren, a native of Illinois, but a resident of Lapeer at that time. They have had two children, only one of whom, a son, is now living. Mr. Johnston is a live, stirring business man, and as an employer and otherwise docs much to aid in the growth and prosperity of the village in which he lives.

John Wilson, M. D. was born in Northamptonshire, England, 1830. He commenced his medical studies in Stamford, England, before emigrating to the United States, which he did in 1849. lie at first went to Wisconsin, and lived for some time in Milwaukee and Grand Prairie. He left that State and went to Syracuse, N.Y., graduating from the Syracuse Medical College in 1853. The doctor also graduated at the New York Medical College in 1854, and Philadelphia Medical University in 1855. In 1868 he walked the Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, England. He practiced there and was also principal business manager of the American College of Pharmacy in that city. In 1856 he removed to Fond du Lac, Wis., where he remained until 1860. In the latter year he returned to England and followed his profession in the city of Nottingham until 1875. In June of that year he returned to the United States, and came to Lapeer, Mich. He remained in that city until 1879 when he removed to the village of Columbiaville. He holds the following village offices: member of the board of trustees, director for the schools and health officer; is also school inspector for the township of Marathon. In 1849 he was married to Rosanna Revill, of Donnington, England, by whom he had six children, all of whom are living. She died in 1876 and in 1881 he was married to Lizzie Hollinshead, a native of Marathon Township.

Edwin W. Gilbert was born in Cayuga County, N. Y., in 1881. He received a common school education. In 1819 he went to Flint, Mich., and until 1865 followed the trade of a carpenter and joiner. In 1865 he engaged in the cattle business, which he continued at until 1807 when he became a merchant at Mount Morris, Genesee County. He remained there until 1874 when he entered the employ of Page & Benson, afterward Tanner & Sherman, at Otter Lake, Lapeer County. In 1880 he came to Columbiaville and took the management of William Peter's extensive mercantile establishment. He was elected a justice of the peace in 1880, and is a member of the board of trustees and one of the directors of the schools of the village. He was married in 1851 to Miss Frances Martin, a native of New York State. He is a gentleman who has gained the esteem of the community in which he lives by his courteous treatment of all with whom he has either business or personal intercourse.