Bear Lake, Michigan
Manistee County

Bear Lake, MI (Lake Street) (1909) - Contributed by Paul Petosky

Bear Lake Village

History of Manistee, Mason and Oceana counties, Michigan H.R. Page 1882 Pg 79

This beautiful and enterprising village is located in the north part of the township, and upon the south side of Bear Lake, one of the prettiest bodies of water in the state of Michigan. The lake is about two and one-half miles long, and three-quarters of a mile wide. It has no outlet, and is clear as crystal.

Its depth in some places is twenty-four feet, but along the banks the water is very shallow, growing deeper toward the center. It abounds with fish, the principal kinds being pickerel and bass. All around the village can be found genuine clay loam, about half clay and half tine sand, and this is covered to the depth of from ten to eighteen inches with vegetable mold, made by the leaves of centuries which have fallen and rotted. Thus the village has all the advantages of a soil that cannot, be surpassed by any soil in the West, or, in fact, anywhere, for general agricultural purposes. The timber in the region round about it is maple and beech, principally, but rock elm and a number of other kinds of hard wood are to be found in great profusion. The maple found here so largely is the prettiest we ever saw. The birds-eye variety, and the curled grain maple, so valuable for veneering and other fine and fancy work, cannot be surpassed for beauty and finish. Large quantities of it arc destroyed annually by using it for wood, and in burning it to clear up lauds, which seems an absolute and lamentable waste. The village is just eighteen miles north of Manistee.

The character of the society is especially a subject of comment by every intelligent observer who passes through the place. The substantial settlers and owners of farms are men of rare intelligence, and their wives and daughters are cultivated and refined to an extent that we challenge any other place of its size in the West to produce its equal in that respect. The people are law-abiding, find we cannot now recall a single arrest that has been made in the village during the past five years of our residence in the county. It has no jail, nor any use for one. The climate, like all this lake region, is mild in the Winter, and cool and pleasant in the Summer. It being located about six miles inland from Lake Michigan, gives it the climatic advantages of that body of water.


The first efforts toward shirting a village were made by Russell F. Smith, of whom mention has already been made. He gave land for a mill site and otherwise encouraged immigration and business enterprises. But little progress, however, was made until 1873, in June of that year, when George W. and David H. Hopkins, under the firm name of Hopkins Bros., purchased the present site of Bear Lake Village.

The operations of this firm so largely concern the commercial interests of the village, and, in fact, the entire county, that this work would be incomplete without a brief sketch of its career mid interests. George W. Hopkins, the founder of the concern, was born on a farm in West Virginia, November 8, 1844. In 1855 he removed to Lenawee County, Mich., with his parents, and remained at home upon the farm until 1863. He then engaged with Samuel Giles making county maps, and remained in that business until twenty- one years of age.

He then started with a capital of $111.30, and sold fruit trees one year. In the Fall he settled in Manistee, and purchased some land with the view of starting a brick-yard. In the Spring of 1807 he made the first brick ever made in Manistee County. In October, 1867, his brother David H. Hopkins, went into partnership with him under the firm name of George W. Hopkins a Bro. They carried on the manufacture of brick, making 25,100 a day until 1870.

In the Fall of 1867 they took a logging contract of Clifford, Ruddock & Co., to put in 12,000,000 feet of logs, which they did during the Winter.

In 1870 they went out of the brick business and engaged exclusively in dealing in logs and lumber, under the firm name of Hopkins Bros.

In June, 1878, they purchased the present site of Bear Lake, and began the extensive operations which have given them such prominence in the commercial world.

They at once built a sawmill, which commenced miming in August following. The mill is the one now owned by Charles B. Bunton. They also built the grist mill, costing $10,000, and commenced running it January 1, 1871.

In the Spring of 1871 they platted eighty-eight acres for a village, and built the large store building which they still occupy. In the Fall of 1874 Mr. George W. Hopkins removed his family to Bear Lake. Where the village now stands was at that time a forest, but the Hopkins enterprise very soon began to make their impress upon the place.

In 1875 they built the Bear Lake Tram Railway, constructed of maple rails and operated by horse-power. This line extended from Bear Lake to Pierport, a distance of six miles, and cost $10,000.

In October, 1877, the Hopkins Manufacturing Company was organized, the officers being George W. Hopkins, president; David H. Hopkins, secretary; Ella Hopkins, treasurer.

In 1878 they started a livery stable, the first one in the northern part of the county.

In 1879 the Bear Lake pier at Pierport was built by the company, and a general store opened there.

In 1881 they rebuilt the grist mill at a cost of $21,000, It was the first roller mill in Northern Michigan.

Early the present year they constructed the Bear Lake and Eastern Railway, to take the place of the tram railway. This road is built of twenty T rail, and is equipped with forty cars and a locomotive. The first rail was laid in April, and trains commenced running May 1.

They have also built a new sawmill the present year, having a capacity of 10,000 feet of lumber a day.

The company owns at least 2,000 acres of uncut timber lands in the county, and 5,000 or 6,000 acres of stump lands.

They have built most of the buildings in the village, and stand ready to heir any who wish to make the village their home. They loan money to parties desiring to build, or sell homes upon terms of easy payment. The results of their enterprise and liberality are seen in the beautiful and thrifty village which has grown up in the space of these few years. The buildings are tasty, the streets well laid out, and every one seems prosperous.

Mr. George W. Hopkins was married at Bella ire, Ohio, August 4, 1868) Miss Ella Smart, of that place. In 1876 he built the handsome residence which is now their home, a view of which appears (above). As a clear-sighted and successful business man, Mr. Hopkins has few superiors. He was instrumental in securing the location of the county fair grounds at Hoar Lake, loaning the society funds with which to improve the grounds, besides contributing liberally to advance the interests of the society. He keeps thoroughly posted upon public matters, and is active in political and other county affairs.

David H. Hopkins is also a native of West Virginia, and came to Manistee in 1867, and entered upon the prosperous business career already described. He was married December 2, 1870, to Miss Minnie M., daughter of Henry Erb, of Bear Lake. Their family residence, a very handsome structure, was built in 1876. At the At the present time Mr. Hopkins spends most of his time in Chicago, attending to the company's interest in that city.


In February, 1879, the village of Bear Lake was described, by a local writer, from whom we quote, as follows: "Bear Lake Village has about seventy-five buildings, all of which were put up substantially and in a comfortable and secure manner. The Hopkins Manufacturing Company's store is the largest building in the village. It contains on the first floor, two large store rooms, one for groceries and dry goods, and the other for hardware, crockery ware and other such merchandise. The second story contains a number of rooms which are used as private rooms by persons connected with the store or in the employ of the firm. The third story is a public hall, about 75x35 feet in size, furnished with staging, scenery and seats for public entertainments, lectures, etc. The private residences of the village are a good deal better, on the average, than will be found in many much larger villages. Messrs. George W. Hopkins and D. H. Hopkins have not only comfortable, but very elegant residences. They stand upon an elevated part of the village, giving a beautiful and magnificent view of the lake and surrounding country. They are both furnished with all the modern conveniences, such as heating apparatus, and are designed in the latest style. They are surrounded by nicely laid out yards, and world be considered very desirable residences in Chicago, Milwaukee, or any other large city. They are worth about $10,000 each.


"The excellent common school system, of course, is enjoyed here, the same as it is in all other places in this great state of Michigan. The district school is located in the eastern part of the city. The house is a substantial and well built one, one story, and occupies a pretty and convenient site upon a bluff overlooking the lake. There are about sixty scholars in the school, ordinarily. The present teacher is Miss F. Rogers, a lady of excellent deportment and line scholarship. Besides this public school, Mr. and Mrs. C. Davidson have a private school, located about the center of the village, where they teach the higher branches. The school is designed to accommodate those who are not able or can not make it convenient to go to the city schools to seek higher branches. They have given excellent satisfaction, and are considered teachers of a high order and unusual qualifications. There is also an excellent singing school in Bear Lake, conducted by Prof. William Andre, well known in northwestern Michigan as a gentleman of line culture and much musical talent.


"Bear lake Village, at present, has only two church societies, the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Baptist Church. The pastor of the former is Rev. Mr. Steel, and the latter is presided over by Rev. Mr. Davidson. Services are held alternately at Hopkins Hall, the Methodists one Sunday and the Baptists the next Sunday. A union prayer meeting is also held at Hopkins Hall every Thursday evening. People of other religions denominations usually attend the services, and there is also a good general attendance among those who claim allegiance to no church. Both the organizations are doing well, and are succeeding in maintaining an active religious interest in the community. There is also a Sunday-school held in the hall every Sunday noon, commencing at 12 o'clock, and continuing until about 2. This is also in a nourishing condition, and is doing much good in inculcating religious ideas into the minds of the young people of Bear Lake.


"There are only three societies here at present, the Red Ribbon club, the Literary Society, and the County Agricultural Society.


"The officers of the club are Mr. Robert Scott, president; Mrs. Russell Smith, vice-president: Mrs. D. Wise, secretary; Mr. J. E. Bodwell, chaplain. The society holds its regular meetings on every other Friday night. The meetings are not merely temperance meetings, but are devoted to the rending of essays, music, debates, and other exercises of that kind. They constitute a village entertainment that is attractive and valuable, besides it keeps alive the strong temperance sentiment which has always existed in Bear Lake, and which has always kept all liquor saloons out of the village entirely. The society also have a monthly newspaper which is filled with contributions from unknown writers, that makes considerable amusement, and is quite instructive.


The officers of this society are Miss Mattie Hopkins, president; Miss Gracie Tillson, secretary; Mr. J. E. Cody, treasurer; Mrs. Ella Hopkins, critic. This society holds its meetings every other Friday evening, at Hopkins Hall.


"The Manistee County Agricultural Society is located here because it was originated mostly by Hear Lake men, and is the center of the valuable farming region of the county, but steps have been taken by the society looking toward a change in respect to the location, and we have no doubt the change will be brought about in time. Through the aid and assistance of Mr. George W. Hopkins, the society own a fine piece of ground close by the village to be used as a fair ground, but if the change is made, the grounds will likely not be needed, except occasionally, when it may be decided to hold the fair at that point. However, the matter has not yet been acted upon, and we are simply guessing at the result. The present officers of the society are: President, James McKay; first vice-president, S. W. Fowler; second vice-president. Win. Crosby; third vice-president, James Dodd; J. E. Cody, secretary; L. F. Hale, treasurer. The executive board is as follows: C. H. Stroud, W. L. Warren. R. F. Smith, G. W. Hopkins, Seymour Calkins, S. W. Patch, C. W. Perry, J. E. Bodwell, A. W. Farr, Josiah Hilliard, L. D. Shirtliff,


Dr. Tomlin is a graduate of the Detroit Medical College, and an old resident of Manistee County. He settled in Bear Lake some two or three years ago and has established a fine drug business, and an excellent practice in the village and through the adjoining sections of country.


Dr. Richmond is a young physician, who graduated with high honors, and is rapidly building up a practice in this part of the county.


This young and industrious attorney is well known in the county, being a son of Mr. Elisha Richmond, of Norwalk. He has only been in practice at Bear Lake during the past two years.


Travel of all kinds has increased so largely lately that there is hardly accommodation enough in this respect for those who go to the place. Arrangements are already contemplated for supplying this want in the Spring.


This house is the principal place that transient wayfarers seek at the present time. It is located in the eastern part of the city, and fronts the lake, giving a splendid view of this charming body of water at all times. It is kept by Mr. J.F. Morgan Tillson and his estimable lady.


This house is located in the southwest part, of the village, convenient to the mills and store of Hopkins Manufacturing Company. It is kept by Mr. John Gruild, and is well patronized. The business places noted in the same connection were those of the Hopkins Bros: Dr. Tomlin, drug store; A. Bowon, wagon and blacksmith shop: H. O. Brower, organ agency; Dan. Wise, harness shop; Mrs. John Robinson, millinery; Anthony Healy and L.D. Shirtlift, shoemakers; Sumption A Co., boot and shoes store; P. W. Brooks, barber; A. Mellifont, tin shop; J, E. Cody, meat market; A. H. Cook, groceries.

The present population of the village, according to the school census, is five hundred and eighty.

There are three church organizations — Baptist, Methodist and Congregational.

The temperance and literary societies are liberally sustained. The president of the Red Ribbon Club is Mrs. Dan. Wise, and of the Literary Society, Mrs. G. W. Hopkins.

A Good Templars Lodge has recently been organized, with thirty five charter members. W. D. Powers is the presiding officer. A new church building is at present in process of construction, as are also a large number of business buildings and dwellings.

The village has one newspaper, the Bear Lake Independent, a sprightly local sheet, published by A. C. Culver & Son. It was started last August, and is already doing a prosperous business.

There is no saloon in the village, and, with the exception of one Winter, there has never been one. The sentiment of the people is strongly upon the side of temperance and good morals, and the result is that the best of order prevails.


Chas. B. Bunton is a native of Massachusetts, but most of his early life was spent in New Hampshire. In 1868 he came to Manistee, where he worked for the lumber firm of Ruddock, Palmiter & Co. Afterwards he worked at blacksmithing at Portage. In the Fall of 1880 he came to Bear Lake, and in the Spring of 1881, in company with D. D. Smith, purchased the Hopkins sawmill. In June of that year Mr. Smith retired from the firm, and Mr. Bunton has since been alone in the mill. He is also a member of the mercantile firm of Hale & Bunton. His family consists of a wife and three children. Mr. Bunton is an industrious business man, and is prospering in his undertakings.

Dr. C. W. Tomlin is the pioneer physician of Bear Lake, he was born in London, England, in 1830, and came to this country in 1838. He first studied law, and practiced for several years. In 1859 he began the study of medicine at Ann Arbor, and graduated at the Detroit Medical College in 1800. In 1861 he went into the army as a private, and was placed in charge of the medical department of the Twenty-ninth Michigan Infantry. He remained in the service about a year. In 1870 he came to Bear Lake, and in 1877 starred a drug store on the Isaac Tillson farm, one mile from where the village now is. In 1878 he built the store building he now occupies, in a central part of the village. He built an addition to his building, and the present season is erecting another building on the same lot. Dr. Tomlin has a wife and one child. He still gives some attention to the practice of law in connection with medicine. He has always had a large practice, and is well known in the county.

Henry Erb is one of the pioneers of Bear Lake Township. He is a native of Canada, and during the latter part of his residence there, owned a sawmill and farm. He was married June 21, 1857, to Miss Sarah A. Seaman, at Otterville, Oxford Co., Canada. In October, 1865, they started, with two teams, for a new home in Bear Lake. He had two horses and a lumber wagon loaded with household goods, and she drove one horse and cared for her four children. The journey was long and attended with many hardships, but was accomplished without serious accident. They located a homestead of one hundred and sixty acres, one mile east of Bear Lake, and built a log house. He cleared his land, and in course of time added more to it, until now he has a magnificent farm of five hundred and eighty acres, upon which are a fruit orchard of one thousand trees, and excellent buildings. In 1879 they left the farm and moved into the village, where they now reside. During the past year he has completed a tasty residence for their home. They have six children, one of whom is the wife of Mr. David H. Hopkins. Mr. Erb is one of the solid men of the county, and a most excellent citizen.

Isaac N. Tillson, postmaster at Bear Lake, was born in Winfield, Herkimer Co., N.Y., September 12, 1812. He was married at the same place, September 25, 1884, to Miss Mary A. Jones. They lived for several years in Ohio, and came from there to Bear Lake in 1867. The journey was made by boat from Grand Haven to Manistee, and from there they came with team. They bought one hundred and sixty acres of laud, near the east end of the lake, which was their home for many years, and is still in their possession. Mr. Tillson has held the office of postmaster since 1868, and at the present time rents his farm and lives in the village. In connection with farming, Mr. Tillson has been interested in mercantile business, and has done his share in developing the township in which he lived. They have six children, two boys and four girls.

G. K. Estes came to Bear Lake Village, from Wisconsin, in 1875. He was for some time civil engineer on the Milwaukee & Northern Railway in that state. After remaining here about six months he went to Milwaukee. In the Fall of 1876 he came to Pierport and was in the employ of C. W. Perry until the Fall of 1880, when he came to Bear Lake, and was in the office of Hopkins Bros, until last Spring, when he went into the insurance, real estate, loan, and collection business. He has a wife and two children, and is in prosperous circumstances.

L. F. Hale, of the mercantile firm of Hale & Bunton, is a native of England, and came to this country in 1871. In 1871 he came to Bear Lake, from Pennsylvania, and was book-keeper for Hopkins Bros. He also had an interest in the gristmill. Last Spring he sold his interest in the mill, and in June started a general store, the firm being Hale & Bunton. They do an excellent business, which is under the sole management of Mr. Hale,

Dr. F. E. Andrews is a recent acquisition of the professional circles of Bear Lake, having settled here in June, 1881. He is a native of Adrian, Mich., where his father was an old resident physician. He graduated at the University of Michigan in 1878. After practicing one year at Adrian, he removed to Pentwater, where he practiced until coming to Bear Lake, in 1881. He has a drug store, which he runs in connection with his practice. Dr. Andrews is one of the rising young physicians of the county, and already has an extensive practice.

D. D. Smith is one of the enterprising and successful business men of Bear Lake. He is a native of Illinois, and came to Portage from Wisconsin, and was head sawyer in a sawmill until 1874, when he came to Bear Lake, and was in charge of the Hopkins sawmill until the Spring of 1881, when he formed a partnership with Mr. C. B. Bunton, and purchased the mill. The following Summer he withdrew from the firm, and in company with Mr. Bernhardt built their planing mill, which they now operate. Mr. Smith is a justice of the peace, and one of the most active business men of Bear Lake. He is a young man of great energy, and is doing a prosperous business. His wife is a daughter of Mr. Russell Smith, the pioneer of the village.

A. C. Culver & Son, proprietors of the Bear Lake Independent came to Bear Lake last Summer from Cold water, where they published the Coldwater Sentinel, Mr. A. C. Culver is one of the old newspaper men of tho state, and both gentlemen are thorough newspaper men.

S. J. Steele, engineer at the new Hopkins mill, is one of the early settlers of the village. He is a native of Connecticut, and came to Bear Lake from Missouri, in 1873. Upon coming here he went into the employ of Hopkins Bros., as engineer at their sawmill, and has remained in their employ ever since. He put the machinery in the new mill, and is now in charge as engineer. He is a veteran at his trade, and in every respect competent and trustworthy. He has a wife and five children. One of his sons, Eugene, was almost literally cut in pieces by a circular saw, in a mill at Manistee, but survived the injury, and is now a sound and active man. J. S. Davidson, foreman of the new Hopkins mill, is a native of Ohio, and came to Bear Lake from Iowa, in 1880, and has been foreman of the mill since it started. He has been engaged at mill work for fifteen years.

E. A. Bonwell, of the firm of E. A. Bodwell & Co., came into Manistee County in 1871, and took a homestead in Arcadia Township. In 1880 he came into the village of Bear Lake, and opened a meat market, and afterwards added groceries. He still carries on his farm, in connection with his mercantile business. Mr. Bodwell is one of the reliable men of the county.

Lyman T. King is a resident of Brown town, where he has an extensive farm. He came there in 1863, from Spring Lake, Ottawa County. He has also lived in Manistee several years. Mr. King is a mason by trade, and does a large amount of work in Bear Lake village. He has a wife and six children, who live upon the farm. Mr. King is one of the old residents of the county, and is one of its prosperous citizens.

C. A. Andrus came to Bear Lake in 1875, from Oberlin, Ohio where he was engaged in the milling business. He came to take charge of the grist-mill of Hopkins Bros., and still remains in that position. He has a wife and two children. Mr. Andrus is a practical and thoroughly competent miller, and ranks well among the business men of Bear Lake village.

J. Blanchard is one of the oldest pioneers of the Manistee region. He was born in the state of New York, in the year 1820. When seven years of age his father removed to the state of Illinois. At nineteen years of age he went to Lake Superior, and was there three years. He was afterwards at Saginaw, Muskegon, Grand Haven, and for a time in Oceania County. In 1859 he commenced currying the mail from Grand Haven to Manistee, and was thus employed until 1802. His experience during those years made him familiar with everything that occurred between those points. His first trip was made on horseback, and then he rigged a two-wheel cart drawn by two horses. Until 1861 there was only a weekly mail, but after that he made two trips a week. In 1862 he went into the army, and remained in the service until the close of the war. After returning from the war he followed fishing for several seasons, and about 1869 went into the employ of H. G. Peters, and since that time has been one of his most trusted men. Last year he came to Bear Lake to take charge of Mr. Peters' lumbering interests at this point. The business here being about closed out, Mr. Blanchard will soon be transferred to some other point, where Mr. Peters may require his services. Few men are more familiar with early times along the east, shore than Mr. Blanchard

Bear Lake, MI (Lumber Mill) (1911) - Contributed by Paul Petosky