Muskegon County, Michigan

North Muskegon, Michigan

North Muskegon MI - 1939 - Contributed by Paul Petosky

Just across the lake and directly facing Muskegon City, which manufactures more lumber than any single city in the world, at a distance of two miles, may be seen clusters of smoke stacks and steam pipes, from which, here and there, issue in the frosty air of winter, stately columns of vapor, the whole shore being "pierced with plumes of smoke." In Summer, the scene is still livelier; night and day, all along the shore the mills are running at a white heat, and from both shores, like answering batteries, rise the din of steam whistles, the noise of steam carriages, and the din of machinery, while thousands of busy hands and brains are responding to the eager cry of the world for lumber, more lumber to form habitations for men, and for the necessities of civilized life.

To the north appears the marshy mouth of the Muskegon river —the longest river in the State, with the Boom Company's storing grounds. Then, on the southeast, appears the rising city of Muskegon, the proudest building of which, the central school, the noble temple of learning, towers over all. The city with its spires, its fine rows of blocks on Western Avenue, its numerous mills and machine shops, looks grandly down. The eye stretches to the west and sees mill after mill encroaching on the lake, away down for six miles through Lakeside, and then Bluffton and finally to Port Sherman, at the foot of the lake, winch is surrounded on both sides by barren hills of sand rising nearly two hundred feet in the air. On the north there is not a great city, but about a dozen sawmills line the shores, which are generally bluffy and abrupt.

Extending for about three miles along the north shore from the head of the lake, is a peninsula or tongue of land, in some places only about forty rods wide, as at the Farr mill; in other places nearly 100 rods wide, as at Torrent & Arms. This strip, lying south of Bear Lake, whoso overflow, by a narrow channel, empties into Muskegon Lake, is the incorporated village of North Muskegon. The eastern end was known as Reedsville, and was platted at a very early day by one Archibald Reed; some even assert that it is the first plat on the lake. The soil is good, being tempered by proximity to three lakes, and Moulton's vineyard attests to its value as a fruit growing region. The first flouring mill was built here, near the foot of Bear Lake, by that worthy old pioneer, John Ruddiman, now enjoying his otium cum dignitate, while the old mill, whose services at an early day are gratefully remembered by the first old settlers, has gone to decay. The village of North Muskegon could be reached in summer in two ways, either by the ferries or, by a long detour, by the road over the bayou at the head of the lake. It can now be reached in a civilized way by the cars of the Chicago & West Michigan. In Winter, Jack Frost, the "greatest Roman of us all" in road building, stiffens Neptune's back and one walks over dry shod, and a regular road is established.

A branch of the Chicago & West Michigan Railway is just completed to Fair's mill, a distance of two miles, and it is expected that next summer will witness the extension to the foot of the lake, where an elevator will probably be erected.

The terries are two in number, the tugs M. E. Minter and Centennial, both safe little boats, running promptly every half hour from 5. a. m. to 11 a. m.

The village was incorporated in March, 1881, and its officers were:

E. C. Misner, President; Geo. D. Farr, Treasurer; N. L. Downie, Clerk and Assessor; James Hawkins, Marshal; A. B. Allen, Attorney; George Arms, Street Commissioner; Wm. Wells and Mr. Malloch, Justices of the Peace, and the Trustees are John Lynch, L. M. Haines, C. N. Storrs, Geo. Hubbard, John Hawkins and J. B. Champagne.

At the village election held in April, 1882, the following ticket was elected by an average of five majority. Total vote cast, one hundred and fifty-two:

President, Clark N. Storrs; Clerk, Neil L. Downie; Treasurer, Albert Waldron; Assessor, E. P. Crandall; Street Commissioner, J. D. Champagne; Constable, Chas. H. Leslie; Trustees, Charles Beamis, C. D. Cleveland and William Pett.

The village school is under the charge of Mr. N. L. Downie, who is also a prominent member of the County Board of School Examiners. He is assisted in the school by Miss Hubbard, the school population being about 300, while the population of the village in the summer season, when the men arc hack from the woods, and in the mills, already reaches 2,000.

There are two general stores, that of Torrent & Arms, and that of the Farr Company; two drug stores, that of Dr. Andrews and that of Dr. Zerah Mizner, one of the pioneers of White Lake; also H. Misner & Son's livery stables, four meat markets, &c.

There is also quite a village plat in the neighborhood of Ruddiman's saw mill, at the mouth of Bear Lake, and a number of houses have been built there.

The post office is kept by Geo. D. Farr.


Mr. Torrent owns quite a fleet of vessels to carry off the product of his mills. These are the steam barge R. McDonald, Capt. P. Pardee, with a capacity of 850,000 feet, making three trips weekly to Chicago, built in 1881; the steam barge, Nellie Torrent, Capt. W. F. Coleman, capacity 400,000 feet, built in 1880; schooner H. B. Moore, Capt. Win. Frazeo, capacity 285,000 feet, and the tag North Muskegon, built in 1881, and commanded by Captain P. Pillow.

The Farr Company own the schooner Westchester, capacity 240,000 feet. The ferries Mincer and Centennial, R. C. Hitchcock manager, have been until recently owned by the same company, who also own the tug John Torrent, John Wethercall master.


The mills properly own no logs themselves, merely doing the sawing, the logs at the eastern end being the property of Torrent & Ducey, and further down that of the Fairs' and Col. Geo. Fuller. The North Muskegon Lumber Company is supplied chiefly by Farr & Fuller. The Hay Mill is, of course, supplied by Ryerson, Hills & Co. Messrs. Torrent &, Ducey own many acres of fine pine lands in this State, and have recently completed a purchase of 54,000 acres of white pine and spruce in the St. Regis district, New York State. Col. Fuller is also a very extensive owner of pine lands on Muskegon River and its tributaries. One other large interest on the north side is the lumber inspection business of E. C. Misner, which employs eight or ten men all the season. In some weeks extra hands are necessary, according to the amount shipped. From the older mills of the Torrent companies as much as 8,000,000 feet had to be tallied in a week, besides the product of the other mills. The population is already over 2,000, and next summer the thirteen fine mills of the north shore alone will require, with the other industries, a great increase in population. All this will redound to the profit and honor of the southern city, as the development is chiefly by Muskegon's citizens, and this must continue to he the center of capital, enterprise, law, education, and all that constitutes a semi-metropolitan state of society.

Under the heading of "Saw Mills" we have already described the leading feature of this place.

The Peninsula Fruit Farm is situated upon the west shore of Lake Muskegon, and is one of the finest fruit farms in the State.

In 1867 Bridgeman Moulton, Esq., fume here from St. Joseph, Mich., where he was engaged in fruit growing. After locating 250 acres of land he returned to St. Joseph, and disposed of his interests, and the following year came back and began clearing up the land he had located. He built a comfortable home, and set out fruit of various kinds among the stumps. Mr. Moulton was a practical grower and a man of great industry and energy, and the results of his labor and skill are now stumps. On elegant fruit farm which yields a handsome revenue every year. In December, 1880, Mr. Moulton died, and his wife survived him but little more than a year. After Mr. Moulton's death Mr. R. R. Cockburn took the management of affairs until 1882. Parcels of land have been sold from time to time, and at the present time there are about one hundred acres, nearly all in fruit.


George Arms is one of the "old settlers" of Muskegon, having come here from New York in February, 1856. He has seen Muskegon grow up from the sands to a thriving, prosperous city. Mr. Arms, on his arrival in the then hamlet of Muskegon, engaged in the lumber business, and was one of the old Newaygo Company. He has resided here ever since 1856, except for a short time when in Chicago. He has been always identified with Muskegon's great industry, "lumber." In 1860, or thereabouts, Mr. Arms and the late "Squire" Furman, than whom Muskegon has never had a stronger, brighter, honester man, purchased from the Muskegon Booming Company all its rights, franchises, and property, and engaged in the business of rafting, towing and sorting the logs for the mills. The war came on, and labor and the prices of everything advanced, and they were compelled to abandon the undertaking. While in this business Mr. Arms conceived the idea of using "pens" for the purpose of sorting the logs, which process is still in use, no person over having been able to improve upon it. To such pioneers as Mr. Arms and "Squire" Furman Muskegon River owes its development and the laying the foundations of its present capacity for delivering saw-logs. He has always been energetic, wide awake, and pushing; has never, in the darkest days in the infancy of the now great industry of Muskegon, lost faith In its ultimate success and the future of the western town of his choice, and today Mr. Arms can look hack upon years of hard, patient toil and feel the complacency of the man who can say, "I told you so."

C. Beaudry, of the firm of C. Beaudry & Co., proprietors of the French mill at North Muskegon, is a native of Montreal, Canada, and came to Muskegon in 1854. For several years after coming here Mr. Beaudry worked as foreman and engineer in saw mills. In 1872 Mr. B., in company with Messrs. Vallicott and Coe, built a saw mill upon the bite where the French mill now stands. In the winter of 1880-81 the old mill was torn down and a new one built. Several changes have occurred in the membership of the firm, hut Mr. Beaudry has remained at its head from the first.

Charles E. Bemis, saw filer at Torrent & Brown's shingle and lumber mill, North Muskegon, has been filing six years, and in his present place since the Spring of 1880. Mr. Bemis enlisted in the service at La Porte, Ind., in 1861. He first enlisted for three months, and at the expiration of that time re-enlisted for three years or during the war. He received his discharge in 1865.

William H. Brown, one of the active members of the extensive lumber firm of Torrent, Brown & Co., is a native of Scotland and came to this country in 1854. In the Spring of 1881 he came to Muskegon from Grand Haven, and the firm of Torrent, Brown & Co. was organized. The company are extensive manufacturers of lumber and shingles. Their mills and office are at North Muskegon. Mr. Brown gives the operating of the nulls his personal attention, and the great success of their business is largely due to his energy and sagacity.

Aleck Buckaney, saw filer in charge of the gang saws at the French mill, North Muskegon, is a native of Canada, and came to the States in 1869. He has been filing on the lake for twelve years, and in his present place since May, 1881.

Joseph B. Champagne, of the lumber firm of C. Beaudry & Co., at North Muskegon, is a native of Canada, and came to Muskegon from Montreal in 1869. He first began in the employ of others, and in 1878 bought the interest of Mr. Vallicott in the firm of C. Beaudry & Co., and remained a member of the firm until the close of 1881. Mr. Champagne is a practical mill man, and gives his personal attention to the manufacturing department of the business.

Neil L. Downs, Superintendent of Schools at North Muskegon, was born in Canada, Oct. 15, 1888. Early in life his tastes led him to select teaching as a profession. In 1858 he came to the United States and obtained a situation as teacher at Fairfield, Michigan. After remaining there two years he taught for two years near Grand Rapids, and subsequently in Newaygo and Ottawa Counties. From Holland, Ottawa County, he came to North Muskegon in 1878, and since June, 1881, has been in charge of the schools. He is also a member of the County Board of Examiners. Mr. Downie is a good instructor and an enterprising citizen.

P. A. Ducey, one of the most extensive mill owners at Muskegon, is a native of Ireland and came to this country in 1850. After spending four years in New York he came to Michigan, and was two years at Grand Rapids. At the breaking out of the war he was in Colorado and enlisted in the Second Infantry. He was in the service four years, and was promoted to Colonel previous to his discharge ,which he received in 1865. After leaving the Army he came to Muskegon, and for five years was in the planing mill business. In 1870 he engaged in the lumber business with John Torrent, the firm being Torrent & Ducey. In 1878 the Torrent & Arms Lumber Company was organized, of which Mr. Ducey is treasurer. In the spring of 1881 the Ducey Lumber Company was organized, of which Mr. Ducey is president. Mr. Ducey is a man of great industry and has worked his way along until he has become one of the most extensive lumbermen on the lake.

Francis A. Fish, engineer at the mill of the North Muskegon Lumber Company, came here from Montague in the spring of 1881 to hike his present position. He has been employed in lumber mills for twenty-three years, twelve of which he was at Montague. Mr. Fish served in the war as a member of the 15th Illinois Regiment from 1861 to 1862.

John Garvey, Jr., was born in Kenosha, Wis., and has been a resident of Muskegon for thirty years. In June, 1881, Torrent & Arms opened a new store at North Muskegon and Mr. Garvey has been in charge from that time.

James Hawkins, village Marshal of North Muskegon, is a native of Canada. In 1874 he came to Muskegon from Detroit, and from that time until elected Marshal in the spring of 1881, he was engaged at mill work. He was the first Marshal elected under the village charter.

William J. Hawkins, foreman at Farr's mill, North Muskegon, has been a resident of North Muskegon nine years. Prior to coining here he was engaged at steam boating for several years. He has worked in Farr's mill since 1875, and foreman since 1878. John Hoy is in charge of F. S. Farr's store at North Muskegon. Came to Muskegon from Saugatuck, Mich., in 1874, and has been in his present position since 1879.

W. T. Hoy, M. D., in charge of the drug store of Farr & Co., North Muskegon, is a native of Spain and came to this country in 1825. He was engaged in the practice of medicine for several years at Sangatuck, Mich., and in 1873 came to Muskegon and continued in practice until the bummer of 1881 he took his present position. Dr. Hoy was in the army as surgeon of the 8th Mich. Cavalry from 1863 to 1865.

Robert Hoy, foreman of the Storr's mill, came to Muskegon seven years ago and has been engaged at mill work. He has been in the Storr's mill four years and has been foreman since Sept. Robert McLean, saw filer, in charge of the circular saws at Torrent A Arms' mill. North Muskegon, has been filing for seventeen years, and in his present place since the spring of 1881.

John Mercier, saw filer at Storr's mill, North Muskegon, came to Muskegon from New York State and has been tiling twelve years. He begun in his present place in the spring of 1881.

D. A. Miner, saw filer, in charge of the gang saws at the mill of the North Muskegon Lumber Company, has been in his present position since the mill was started in the spring of 1881. He has been engaged at mill work since 1862, and has been filing in mills on the lake since 1870.

E. C. Misner belongs to the rank of enterprising young lumbermen of Muskegon. He is a native of Grand Haven and came to Muskegon from Casnovia in 1870. He at once engaged in inspecting and shipping lumber, and continued at that business until the organization of the Ducey Lumber Company in the spring of 1881, when he became connected with the company and elected its Secretary and Treasurer. The company's office is at North Muskegon, and Mr. Misner devotes his time and energies to the duties of his office.

Dr. Zerah Mizner, practising physician and druggist of North Muskegon, was born in Tompkins County, N. Y., in 1829, came to this State in the Fail of 1830, first to Lenawee County, and the following spring to Grand Rapids, where after a stay of six months he moved on to a farm in Plainfield, but after a time returned to the Rapids. In 1848 he first set foot in this county at White Lake and also at Duck Lake, working for Charles Mears in the lumber woods. In 1858 he returned to Plainfield, but in four years returned to White Lake for three years and went back to Kent County. From Sept 8, 1865 to the fall of 1861 he was a resident of Whitehall, when he removed to North Muskegon, where he does a large business in preparing proprietory medicines as well as with his drug store and profession. He is highly respected by all who know him.

Samuel Poland, saw filer, in charge of the circular saws at Farr's mill, North Muskegon, came to Muskegon from California, and has been filing since 1860. He has been in his present place since 1878.

Charles Smith, engineer at Torrent & Brown's shingle mill, North Muskegon, is a native of Sweden and came to this country in 1879. Before coming to this country he was engineer on a steamboat He has been at his present place since the mill was started, 1881.

George Tarrand, of North Muskegon is a native of Canada. In 1867 he came to Muskegon from Wisconsin and engaged in lumbering, which he has continued. Ho was a member of the lumber firm of Torrent, Brown & Co., which was formed in the spring of 1881. In the August following ho sold his interest and retired from the firm.

Lars Nelson, filer, in charge of the gang saws at Farr's mill. North Muskegon, has lived in Muskegon since 1868, and has been filing since 1866. He has been in his present place since 1878. Jakes E. Sovacall is a resident of North Muskegon, where he has resided since 1876. He makes a business of furnishing mining parties on Bear Lake with boats, fishing tackle, etc.

W. D. Thayer, saw filer, in charge of the circular saws at the French mill, North Muskegon, is a resident of North Muskegon, and has been filing on the lake for fifteen years. He has been in his present place since the spring of 1880.

R. E. Tripp, painter, North Muskegon, came, from Chicago in 1881, and started in business as a general house and sign painter. He was engaged at decorative painting for many years in Chicago.

Charles Van Sickel, saw filer, in charge of the circular saws at Torrent A Brown's shingle and lumber mill. North Muskegon, has been filing at Grand Haven and Muskegon for eight years, and in his present place since the spring of 1881.

William McLean, saw filer, in charge of the gang saws at Torrent & Arms' saw mill, North Muskegon, has been tiling for thirteen years on the lake, and in his present place since the spring of 1881.

History of Muskegon Co with Illustrations & biographies H.R. Page 1882


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