Oceana County Michigan
Genealogy and History


Pentwater, MI (Birds Eye View - 1921) - Contributed by Paul Petosky

The village of Pentwater is pleasantly and picturesquely situated on the north side of Pentwater Lake, at the lower end, where it empties ba channel of about half a mile into Lake Michigan. The village lies on a sandy soil, which is easily drained and wonderfully productive. One good feature of the village is the plentiful supply of luxuriant maple shade trees. The population, which is increasing, is now estimated to be about 1,500, and with the progress of manufactures, it will reach 2,000 at no distant date. The buildings are chiefly of wood, which is the natural consequence of the village being founded on the lumber interest, but this Spring. F. O. Garner is developing an exhaustible bed of clay, of excellent quality, on the bank of the lake, and will soon have brick for exportation, besides supplying the local demand. Two new brick blocks are in course of erection on the main street, mill from henceforth brick buildings will be more and more erected. In hotels the village in now fairly served, but as its qualities as a Summer resort become better known, a  large tourists' or Summer hotel, with the necessary adjuncts, will become a necessity, and as the present hotels and private houses are already filled with Summer visitors, a hotel of the character we have indicated is being talked of as a joint stock operation. The fishing and bathing are excellent, and the scenery in the vicinity is pleasing and picturesque.


The village of Pentwater was incorporated March 16, 1867, and the first election was held April 8 following; C. W. Deane, W. H. Shibley, and J. M. Lacey being the first inspectors of election, and there being 181 voters present. The first officers were: President, C. W. Deane; Recorder, H. Doville; Treasurer, J. H. Highland; Assessor, O. P. Cook; Trustees, D. C. Pelton, I. N. Lewis, W. H. Merritt for two years and A. Bryant, J. Bean, Jr., and J.J. Kittredge for one year; Marshall, W. Webb; Attorney, L. D. Grove; Street Commissioner, E. S. FAxon.

The following is the list of presidents, recorders and treasurers to the present time.

C. W. Deane, 1807; L. D. Grove, 1868-69; H. C. Flagg, 1870; J. M. Rich, 1871; J. G. Gray, 1872-76; W. B. O. Sands, 1873; E. D. Richmond, 1874; J. H. Herrington, 1875; W. E. Ambler, 1877-78; A. J. Underhill, 1878; S. A. Browne, 1879' E. Nickerson, 1880-81-82

H. Doville, 1867; E. B. Flagg, 1868-69-72-3-8; E. E. Edwards, 1870-71; L. M. Harwick, 1874; E. A. Wright, 1875-76; S. Graham, part of 1879; H. A. Cross, part of 1879-80-1-2.

J. H. Highland, 1867; J. G. Gray, 1868-69; E., D. Richmond, 1870-71; W. B. O. Sands, 1872; R. M. Falkner, 1878; M. A. Rice, 1874-75-6-7-8; H. H. Bunyea, 1879; Wh. H. Browne 1880-81; C. H. Whittington, 1882.

In 1878, in consequence of failure to his certificate of election in time, the village board elected in 1877 had to appoint officers for the ensuing year.

In 1879, there was a strong run made by the Greenbackers, who elected the larger part of their ticket, but the village has, as a rule, been decidedly Republican. The financial situation of the village is excellent, it being free from debt, and at the close of this year it will have a surplus of about $1,200, with which it is intended to make local improvements. In 1880, it paid off $1,000 of debt, in 1881 another $1,000 and this year $500, all on the debt for a steam fire-engine.

Pentwater, MI (store - 1911) Contributed by Paul Petosky


Pentwater is a remarkably healthy place, and is becoming yearly more of a resort for invalids and tourists. The present hotels are crowded in the Summers, and private houses are pressed into the service to take Summer boarders. A movement is now on foot to erect a large Summer hotel by a joint stock company. To show the healthfulness of Pentwater, we may  mention, that during the year ending April , 882, there were but twenty deaths, of which eleven were of children two years of age, and of the remainder five were brought here to die, being given up by home physicians, and but two of the remaining deaths could properly be charged to Pentwater. There is no chance for malaria, as all low places drain into the lake.


Was first organized March 1, 1872, by village ordinance, and on the 7th the following were elected first officers: R. L. Hardy, foreman, with W. A. Rounds, and C. Wittington, as assistants; A Dresser, as secretary, and A. T. Underhill, treasurer. On June 7, 1882, the old organization was disbanded and a new one formed, with C. R. Wittington, chief engineer; C. W. Cramer, assistant; J. C. Jensen, foreman of fire department, with W. H. Tuller, assistant; F. Maynard, foreman of Hose Company; F. Pierce, assistant; H. A. Cross, secretary, and F. W. Fincher, treasurer; E. G. Falkner and S. W, Bunyea are fire police, and F. Nielson and E. W. Hodges are fire wardens. The steam fire engine Oceana, manufactured by Clapp A Jones, is an excellent one, and has been in use for about eight years. Over 1,000 feet of good hose can be used, if needed. and the company is a very efficient one. They are twenty-two in number and are paid for time spent in extinguishing fire. No great conflagrations have swept over the place, and the fire department has a good record for conquering fires.


Pentwater, MI (Little Point Lighthouse - 1910)
108 feet high, built in 1873. Light visible 18-1/4 miles - Contributed by Paul Petosky

The harbor of Pentwater has ben made an excellent one, and a navy could ride at anchor within the ample depths of the inner lake. At first the outlet was but a small, shallow stream, over which the first settlers could wade without difficulty, as the water was but a few inches in depth. Indeed, the Indian tradition is that, not long a go there was no outlet to the lake. The mouth was to the north of the present by a few hundred yards and the old channel may yet be seen. C. Mears and Rector & Cobb, in 1850, made efforts to clear out a channel, especially the former, who was the first to put in little slab piers on the north side, and erected on poles a beacon light. Vessels were loaded and unloaded by lighters, or small scows, and the trouble and expense was great.  The United States government has been induced from time to time to make somewhat liberal appropriations for the harbor improvement, in all amounting to about a quarter of a million dollars, and last session of Congress the large sum of $10,000 more was voted, which will be expanded in dredging, which is much needed. The harbor has now substantial stone piers on both sides, about three-fourths of a mile long, and the channel is 150 feet wide, and eleven feet deep. A lighthouse was set on the end of the south pier in 1873. F. McGuire the first keeper, and his wife still holds the place, The light is a steady red light. Money has also been appropriated for a life-saving station. The harbor at inner end is crossed by a ferry, the railway coming in on the peninsula opposite. H. C. Flagg has for years managed the ferry. Off the piers and in the lake near is a good fishing place, white fish and trout, mullet, and sometimes sturgeon and wall-eyed pike being taken. Frank & Tamler were the first to make fishing a regular business. The harbor inspectors have been , first, F. W. Ratzel, 1865-66; Col. Strohman until 1878, and then D. C. Wickham.


The post office was opened in 1858, with E. R., Cobb as first postmaster; in 1857 H. C. Flagg, as a Democrat, took the office, with E. D. Richmund as deputy, and moved the office over to the Middlesex side. This was the spring when Buchanan became president. When Lincoln took office, in 1861, Mr. Richmond was promoted to be postmaster, but when Andy Johnson was "swinging round the circle," Mr. Richmond was rather disgusted, and getting at this time a request to contribute $50 as the assessment on his office, he showed the document to some returned soldiers, and they contributed a wad of confederate money, which was duly forwarded to Washington, but so little was this appreciated that he received, by return of mail, a notice that a successor had been appointed. This was A. J. Underhill, who held until 1867, when Amos Dresser got it. After him came Dr. Dundess, then Richmond again, in 1873; Dresser in 1879, then H. H. Bunyea, and lastly C. F. Lewis, in 1881; and the office is in the former drug store of J. G. Gray.


The mercantile business is transacted in three large general stores, three exclusively grocery stores, two furniture stores, two hardware stores, two drug stores, three blacksmith shops, a wagon shop, a broom handle factory, and a large wholesale furniture factory is being erected. In lumber, there are four shingle-mills, and three sawmills, two of which have shingle-mills attached. The annual product with the mills up the river and not far from 20,000.000 feet of lumber , and the same number of shingles. George Vorhees, superintendent of sorting drives, reports in 1881, 45,500 logs, 80,812 posts, 89,698 ties, and 27,440 telegraph poles. The shipment of wood by Hands & Maxwell, which is annually from 1,000 to 2,000 cords and the bark, also form important items in the trade of Pentwater.

The Pentwater Lumber Company is owned and operated by W. B. Phillips, of Chicago, and Samuel A. Browne, of Pentwater, the company being organized in 1874, the same parties having operated together as partners since 1809. The capital stock is $375,000 and the company engages in teh manufacture of lumber, shingles and in general trading, having flouring mill in Pentwater and Brownedale. They recently sold Butters, Peters & Co. 8,800 acres of pine lands for $204,000 and still own about 12,000 acres in Mason and Oceana Counties.

Their saw and shingle-mill at Pentwater has a daily cutting capacity of 100,000 feet of lumber, 100,000 shingles and 20,000 pieces of lath in twenty-four hours. The mill at Browndale has a capacity of 75,000 feet of lumber, and 60,000 shingles in twenty-four hours.

Their general store on Hancock Street is twenty-four by eighty feet, with a grocery store adjoining twenty-four by fifty feet, and does a business of $125,000 annually.

Sands & Maxwell' shingle-mill is run by a twenty-horse-power engine; was built originally for a stave-mill in 1877, and changed to a shingle-mill in 1879. It has a capacity of 10,000 shingles from bolts daily. This firm also own two sawmills and shingle-mills combined, one at Crystal Valley, built 1875, capacity 16,000 feet, H. Hyde foreman; and the other in Benona, built in 1875, 80,000 feet of logs daily, John Rose, foreman.

Sands & Maxwell's general store, located on the corner of Hancock and Fourth Streets is twenty-six by ninety feet, carries a general assortment of goods, and does a business of $100,000 annually. They have also branch stores at Benona and Crystal Valley,  A. W. Netwark, bookkeeper at Pentwater, assisted by J. W. Loomis. A fine new brink store is being erected right next door, south of the present store, which will be thrown into connection with the old store making both together seventy-two by ninety feet.

Nickerson and Collisters, sawmill was commenced by Bailey, Worden A. Williams, in 1872; sold to Sands & Gardner, in 1877, and the following year Gardner purchased Sand's interest, and sold the whole to Nickerson & Collister in 1879. The machinery is propelled by a thirty-horse-power engine, and consists of a circular gang edger, with a capacity of 25,000 feet daily, 3,000,000 feet annually. This firm also own a sawmill and shingle-mill combined in "Beanville," Crystal Township, with a daily capacity of 10,000 feet of lumber, and 40,000 shingles. Llewellan Polland foreman at Pentwater; W. X. Sayles at Beanville.

The gristmill of this firm at Pentwater was established in 1875; has a fifty-horse-power engine, three sets of four feet buhrs, and one small buhr for middlings. The mill does merchant and custom work, with a capacity of 100 barrels daily. Size, fifty-two by sixty-four feet, four stories. Conrad Masters, headmiller; James Steele, engineer.

J. E. White's shingle mill was built in 1865, by Messrs. E. H. Richmond, Woodruff Chapin and A. J. Underhill. In 1870 Scala Moulton and H. C. Flagg night the mill, and in 1874 A. J. Underhill became the owner, selling out to F. O. Gardner, in January, 1878. In 1880 Hon. J. E. White purchased the mill, which he still operates. The mill had originally two machines, with a capacity of 70,000 shingles daily. A present, with one machine, it turns out 10,000 a day.

F. O. Gardner's saw and shingle mill was established by himself, in 1881; daily capacity 40,000 shingles, and 15,000 feet of lumber. Engine 32 horse power.

La Bonta A Co.'s paning mill was built in 1865, by E. Nickerson, who sold in 1868 to his partners, and they in 1880 to Peter La Bonta, whothe same year took in a partner, - T. Mere. The  mill makes sash, doors, blinds, mouldings, etc.
Bush & Chapman's shingle mill was originally built for a foundry and machine shop, by George Goodsell. In 1877, C. H. Chapman purchaed it and ran it as a stave mill for a year, then made it a shingle mill for one year, and has operated it since as a saw and shingle-mill, taking in as partner John J. Bush, of Lansing. Size of engine, 40 horse power; capacity in eleven hours, 500 ties and 10,000 shingles; doing about $40,000 worth of business annually, employing about thirty-five men.

G. W. Imus' book and stationary business, was established in April 1879, on Hancock Street; the business amounts to $6,000 annually.

E. Rich's general store, Hancock Street, was established in 1866, and does a good business.

H. H. Bunyea's grocery, Hancock Street, was established in 1880, business, $5,000 a year.

N. L. Bouton's general merchandise and lumber business, established since 1872, does $20,000 a year business.

Bum & Davis' grocery was commenced in 1870, by J. S. Bird. They do a business of over $25,000 annually.

F. w. Fisher's drug store was started in 1808, by James G. Gray; sold in 1875 to Page & Jesson, then to Mr. Hastings, and in 1870 Fincher & Newark became proprietors. On September, 1880, Mr. Fincher bought out the interest of his partner, and still conducts the business, doing about $7,000 annually.

E. A. Wright's drug store was started in 1808, by E. N. Dundass, who sold it to Dr. D. G. Weare, and he, in 1878, to J. Brown & Co.; then to C. w. Brown & Co. In 1877 E. A. Wright purchased the business; in 1881 he sold it to J. D. Lane, but repurchased it to 1882.

C. R. Whittington's furniture store was first established in 1871, by Mr. Whittington and E. O. Chalmers, but since 1873 Mr. Whittington has been sole owner. The store is on Hancock, between Fifth and Sixth Street, and is filled with a general assortment of furniture and undertaker's goods.

F. O. Gardner's hardware business was purchased in 1878 from White & Carr. The business done is large - about $10,000 a year, - and the store a commodious one, 82x88 feet.

A. J. Underhill grocery store was started in 1868, with MR. Gray and other partners, but sine 1878 Mr. Underhill has had entire control. Formerly, he carried dry goods also, and did a very large trade; now he is confined to groceries  alone, doing about $6,000 worth annually.

M. A. Rice's jewelry store was established in 1805, by J. H. Root, who, in the Spring of 1877, moved his stock to Ludington, and was succeeded by Mr. Rice, who carries on, also, the business of telegraph operator, and since 1878 has attended the War Department signal service for the benefit of mariners.

Pentwater, MI (Theatre - 1939) - Contributed by Paul Petosky

W. A. Rounds express, dray and feed stables were established in 1867. Mr. Rounds keeps five horses on Hancock Street.

John Melton's  ware rooms, on Hancock Street, were established in 1881, and contains a general assortment of cabinet furniture; repairing attended to.

A.J. Underhill's meat market was commenced in 1878, in connection with other business.

The Temperance Billiard Hall was opened in 18709, by Forrest Moody; sold June 1, 180, to Peter Breves, who still runs it, keeping a full stock of cigars, tobaccos and confectionery; soda fountain on the premises.

M. S. Perkins' livery, corner Hancock and Fifth Streets, was opened in 1875, and contains, on average, thirteen horses. Stages to Mears and Ludington, (in Winter) and omnibus to railway station.

F. O. Gardner's brick yard was established in 1882 and has all modern improvements. High hopes are entertained of its success.

Faulkner's Opera Hall, on Fourth Street, is 30x100 feet, and has a seating capacity of 400 persons.

Pentwater Tug Line was established in 1878, by Fred Nielson and Max Fisher, (Fisher & Co.) and consists of two tugs valued at $10,000 to $12,000.

The Elliott House on Hancock Street, was built in 1868, by James Brooker, who sold it to E. R. Burrington, and he to A. A. Bryant, who, in 1871, sold to E. W. Elliott. The latter raised the building to three stories, and refitted the house, running it until 1878, when he sold it to A. Brillhart, who afterward sold to J. W., Imus, who still owns the property. The hotel is now run by E. W. Elliott. Size of house, 50x80, three stories , with fifty rooms and forty-two beds.

The Pacific House was built in 1868 by William Kuhn, and is 100x22 feet, containing sixteen rooms. It has also an addition for a saloon, 100x20 feet.


This bank was established by Gray Brothers & Co., in 1870, the company consisting of Gray Brothers, and Messrs. Rice and Ambler. In the Spring of 1872, S. A. Browne & Co. were added to the company, J. G. Gray retired, and the institution received the name o Oceana County Bank, which it retained until 1877, when Nielson & Co. (F. Nielson and W. E. Ambler) assumed the entire control, and still operate it. Capital stock $15,000, and outside capital $30,000. The bank, in 1878, sustained losses by the Franklin Bank of Chicago, and Henry Clews & Co., New York, which, though crippling, did not cause it to close its door, and it paid all demands. The present firm have raised the institution  from a low ebb to a very enviable state. The building is a very fine one, and elegantly appointed. The foundation of the large vault is of stone, and the walls are of solid bricks, sixteen to twenty inches in thickness, while the safe, of Hall make, weighs five tons, and is of extra thickness and strength, with a time lock, having three combinations.


There was organized in June, 1882, a joint stock company, with a capital stock of $50,000, to erect a factory, to carry on the manufacture of furniture, W. B. O. Sands is president, E. Nickerson vice president, J. Jeffries secretary, F. Nielson, treasurer; directors, Sands, Nickerson, Collister, Jeffries, Fisher, Nielsen and Maxwell. C. Mears took $2,000 in stock for the site, which is near the ferry, not far from his old mill. The factory is a substantial wooden structure, four-stories in height, 48x100 feet; engine room of brick, and the engine is to be eighty horse power.


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