Oceana County



From the History of Manistee, Mason and Oceana counties, Michigan Page 109 - 1882

Oceana has had her full share of mysterious disappearances and murders. Among the first of these was that of the murder of a settler named Green, on the Little Point Sable Section, in Benoua, near the beach, about the year 1860. Two brothers, named Morse, had been living at Green's, following the occupation of trapping, and no suspicion was directed to them, until James Gibbs noticed, when they were laying the body of the murdered man in the grave, the wife of Green give a significant wink to one of the Morses, who answered with a smile. Mr. Gibbs called attention to this, and the consequence was the arrest of Mrs. Green and the Morses, and a coroner's inquest, which resulted in nothing. They moved up back of Pentwater, into a log house of an old logging camp, Mrs. Green going along. On this the vigilantes of Pentwater, with Rector as their captain, went up one night and surprised them in bed. They cautiously approached the house, and, using the trunk of a heavy tree as a battering ram, at one blow sent the door fying to the other side of the room, rushed in and seized the inmates, and applied a coat of tar and feathers, which was intended as a gentle hint that they might fly away, for which purpose twenty-tour hours was given them. It was well for the vigilantes that they secured the fellows before they could seize their arms, which consisted of seven shotguns, two double-barreled rifles aud two revolvers, all loaded! The committee stretched the neck of the elder brother Morse, four times, until his tongue protruded, and he became black in the face. Next day the "Widder Green" and her "lovers" folded their tents, like the Arabs, and as silently stole away." The younger brother Morse, married the "widder", and they are now living in comfortable circumstances and respected in another portion of this state. Their true love did not run smooth at first. It is related that a little Dutchman, one of the vigilance committee, east a covetous eye on a splendid rifle, on the night of the charivari, and hid it in the brush near the log house. When the rifle was missed, an investigation threw the blame on the Dutchman, whose mysterious movements had been noted, and, despite his denials, he was held down and whipped with hazel aud beach gads until he roared for mercy and confessed his crime.

Next year, in 1861, the Pentwater committee felt moved to regulate one Fuller, son of H. H. Fuller, an early settler in Hart, who had been killed by a falling tree. The younger Fuller had been guilty of insulting a young lady, and the "boys" went in a body to his house, but Fuller had got wind of the expected raid, and stood ready to give his unwelcome guests a hot reception. When Rector boldly entered his log house, he was shot dead. The boys gathered up the remains, laid them in a barn, rousing up Mr. Peck and informing him that he would find a body in such a spot, and that he would be paid if he would bring it up to Pentwater. A trial ensued, but nothing was done with Fuller, who, however, considered the climate rather warm, and emigrated. Afterward he is said to have enlisted in the army, but died of fever at Toledo hospital.

On Section 1, Greenwood, in a log house with a boarded "lean to," lived for years one Isaac H. Cogswell, who had held the office of probate judge of Newaygo County, and for five years successively, after his township was organized, was chosen its trusted chief officer. On the death of J. D. Stebbins, an early lumberman, he was appointed administrator of the estate, and thus honored and trusted he had passed the age of three score and ten. He is said to have been a man sensitive of his honor, and proud of his good name, and exact and punctilious in his own affairs, and negligence on the part of others worried him. However this may be, he was called upon to account to the judge of probate, then P. J. Russell, on Monday, June 30, 1879; but about 3 a. m., on the Sunday previous, he awoke his invalid wife, and burned up the township books, the papers connected with the Stebbins estate and a large sum of money, remarking that he would show them a trick the devil could not undo. He then tried to persuade his wife to allow herself to be consumed in the flames with him. She replied that she would follow him anywhere in the world, but not into the fire. He followed her out after firing the house and handed her her own money and some papers, and then shut himself in the boarded shanty attached to the log house. When help arrived, it was too late, and all that was found was the remains. He is said to have been a man of a very sensitive disposition, tenacious of his honor, and easily irritated at what he considered the want of punctuality of others. The Cogswell case is one of the cause celebre of Oceana County, and opinion is greatly divided as to whether he really perished ou that Sunday morning, or not. One man is full of reasons and arguments showing that he must be still alive. His next neighbor is as positive that he is dead. Even husband and wife have been known to take sides on the question.

The disappearance of Josephus S. Peach, treasurer of the town of Hart, has been described in the municipal history of the county. He took several thousand dollars, and is enjoying, in some unknown clime, the fruits of his perfidy. Wherever he is, he cannot be happy, for he can never escape from bad company—himself. To be condemned to live eternally with a thief, is punishment enough for him.

The case of Alonzo Irons, of Pentwater, who was storekeeper for Nickerson & Collister, at Crystal Valley, and who disappeared on Friday, June 3, 1881, is one of the greatest mysteries of Oceana County. He is doubtless murdered, and buried in some swamp. His body has never yet been found, but there was not the slightest reason that he should have voluntarily taken his life. He left in his shirt sleeves to purchase hay, and was seen on the road near the four corners of Crystal, Colfax, Elbridge and Leavitt. One King was arrested, but released, and although the county spent considerable in trying to ferret out the perpetrators, the veil lias not been lifted. The county clerk, prosecuting attorney and sheriff were directed to use diligent search for the murderers, and employed a Pinkerton detective, but in vain. Some imagine that the Indians had something to with the affair: others that a woman was at the bottom of the affair.