History of Osceola County

A history of northern Michigan and its people Powers, Perry Francis, 1857-1945., Cutler, H. G. (Harry Gardner), b. 1856.

Osceola is one of the most prosperous of the central counties of the southern peninsula of Michigan. From the late sixties, until well toward the nineties, its territory was virtually given up to the lumber industries and, in view of the fact that her development in the agricultural industries has scarcely covered twenty years, her progress has been rapid indeed. Of the 367,247 acres comprising her area, it is estimated that 204,847 acres are already devoted to farm and grazing lands, produce and fruit-raising. Fortunately, many of those who accumulated money in the pineries have remained to invest it in these later and more diversified products of the soil, the permanent profits from which depend more on patience, skill, scientific knowledge and protracted labor than did the wealth realized by the pioneer lumbermen from the pineries of Northern Michigan.

Products and Population

The soil, climate, seasons, drainage and other physical conditions of Osceola county are especially favorable to the raising of potatoes, hay, clover and beans and the development of the livestock industries. There are thousands of acres of land yielding extra fine grades of crimson, medium and giant clover, with remarkably large and thrifty timothy; besides there are large areas of grass, pasture and stock-grazing lands. With plenty of low-priced lands to furnish forage, the farmers of the county have every incentive to push the dairy interests. Large crops of white navy, red kidney and other beans are also raised on contract with business houses, the mixture of sand and loam in the soil of many tracts being the exact requisite. Of course fruit farming in Osceola county is in its infancy, although even now her shipments of apples—Spy, Duchess, Russet and late fall—are considerable. The cereals have all been raised successfully and as an agricultural auxiliary, the raising of poultry, both for eggs and the market, is being profitably conducted.

Efforts along all these lines which have resulted in such substantial good to the county have been concentrated and encouraged through the Osceola County Agricultural Society, one of the first organizations of the kind in the central counties of Northern Michigan, and a sketch of which is given hereafter.

The figures showing the population of Osceola county at the conclusion of the past three decades, as presented by the United States census

In 1840 the towns numbered 17, 18, 19 and 20 north, of ranges 7, 8, 9 and 10 west, were laid off as the county of Unwattin, and its name was changed to Osceola, in honor of the Seminole chief by that name, by an act of the legislature approved March 8, 1843. Osceola county was not organised as an independent civil body until 1867, when the county seat was established at the locality called Mersey where a few settlers had settled. The village was incorporated by the legislature in 1875 and is now a place of about, three hundred people. It is located at, the confluenoe of the Horsey and Muskegon rivers on the Pen' Marquette railroad. Tho good water power at that point, was its greatest original attraction in the old lumbering days, and a sawmill and large roller flour mill are still in operation. Hersey has also a well-built electric light and power plant. With a substantial bank, a modem creamery, a depot for the sale of agricultural implements, stores thoroughly stocked, and backed by a promising adjacent country, the county seat has a solid standing aside from its official position as the center of the county government. A Union school graded and conducted under the present-day system aud three churches, supported by Congregatioualists, Methodists and those of the German Evangelical faith, stand for the higher life of the community.

Reed City Village

Main Street - Reed City Michigan - Contributed by Paul Petosky

The village of Reed Oity in the southwestern portion of Osceola county, at the junction of the Pcrc Marquette and Grand Rapids & Indiana railroads, is also four miles west of Hersey, the county seat. It is also finely located on the Horsey river, a stream noted for its trout and grayling, as well as for its excellent water power. The natural advantages of its location and the business judgment of its founders and promoters have made Reed City one of the best interior towns of Northern Michigan. It was incorporated in 1872. Although the village has a number of manufactories, its most estensive are those devoted to maple flooring, the plant operated by "William Horner being one of the largest in the state. The Babcock Grain Company has an elevator and mills, and does a large portion of the shipping trade in grain, flour and hay. Another plant worthy of special mention is the Ueed City Woolen Mills, established in 1883, and although they are not extensive they are among the very few manufactories of their kind in Northern Michigan. Identified with the industries of the village arc also a saw and planing mill, foundry and machine shop.

Two substantial banks make Reed City a financial center for quite a stretch of country—the First National capitalized at $50,000, with J. W. Parkhurst as president and L. G. Hammond as cashier, and the Commercial Savings Bank, capital $25,000, president Joseph Berber and cashier, Harry Gerber.

The village has a through system of electric lighting and water supply. The existing plant of the Rccd City light and power Company was built in 1910 by an organization of business men, not incorporated, of which George D. Westover, of Cadillac, is president. It is the second plant of the kind and is a credit to its originators and builders.

Reed City has also a most creditable Union school whose average attendance is 400—80 in the High school, 150 in the grammar grades and 170 in the primary.

The village has also the good name of being a strong church town, the Lutherans being especially active and influential. They have two organizations. The Methodists have three churches, attended by the English, German and Swedish elements. Besides the Baptists, Catholics and Mennonites arc represented by societies which are active and growing. So that Reed City should be a good village both in which to live and in which to die.


Evart, MI (Main Street) (1907) - Contributed by Paul Petosky

Evart is the second village in the county both in size and thrift. It was first settled in 1871 and incorporated as a village during the following year. It is a progressive little place, bright and clean, with well- laid cement walks, graded and graveled streets, nicely-kept lawns and two pretty parks. The village owns and operates a good system of water works and electric lights, the Evart Light and Power Company having been recently organized with George A. Burley as president. In the educational lines, the village supports Union, High and County Normal schools, and a public library (not Carnegie), while the religious sentiment of the community is represented by Baptist, Catholic, Free Methodist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches. As to Evart's industrial and commercial establishments, they include a planing mill, foundry and machine shop, flour roller mills, grain elevator and produce warehouse, tool and grain separator works, creamery, beanery and pickle factory.

At Evart are also the large and attractive fair grounds of the Osceola County Agricultural Society. This organization which has done so much for the entire county was founded at Hersey, in the month of April, 1875, with L. Swem as president, Henry Gerhardt, treaaurer, and E. J. Raymond, secretary. The first meeting was held at Hersey, September 29th of that year; in 1877 the fair grounds were located at Evart, since which the annual meeting of the society and the county fairs have been held at the latter place. The association has twenty acres in grounds, a well-graded half mile track, grand stand, halls for assemblies and general exhibits, and buildings for livestock.


Marion is a thriving little village on the middle branch of the Muskegon river, and at the junction of the Ann Arbor and Manistee & Grand Rapids railroads, it being the eastern terminus of the latter line. It is in the northeastern part of the county, thirty miles from Hersey, the county seat; was settled in 1880 and incorporated in 1889. It has a well-constructed plant for the generation of electric light and power a mile west of town, where is also located a sawmill, a good bank, a pretty little opera house, a graded Union school and Catholic and Methodist churches. The general appearance of the village, with its clean streets, fully-stocked stores and neat houses, is attractive and reassuring.

Tustin and Leroy

Tustin, MI Post Office (1909) - Contributed by Paul Petosky

Tustin is a station and pretty village, seventeen miles north of Reed City at the junction of the Grand Rapids & Indiana with the Manistee & Grand Rapids railroads. It was settled in 1871 and incorporated in 1893, its business still being largely centered in the shipment of such lumber products as cedar posts, hardwood logs and hemlock bark. The village is also the center of a productive hay and potatoe country, in which articles its merchants are active dealers. The Bank of Tustin acts as the financial agent for such dealers and shippers, for the local trade and the farmers in the surrounding country. Tustin has a good village school and is the center of a considerable religious activity, the denominations being represented by Methodist, Presbyterian, Swedish Baptist, Swedish Lutheran and Swedish Mission churches.

Leroy, of about the same size as Tustin, is on the Grand Rapids & Indiana railroad, twelve miles north of Reed City. It was incorporated under the village form of government in 1883. Leroy is the center of a growing stock and fruit country, whose trade it largely controls. A steam sawmill and a planing and flour mill are also in operation at that point. Further, Leroy ships considerable grain, potatoes, wood and tan bark. It has a bank, a Union school and Baptist, German Evangelical, Methodist and Swedish Mission churches; so that in all the requirements of a present day American community it is complete.