Schoolcraft County
History of the Northern Peninsula
by Alvah Littlefield

Transcribed by Christine Walters

Schoolcraft and Delta were two of the six counties into which the Upper Peninsula was divided by the general legislative act of March 9, 1843, and more than forty years afterward Alger was cut off from Schoolcraft county and Luce was erected from the territory of Chippewa county; by which all four attained their present area. They now form an important group of counties constituting the east-central portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


As organized under the act of March 9, 1843, Schoolcraft county had the following boundaries: beginning on Lake Superior north of line between ranges 12 and 13 west; thence west along the margin of the lake to the line between ranges 23 and 24 west, thence east to the line between ranges 12 and 13 west, together with Grand Island in Lake Superior. The county was attached to Chippewa for judicial purposes and so continued until about 1880, when it was attached to Marquette county. Grand Island township, as established by act of March 16, 1847, embraced all the territory previously organized as Schoolcraft county, and the first town meeting was ordered to be held at the house of John W. Williams in June of that year.

The seat of justice of the original Schoolcraft county was established at Onota a village on Grand Island, now included in Alger county; the present bounds of Schoolcraft were not attained until the setting-off of the latter from Chippewa county, to which it bad been attached, in 1885. Although Schoolcraft county was established in 1843, it took on no semblance of political organization until 1871, and the best national census which considered it worthy of note was that of 1880, whose figures were: Hiawatha township, 192; Manistique, 693; Munising, 270; Onota, 420. Total, 1,575, including 134 Indians and half-breeds.

The first real impulse which the county received was the completion of the Detroit, Mackinac & Marquette line, from Marquette to St. Ignace, in 1881. It was some years afterward before Manistique, the seat of justice since the county was reduced to her present area, came into railway connection with the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Sault Ste. Marie and became the terminus of the line known as the Manistique, Marquette & Northern. Since then she has become permanently prosperous, and has gathered within her corporate limits about half the people of the county, and far more than that proportion of its wealth and trade. Manistique and the Monistique

Manistique was incorporated as a village by act of the legislature, in 1885, and incorporated as a city by the same authority in 1901. It is a well-built city of 4,722 (census of 1910). It derives its name from the Chippewa tongue, and a free translation is "River with the Big Bay." Manistique is situated on one of the northernmost points of Lake Michigan, and is favored with a finely-sheltered deep-water harbor. Into this flows the rapid Monistique river, whose swift current not only supplies a most valuable water power, but keeps the "big bay" comparatively free of ice. With the assistance of several powerful car ferries. Manistique shares with St. Ignace the honor of being the only really open port on the upper lakes. There is virtually no interruption during the winter season with the service of the car ferries between Manistique and Eastern Michigan.

Let not the reader enter up to the carelessness of the writer or proof- reader the spelling "Manistique." as applies to the city, and "Monistique" river. The blame rests elsewhere, as witness this from the pen of n citizen author: "When the charter of the city was being written up it was the intention to name the corporation for the river upon which it was founded, and to whom much of its physical development owes its origin, lint the carelessness of a 'typo' in substituting the letter 'a' for the letter 'o' caused the City of Manistique to be incorporated on the banks of the Monistique. Despite the error of the typo the city has grown and the river has been its sponsor and greatest aid. "With a dam at picturesque Indian Lake, which constitutes the great reservoir in which the volume of water is stored, through its narrow banks and over the secondary dam at the northern limits of the city, over which this great watery force is rushed at increasing speed, this useful stream rushes, accumulating velocity to the dam at Manistique. developing as it travels a power that is immeasurable. Within this dam are the turbine and bucket wheels that develop and generate the power that drive the wheels of every industry within our city—and as yet without a groan or murmur. The city's lighting system, the great lumber industries, in fact every industry in our city is driven by the power of this harnessed river.

"The secret of the success of our city lies within its ability to furnish power cheaply. In fact the history of our city is so closely woven about our harbor facilities and our water power that the story of its industrial power and growth and the harbor and water power are synonymous.

An idea of the importance of Manistique as an industrial center may be gained from a brief mention of the various plants which employ over 100 men each. First are the Chicago Lumbering Company of Michigan and the Weston Lumber Company, whose combined capital is $1,300,- 000 and number of employees, 1,200. They operate two mills within the city limits, and the output of lumber is from 60,000,000 to 80,000,000 feet per year, principally white pine. This product is shipped mostly in their own boats which (Tonawanda Barge Line) ply continually between Manistique and Tonawanda, New York. Other fleets from Chicago and elsewhere transport the lumber to other than eastern markets. The Chicago Lumbering Company of Michigan was organized in 1863 by Chicago men at a time when Manistique comprised only a few houses and the Indians still felt that they would always own the country. The present management assumed control in 1872, the present "old mill" was built in 1876, and in 1883 the Weston Lumber Company was organized, followed soon by the erection of the West and Upper mills. This was the commencement of industrial Manistique.

The Chicago Lumbering Company claims to have cut since that time two and three-quarters billion feet of lumber and has one hundred million yet to cut—all tributary to its mill. In 1910 the company cut forty million feet.

Next in importance to these combined lumber and transportation interests are the plants of the Manistique Iron Company and the Burrell Chemical Company. The latter, capitalized at $500,000, is among the leading manufacturers of wood alcohol and acetate of lime in the country and employs about 500 men. The Iron Company has a well-equipped plant, having a daily capacity of some 1(H) tons and gives steady employment to perhaps 250 men.

The White Marble Lime Company, established in 1889 by George Nicholson, operates kilns both at Manistique and Marblehead; has also a large modern shingle mil] and is an extensive dealer in all kinds of forest products in the vicinity and along the Soo line. Many buyers of cellar ties, telegraph and telephone poles, posts, pulp wood, tan bark, etc.. make their headquarters at Manistique and operate through the White Marble Lime Company. In its various operations the company employs about 250 men. The general offices, kilns and shingle mills are located at .Manistique. and cedar yards are also maintained at Nahma Junction, Delta county. The company docs a large jobbing business in cedar, practically buying Jill of that variety of timber cut for the mills around the city.

In addition the Thompson Lumber Company has a payroll of some 400 men and the Northwestern Leather Company of perhaps 100. Manistique is also an important fishing point: Has modern stores and offices; good hotels; two nourishing newspapers; a substantial bank; three well built schools with 1.000 pupils, and every other evidence of a solid little city built on nourishing industries and a progressive agricultural country around it.

It is the southern terminus of the Manistique, Marquette & Northern Railroad, which affords its connection with the copper country and the great northwest. Penetrating as it does the country tributary to Manistique. it affords direct traffic communication with an important source of supply and with its car ferry connections at Ludington on the east shore furnishes all the benefits of a trunk line, it being a part of the Pere Marquette system. The company has developed from a small logging road of a decade ago into a system which is gathering in a largo share of the business from the north and the northwest. The road is not a long one, but runs through a most picturesque country, to which sportsmen are attracted who are hunting for either fish or deer; and they find both in abundance. Hears are also found, and may be either avoided or attempted. In connection with this road one of the largest and best ear ferries on the lake is run daily between Manistique and Ludington. Located at Manistique are the general offices of the company, machine shops and yards, giving employment to more than 250 men.

The Ann Arbor R. R. maintains an excellent system and is a large factor in the local freight world. It operates a car ferry, with connections at Frankfort. Michigan, on the cast shore of the lake, and affords a superior outlet for the heavy shipments which pass through the port of Manistique. Its car ferry. Manistique No. 1. is the largest boat of the kind on the Great Lakes, carrying thirty-two standard freight cars on each trip, and thus exceeding in capacity the new ferry being built at St. Ignace.

Reverting to the commercial aspects of Manistique, it will be surprising to many to learn that nearly 80,000.000 feet of lumber are shipped annually from her splendid harbor in boats owned "at home"; that 4,000.000 railroad ties. 600,000,000 shingles and 300,000 tons of pig iron also pass out of her port, as well as many tons of trout and white fish. During the summer season the principal passenger steamship lines make this port, bringing numerous tourists and sportsmen to a region of pure air, fine forests and beautiful lakes and streams. Indian Lake and Kitch-iti-ki-pi

Lovers of the beautiful in nature and the romance of Indian love never fail to visit Indian Lake, a charming summer resort, and the Big Spring (Kitch-iti-ki-pi), about four miles north of Manistique. The lake, about two miles by four, is fed by the spring, and is fringed by a virgin forest. On the west bank are the crumbling ruins of the old Indian mission built by Marquette, and in the tear an ancient Indian burial ground. The Big Spring is in the heart of a forest; is about sixty feet deep and from three to five hundred feet across; and its waters are so clear that the petrified logs at the bottom seem only a few feet away.


Schoolcraft county represents one of those sections in the Upper Peninsula, primarily a lumber county, which, since the perceptible denuding of its timber lands, has been taking wise steps toward transforming itself into an agricultural country of rich and varied production. Like the average soil of northern Michigan, that of Schoolcraft county may be classified as sandy soil, sandy loam, prairie loam, clayey loam, loamy clay, heavy red clay, and swamp soil. Generally speaking, the soil is better adapted to the raising of vegetables than of grains, and experts claim that their proper treatment should include a system of rotation, in which crops like clover and peas should play a prominent part to maintain the life-giving nitrogen of the soil. With sheep and enough of other stock to utilize the forage necessarily produced during the rotation of crops, as well as to fertilize the soil, potatoes and root-crops (especially turnips) flourish surprisingly. In Schoolcraft, as in most of the other counties which have entered tin- agricultural class, potatoes have proved fully as profitable and staple as any other crop. The county has fully maintained the name of the upper Michigan potato for soundness and "mealiness." Instances are even cited where the land has been paid for by a single crop. Peas also flourish. yielding not only forage but grain. Made into meal, the product is fed to advantage to dairy cows, while sheep and hogs are turned into the fields. Pumpkins also are easily raised and make splendid food for live stock.

Timothy bay has been an advantage to the settler, in that it has been universally used for cropping among the stumps. When a piece of land has been "chopped oft." and the branches and logs removed, while the stumps are too much in the way for the cultivation of crops requiring annual plowing of the soil and frequent cultivation, the grass seeds scattered upon the land and brushed in or covered with a light drag make rapid growth, so that even the first year a fair crop of hay may be obtained and thereafter a plentiful one.

Clover is another plant which flourishes in this section of the state, but little difficulty being experienced in obtaining a good "catch" and securing an excellent growth. This is both fortunate and desirable, as there is no better hay for dairy cows or for sheep than that which is made from red clover. White clover is another grass that finds a healthy growth in those parts and also affords excellent pastille for dairy cows and sheep. Kentucky blue-grass, or what in this state is known as June grass, is also common everywhere. A practical farmer will realize that a country in which timothy. Kentucky blue grass and led and white clover flourish is a natural pasture region: and such is Schoolcraft county and much of the Upper Peninsula.

Oats grew well and pay well. The crop may be sown as late as June and still yield a good supply of hay and even grain. The prospects of barley are fair, and rye has bright prospects. The grain can be used either for bread or feed, while the straw makes most excellent bedding. even corn, whose limit of successful cultivation was mice supposed to be south of Lake Michigan, has been profitably raised in Schoolcraft county, and there are those who believe that it will eventually become a paying crop in the wanner soil of more northern sections. Of course, the heavy clay soils prohibit all attempts to raise coin in Ibis latitude. With all these forage advantages for the raising of cattle, the country has an encouraging dairy outlook. The climate is also favorable for the raising of hardy and healthy milch cows and fat wool-producing sheep. The effect of a brisk climate on the fleece is to insure both density and fineness of fiber. Sheep in this latitude are also less subject to contagious and parasitic diseases than those raised in warmer regions. It has often been assumed that the additional expense incurred in winter feeding sheep in this section more than balances the advantage of suitability of climate and crops. Now, one acre of pasture will carry three sheep over a summer season under average conditions; if allowed to produce hay a similar acre would probably retain two and a half tons of hay, which is sufficient for at least ten sheep during the winter season. On the basis of acreage more sheep may be carried through winter conditions than can be through summer conditions, so that winter is not necessarily unprofitable in sheep feeding.

In Schoolcraft county there is much land that is adapted for sheep culture. These are classed as follows: 1. "Waste tracts low in fertility; 2. Grazing lands that are rough and rocky, but possess a fairly rich soil; 3. Those lands which in time will be adapted to general farming. The waste lands are light sandy soils found in districts where the pine has been removed and but a meager growth of vegetation has taken its place. In most instances there is some such herbage as bunch grass which could not be depended upon to supply permanent pasture. From the experience of older countries it seems safe to assume that such lands may be brought into fertile conditions by having sheep herded on them. These lands may be purchased for about seventy-five cents per acre in large tracts and it would seem that the cheapness of them afforded sufficient inducement for a trial of sheep farming on them. In must parts lakes are numerous and the water privilege is good.

The conditions are likewise favorable for the production of swine— both food and climate. Peas, as has been noted, are one of the good crops of Schoolcraft county, and it is well known that they make the choicest quality of pork. A comparison as to the comparative value of feed to hogs, published by the Ontario experiment station a few years ago, indicated that hogs weighing nearly 200 pounds each made 100 pounds gain when fed 380 pounds of peas. In another trial 120 pounds of peas and 287 pounds of corn meal together made 100 pounds of gain to the hogs, while 590 pounds of coin meal when fed alone were required to produce 100 pounds of pork.

As to horticulture—experiments in raising the larger fruits have been less successful than in producing the smaller varieties, such as the strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, currant and gooseberry.

Schoolcraft county has the soil, the climate and the crops calculated to develop a fine agricultural, dairy and live-stock country, with the limitations already noted. She has also unusually complete facilities, both by land and water, for getting her products to profitable markets, and she is destined to grow in wealth through the cultivation of her soil, as she has mainly developed in the past through the natural yield of her forests and waters.

Increase of Population

Since any census figures have been taken, Schoolcraft county has been credited with the following population: 1850,16; 1860,78; 1874, 1,290; 1880, 1,575; 1884, 3,846; 1890, 5,818; 1894, 7,127; 1900, 7,889; 1904, 8,628; 1910, 8,681.