Schoolcraft County
History Upper Peninsula
1883 by H.R. Page & Co
Page 547-549
Transcribed by Larry Peterson

The title would be a solecism had it not been for the bright prospects of this division of the State. The district may be considered to be in its primitive condition up to that day, in 1881, when the stearn engine of the D., M. & M. Railroad rushed through its wilderness, sounding tho advance of civilization. The settlements at Munising and Manistique previous to that time did not possess characteristics of permanency, but with the railroad the wilderness, or rather the uninhabited domain of agricultural wealth, became daily more circumscribed, until now but few acres of that vast country extending from the great Superior to Lake Michigan are without an actual or prospective owner.

This county, like Chippewa and Mackinac Counties, is destined to be one of tho richest agricultural districts in the Upper Peninsula. With the exception of the manufacturing villages herein noted, the county was literally a desert up to a very short time ago. Since the construction of the D., M. &.M. K. It., settlements have begun to form. The advantage of cheap and rapid transportation will bring its agricultural and mineral wealth before the world, and make it what its unrivaled climate and great natural resources destined it to be one of the loading counties of this portion of the State.


Schoolcraft County was established under the act of March 9, 1843. Tho boundaries then defined were as follows: 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 south along line to the north boundary of Town 41; thence east to the line between Ranges 12 and 18 west, together with Grand Island in Lake Superior. This county was attached to Chippewa County for judicial purposes, and until very recently was attached to Marquette County.

Grand Island Township, as established by the act of March 16, 1847, embraced all the territory previously organized as Schoolcraft County. Tho first town meeting was ordered to be hold at the house of John W. Williams in June, 1847.

The act approved April 3, 1848, declared that all that portion of the State embraced within the limits hereinafter specified shall be laid off as a separate county, to be known and designated as the county of Schoolcraft, to wit: Beginning at a point in Lake Superior, north of the line between Ranges 12 and 13 west; thence west along the margin of said lake to the line between Ranges 23 and 24 west; thence south along said line to the north boundary of Township 41; thence east to the line between Ranges 12 and 13 west, together with Grand Island on Lake Superior. The seat of justice for Schoolcraft County was established at nota, a village on Grand Island Harbor, on the south shore of Lake Superior.

Franklin Howard, of St. Joseph County, bequeathed to Schoolcraft Township the sum of $600, to be so used that the annual interest thereon should be applied to tho support of primary schools, and that the township should within four years raise a similar sum, to be similarity applied. An act enabling the township to accept the bequest was passed March 1, 1847.

Schoolcraft was organized in 1871. The first United States census regarding the county specially was that of 1880. Hiawatha Township then held 192 persons; Manistique, 093; Munising, 270, and Onota, 420. The total population was 1,571, including 134 Indians and half breeds.

The county furnished 265 men to the Michigan regiments in tho field from 1861 to 1865; 193 enlisted previous to September 19, 1803, and seventy-two men served for three years. The figures are given in connection with the returns of the older county of Marquette, to which Schoolcraft was then attached. In reality, the county as now known did not furnish more than thirty-six men, if that number. In the general military history, all soldiers who received commissions and registered themselves as residents of Schoolcraft are credited to this county in the record of officers. A few only of the number belonged to the Upper Peninsula. The number of acres of United States lands open to entry October 1, 1881, in the county was 137,500 acres; State swamp, 75 acres, and of school lands, 38,191 acres. The D., M. & M. R. R. had 379,193 acres, the Chicago & North-Western Railroad, 92,000 acres.

The county seat of Schoolcraft, formerly known as Epsport, now bears the name of tho great river which flows into Lake Michigan at that point—Manistique, or Manistique. The land in the neighborhood holds a very high place, not only in the estimation of speculators, but also in that of agriculturists who have adopted the district for their homes. Close by is Indian Lake, a beautiful sheet of water, highly picturesque. Lumbering is the principal industry. The village contains two large saw-mills, a store, a hotel, and boasts of a newspaper—Schoolcraft County Pioneer. The population in 1881 was 600. Like the county of which it is the capital, the place is still in its infancy. Its natural advantages point out for it importance in the near future.

Onota, the original county seat of Schoolcraft, as established in 1848, is situated on Grand Island Harbor, on the south shore of Lake Superior, 145 miles west of Sault de Ste. Marie, and forty-four miles east of Marquette. The first settlement was made there in July, 1860, when a blast furnace was established. The smelting of iron commenced in the spring of 1870, the furnace producing 3,498 tons of pig iron. In 1871, the product was 3,597 tons. In 1872, a second stack was built, and blown in December of that year. In the fall of 1877, this industry was allowed to fall. It was known as the Bay Furnace, operated by a company formed under that name. The early settlers were S. L. Barney, L. H. Keeper, F. Blackwell, furnace clerk; John G. Blackwell, County Clerk; Zephyr Boyer, County Treasurer; John Frink, Judge of Probate; H. D. Pickman, physician; D. Kanken, coal dealer; Christian Sackrider and William Shea, of the furnace company's force.

Munising lies forty miles northwest of Manistique Court House, forty miles east of Marquette, 130 west of Sault de Ste. Marie and 480 miles from Detroit by water route. The location of the village east of Grand Island cannot be surpassed in beauty. It is in the neighborhood of the Pictured Rocks, the Cascade Falls and other spots of interest to the lover of the picturesque.

There the blast furnaces of the Munising Iron Company are located, while the lumbering operations in the vicinity render it a center of that trade in the Upper Peninsula.

In 1881, the population was about four hundred. The D., M. & M. R. R. was completed in 1881, and a foundation laid for that prosperity which is promised to tho place.


This is a large island, as its name imparts, situated near the southern shore of Lake Superior, nearly midway from the Sault to Kewaunee. The soil is generally good. It is well timbered, principally with birch, maple and beech. Mr. Williams came here in an early day and took up his residence. He had a numerous family growing around him. One of his daughters had married and settled by him. In the fall of 1843, she came, accompanied by her lover, in a small boat to Kewaunee, 120 miles to be sacrificed on the hymeneal altar. Rev. Mr. Pitezell felt himself not a little honored by this visit from his neighbors on the Island, especially as he was called upon to perform the solemn rite. At this island is one of the most beautiful and commodious harbors to be found anywhere. In referring to his first visit to Grand Island and Carp River in 1844, this missionary says: On the evening of the fourth day, we reached Carp River, near the now flourishing town of Marquette. Here was then one solitary wigwam, occupied by an Indian family. I had worn my moccasins through; my feet were both badly blistered and my limbs so wearied that I could scarcely drag ray snow-shoes along. The sight of a human habitation, though it was but an Indian lodge, gave me such joy that I was involuntarily moved to tears. Here we were warmly received. One of the men had just taken a door. Mah-je-ge-zhik's wife made us a warm cake, cooked venison and some potatoes, and made us a dish of tea—all neatly and well served, and which had a relish not common at sumptuous feasts. Our hostess then dried and mended my moccasins, and seemed to take pleasure in doing all she could to minister to our wants. The next day was Saturday. We reached the island by traveling forty miles about midnight. This hard day's work was too much for me, and I was quite unwell during tho Sabbath.


The Pictured Rocks are the far-famed Painted or Pictured Rocks so eloquently described by Schoolcraft in his "History of the North American Indians" as entitled to a place among the wonders of the world. They consist of groups of overhanging precipices, towering walls, vast caverns, waterfalls and prostrate pillars and columns resembling the ruins of soma mighty Babylon of the gods and giants, in wonderful confusion. They are over 300 feet perpendicularly in height, and extend for fifteen miles along the lake shore. They consist of sandstone, rising stratum on stratum, and are of almost every conceivable color and shade, red, black, yellow, green, brown, white and gray. The effect when viewed from the lake on a sunshiny day is indescribably gorgeous. About four miles from the beginning of this weird and wonderful formation is Cascade La Portaille, a beautiful stream that leaps from the face of the precipice nearly a hundred feet into the lake below. Its form is that of a rainbow rising from tho lake to the top of the precipice, and a small boat can pass between it and the bluff. In the same formation is Doric Rock, consisting of four vast pillars of sandstone, supporting a similar conformation, presenting tho appearance of a colossal work of art. On the stratum is the dry soil capped with spruce and fir trees, some of which are 100 feet in height.


The country throughout Schoolcraft is one of the most beautiful and productive in the West. As an agricultural region it cannot be surpassed. It cannot be unfavorably contrasted with any part or parcel of the Lower Peninsula, and many of the "garden spots" of the southern counties must suffer by comparison with it. It is developing fast. Soon no Government laud can be had; all will be taken up. Fine clearings already dot the land, and by another summer there will be many more. The Peninsula Land Company of Detroit purchased 10,000 acres of Government land lying back of Scott's Point, in this county. It is said to be the peculiar Manistique soil with just a slight vegetable mold; then a layer of red clay, then white marl, containing a heavy per cent of lime; then a white clay, resting on a foundation. It is covered with a dense growth of heavy hardwood, some of the maples being the largest tho land-lookers ever saw. There is an active inquiry for sites for hardwood nulls along the line of the railroad. The grand forests of maple and black birch will be a source of great wealth to the Upper Peninsula.

The accompanying description of Schoolcraft County conveys a fair idea of what this portion of the Upper Peninsula offers to the people; "I have traveled over most of the southern part of Michigan, several other States and Canada, and I never saw land that could compete with the greatest part of the lands in this Northern Peninsula in regard to soil and timber. The (most maple and beech that the sun ever shone on can be found in this part of the country— mostly maple, and the time is not far distant when this timber will be very valuable, as it is nearly all birds-eye maple of the finest quality. The soil is a dark, rich sandy loam, adapted to all kinds of grain and roots that can be grown in a more southern climate. Vegetation comes on more rapidly than it does in the southern part of the State, and everything that has been tried in the shape of grain or vegetable kind has come to maturity, and in every case has been of tho finest quality. I have spent considerable time in the vicinity of Manistique Lake, and the surrounding country, and I can truly say that I think that it has the finest soil, has the finest timber, the finest scenery, in fact, it is the finest country I ever saw, and my opinion is the opinion of every one that has taken a run through that part of the country. North Manistique, or Round Lake, as it is commonly called, on account of its being almost round and about two miles across each way, affords the very finest sport in the way of fishing with a trolling line, the catch being bass weighing from two to six pounds. The water is very clear and deep, with no inlet. The outlet runs into Manistique, or the Big Lake, as it is commonly called, which is about seven miles long and about three miles wide, and this lake empties its surplus water into the Manistique River and Lake Michigan. This lake also abounds with all kinds of fish, and a great many wild ducks and geese frequent it. Every spring and fall the settlers intend to sew some wild rice around the shores of the lakes, and in that way they will make them the greatest place for hunting ducks and goose there is in this country. Round Lake affords the finest scenery of any body of water I ever beheld. Hardwood timber commences at the water's edge and rises gradually till it gets to an elevation of about sixty feet above the level of the lake. Any person that has an eye for natural scenery and landscape views will do well to take a trip to North Manistique Lake. I can assure them that they will be satisfied with their trip. Not only fish, but all kinds of small game can be found around the lakes. In a very few years such game as deer will be a thing of the past, as the sound of the woodman's ax can be heard in all directions in that part of the country, and such game must go further out of humanity's reach. I think the time is not far distant when these inland lakes will be great summer resorts, as they cannot be excelled for boating and fishing. I do not think there is a region in America that has as bright a prospect within its grasp as this Northern Peninsula has to-day, and the prospects seem to grow brighter every day. And we are not looking far ahead to the next generation to see our anticipations realized either. You may think I am going too far, building castles in the air, but, nevertheless, there are many, many men who prophesy great developments and rapid prosperity for this peninsula, and the candid opinion of your humble servant is that the developments will far exceed our anticipations."

An effort is being made by citizens of Manistique to get a road through to the D., M. & M. It. It., by means of which communication with the outside world may be had during the winter months. This enterprise is a laudable one, which should be successfully carried out It would be a good thing for Manistique, and also for the railroad company, as it would relieve the stagnation that settles on business in the village and neighboring settlements with the advent of the winter season, while bringing to the railroad an increased traffic. Teams can now get within eight or ten miles of the railroad, and there is no reason why a road should not be opened through before the snow comes.


The country bears a very close resemblance in many ways to primitive North Atlantic States, and the population is taking hold of it in much the same way. Thousands of immigrants are settling on land, clearing away the forests and making for themselves homesteads. Agriculture is as yet in its infancy, but as the soil is fruitful and the climate salubrious, it has a future as a grain-growing district when the pineries shall be exhausted. It is harder work to make a home in the forest than on the prairies, but loss money is needed. The forests give employment to the struggling farmer through tho winter, and enable him to provide support for his family while he is making them a home, whereas considerable cash is needed to start in business on the flat country. There has been a great improvement in the county, within the past year, and the next six years will see the population and wealth vastly increase, so that men will wonder why such a fertile district was allowed to lie idle so long.

See More of the Upper Peninsula