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The History of EMMET COUNTY, 1884

Page 143-151 Part 1



Harbor Springs is an incorporated village in the town of Little Traverse. It was formerly called Little Traverse and has been the county seat of Emmet County nearly thirty years.

The village is situated on the north side of Little Traverse Bay, upon a beautiful harbor formed by Harbor Point, a narrow peninsula, nearly a mile in length, that projects into the bay, and enclosing a beautiful sheet of water about three-fourths of a mile in width. The location is an admirable one for commerce, being nearly on the line of lake traffic, and having one of the best harbors on the whole chain of 1akes. It is the small bay that gave the place its Indian name of We-que-ton-sing, a name since appropriated by one of the neighboring resorts.

The harbor shore is a pebbly beach, washed by waters of such crystal purity that fish and other objects are plainly visible upon the bottom at a depth of from thirty to fifty feet. All along the water's edge are large springs, from which gush streams of water as clear as air, and only twelve or fourteen degrees below the freezing point. Had the Spanish explorer who searched the wilderness of Florida for the mythical fountain of perpetual youth turned his attention in this direction, his search would not have been entirely in vain. The health renewing properties of these waters are almost marvelous. Many visitors to this locality ascribe their rapid improvement in health and strength as much to the purity of these waters as to the well-known bracing and exhilarating effects of the atmosphere.

The land rises from the water some ten or fifteen feet, and is then almost perfectly level, thus making an unrivaled location for the business portion of the town. Back of this flat, parallel to and at a distance of from fifty to sixty rods from the beach, rises an abrupt bluff, seventy-five or a hundred feet in height. This is followed by a second plateau, diversified by a succession of terraces, affording fine building sites for residences. A small trout brook, starting from springs at the foot of the bluff, winds its way across the lower flat and flows into the harbor.

Harbor Springs is so situated that the raw winds are excluded by the hills, and the warm land breeze tempered by passing over several miles of water. This accounts for the fact that the mercury invariably indicates greater regularity here than at any other point in the vicinity where observations have ever been made.

The view from the bluff is beautiful and picturesque. Directly below lies the village upon which the charm of rich legendary history still rests. The harbor is always smooth, often so much so as to perfectly reflect the foliage of the harbor point. Steamers and vessels lie at the dock, or are anchored in the harbor, and skiffs and sail boats dot the waters. Beyond the harbor point the bay is flecked with here and there a dash of white in the pleasant summer days, but when swept by fierce, autumnal winds, boiling and foaming in the fierce war of elements. To the west the sky meets the waters of Lake Michigan. Across the bay, the thriving village of Petoskey rests upon the hillside. Upon the opposite shore cultivated farms appear at intervals, while the distant hills stretch far back inland, in an undulating expanse of apparently unbroken forest. There are many regions which boast of wildness and more romantic scenery, but when a portion of the forests have given way to cultivated farms, it will be difficult to find a more pleasing picture than that which presents itself from the bluff at Little Traverse.

The authentic as well as legendary history of the place is full of interest. Pieces of ancient crockery have been found here indicating that it was once a stopping place of the extinct race of Mound Builders on their journeys from Mexico to the Lake Superior mines. It is not known that it was ever in very early times an important Indian village, but it has unquestionably been a camping ground much frequented. "It was in this quiet retreat that several of the noted chiefs of the war of 1812 spent their declining years, and here for years they assembled their people by hundreds to receive their annuities from the general government." We have already shown in the general history of the county, that about the year 1827, the Caholics removed from Seven Mile Point to Little Traverse, and built a church of cedar logs and covered with bark. This was built by Rev. Father Peter De Jean, who was the first resident priest at this point. Twelve or fifteen years later, the present church building was erected by the side of the old log building. This edifice is now an antiquated structure, and is full of interest to strangers who visit the place. Rev. Father Zorn, the present priest, has been here for more than a quarter of a century. Among the acts of Father de Jean, worthy of remembrance, may be mentioned his founding of a liquor law which prohibited the use and sale of liquor, and which was rigidly enforced until about the year 1854.

The year 1858 is the earliest point of continuous operations related to the present village. Prior to that time Mackinac traders had sent goods here at various times for the purpose of trading with Indians, but none-remained any considerable length of time.

In the fall of 1853, Richard Cooper, now a citizen of Charlevoix, arrived here on the trading schooner Eliza Caroline, and opened a store for Captain Kirtland. He had previously been engaged in fishing at Beaver Islands, but had returned to his home in Genesee County, N.Y.

At the time of Mr. Cooper's settlement at Little Traverse, the fishermen had already established themselves at several points on the northern part of Lake Michigan, but there were none at that place. That same fall, however, was marked by the arrival of Charles R. Wright, Albert Cable, and James Moore. Wright and Cable at first stopped on the point; the others in the village.

Fishing at that time was perhaps more profitable than it has been during a later period; at all events, the testimony of those of the early fishermen who still remain agrees as to the fact that fish were much more plentiful then than now. Pound nets were not used. After they came into common use, there was a sensible and rapid diminution in the quantity of fish.

Some who came to the country in those early days to fish, remained as permanent citizens; but generally the fishermen was a transient person, establishing himself anywhere on the sbore where there was a promise of success in his pursuit, and readily changing his location as immediate interest seemed to dictate. Associated with the fishermen, wherever they were numerous, were always a number of coopers, who found employment in making barrels for the fish. Sometimes the cooper's shop was in the immediate vicinity of the fish shanties; sometimes, for the convenience of obtaining material, it was located at a distance. The material for barrels was derived from timber growing on the public lands, which was looked upon as lawful plunder. Small trading establishments, like that of Captain Kirtland under the management of Mr. Cooper at Little Traverse, sprang up at various points, drawing their custom from both the fishermen and the Indians. A few small vessels, or "hookers," found a lucrative business in trading from place to place, selling supplies and purchasing fish. Not unfrequently whisky was a principal article of trade. It is remembered to the credit of Captain Kirtland that he never sold whisky to the Indians or took advantage of them in business transactions.

At the time referred to, the Indians were much more numerous in the vicinity of Little Traverse than at a later date, and that place remained for many years to all intents and purposes an Indian village, the only white inhabitants being a few fishermen and traders.

Mr. Cooper removed to Charlevoix about the year 1867. Mr. Wright afterward spent several years on Beaver Island, but has recently returned to Harbor Springs, and is the only white man in the village who was here as early as 1858. We give herewith a a brief biographical sketch of him as follows:

CHARLES R. WRIGHT, a pioneer of northern Michigan, now a resident of Harbor Springs, was born in Onondaga County, New York, in October, 1825. In the spring of 1846, desirous of locating in a new country, he came to northern Michigan, and first visited Mackinac Island. After remaining there a few weeks he went to Beaver Island and remained until the fall of 1852, making fish barrels. By this time the Mormons had got possession of the island and he removed his family to Charlevoix. He was accompanied by a man named Cable. They thought it would be a valuable location and intended to enter the land in the spring, but before that time it was secured by a Mr. Bush, of Lansing. They remained there until the following fall when they came to what is now Harbor Springs, then an Indian village. Mr. Wright erected a cooper shop and dwelling on the point where he remained about three years, making fish barrels. He then returned to Beaver Island where be remained until 1881, carrying on a general mercantile business. In the summer of 1881 the family removed to Harbor Springs where they now reside. Mr. Wright was president of the village in 1883-'84. In 1848 be married Catharine Brooks on Beaver Island. They have eight children. Henry and Allen Wright are engaged in the mercantile business at Harbor Springs, occupying a building erected by them in 1883. Charles Wright is in the jewelry business, having been in business for himself about a year. At the special election in the fall of 1855 Mr. Wright was elected clerk of Emmet County. While a resident of Beaver Island he held various local offices and represented Manitou County in the legislature one term. After nearly thirty years he has returned to the spot where he made fish barrels when only Indians and fishermen occupied the site. Where he built his little cabin snd shop on the point is now one of the finest summer resorts in northern Michigan. In the spring of 1884 Mr. Wright received the appointment of postmaster of Harbor Springs.

A. J. BLACKBIRD, The subject of this sketch is one of the Ottawa Indians who early in life adopted the habits of civilized life and obtained a fair education. He is a son of Makatebinessi, and brother of Margaret Boyd also mentioned herein. He does not know the place or date of his birth, but thinks he was born south of the Traverse Region about the year 1820. In the fall of 1827 his father came to Little Traverse, and he remembers that the old log church was built that year, and that Rev. Father De Jean came there as the first resident priest. At an early age he learned the trade of blacksmithing and worked at it some time. He had learned enough of the modes and manners of civilized life to have a desire for knowledge, and he determined to secure an education. With this purpose, he went to Twinsburg, Ohio, where he entered school. He remained there and pursued his studies until he had a fair education and then returned to Little Traverse. He subsequently attended the State Normal School at Ypsilanti. While there be began tbe preparation of a grammar in the Indian language, but was induced by his teachers to delay work upon it until he finished his studies, and his labors upon it were not resumed. In 1851 he was delegated by the Indians to visit Detroit and Lansing in their behalf. He made the journey to Detroit on foot and a portion of the way was obliged to wear snow-shoes. The journey was attended with much hardship from fatigue and hunger. In 1861 he was commissioned post-master at Little Traverse and held that office until 1877. He was the first register of deeds elected in the county and has held various other local offices. He was for several years special interpreter, and has always occupied local prominence on account of his relations with both races. He has acquired some property and enjoys the confidence of all classes. He has a wife and four children. He is now engaged in the preparation of a book designed to give in English the meaning of Indian words in common use.


"Aunt Margaret", as she is familiarly called, is a noted personage of the place. Her Indian name is Ogabejigokwe, meaning "woman of all day." She is a daughter of Makatebinessi, or Black Hawk. He died several years ago at nearly one hundred years of age. Aunt Margaret is an Ottawa Indian, born at
Margaraet Boyd and son
Little Traverse nearly seventy years ago; she looks ten years younger. She claims to be the daughter of a right royal line of Ottawa chiefs, and her patrician origin is evinced by the carriage of her head, the flash of her eye, and the beautiful smallness of her hands and feet. When she was nine years old the missionaries took her from her wild northern home to Cincinnati, and placed her in a convent school, where she remained five years. She is fairly well educated, has read a good deal, and speaks English perfectly. Her influence over the Indians of the district is almost unbounded; and her work for the church, in the way of making translations of its books into the Ottawa language, has been very important. Her sympathies are entirely with her people. Their degradation humiliates her; while over the wrongs they continue to suffer at the white man's hands, she is full of indignation. In the autumn of 1876 she made a journey to Washington in the interest of a number of Indian families who had purchased a tract of government land in Cheboygan, and had failed to receive their deeds. She had an interview with the President, who, she says, listened to her with the utmost courtesy, and assured her that everything should be made right. After their business talk was concluded, President Grant took her on his arm, and conducting her into another apartment, introduced her to his wife and several other ladies, stumbling a little over her long Indian name, which we will not attempt to reproduce in English letters.

When she went to Washington she took a basket of her work and selling it along the way, paid the expenses of her journey. She taught the first government school at Little Traverse, and continued teaching until within a few years. She lives in a comfortable house in the village where she receives visitors with great courtesy and converses intelligently upon all matters relating to her race of people


Joseph Pyant, now a resident of Harbor Springs, is one of the early traders, and one who endured a great variety of experiences. He was born at Mackinac in the year 1808.

Mr. Pyant passed the best years of his life in the arduous labors of a trader, meeting with many thrilling and perilous experiences. He was born at Mackinaw about seventy-five years ago. At thirteen years of age he was apprenticed to a baker living upon the island. He remained with him about four years, when be entered the employ of John A. Drew, who was at that time conducting quite an extensive trade with the Indians; The first trip he made was by boat along the shore of Lake Michigan as far south as the mouth of the St. Joe River. On their way back Drew stopped at the mouth of Grand River and sent Joseph up the stream as far as the junction of Grand and Maple Rivers, with instructions to exchange goods from the pack he carried for sugar and furs.

The articles which the traders carried were amniunition, knives, cloths and ribbons, and various other ornaments which were well calculated "the savage breast to soothe. " At that time every Indian of any importance carried upon his person a small silver mine, made up into different kinds of trinkets. Broad bands of silver encircled his brawny arms; massive pendants of solid metal hung from his ears; and the fine broadcloth mantle which he wore was nearly covered with disks, crescents and ovals of silver, which glittered and jingled as the wearer moved about.

Joseph and his employer returned to Mackinaw after a very successful trip lasting several weeks, stopping at the mouth of every river to trade with the Indians.

He then made a visit to Canada, and in the fall of that year hired out to Rix Robinson as a trader. He was sent to the junction of the Grand and Maple Rivers, where be had his headquarters and base of supplies for three successive years, remaining there from September until June.

His store was near where the village of Muir now stands, and situated upon a high hill, called the "Arthrrsburg." The railroad has since been built along the base of the hill, and two villages now overlook the lovely valley. The whole character of the scene has been changed since the young trader was established there; yet he can now describe the location as correctly as can the writer; who lived within half a mile of the hill for several years.

From Maple River, Joseph made trading trips into the surrounding country, carrying a pack of his stores and receiving pay in furs or sugar.

He made several trips each season to the Saginaw valley. On one occasion he was lost for four days; and as an illustration of the pleasures of trading life, we will relate the story as told to us.

Early in the winter of the first season he was at Maple River, he set out for the Saginaw country. He took with him an Indian guide. It was stormy weather, and in some manner the guide became confused, and they lost their way. They had no guns and no way of getting food. The provisions they carried were soon exhausted and they had to go without.

On the fourth day they struck the trail of two men, and believing that help was near they hurried on for several miles until they found where two other tracks had entered the trail. Carefully examining the tracks they found to their dismay that they were their own, and that they had been traveling in a circle. A disagreement now arose as to the direction to be taken; the Indian wishiug to go one way and Joseph the other.

Joseph began to think that his guide was treacherous, and that his object was to starve him to death, and then appropriate his pack, which he still carried, though weak with hunger and fatigue, consequently, though he followed the guide for some distance, he soon made a pretext of fixing his snow-shoe to lag behind; and as soon as the Indian was out of sight he struck out at right angles to the path they were pursuing.

He traveled on as rapidly as possible until just at night he found where a deer had been killed and dragged off though the snow. Hurrying alone as fast as his failing strength would permit, he soon arrived almost completely exhausted at an Indian lodge, where he received a ready welcome.

A gun was fired to attract the Indian guide, and he soon appeared, having taken the back track and followed Joe as soon as he found he was not behind him. They remained at the hospitable Indian's for several days, being fed on broth at first until their stomachs would allow them to partake of more substantial food.

Joe has passed many years in the trading business, and met with many escapes. He has lived on leeks and maple sugar for days, but he thinks be never was so near starvation as he was at the close of that memorable day in the woods of the Saginaw valley.

Mr. Pyant was sherrif of this county from 1858 to 1864, and was again elected in 1868. He was also register of deeds two terms. He has lived at this place since 1855.


Dennis T. Downing came late in the fifties, and for many years was a prominent character. He held the office of county clerk several terms, and his records are the most complete ever found in early days. The clerk's book which he kept is in the form of a diary, and every oflicial act which he performed is recorded under the proper date. He was a man of considerable ability, and figured conspicuously in the movement which resulted in temporarily removing the county seat from Little Traverse to Charlevoix. He sold goods here, and also taught government school. He died about the year 1871. Mrs. Davidson was also a teacher in the government school.

In 1860 Charles Davidson, a Buffalo man, engaged in buying fur, began coming to Little Traverse. He was accompanied by his nephew, Henry A. Rollins, who was born in Buffalo in the year 1848, and was brought up by Mr. Davidson. The latter followed the lakes several years and afterward was enga-ed in business in Chicago.

They continued to visit this point winters until 1870, when they removed here to live permanently. Capt. Davidson opened a general store, and Mr. Rollins assisted in the store. Capt. Davidson died in 1873, and Mr. Rollins continued the business until 1870. He was clerk and register of the county six years, county clerk four years and has held various other offices. He is at present a member of the firm of Burbeck & Rollins, general real estate dealers, insurance agents. etc. When Capt. Davidson's family moved here in 1870 the family of Mr. Downing was the only white family living in the village. Mr. Rollins for a few years was the head of the village and county. He held a portion of the county offices by election and the others as deputy, had the only store in this part of the county, and was monarch of the realm. He was a clear-headed business man, possessed of good judgment, and the affairs that came within his control were well managed. Mr. Rollins, although considerably under forty years of age, is the pioneer business man of Harbor Springs.

About the year 1863, Capt. Fargo was here fishing and selling goods. Mr. A. T. Burnett, now a merchant at Cross Village, carried on the store for Capt. Fargo, and remained here about five years.Blackbird as postmaster. He held the office until succeeded by Mr. Clark in l877.

The great tide of immigration in 1875-76, after the land of the county was thrown open to settlers, also opened the way for the incoming of business interests.

J. M. Burbeck had his real estate and abstract business started in 1874. He had visited the place in 1873, and in 1874 located here permenently. Mr. Burbeck is a pioneer of the Traverse Region, having had much to do with the development of Leelanaw County as early as 1864. He was born at Plainfield, Sullivan County, N. H., in the year 1818. In l886 he went to Wisconsin, where he worked at the carpenter's trade. In 1854 he went to Northport, Leelanaw County, and was one of the first settlers of that county. He carried on mercantile business at that place, but was afflicted with rheumatism, which became so bad as to nearly incapacitate him for business. In the summer of 1873 he visited Harbor Springs and did some work in the register's office. He then returned to Northport, but the following winter he was urged to return to Harbor Springs, and was promised the use of the records for the purpose of making a set of abstract books. He immediately located here and opened an abstract office. He also did more or less real estate business, and erected several buildings. He has held the offices of county treasurer, justice of the peace and village treasurer. He still carries on the abstract business and is also a member of the firm of Burbeck & Rollins, real estate dealers and insurance agents. He has a wife and one daughter.

Early in 1874 Charles W. Ingalls arrived, and engaged in the real estate business, the firm at that time being C. W. IngaIls & Son. Mr. Ingalls was born at Bristol, Grafton County, N. H., April 21, 1812. In 1838 he removed to Michigan and settled in. lonia County, where he was extensively engaged in business for many years, carrying on farming ,mill business, and general merchandising. In December, 1863, he enlisted in Company 1, Twenty-second Regiment Michigan Infatntry. Afterward promoted to captain of the Second Regiment. He was disabled in 1864 and resigned. In the spring of 1874 he came to Emmet County and was actively engaged in locating soldiers upon homesteads after the lands of the county came into market, and has continued to carry on real estate business to the present time. When Mr. Ingalls settled in Harbor Springs there were but two stores in the place and less than half a dozen white people.

The only stores at this time were a general store by Henry A. Rollins and a grocery by Philo Chrysler.

Charles R. Ford located here in the fall of 1874, and was elected prosecuting attorney of the county. He was a cigar-maker, preacher, lawyer, and a victim of temptation. He only remained here about two years and left for other fields. It is said that he was drowned in 1883.

In the spring of 1875 Dr. C. D. Hampton located here and engaged in the practice of medicine. He is still a resident of the village. Dr. Thurston was also an early physician.

Thomas & Bell and G L. Smith kept hotels.

In July, 1875, it was noted that H. A. Rollins was building a new warehouse upon his dock; P. Chrysler was building a fish house and freight house at the ferry-boat landing and C. R. Ford had begun the erection of a new house intended for a hotel. The school was being kept by a Mr. Meaker of Clam Lake.

The first Sunday-school picnic was held Monday, July 6th, of this year. During the summer several buildings were erected, and Isaac Brower opened a lumber yard. Among the new residences were those of Dr. Hampton, M. F. Drake, E. Harding and Mr. Moore. In the fall W. W. Bowen removed from Petoskey to Little Traverse and opened a grocery and drug store.

A union Sunday-school was organized during this year. C. W. Ingalls was the first superintendent. He was succeeded in the fall by W. W. Bowen. In the winter of 1876 W. E. Parker built a saw-mill on the bay shore, and during the year Col. G. W. Dickinson built the Emmet House. The first graded school at Little Traverse was taught this year by Charles S. Hampton, the present editor and proprietor of the Northern Independent.

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