Saginaw County, Michigan
As Seen through the Eyes
Wilfred Grenville Shannon was born June 2, 1887 on the family farm on Fenmore Road in Merrill, then called Jonesfield Township, Michigan. His parents Robert Shannon Jr. and Mary (Gauley) Shannon were Jonesfield pioneers. Robert Shannon Jr. was descended from an Irish clan that migrated from Ireland to Grenville (Argenteuil County), Quebec, Canada, and then into Michigan in the 1870s.
Wilfred attended the Jonesfield schools and developed an interest in Merrill history. He was the only boy in the entire graduating class of Merrill High School 1904, consisting of seven girls and him. One of his classmates, Kate Shannon, was his first cousin.
Wilfred had one sibling; a sister named Mary Lenore. Wilfred and Lenore lost their mother to heart disease in 1913 and their father to pneumonia in March of 1917. Wilfred took over operation of the family farm and less than a month later, on April 16, 1917; he married the love of his life, Caroline Musette Warner. She was the daughter of Richland Township (Hemlock) shoemaker Emory B. Warner and Caroline E. Perkins. Wilfred and Caroline had a total of seven children, three sons: Robert Emory, Grenville Jerome (Jimmy), and John Francis and four daughters: Joyce Elaine, Jean Beverly, Ruth Mary and Judith Ann. Caroline Shannon passed away in 1949, laid to rest near her parents in the Richland Township cemetery. Wilfred remained unmarried the rest of his life.
In his adult years, Wilfred preferred using his initials and signed his name on everything as “W.G. Shannon.” W.G. drafted the original manuscript of this book, most likely between 1959-1961 when he was actively involved in the genealogical documentation of his family line with his cousin, Jeanette Gillie (Wallace). His contribution left a priceless trail of family information, intermingled with his personal wit, humor and interjections, making each piece a family treasure.
W.G. was a respected Saginaw County historian; antique collector-dealer, land surveyor and oil lease entrepreneur. During the Prohibition years he served as a Border Patrol Inspector at the crossing between Detroit and Ontario. In his later years, W.G. possessed what was said to have been the largest private collection of antique hobnailed glass in the Midwest. He was a man of simple pursuits, lofty goals, wit and wisdom, always ready to enhance a conversation with a humorous quip or historical quote. He was a lifetime member of Merrill Lodge 411 of Free and Accepted Masons, serving as Worshipful Master in 1923. His lifetime of exploits stirred accolades, laughs and backslapping long after he was gone from this earthly world.
W.G. passed away in Saginaw, Michigan on December 8, 1962, taken by a heart attack. He spent the previous night talking with his daughter Ruth Mary, sharing his memories of his life and family. He was exceedingly proud of his children and their accomplishments in life. As each name passed his lips he smiled and nodded his head reinforcing his pride in being the father of seven whom carried the Shannon name with honor.
W.G. was laid to rest in the Shannon family plot in the Lakefield Cemetery in Merrill, next to his mother and father. He was long mourned by his family and many in the community. His humble headstone was engraved with the Masonic emblem, honoring his lifetime of service, paving his way into the New Jerusalem.
Kevin O’Brien, Grandson 2002 a.d.
The Humble Beginnings
In the 1860’s the only other road entering Jonesfield was “Tannehill Indian Trail.” It entered Jonesfield at the southeast corner of section 34, proceeding northwest to the southwest corner of section 27 east of Harold Siler’s house, crossed over into section 28 about 20 rods west of the section line, continuing northwest to section 21 and then into Wheeler Township. Tannerhill Road from St. Charles was used to transport logs to the local sawmills. The remains of this road can still be found in sections 28 and 21.
The first lumbermen in Jonesfield were the stave crews. After oil was discovered in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in the early 1860s, stave crews roamed all over the northern states looking for prime oak suitable for high quality staves. Many older readers will remember the blue 42 gallon kerosene barrels of oil that came to Merrill by the carload. The first stave crew came to Merrill about 1868 and stayed until the 1880s. Michigan had some of the finest oak ever grown. On sections 21 and 28 of Jonesfield, oak trees that were felled by the stave crews lay on the ground. Some were 75-100 feet long and four feet in diameter. The stave crews would fell a large oak tree, cut a four-foot block off of it and split it. If the block split straight they blocked out the rest of the tree up to the first branches. If the block split crooked or twisted, they left it where it lay as waste.
After the barrel crews left, the French Canadian square timbermen arrived. The men, rugged and hard working brought the names Sova, Bebow, Winters, Archambault and many more to the landscape. They cut and sawed oak logs up to 24 inches square and 40 feet long. These timbers were lashed between large pine logs and floated upriver to Bay City where the English timber ships waited to load the oak bound for England. Oak timber will not rot if buried at least four feet underground.
The English started burying oak for ships timber starting around 1816 and the practice continued until about 1880. Today, England has more “Grade-A” oak buried than is growing in the United States today. The wood is valueless because they do not use it for ships anymore. By then the steel drum was replacing the wooden barrel. Steel ships followed. Then came the tank car and now the truck. Society has left wooden construction of most things, except housing, to history.
The first settlement in Jonesfield proper was Meridian City founded by W. E., around 1867. It consisted of a stream, a sawmill, a company store, a large boardinghouse and twenty small houses inhabited by folks with names and reputations long gone from memory. W. E. Glasby’s mill was built for the purpose of sawing planks for the Plank Road. The location was about two blocks east of the line between sections 27 and 28, behind where Harold Siler’s house stands.
After the Glasby mill closed, Merrill took an awful beating. The population went from 650 down to 350 and did not come back for years. The Allie White family, the Mahoney’s, the Brannigan’s, the Johnson’s, Ryan’s and many other pioneer families left
the area. Some went to Central Lake where the new mill was built to saw large Northern Michigan Elm, much different from the Saginaw Water Elm. Other families migrated south toward Flint and points in Genesee County, Michigan.
By that time, farming in Merrill was off to a good start. Dairying and beef were coming along. Pork raising was a big item. Pat O’Toole, Joe McLure, Cal Sylvester, John Robert Shannon, the Fleming’s, Keenan’s, Ballien’s, Madden’s and many more kept anywhere from ten to 150 pigs on their farms. Any one of the pioneer farmers had more pigs than an entire half of Merrill does now.
The population of Jonesfield Township in 1870 was 194. Taxable land totaled 1,542 acres. Improved land listed was 252 acres. Livestock was listed as three horses, 35 cows, 40 “miscellaneous cattle,” 38 pigs and 32 oxen. Only animals capable of being used for work or food were to be counted. The only transportation to Saginaw was on foot, horseback or horse-drawn carriage, when the dirt roads were firm enough to hold them.
W.E. Glasby’s sawmill stood on the southwest quarter of section 27, currently the corner of Johnson Street and M-46, next to the Village Hall. The Glasby mill fed the Plank Road construction. The planks were three inches thick, twelve inches wide and sixteen feet long. Joseph Wilson and John McLean hauled the planks from the mill to the Richland Township line where the Jonesfield contribution to the Plank Road was completed. W.E. Glasby had a second mill in Richland Township (Hemlock) which supplied cut planks for the six-mile Thomas Township to Jonesfield Township portion, using 31,680 individual planks. In addition to that task, the Glasby mill also cut one-inch lumber for siding. The milk house and residence that formerly stood on the Fales’ farm were built of lumber from the Glasby mill. Pine logs were hauled in from sections 24, 27, 28 and 33, to meet the blade and satisfy local appetite for housing and barns.
The “Plank Road” now known as M-46, had been cut through about 1865, giving a reasonable route of travel to Saginaw. The wooden and level planks kept wagons from sinking. The Plank Road, from Jonesfield Township, also proceeded west to St. Louis, Michigan. It was about fifteen miles and 79,200 planks long. It was completed in 1870. A stage line was started for travel between St. Louis and the Randall Post Office, about three miles east of Hemlock. Another team of fresh horses was used for the return trip to St. Louis. Travel time by stage from Jonesfield to Richland Township was about three hours, as long as the roads were dry and passable. This mill was built for the purpose of sawing planks for the Plank Road. Meridian City was established about 1867 and was at its peak about 1869. After the Stagecoach Company abandoned it, the Plank Road rapidly fell into disrepair.
The next groups of permanent settlers were the families of A.G. West 1863 and Alex Fales 1868. The families of Joseph Wilson, George and Anson Moulton, Thomas Fleming, John Madden, A.B. Bloomer, John McLean, Joel Nevins and Thomas Sweeny settled there sometime around 1878.
In 1868, A.J. West purchased 220 acres in section 28 of Jonesfield Township. Mr. West had the vision to see that if a railroad were ever built it would have to bisect section 28 on account of the swamp on either side.
The first road laid out by the residents of Jonesfield was the centerline between sections 26 and 27 and sections 22 and 23, followed by side-roads leading off the
Centerline. John Codd and his brother-in-law chopped and cleared trees to form the road that is still known as Codd Road between sections 11, 14, 10, 15, 9 and 6.
The road known as Eastline was laid out about 1865. The Westline was not opened between sections 21 and 22 until about 1894. When Alex Fales homesteaded his property on a knoll in the northwest quarter of section 28, white maple trees three feet across grew wild. Acres and acres of the trees grew for the taking. The Tannehill Road from St. Charles to Mount Pleasant, Michigan passed the same grove eons ago. The local Indians used to peel bark from it for their canoes.
Some of the Jonesfield native pine cut for the Plank Road came from this grove. The cut logs were rafted to Saginaw where they were milled into usable lumber. The big Jonesfield fire of 1871 wiped out a lot of it. Ten years later, the big fire of 1881 finished the rest. The locals salvaged a lot of the dead and burned timber as late as 1888. Many of the barns in Merrill were constructed of the fire killed pine and hemlock trees. In 1869, non-residents were farming over 60% of Jonesfield. Sewell S. Avery’s father owned almost all the east half of section 33. The Eddy and Day family farms along the railroad were just a few of the actual Jonesfield residents.
Most of Jonesfield’s eighty or so original farms have long been sold and resold many times over. Descendants of the original owners occupy just eight of them. Those are Clarence Wall in section 10 on the southeast corner of Fenmore Road and Dice Road. Descendants of William Fleming are still in section 10, near the northeast corner of Fenmore Road and Frost Road. Frank J. Madden, descendant of Patrick Madden, farms section 14 on the southeast corner of Merrill Road and Frost Road. Elizabeth Sweeny, descendant of Thomas Sweeny, owns the northeast corner of section 14 at Merrill Road and O’Hara Road. Elmer Frost, Walt Frost and Louise Frost in section 14, descendants of Roland Frost, work the northwest corner of Chapin Road and O’Hara Road. William Hogan, descendant of Denis Hogan, farms a lot in section 14 at the southwest corner of Frost and Chapin Roads. Anson Moulton and Jack Ellis, descendants of George Moulton, farm two lots in section 36, on Steel Road just south of M-46.
The first doctor in Merrill was E.H. Hillyer, a medical officer during the Civil War. No one knew if Doc Hillyer ever completed actual medical school. He came from Canton, Ohio and settled in Merrill about 1869 or 1870. Between 1870 and 1890, Merrill saw a string of physicians come and go, mainly because of money. A doctor should be able to support a family on his wages alone, but the only way many survived was by farming like their neighbors. Small town life meant sacrifice.
Over in section 36, an old Irishman, whose name escapes me, built a house he planned on his own, with the back door and stove in perfect line. The old guy always thought efficiency was lacking in the modern home of the 1880s. Every few weeks he would venture out and cut a tree that measured 18-20 feet. He dragged it home by horse and wagon. He stuck one end of the tree in the stove and let the remainder stretch out the door, moving the tree forward as it burned. Fortunately the idea never really caught on, because it took a lot of trees to heat a home with the door always standing open in the snowy winters of the state. I don’t know why the old guy didn’t chop the tree into workable slabs that could be stacked in the woodshed or outside the door. Then again, it was characters like this that made for humorous stories when the temperatures dipped and folks stayed home,
heating and cooking their place with “modern” luxuries like oil or kerosene stoves and heaters.
The Township is Created
At a meeting held March 19, 1873, the County Board officially declared that “town 12 north of range 1 east, be created into a township, to be called and known by the name of Jonesfield,” honoring the township’s first settlers, Edward “Johnny” Jones and his wife Catherine (DuForce) Jones. They remained lifelong residents of the township until their deaths; Edward at 96 and Catherine just one month shy of 107 years.
The middle branch of Swan Creek waters the district. The Saginaw Valley and Saint Louis Railroad runs through sections 5, 6, 7, and 8. The public highway, the only good road in the township, runs almost parallel with Iron Road (presently unidentified). At this time, the northern portion of Jonesfield was considered as unsettled.
The County Board ordered that the first annual town meeting be held in the District 2 schoolhouse in section 28 near M-46 and Fenmore Road, at nine o’clock in the morning on the first Monday of April 1873. Joel Nevins presided over the meeting. Nevins, Alexander Prale and Arnold J. West, were the three electors of the new township.
The principal officials of the township from the date of incorporation were given as: John Clune 1873, Joel S. Nevins 1874-1875, E.C. Hill 1876-1877, John McLean 1878, J.W. Robinson 1879, and Joe W. Nevins 1881. The earliest manufacturing district was formed when A.J. West built a sawmill sometime between 1868 and 1874, to support the booming lumber industry. A second mill, by a man named “Creek,” was there too, but no further information is offered.
In the early days of Jonesfield 1873, the population of 194 meant farming was a hand to mouth operation. No one had an actual team of horses. They may have had two or three horses but no matched pairs. Lyman Morris, who lived on the Peter O’Toole farm, had the first bunch of good horses, one black, one white. They were also saddlers and were the only real riding horses in the town for years.
D.W. Greene had a “pole road,” so called, that ran across section 27, turned west about where the Coppen’s house now stands on section 22, crossed section 21, angling across William Wierouch’s and Lee Siler’s into Gratiot County, and then northwest into Porter Township. This road consisted of round cross-tied logs with eight-inch diameter black ash rails pinned to the ties. The cars had concave wooden wheels that gripped the round ash rail. The road was used to haul logs in the summer. Sleighs were used in the winter. The motive power was horses or oxen and sometimes both. Remains of the “pole road” can be found on Frank Howley’s farm and in parts of the Coppen’s farmland too.
On a nice morning around June of 1874, two roughly dressed men carrying bundles, got off the 8:30 a.m. train at Greene’s Mill. They immediately started walking north on the centerline going as far as the Midland County line. They turned east and proceeded to cover the north side of Richland Township, the south side of Ingersoll Township, the south half of Mt. Haley Township, the east half of Porter Township, part of Wheeler Township and all of Jonesfield. They returned to Greene’s and stayed there for a day or two. Then they went walking west on the Plank Road for about two miles. They followed the planks and turned south toward Emerson Township and then on into Lakefield and Bryant Townships.
Many an eye was cast upon them, with folks nervously wondering whom they were as the men paced and tallied their steps.
The two men turned out to be Frank L. Hood and R. V. Parsons of St. Charles, Michigan. Parsons had a small hoop or stave mill there. After their walk and calculations both men went to Saginaw where they estimated the Jonesfield area possessed about 25,000 acres of number one elm, soft maple and basswood, enough to run a stave and heading mill for fifty years.
Frank Hood returned to Greene’s Mill where he bought the George Smith lot of 240 acres in section 26, which is now McSewen’s farm in Jonesfield Township, and the north 40 of the W. P. Stacey farm, now known as the McNier farm. Most of the Stacey farm was covered with a stand of elm and soft maple. Parsons purchased part of the west 80 acres of the Smith place from Mr. Hood. That quarter was plotted and is where the present village of Merrill now stands.
The Post Office
The first postmaster of Jonesfield was A.B. Bloomer. The office was at Green’s Mill. When the office was moved to West’s Mill, George Docket became postmaster. The first postmaster of Merrill proper was A.C. Melze. The post office was set up in the Melze store along the west wall. After the election of Grover Cleveland in 1885, E.H. Hillyer was appointed postmaster. Hillyer eventually moved the office to the Eben Gould building that once stood where the air pump at the Pure Gas station is now. When William McKinley was elected president in 1897, he appointed Dr. J.H. Hudson who moved the post office to where the Monitor building is now. Dr. Hudson sent for his niece to become the assistant postmaster. She met and later married a handsome local chap named R.T. Maynard. After her term as assistant postmaster was completed, Mrs. Maynard became the cashier for the local bank. Both of the Maynard’s moved to Saginaw around 1918 where both passed away within the last couple of years.
In the horse drawn days, the snow sometimes got so deep the carriers could not make their deliveries for several days at a time. In the spring the mud was almost worse. In the dry summer months the dust would fly sometimes nearly choking people as they walked down the streets. Around 1900, the town businessmen, under the leadership of Pat O’Toole, E. Massecare and most of the more progressive farmers, petitioned for a vote on a $20,000 bond issue to Macadamize the Centerline Road. The vote was very close. In fact so close that the initiative hinged on one vote. That vote came from a man named John Doran, a non-citizen who was allowed to vote. The initiative passed but was immediately taken to court. The circuit judge threw out the Doran ballot but declared the election valid as passing. John W. Ederer was county road commissioner at the time. He built the first mile and a half to Vashaw’s corner the first year. The second year the road was extended to Method’s corner. Each year after that the road was extended another mile north and by 1911 the last stretch from Wagner’s to Gorman’s corner in the northeast corner of section 3 was finished.
Accommodations for travelers were pretty sparse in Merrill’s early days. J.W. Porter operated the Stop-Over-Hotel and Barn near the Jonesfield and Richland
Township lines. The barn is still standing on the R.W. Douglas farm in Richland, about a block south of the railroad. The trip from Porter’s hotel to St. Louis was about six hours. The “Eastern Terminal” was the stage house that stood at the corner of Throop and Water (now N. Niagara). The “West Terminal” was the commercial house in St. Louis.
From 1855 to 1910, M-46 was impassable in the spring and fall. From the railroad crossing West, over a slight hill was a good road. From Dick Doyle’s house to about the block plant, the mud in the road was anywhere from six inches deep to bottomless where many wagons and carriages sank into it. The only drainage for the township was the middle branch of Swan Creek and a natural watercourse now known as the Whitmore Drain.
When A.J. West settled in 1868, in section 28, the only trail west of Gratiot County was over trees cut down and laid side by side for about sixty rods west from the north and south quarter lines, near the farm of T.M. Kennedy.
When George Howell was appointed township highway commissioner, the first thing he did was improve M-46. He had clay hauled in and dumped on the sand road from what is now the DeShone’s place to just past the West’s farm. It was the best solution at the time and a great improvement that helped to keep wagon wheels from sinking up to the hub in the sand in the summer.
In front of Becker’s Garage, the road would get so bad that a single horse couldn’t haul a buggy through the cross ties of the old Plank Road. When muddy, it was all your life's worth to drive over it.
In 1881, there was a large fire in the “Thumb District.” The conflagration ravaged the area burning out homes, farms and businesses. Damage was so bad the economy was decimated. Folks left the area in droves heading west toward a new life. It was a common sight to see four and five white-topped “Prairie Schooners,” heading west, creaking and popping, as they rolled over the old Plank Road. Seeing the migration was at times bittersweet, knowing many of the settlers had lost everything they had worked so hard to create.
One day in potato-digging season, a lone bachelor from Sanilac County, Michigan, who had been burned out, stopped in at the home of a local farmer next to the Plank Road. These emigrants were always welcomed into one’s home, to eat, clean up and rest their weary horses or oxen. Contributing to the welfare of strangers was customary so as to ward off some of the tragic inevitabilities of the trail. Sickness and fatigue, food poisoning from non-refrigerated meat, and injuries to adults and children alike, were common because all were put to work during the migrations that led the settlers on thousand or more mile journeys. These visitors were also welcomed because they brought news and gossip from outside the area to folks who might not see a newspaper for months. The émigré usually remained overnight and in the morning, negotiations for food, medicine and tools began. By mid-afternoon the deals were finalized on a handshake.
One legend about the M-46 trail was told and retold for generations: Seems a farmer gained a team of horses, the wagon, a muzzle-loading shotgun, a crosscut saw, and a fiddle in just a single bargaining session with a westbound bachelor. To the emigrant, went a painful reminder of matrimony: the farmer quitclaimed all rights to his wife! The bachelor and his new concubine strolled off into the sunset upon the Plank Road for a new life in the golden west. Think of the scene ala Cecil B. DeMill: sundown, soft music, and gentle curtain fall. The farmer later said it was the most difficult trade he’d ever made. He kicked himself for not asking for some cash to sweeten the deal.
Next potato planting season, the old dame came walking back to her ever-loving husband. Both were richer; she in worldly travels and romantic pursuits, he in worldly goods that had served him well all year. From that time on, she had no interest in any other parties, other than Republican and Democrat. He still kicked himself for not asking for money.
The township eventually took over the Plank Road and tried to maintain it with their limited resources. When the County of Saginaw assumed control, the hardest part of the job was getting ready for sand and gravel and removing cross-logs, bed-timbers and cordwood left from the old road.
The road was surveyed June 1871, by Frank Eastman. In September of that year, the contract for grading and excavation was awarded to Alexander McDonald. On September 15, 1872, the first spike of the new railroad was driven and three months later on December 15, 1872, the first train passed over the line from Saginaw to St. Louis, traveling the entire 35 miles without an unusual event. Before completion of the railroad, A.J. West, his business partner Jacob Lewis and brother-in-law J.W. Robinson, built the largest steam sawmill ever to operate in Jonesfield. On December 31, 1872, the township’s inhabitants witnessed the formal opening of the new railroad, uniting Jonesfield Township with the rich agricultural district embraced by Gratiot and adjoining counties. This meant the Jonesfield Township mills had access to an extensive belt of pine, oak, hemlock and other timber; timber that was needed in the expanding township and the rapidly growing Saginaw Valley.
West’s sawmill village consisted of the sawmill, a shingle and lath mill, about four blocks length of enclosed drying sheds, a huge boardinghouse, a company store and a depot on the north side of the tracks. The Saginaw Valley and St. Louis Railroad built a passing switch about a quarter mile long on the north side of the tracks to service the sawmill. South of the tracks were private homes where George Docket lived along with about a dozen other small houses. The Jonesfield Township Post Office was in Docket’s house and he was the first postmaster of the township. After all the local lumber had been cut and milled, Mr. West sold the land to J. W. Robinson who lived where Ed Murphy does now.
Mr. West eventually pulled up stake and headed west to Aberdeen, Washington following the timber boom, where he prospered. At one time he had a large mill, several bars and one sea-going steam tugboat named the “A. J. West.” The tug was commissioned as late as 1920, being mentioned many times in several Puget Sound fiction stories. Mr. West’s granddaughters still live somewhere in California.
When it came to working animals, oxen were preferred over horses for working among the stumps, because they were lower and stronger and could pull just
about anything from the ground. That soon changed as farms were settled and the land cleared. Horses became the working animals of choice. Jerry Bennett on the northeast corner of section 33 owned the last pair of oxen in Merrill, or what is now M-46 and S. Fenmore Road in the village limits. The oxen had a horn spread of about 48 inches and were named Buck and Bright. They weighed about 1,800 pounds apiece.
About 1871, D.W. Greene and A.B. Bloomer started a large sawmill in the southeast quarter of section #27, almost at the intersection of the north, south, east and west lines of the village, on the corner of what is now Midland Road and M-46. Greene’s other mill consisted of a steam-powered sawmill, gristmill and a planing and shingle mill, which stood about a block east of Mill Street where it crosses the railroad tracks. On the south side of the tracks was a large icehouse, a hoop factory, a shingle drying shed and a barn which was torn down about twenty years ago.
Two huge “Wickes Brothers” boilers and a large Wickes engine powered Greene’s mill. The farmers from a twelve-mile radius hauled logs to the Hood and Parsons Mill in the winter when the sleighing was good. As many as 150 to 200 teams hauled logs to the banking grounds between M-46 and the railroad; also across the tracks when the run was good. As much as 15-20 million board feet of elm was piled on the ground by spring.
The present Lynch house was one of a number of boardinghouses for the hired help. The James Silva house, which stood a block south of where it does now, was also a boardinghouse. The current Criswool house was built by a man named Benson and was over twice the size it is now.
At the intersection of the Plank Road and the north-south centerline dividing sections 26 and 27, C. V. Johnson had a large livery barn and boarding stable where the present Whitney Hardware store now stands.
John Matthews owned 40 acres in the southeast quarter of section 28 and resided in the present Ida Davis home. Incidentally, the Tom Lynch family uses water out of the old well from the Greene mill’s engine room.
On the north side of the railroad tracks, about a half block west of Frank Shannon’s house, A.C. Melze had a good-sized store. A.B. Bloomer had an office and a big mill supply building just about where Frank’s tool-shed stands now. There was a short “passing switch” on the south side of the railroad extending from “number four ditch” to about a block west of Mill Street. A. B. Bloomer was the first postmaster of Greene’s Mill.
To give an idea of how much money was made in those days, four to six logs made a thousand board feet. When the Hood and Parsons Mill started cutting boards it took nine to thirteen logs for a thousand. The fallers and the haulers were paid by the thousand and if they got paid for half their work no one kicked. There was nowhere else to work in the winter.
One morning about 1886, the boiler of the Hood and Parsons Mill exploded killing three or four employees and injuring several more. This was the first and worst industrial accident ever in Jonesfield.
Hood and Parsons then leased ten acres from C. V. Johnston where the present Wolohan Elevator now stands. They also leased about five blocks north of the railroad along side Eddy Street for storage. On the Johnston ten acres they built two stave-drying sheds 640 feet long. These sheds were about twenty feet high at the eaves and were nothing but a frame with a roof. Another drying shed about 660 feet long was built parallel to the railroad tracks south of Eddy Street.
C.V. Johnston built the first complete and full-service hotel, around 1878. After constructing the store and attached residence, he rented the building to William Putnam who ran a hotel and a bar in it until about 1890. Around that time, it was rented to Prosper Kimball and Harry Turnvull. Later than that, Frank Dillon, an Ontario, Canada hotel man operated it until he sold out to his brother-in-law Dan McIsaac who died in 1906. John Kolschmidt purchased it shortly after McIsaac’s death, opening the current “Kolschmidt Hotel.”
The nearby railroad house was built by one of the long passed away Mahoney’s. The railroad house had many operators in its time. Among those were many of the old family names of Merrill, like Doty, Abby and Michael Moore. It is now the Charles Yehl household.
Doctor Stuart moved to town in the 1880s, but stayed for just a few months before moving to Chesaning. Then came an Italian doctor named Collellmo. Not much is remembered of him other than his home was the LaVoy house across the street from Claudia Becker’s house. He too left Merrill for parts unknown.
Shortly after the start of the Hood and Parsons Mill, a lady named Mrs. Fall, from Montcalm County, Michigan, landed in Merrill along with her two daughters. All three were beautiful. She leased or bought two acres from Frank Hood where Frank McNier’s farmhouse stands. She built a boardinghouse and decided that she would deepen a natural spring in the back yard of the boardinghouse to form a fishpond and sell carp.
Mrs. Fall took to the road on foot again. Having no other transportation she walked and personally contacted every man in the vicinity who owned a team of horses or had a yoke of oxen. Everyone who owned a shovel responded and in just a few hours, a 300-foot long extension of the old pond was excavated. It was about three feet deep and nearly 200 feet wide, fed by the underground spring flowing beneath the property. Unfortunately it became obvious the spring underneath was not enough to supply the pond, so Cy Warren and his brother drilled a well which is still there. Turned out fish raising in Merrill was not as successful as the promotional build-up.
Years after that, up to about 1909-1910, all the young people of Jonesfield skated on the old pond if the winters were too cold to fish in it. Mrs. Fall got her house and her pond mostly through the efforts of Hood, Parsons and the townsfolk who were always ready to lend a helping hand.
In 1883 an Englishman named Frederick Hobson Stevens, landed in Merrill with his family. After looking around the town he purchased forty acres, that would later become the Zazo farm, for the purpose of raising flowers and vegetables. Mr. Stevens was the father of the Stevens family known for moving whole households in a matter of hours. He was a real gardener. Too bad he was born thirty years too soon. About 1894, the elder Stevens bought the lot next to the Starkweather Building, where he opened a
floral and “garden sass” shop. He did fairly well for awhile, but he eventually accepted that Merrill was too small to support such a venture.
Stevens closed the store and moved to Saginaw where he purchased forty acres along what is now Superior Street. He opened another plant breeding store and eventually developed a BLACK tulip! Stevens was apparently offered quite a sum and sold the rights to the colored flower. Unfortunately it was just a mutation and the petals lost their color after about a year. The conclusion to the story is buried somewhere in the area’s history.
About 1893 Frank Hood decided that having two outfits chopping and milling local elm, the supply wouldn’t last over ten years. He sold out to Liken and Brown who operated the local mill until 1900 when the Wickes Brothers scrapped it. Some of the machinery went to Central Lake and the rest was junked.
The area’s first boarding house was at Meridian City in 1868. It burned to the ground in 1871. The next boardinghouse was erected on the Greene Mill property and is now occupied by Mrs. Mae Lynch. A. J. West built several smaller boardinghouses on the property of his mill, the first one having been referred to as the “centennial house” because it was built in 1876.
Ed Hill, a large landowner in section 27, owner of the west half of Everett Fleming’s farm, decided a hotel was needed at Greene’s Mill. Mrs. Benson Hunt had a general store in one end of the hotel and a dance hall in the other. This is now known as the “Chriswell House.”
About 1902 or 1903, Sim Frost bought the Greene’s Mill hotel. He tore down half of it and used the wood from it to build a modest house in section three of Lakefield Township. He raised and rotated the other half around and made the present house. Sometime after that, the late Pete Harms added a couple of bedrooms to the house.
In the late 1880s, John Brown built the Merrill Hotel on the village’s main corner. It was the most elaborate hotel between Saginaw and St. Louis. It had a huge bar, sleeping rooms, a spacious dining room, an office and a large hall for meetings, dancing and shows.
John Brown sold the hotel to Bob Ouderkirk and Ouderkirk in turn sold it to Joe Keenan and J.F. Ryan. M.J. Madden and James O’Toole purchased it from Keenan and Ryan and they ran it until Prohibition in 1917. Sometime after that, Vern Tippin took over the building and ran it as a hotel only until it was destroyed in the early 1920s.
In 1912 or 1913, Hugh Dillon, owner of the big general store, decided that Merrill needed another saloon to take care of the Gratiot County cash trade. He was unable to get a license to operate the saloon unless it was attached to an operational hotel. In response to the rejection, Hugh decided to move the huge mansion he had built earlier to another lot south of the general store. Flynn’s Hardware now stands on the site of the old hotel. Dillon brought Charles Hahn and Son from Detroit to move the house. Hahn moved the barn to its present location and it’s now Donovan’s building. After prohibition, Hugh Howley Sr. and William Duby wrecked the hotel and built the Duby and Loth houses on section 35.
In 1868, a man named Benson built a boardinghouse in the west half of the northwest quarter of section 27, now owned by Rudy Mayan. It was a huge building about 30 by 40 rods. There was a good well, some other smaller buildings and the lot had an underground spring that never went dry.
After Benson sold the boardinghouse to D.L. Eaton, the place stood vacant until a family named Clancy, from Hemlock, bought the west half of the southeast corner of section 21. They hired George Glazier to move the big house about a mile north, where their family resided, until Saginaw County Mutual Insurance Company purchased the building.
In 1881, the settlers living around the general store at the crossroads of the village were talking about the future of the township. Big plans were on the drawing board when a great fire swept through the forests in the vicinity seriously endangering the property and lives of the pioneers. During the danger period, an engine with fire car and water pump was kept constantly ready on the tracks should the need arise. Some of the railroad officials objected to the precaution taken by people who were not railroad operators. One of them, the late N. W. Merrill, eventually broke away from the core group, insisting that the residents of the town be afforded such a measure of safety. He offered as much assistance as he could during that time. The town was untouched by the fire.
In recognition of his efforts and the services he rendered which saved the village from certain destruction, the villagers of Jonesfield Township gave their town a secondary name, the name most commonly associated with it: Merrill. This thriving little town keeps the memory of N.W. Merrill and his railroad alive. It is now a place of 700 inhabitants, the logical center of a thriving and prosperous farming community. This is the true account of the naming of Merrill, and is borne out of the stories of the men who moved the old depot building.
The original train depot was almost a half-mile west of the main street in town, that being Midland Road. The early pioneers A.C. Melze, Peter Perkins, and Joel Nevins went to 518 Harrison Street in Saginaw where they spoke with N.W. Merrill, who was the superintendent of the Saginaw Valley and St. Louis Railway. They asked him to move the depot closer to town. Merrill granted their request and the following Sunday Merrill sent “Old Number Two,” a diamond stack wood burning engine together with a single flat car, to the village to assist with moving the new depot. Bob and Ben Sweeny, Will and George Moulton, the Fleming’s, Keenan’s, Donahue’s and the other pioneer families whose names escape me met at the old depot site. They raised the depot building and many of the original wooden ties used to build it onto the flatcar. They hauled it down the tracks to the village. They unloaded it at the present location of Midland Road and Shannon Road, next to the elevator of the Merrill Beanery.
The first agent of record was Robert Durkee, followed by F. A. Young, who later became the general passenger agent for the whole C. H. & D. and P.M. system. Mr. Young presently resides in Detroit. A man named Baldwin was the next agent and then E.B. Clack of Portland, L. A. Dygert of Alto and many more who have since slipped from memory.
Dygert was the most noted of all the agents. He was a ball player and a man who Christianized the bogtrotters that hung around Stanton’s Saloon, which stood where the trees are growing next to “Yehos.”
About 1891-1892, Fraser Hoop Company of St. Louis, Michigan started buying elm two miles west of Merrill on the railroad. George Kennedy was the first buyer, followed by John Shannon. For some reason or another it took only 4-6 logs from that time on to make a thousand board feet.
I have seen elm logs banked and stacked twenty feet high at Doyle’s from the railroad to Ed Murphy’s house and back to the hill six blocks east. That’s at least 6,000,000 board feet! In addition, 6-15 train carloads a day were being sent to St. Louis, Michigan.
When the Jonesfield area was first settled, there were only a few milk cows. Any surplus butter was sold to the village of Merrill for ten cents a pound. As the country settled up, cows became more plentiful and the dairy and butter business became quite a thriving industry.
From 1890 to 1920 there were between 150 and 200 farms in Jonesfield. There were about 1,000-1,250 cows, about 2,000 hogs, 800 sheep and everyone had at least 50 chickens. On Saturday nights, at least 200 three-gallon cans of cream were marketed along with thousands of dozens of eggs. Everyone in Jonesfield brought at least one, but mostly two, cans of cream and a crate of twelve dozen eggs. The cream and eggs sold in Merrill on those Saturday nights amounted to around $5,000.00 a week, all of it spent in Merrill. The town women cashed the creamery checks and bought groceries at the general store. The men went for a shave and visited with friends until ten or eleven o’clock that evening before everyone returned to their homes.
It was nothing to see 300-400 people on the streets of Merrill on those Saturday nights. In fact, the streets were filled with so many cars and buggies that the town council had to put up hitching posts on Johnston Street and Saginaw Street north to Mahoney Road. Six to eight hundred cans of cream came into Merrill on Saturday nights.
When the Coughlin Brothers had their cream buying station near where the post office is now, I wrote checks steadily from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The farmer’s station was where the salesroom is now. Charles Bow, the market manager, bought as much as Coughlin’s and George Trombley could supply for the Alma Creamery. Sometimes during the week, Coughlin Brothers would produce and sell even more than Saturday’s loads. At times, so much cream would come into the Merrill Creamery during the month of June that the Bow and Coughlin operations had to borrow large water tanks from the Whitney’s and Gorman’s Hardware Stores. The large water tanks were used to store the extra cream until the next truck could make it in from Saginaw with empty cans.
Reverend William Taylor, a retired minister, bought 160 acres in section 16 and built a large cow barn, a silo and other buildings, some of which still stand on the Whelton farm on M-30. Reverend Taylor bought the best and largest herd of 60 Jersey cows anyone ever had in Jonesfield. All of them were milked by hand and the milk carefully set to raise the cream using gravity.
A large wooden framed box about eight feet long, five feet wide and five feet high had two inside levels. The lower floor had eight glass tanks that held ten gallons of milk. The upper shelf was packed with ice and the milk was slowly and carefully strained into the glass tanks from the top and left to settle. After about two hours a spigot in the bottom of the lower tanks was opened and the skim milk drained off. The cream was spooned from the settling tanks and put into another container to ripen
then churned. Once or twice a week, Reverend Taylor using his own Concord buggy and a brown gelding, moved hundreds of pounds of Grade-A butter to the Merrill depot where it was sent to Saginaw and sold. The Taylor’s eventually purchased the first cream separator in Jonesfield Township. Taylor’s separator was a “Vermont Treadmill.” It used a donkey to walk on the belt. The donkey power pumped water, separated the cream and churned the butter. The Griffin farm on the west town line of Richland had another but nothing much is known about it.
Another famous butter-maker was Grandma Fales who lived about a mile west of Merrill. The Fales family kept about a dozen cows and a lot of chickens. Their butter was known far and wide around Merrill and they seldom had enough to go around. They used a gravity system with milk pans to raise the cream.
After cows in Jonesfield got fairly numerous, everyone in town started using the gravity method to separate their cream and milk. The Alma Creamery started sending a wagon throughout the countryside buying cream. Al Becker, one of the creamery’s drivers, would stop in front of a farmhouse where he was buying cream and take a straight sided tin pail into the milk house. He would pour the cream into the pail and measure the cream with something he called a gauge and then pay the farmer for the amount of cream his gauge indicated. The money was equivalent to what she would have made by churning the butter herself, without the effort, so everyone was happy. Soon though, the Alma Creamery refused to buy any more gravity raised cream. That meant everyone in the cream business had to purchase a powered separator. The most popular models were manufactured by “DeLaval,” but separators manufactured by companies like “Empire,” “Sharples,” “Iowa United States,” “Sears” and of course “Montgomery Ward” were competing with the DeLaval for the local market. Around the turn of the century, even Mr. Fales purchased one of the first “Empire” cream separators in town.
For some unknown reason butter making in Merrill was not successful. Then Frank Dillon tried to convert his operation into a cheese making business, still no dice. John Boutin finally bought the building and used it for storage.
Then it got to the point of being too much work, to milk the cows, so most farmers sold their herds. Only a few of the harder working farmers stayed with their dairy cows. The McFlannel's, R. O. O’Toole, the Fleming’s, Siler’s and Bluemer's were about the only people willing to “condescend” to milk cows twice a day. If any of those families were ever asked about their dairy operations they would tell you it was hard work, but it sure paid off when the beans drowned out and the sugar beets burned up.Old Bossy in the barn still produced milk and money to pay the bills the cash crops ran up!
A long wooden building that stood where the Wolohan elevator now stands, formerly used to store heavy equipment ready for shipping, was also used as an egg crate nailing business. I once saw 500 and more crates nailed in a single day in the facility.
During this period, “Jordan and Proestal” used to ship an average of three decks of livestock every week to Buffalo, New York. A barker with a decidedly New England accent would call out: “Let ye bring in yer bull on a-Frida.” John Bensamen and Jim Travers of Ithaca, New York bought livestock in Merrill for their markets back home.
“Schwincks and Jost” of Saginaw, bought hogs and fat cattle. “Johnson and Son” of Merrill shipped an average of five carloads of bailed hay and straw per week. LaVerge Thomas of Hemlock also bought and shipped hay out of Merrill. The Cornwall Lumber Company, owned several large tracts of land, shipped several cars of fat cattle each year.
D. L. W. Eaton also fed a large number of beef cattle on his various farms. Doyle’s section shipped about a hundred heads of cattle and several cars of lamb and hogs. Mahar and Horn of St. Johns bought cattle and dozens of cars of hay every year for a long time.
There is more corn raised in Jonesfield now than used to be raised in three decades previously. At the same time during this period, more money was spent in Merrill in one week than is spent now in two. These were one hundred cent dollars and they all stayed in Merrill, except a few which went to Sears and Montgomery Ward.
Merrill’s economy supported: five grocery stores: Dillon’s, McCauley’s, Hunt’s, Perkins’ (later Dillon & Ryan) and McVicker's; two hardware stores: Whitney’s and Gorman’s; three dry goods stores: Packard’s, Ray’s and Gladwyn’s that was recently torn down behind Case’s.
In the early 1890s John Murray had a drug store where Homer Johnston’s garage is now. After closing the drug store, Murray owned and operated the Fred Coty farm living there until his family grew up. Most of the Murray’s are in Flint now.
About 1886 Merrill needed a blacksmith. Fletch Hawley was foreman on Hood’s farm. He proposed to Hood the construction of a shop for Frank Anderson, his father-in-law. Hood furnished lot one of section 13 subdivided from C. V. Johnston. They built a huge shop nearly 120 feet long and 32 feet wide. The shop had two forges in the front end and a wagon shop measuring 80 feet long by 32 feet wide in the rear. Upstairs from the shop was a skating rink the full length and width of the building where most of the townsfolk skated every night except Saturday. Fletch Hawley ran the rink and when skating cooled off he ran a five-cent dance night on Saturdays. Now and then a real regular ball was held at one dollar per couple. When Brown built the Merrill Hotel with an upstairs ballroom, the old skating rink went vacant for nearly twenty years until Floyd Gorm rented the building for a garage. Mrs. Gorm started the skating rink up again but after a couple of months it folded again.
After the Ouderkirk family took over the Merrill Hotel, the social life of the occupants was built around the ballroom with dinner shows, and home talent plays staged in the ballroom. At least once, a stock company played there for a week.
In 1889, Frank Anderson sold the old building to Otto Lade, who in turn sold it to John Keenan. Sometime after that the building burned. C.A. Mayan purchased the lot and built the Mayan building in 1918.
The owners of the Merrill Hotel cut up the ballroom and converted it into bedrooms. That left Merrill without a place to hold social gatherings. R.T. Maynard, Horace Johnson, J.H. Whitney, Dr. Hudson and other businessmen got together and formed the Merrill Opera House Association. They sold about $3,300.00 worth of stock and built the present opera house. The village of Merrill owned the lot and they sold it to the Opera Association for one dollar just to help out. After its completion, the Opera
Association held a big dance charging one dollar per couple. Well over a hundred couples attended. The next act was a home talent show put on by Rufe Perry, Harry Spendlove, Ted Johnston, Caro Whitney and many more that I have long forgotten. It was such a good show that a repeat performance was needed.
The opera house was never a moneymaking organization but it was a wonderful thing for Merrill. It was known throughout central Michigan as having the best dance floor around. I know the “Slout Players” played Merrill at least once. The Lanshaw Players showed in Breckenridge. Dan Russo, Coney Lux, John Spatz and his son, and the Izzo’s were some of the local talent that appeared there.
The building of the Merrill Opera House changed the character of most of the local and usually informal dances. Formality moved in. The smell of booze upon a man’s breath was sufficient to bar him from entering the dance and none of the ladies would dance with him anyway. Doubt there was ever a good free-for-all fight after the Opera House opened.
The largest and most ornate party ever given in the opera house was the “Fussers Ball of 1915.” The dance was held on October 22, 1915. Dan Fusso was home in Saginaw together with Isham Jones and being friendly with some members of the Fussers Club consented to play for one private party. This was the first “two dollar party” ever held in Merrill. Admission to the party included lunch.
Of the fifteen original Fussers, three have died: William Rust was killed in battle 1917 in France during World War I. Henry Smith in an automobile accident in 1947. Brian Guthbertson died from cancer in 1955. The rest of the Fussers are still around in various states of disrepair.
The Methodist Church put on a Demerset contest for home talent. Nora Fry, Mary DeLong and Margaret Jenkins headlined as the finalists. Nora Fry won it.
Jim Jordan built a butcher shop where Siler’s south door is now. It was a large frame building with an upstairs meeting room. The “K.O.T.M.” (Knights of The Maccabees), used it for years as did many others afterward. Jordan ran the market for a while before renting it to Bill Stevenson and later to “Horner & Weiss”
The first moving pictures ever shown in Merrill were shown in Jim Jordan’s hall. The operator ran about 600 feet of film, played a poorly synchronized phonograph record and followed with more film and records. This was hard work that went on for about two hours. Admission had been twenty-five cents and the movie & records played to a sold out house.
About the same time, the first farmer co-ops were discussed. A group of local farmers, Thomas Wall, John R. Shannon, Angus McDonald and unnamed others organized the “Union Store” inside the Jordan building. Angus McDonald was the first manager, along with a beat up old tomcat who slept in the peanuts. The store struggled along for a few years before folding. The only thing wrong with the union store concept was that it was born thirty years too soon.
The Michigan weather was as uncertain back then as it is now. One winter was one hundred days of sleighing and the next was dry without snowfall. The winter of no snow broke a lot of loggers who had to truck their logs by wagon. One logger lost his mind worrying about snow. He would get up in the middle of the night and walk up and
down the road holding out his hand to feel if snow was falling. Some winters, a shovel crew worked full time shoveling snow onto the roads so the lumber sleighs could get through. The Merrill area of Michigan was not cold enough as the northern parts of the state where sprinklers could be used to create snow on the roads so the lumber sleds could travel. This prickly-pear of a problem contributed to the automation of the lumbering industry that eventually took the money out of the community and fed it to the large lumber corporations far away from Jonesfield. Their itinerant lumberjacks were paid with the profits from Jonesfield wood, but many sent their money home to families living in larger cities where it was spent into their local economy.
In the late 1880s and early 1890s the only outside entertainment in Merrill, was the local street fair with a mammoth parade. The yearly fair also guaranteed a medicine show marketing the perfect elixir to chase away whatever troubled people. The fair was held in the warm summer months at the show ground near Sacred Heart Catholic Church and stretched all the way to Melze’s barn. Each year brought the dog & pony show of Matt Wixom from Bancroft, Michigan, down Shiawassee County way. Wixom, aside from his well regarded family band, had an eight-horse hitch of Shetland ponies, a kennel full of performing pooches, a small mixed menagerie of exotic animals, and a couple of good barkers, along with a fair-sized bunch of kinkers and clowns. After the street fair business played out, Matt Wixom’s son Frank L. Wixom bought and promoted the yearly lumberjack picnic at Edenville, in Midland County. When Frank died, the land was sold and soon went to rack and ruin.
About the last time Wixom came to Merrill, the summer parade started at the railroad depot and came south. The clown was doing the riding the donkey thing, but things stayed too quiet. One of the local hooligans though it would be funny to pour some carbon disulfide, then known as fog on the sensitive area at the back end of the Jack. The prank was done without apparent witness and it took about a half block to take effect. That jackass did everything except handsprings and summersaults. The prank broke up the parade and Matt Wixom offered a fifty-dollar reward to anyone who could identify the culprits. For some reason, along the main street, packed with families from miles around, no one could or would identify the prankster. Wixom must have surveyed 200 people himself without success. The reward went unclaimed and that was the last Merrill ever saw of the Matt Wixom circus. For years afterward, the story was told over and over in every feed store, barber shop and church gathering, but aside from laughter, no one ever said a thing about who actually pulled off the last great whodunit in Merrill.
Tiger Bill’s show made a one-week stand where the Boutin Mill now stands. The biggest attraction was a daily fight between a chained up Brown Bear and a bulldog. This fight was considered "“strictly on the level," because buckets of blood were spilled by both dog and bear. These days the A.S.P.C.A. would justifiably have the whole crew and patrons in jail. After the bear fight, Tiger Bill sold some cure-all medicine, guaranteed to cure warts, tuberculosis, cancer and any other illness that could possibly be afflicted upon man. Boy did he sell it too!
The first town Fourth of July celebration was in the early 1890s, partly to celebrate J.L. Gladwyn’s new brick drugstore, the first brick building in Merrill. Hank Weatherwax handled the soft drink concession selling birch beer, strawberry pop and lemonade. The various churches handled the food and of course the saloons had a field day.
The big yearly dance was also held in the Methodist church on July 4, 1904. M.J. Buckley and Jim Cunningham conducted it for the Merrill baseball team. When the dance, which had been packed from noon to 2:00 a.m. broke up, the ball team got the church hall back intact.
The usual first fight started in Johnston’s Saloon when a couple of would-be toughs picked a row with Frank Nichols. Charlie Johnston, or whoever was running the saloon that night threw them out where they promptly resumed their fight in the middle of the street. Frank, who would do to ride the river with, pasted one of the brothers and laid him among the sweet peas and drove the second down to the corner, reversed direction and hammered him all the way back. When it was over, Frank made Christians out of two barroom brawlers. The two toughs quietly left town for Montana. Michigan’s gain and Montana’s loss.
Another farm holiday entertainment institution in all small towns was the “Bowery Dance," though Merrill never had cheap hotels, bawdyhouses and run down saloons. In the Village of Merrill, John Brown and Jim Jordan’s halls were the only usable dance floors. To handle the crowds, a large temporary floor was built and then two-by-fours were stood up and nailed for walls and rafters laid across the top. Then the construction teams would go up into section 27 and cut tag-alder for a roof. They would sometimes decimate two or more acres just to gather enough alder planks and branches to cover the dance floors. The sides were open for ventilation and to allow people to walk in and out.
The last big Bowery dance floor was built where McKibbon’s Barber Shop and the Tippin buildings now stand. Joe Jenkins, Fred Pringle, and George Frost were among the fiddlers at these dances.
Dancing started around 11:00 a.m. and continued nonstop until midnight, or even later. The grand orchestra for the dance usually consisted of a violin player, a drummer, and sometimes an organist. Each dance cost a nickel. The program usually consisted of a square dance and then a waltz. One dance consisted of one complete change of a square dance around the floor. The new fangled two-step dances were just coming into style so the orchestra usually tried to work in one dance. As many as three separate dances and as many halls would be filled all day and well into the night. Other times, dances were held in homes and most of the schoolhouses. Almost every week there was one dance or another within reasonable distance. The Lakefield Town Hall was noted for its dances. Never a dull moment around there! Some real old time “Come all Ye’s” were held there. Nowadays, Guy Lombardo couldn’t get fifty dancers in all of Merrill.
Another stand-by amusement was the “basket picnic.” The Gleaner's held one almost every year on Ish Davis’ Beaver Creek Flats. Everyone brought a basket of food. There were all kinds of contests. Foot races. Jumping contests. Three-legged-races and always a baseball game. Everyone had a wonderful time. In those days the state did not allow intoxicants at public gatherings.
In the early 1890s, if you lived more than four miles from the nearest store, it was a day’s journey by horse or wagon to get to the stores in Merrill. Hugh Dillon got the idea of bringing the store to the customer. He bought a wagon and had a large box built onto it. The completed box-wagon was nearly fourteen feet long and four feet wide with a railing around the outer roof of it to carry egg crates. Hugh had to literally sit over the horses to drive it. Soon, more and more entrepreneurs got into the act and the service improved greatly. The wagons, referred to as “peddler wagons,” carried a full stock of general groceries as well as dry-goods like nails and yard care items like saw blades, baling wire and pruning supplies. Joe Phelan drove one wagon for Dillon. John and Patrick O’Toole and Peter Ryan did their hitch too before going into business for themselves.
Dick Doyle used to ride the route just for kicks with Pete Ryan. If there was a good-looking woman on the route, Pete would do the driving and Dick would do the selling and carrying. It was common for them to help widows or women whose husbands were on the road working. They would help by making small repairs, assist with the laundry and even do the dishes if it would help a customer. If a farm wife or widow lacked the money to purchase their groceries, Pete and Dick would always agree to barter and always with the highest of integrity. Sometimes Pete would trade groceries for eggs, butter, milk and chickens. Back then no one went hungry if it could be helped.
One time, Dan Haley was doing a route on a Dillon wagon, and just outside of Jam, when he came to the home of a widow who was desperately short of cash. Dan had a few chickens in the big crate under the wagon and offered to take more in trade for the groceries. The widow sent her boys to round up some chickens. As they brought them to him, Dan would weigh them out and put them into the lower chicken crate through the right side door. He accepted a red rooster in the bunch and then the widow’s sons offered him three more. The boys acted like they were running into the chicken coop and bringing out roosters. Then he realized the boys were removing the same rooster from the wagon’s chicken crate through the left side door and running it around to him on the right side. By the time Dan realized what had happened he’d weighed and traded groceries for the same scrawny rooster four times! Being that the woman was a widow, Dan’s only comment on the incident was: “I sure learned merchandising right there!”
Bill Bush of Wheeler Township had a beautiful pair of Mustangs, one gray, the other brown, on his meat wagon. He sometimes came close to Merrill on his route and used a large hand-bell to signal his arrival. It could be heard a mile away. When they heard the bell, the townsfolk came to him to purchase much needed eggs, butter and a little fresh meat. Whatever beefsteak or dressed poultry they purchased had to be used right away. There were no deep freezers in those days.
As early as 1893, Jim Jordan used to have a “spring-wagon” with a big red box about four feet wide and eight feet long. He would line the floor and sides with cakes of ice and toss fresh cuts of beef and pork into it. He drove his wagon through the countryside and was a welcome sight to most folks. It was the only opportunity for fresh meat all summer without having to butcher their own. On a small farm, the few cows the
folks did have were needed for milk and butter. That outweighed the craving for fresh beefsteak. In those days it was salt-pork and sundown on most farms.
Around 1900 George McVicker and Dan McCauley started driving their own wagon routes through Jonesfield and the Village of Merrill. Although motorized trucks soon replaced most wagons, Dan McCauley’s wagon was still on the road as late as 1913-1914.
The first team to attract any attention belonged to Tom Doyle. He had Clydesdales that were the best-matched team for years. The top–notch team of all time were John Fleming’s dapple-grays. Fleming had many good teams after that and was known far and wide for them. Joseph McClure who lived near what is now N. Fenmore Road and Dice Road, tried to raise the grade of horses in Jonesfield by using his stud, a Percheron Stallion named Valadamar, but was unsuccessful because there were no brood mares of any quality in the area.
The first great stride in horse raising was when John Kolschmidt, Tom Doyle, Doc Sutherland, James Jordan and a group of others sent down to Indiana and bought “Fanfare,” a Belgian Draft stud. As Fanfare grew up, a lot of farmers became very horse-conscious. John Shay had several good teams. Hugh and P.C. Howley always had good horses. In fact, Brian Howley, Hugh’s son, hauled the largest load of beets ever delivered in Merrill. He loaded them into two wagons being pulled tandem. John Fleming hauled the largest load ever pulled in a single wagon. Other horses in Jonesfield were well known: Pete Goodspeed had a great pair of Bays, Frank Shannon’s blacks, Perl Bow’s sorrels and Ed Rust had several teams which he dealt on and off for years. Somewhere, someone has a large hand painted picture of George B. Eaton on a high wheel sulky driving “Fleet,” a sharp looking Bay Trotter. Robert Shannon Jr., on Fenmore Road, owned a pair of bay geldings that were the only team to ever bring two yards of gravel out of Beaver Creek on the farm formerly owned by Jess Bibber.
One night, safecrackers tried to loot the W.O. Mason Bank and make a clean getaway out of Merrill. They stole Ol’ Fleet from George Eaton’s farm and drove her against a cold wind almost up to Freeland and foundered her. Fleet remained out in the cold until the next morning. The crime’s final outcome has slipped from memory, but it was decided that the crooks were indubitably local talents. It was determined that the scoundrels had gone to several houses and clotheslines where they stole several blankets and heavy robes to muffle the blast of the dynamite.
Of all the road-horses in Jonesfield, Jimmy Ross’ Spot was the cream of the horse show crop. If Spot were alive today, even in an old and decrepit way, he would still bring five hundred to one thousand dollars for show-ring purposes.
The John Madden family, who used to live on the corner of Meridian Road and Frost Road in section nine, always drove great horses. But, no matter what anyone says, Mike J. Buckley with his team of Mahogany bays had them all licked. Mike wanted his boys to have the best all around, and all can say they did! They looked sharp with their horses draped with a silver mounted harness, pulling their two-seated surrey and the boys wearing white nicker pants… Ooh la la…
W. G. Shannon had the first rubber tired buggy in Merrill. It was trimmed with battery powered electric lights, fine leather and could be seen coming for blocks. "Patsy," the fastest buggy horse in the community, hauled it.
The first newspaper published in Merrill was “The Merrill Sentinel,” owned by Ira H. Witney. The office as near as I can find out, was in the Starkweather Saloon Building or in the annex next door to the north. A few years later it was taken over by Doctor Hillyer, who changed the name to “The Merrill Visitor.” The Visitor lasted until about 1889, staffed by Hillyer and his daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth soon married D.W. Furey, the town’s barber. Elizabeth Furey became well known in news circles as she gained experience in publishing and editing the Visitor.
About 1899, an experienced newspaperman named Thomas W. Northcutt, took over the Visitor and changed the name to “The Merrill Monitor.” While the paper never gained worldwide circulation, it did turn out to be one of Michigan’s outstanding weeklies. Tom’s first office stood where Darland’s BarberShop is now. He later moved the office down to the Pickard house and then to the Raby and Clarence Bellen home.
The paper eventually made its way to the old post office building on South Midland Road formerly occupied by Doc Hudson. Doc was the postmaster from 1897 until 1914 and the paper stayed there for a few years. Tom Northcutt sold the paper to Henry J. Smith from Saginaw around 1912. Northcutt left Merrill and moved to Lafayette, Indiana. His son, Lincoln Northcutt was fairly well known in town. He followed his father to Lafayette. Tom Northcutt died about six years ago in Indiana.
Henry Smith was publishing the newspaper in 1917 when the First World War broke out. He turned over operation of the paper to Elizabeth Furey who kept it running until Hank came home from France. Hank soon purchased the typesetter, the big press and built the tile building that still stands. In 1936, Hank and his son, Bruce, were killed in a two-car crash in Shields. I don’t think that it was considered a good thing, but Mrs. Smith had predeceased both of them so she was not left grieving. Dan Smith, Hank’s brother, took over operations and ran it until a linotype explosion and fire wrecked the interior of the building, badly burning Dan Smith. The publishing plant lay idle for some time until the purchase of the mailing list by Clarence Smazel of St. Louis, Michigan. Mr. Smazel changed the size and type of the Monitor and has continued to publish it to this day.
Somewhere in the same span of years as the Monitor was published, a man named C.E. Johnston was said to have published a small local newspaper he named the “New Era.” I have not been able to authenticate that as most of the older generation that might have been witness to it have long ago passed away. As a side-note, during the year's 1912-1913, a man named McLeod operated a small paper in Hemlock but it quickly closed its doors and has not been revived.
About the turn of the century, a number of Belgian and Flemish families moved into Jonesfield. Among them was a man named Maurice DeWinter. DeWinter was a hustler from way back and was always on the lookout for a free dollar. Around 1913-1914, DeWinter rented twenty acres from Uncle John Shannon to raise sugar beets. Needing a horse to cultivate the beets, DeWinter went down the road about three miles to the farm of the late James Emeniser and purchased an old sway-back refugee from a fox farm, no doubt soon to have been sent to either a dog food or glue factory. When not using the nag,
DeWinter pastured it out on George Turner’s farm a mile and a half west of Method’s corner. The only building on the Turner farm was an old tumbledown log barn that had settled into the ground so far that the doorway was barely four feet high.
About noon, one steamy summer day, DeWinter decided his beets needed cultivating. He walked out to the pasture at Turner’s farm to get his horse. He walked through the field and around many spots with tall grass and brush that blocked his view of wherever the nag was resting. No horse anywhere. He threw up his hands in frustration, thinking the nag had been stolen by a local hooligan, and walked home. He returned home for dinner and soon walked to the farm of John Robert Shannon to air his frustration. At the Shannon farm, DeWitt told Frank Shannon, John’s son; the horse had been stolen because there was no other explanation for it. Frank Shannon and DeWitt jumped into Frank Shannon’s old Ford truck and off they went to search for the horse.
When they arrived at Turner’s farm, Frank Shannon surveyed the scene and asked DeWitt, “Did you try the old barn?” DeWitt replied, “Why hell no. That dang door is too small.” Frank Shannon walked over to the old barn and on hands and knees, looked through the door. There was the horse, crouched at the knees, shoulders hunkered down and fighting flies with a swish of his tail. Frank held silent as he turned and rolled his eyes, pointing inside the barn with a hitchhiker’s thumb, then shaking his head as he walked to the truck. DeWitt looked inside the barn and let out a yell, cussing the horse in a manner that would have made a longshoreman blush. The horse looked at the fuming DeWitt and went back to swatting flies with its tail. DeWitt eventually got his beets cultivated and no one in Jonesfield ever forgot the hilarity that went along with the chore.
Some of the Village’s Early Doctors
The first full-fledged physician was Doctor O’Hara. He practiced in Merrill for several years and married Kate O’Leary, niece of Hugh Dillon. Doctor and Mrs. O’Hara eventually left Merrill, bound for Colorado where he set up his practice. They remained there until both passed away about ten years ago.
Dr. J.H. Hudson was the doctor who stayed the longest in Merrill, coming into town 1890. He married a beauty named Sophia Dunn from Shepherd, Michigan. Doc Hudson was one of the old-time doctors. He had to make a living, but his honor to the Hippocratic oath was foremost in his heart. On many occasions, Doc Hudson sometimes waived his fees and even returned some if it meant a family could eat or plant the following year’s crops instead of losing their farms.
Dr. J.H. Hudson always had a good driving horse. One rainy and blustery day in March, with Centerline Road wagon-hub deep in Michigan mud, Doc Hudson set out on his appointed rounds. Doc started out north in his road cart being pulled by his very strong horse. Doc was wearing a heavy cloth coat with a fur collar over his suit. He battled the elements for eleven miles northwest to Vayne’s Bridge, then north another six miles or so into Midland County to a confinement case. He battled the same conditions heading home and did not make it back to Merrill until late the following night. The topper was, Doc never collected a penny from the near destitute family. That
was Doc Hudson’s way of serving the community. No one ever heard the man utter a crossed word about his profession. Just try and get a doctor to do that now! Doc Hudson was quite civic minded too. He served as the village president and helped build Merrill, by attracting businesses that evolved into the current “Wilson Street block.”
He practiced in Merrill for forty-four years. One of the most notable events ever held in the Merrill Opera House was “Dr. Hudson Day.” Thousands of people from the area gathered to honor him on the day of his retirement in 1934. He passed away October 24, 1940 at the grand age of 81 years.
Right around the time Doc Hudson came to Merrill, so did Doctors Benjamin W. Franklin and his son Benjamin F. Franklin. The Franklin’s set up practice in what is now the Merrill post office. Doc’s daughter Nell Franklin went to school in Merrill with friends May McCauley, Marlinda Doyle and Richard Doyle. The elder Franklin passed away years ago. His son left Merrill and is now in Remus, Michigan.
Doctor E.H. McCarty came to town and set up practice in the early 1900s or so. His old office stood where the current Case Family Funeral Home is now. Doc McCarty, Fred Demers, G.H. Sutherland, and William McClelland were inseparable friends. They worked and lived within a half block of each other, remaining faithful friends throughout their lives. A photograph of the four friends hung in Demer’s barbershop until he retired. For reasons of health, Doc McCarty moved his family to Priest River, Idaho. I’m not certain, but Doc may still be there to this day.
Doctor J.A. Kehoe and his wife, a registered nurse, practiced medicine together. Their office was in the “Grant house,” which is currently Bob Demer’s Café. Doc Kehoe retired and moved to Banks Street in Bay City where he passed away several years ago.
Doctor E.H. Ling moved to Merrill in the early part of the 1900s and had the second “brush car” in Merrill. Upon the death of Doctor McEwan of Hemlock, Ling moved there. Ling retired about ten years ago and he now lives in Spring Lake, Michigan.
Doctor Royal S. Hawley bought the former home of Peter Perkins, a local grocer and purveyor of dry goods, in the late 1920s. He lived there for a short time before he suddenly passed away. He was a very good doctor and left a host of friends. Doctor Spier has the former Hawley home now. Doctor Spier is one of the National Osteopathic Association officers and a staff doctor in the Osteopathic Hospital in Saginaw. He is quite prominent in Saginaw County’s social set.
Doctor Catizone, formerly of Saginaw, moved to Merrill a few years ago. Shortly thereafter, Doctors Kleinschmidt and Gilmore followed. All three used the same office for their practice.
Saturday Night in the Local Tonsorial Palace
Saturday in a small town was an institution all over the country from the early 1900s through the 1930s. Merrill was no exception. Furey’s tonsorial palace and Demer’s barbershops were crowded with men getting ten-cent shaves and quarter haircuts. This was only the case during the week. The barbershop was almost the town’s men’s club. If a man dared ask for a haircut on Saturday night, he was quickly unpopular. The main attraction of those evenings was the conversation. Questions that had puzzled scientists for centuries were solved in minutes. Local and national politics, having been argued for weeks in Washington D.C., were straightened out in the time it took the barber to shave
and apply some cologne. Loud and cantankerous arguments were common, but civility prevailed amongst the gentlemen. One key to the uninterrupted flow was there were no women to interfere. There was no international crisis that couldn’t be solved with a few bombs and doughboys in a trench, rather than talking things out. When Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, people knew America’s strength. Nowadays, we’re too busy poking our noses into foreign countries and their civil affairs. We try to keep them happy. Scaring them with our country’s military might prevent many wars I’m sure.
All the latest in military weddings was discussed. So was the occasional “shotgun wedding.” One bridegroom wanted an annulment because he claimed the bride’s father had no license to carry a gun. Romances, both married and single were mulled over, but that was usually left to the wives waiting at home. The state of the local roads, crops, schools and treasuries were taken up in their turn. By closing time, the world was safe for democracy. A history of Jonesfield would not be complete without mention of some of the town’s local characters. John Kennedy Sr. in upper section 2 on Merrill Road south of Tittabawassee Road, was a real old-timer who had seen the elephant and heard the owl. He told stories of his life on the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico, battling pirates and avoiding errant riverboats with a captain at the wheel who was three sheets to the wind.
In the early 1890s, a Scotch family from Ontario, Canada moved into the Merrill vicinity and settled south of the town limits. I wouldn’t say their manner was immoral, but rather simply unmoral. The mountain boys in the “En-Ar-Co” advertisements fit this group perfectly. The father of the clan was about six feet tall, with enough hair on his face to stuff a mattress. The boys were of the same general description, tall and lanky. None of the family ever got humpbacked carrying around knowledge.
One of the boys, we called Irwin, was almost moronic, but he managed to care for himself and do a little work. A neighbor, not to far from the Scot’s home split up with his wife. Irwin saw what he perceived as a needy divorcee, so he decided it would be nice to move in with her and shack up without benefit of clergy. The lady, however, was having no part of that and she shagged him off the farm in short order. Irwin, seeing his first romance bloom and wither in the same afternoon, returned to his home and grabbed his Pa’s shotgun. He loaded it up and went out to the family’s barn. He put the muzzle into his mouth and used a toe on the trigger to ease his broken heart. Best that can be said is that Irwin gently lifted the top off of his own head.
G.H. Sutherland, the local undertaker, reassembled Irwin pretty well, considering the material he had to work with. That evening, a bunch of the morbidly curious attended the wake at the family home. Irwin’s father was giving a rather articulate dissertation on what a fine boy Irwin was. Irwin’s father told the mourners, “Some folks said Irwin had no brains. Well, I can tell you he did,” as he reached into the casket. He pulled out a quart Mason jar and proclaimed, “See? Look here; a whole quart of brains!” A few in the crowd grew queasy and looked three shades of green.
The following Saturday night, the usual crowd was gathered at Fred Demer’s barbershop, including Fred’s younger brother, Charlie, who had been dropped on his head when he was small. Fred, a particular man who hated all things illegitimate, was telling the story of the local tragedy. To quote Fred: “We went out to the barnyard where Irwin’s father had their chicken coop. There were chickens walking around the barnyard eating small pieces of Irwin’s brain that had splattered upon the initial gunshot.” Charlie on the sill piped up, “They didn’t have one hell of a decent sized meal did they Fred?” After the chuckling died down the story of Irwin’s demise slipped into urban legend status to be told over and over with a new twist of saga each time. While the Irwin incident didn’t actually happen inside the Merrill Village limits, the story was well known by just about everyone so it stayed around for years.
One Saturday night, the usual crowd gathered at Dave Furey’s Barbershop. One character whom we called “Cement Bill,” was griping about having lost all his teeth, making it impossible to eat meat. John Boutin was in his usual form and looking for a laugh. He asked Bill, “Why don’t you get yourself some false teeth and quit complaining.” Bill replied, “How do you do that?” Boutin said, “Take a quarter-inch thick bar of yellow laundry soap, get it warmed up and put it as far into your mouth as you can. Then bite down on it and remove it. Send the impression to Sears & Roebuck with ten dollars and they’ll send you a set of choppers.” “How the heck are they held in,” asked Bill. Boutin said, “The lowers will stay in by gravity. The uppers are almost as easy. You drill a quarter-inch hole from the top of your head down through your gums and through the false teeth. Then put a quarter-inch bolt through your head and put a nut on it to hold the teeth. Screw it down and there you are.” Cement Bill retorted, “Drill a danged hole through my head? By Je—s Ch—t, I’ll just gum it and see what happens!”
Years ago, about a mile and a half west of Meridian Road at M-46, where the Gross family now resides, lived a farmer and his wife. Their names have long-faded from memory. She was considered to be “some dish and well stacked.” Meeting her for the first time was like a “brick edition of Chic Sales.”
One of the most colorful old timers was Jimmy Deering. Jimmy and his wife, Abagail, lived two miles west of where John Tester does now. Jimmy had the disposition of a hydrophobic skunk and he drove an old brown stud named Frankie that was just as bad. The Plank Road was nothing but mud six months a year, but Jimmy and Frankie made it into town at least once a day. Jimmy made Al Cisco’s Bar and later, Ouderkirk’s Saloon his village headquarters. After a hard day of elbow bending, Jimmy and Frankie would head for home. The old cross-timbers of the plank road were in at this time and if the cart hit them just right, Jimmy would tip backwards and fall off the back. Jimmy would yell; “Whoa Frankie” and the horse would stop. “Back up Frankie” and the horse back up for twenty feet or so. Jimmy would grab hold of the cart to stand up and then he would climb into the driver’s seat covered with mud. “Get up Frankie,” Jimmy would say and away they would go. The scene often repeated itself all the way back to Jimmy’s farm.
“The Crusaders” were the forerunners to the Salvation Army. They dressed in a light blue uniform with white stripes down the seams of the pants. They would come to Merrill about once a month. One nice May morning they landed in the village about 8:30 a.m. on the morning train. They took their tambourines and canvassed the
village for donations. Afterward, to give people a treat, they started to hold church services on Saginaw Street in front of Herb Gladwyn’s drugstore. After the usual hymns and exhortations to the local sinners to come to the altar to be saved, they decided to have a prayer. The leader knelt down in the middle of the street with others in a circle around him and he was just getting into his spiel, when who should come along? Jimmy Deering and Frankie! When he saw the group, Jimmy called out “Whoa Frankie.” Then he asked, “What the hell is this? Oh, I see, hypocrite's, gawdammed hypocrites." Jimmy shook his head and said, “Get up Frankie.” He drove the cart right over the leader's legs and made his way down to Al Cisco’s for another hard bout with John B.
The first R.F.D. was established in 1898 with Lucius Hollenbeck as lead carrier. Charles Burnham led the second R.F.D. Of all the R.F.D. carriers, Burnham was head and shoulders above the rest. He would turn the Fenmore corner promptly at 8:30 a.m. sharp every morning. You could set your watch by him. He always had two excellent driving horses and the best of available equipment.
The first fire of any importance in Jonesfield was about 1898 when McCauley’s store, George Weiss’ meat market, a millinery store and McVicker’s store burned. The fire started about where Madden’s Market is now. The flames whipped both ways chewing through the old buildings made of lumber dry as kindling wood. Every building between what is now Wetmore’s Drugstore and McKibbon’s barbershop was destroyed.
The second fire was at the Ed Butler house, located near the north village limits in May 1903. Mrs. Butler started a fire in the stove with some kindling and a dash of kerosene. After lighting the fire, she forgot to remove the kerosene can from the top of the stove where she had set it. For some reason, Mrs. Butler hurried over to her mother’s place about half a block away. She had barely arrived there when the kerosene can boiled over and hit the flame in the stove. There was an explosion and the house was filled with smoke and fire almost immediately.
Pearl and Anna Gill, nieces of Mrs. Butler whom the Butler’s had adopted, were asleep in the upper bedroom. The Merrill Fire Department was on the job in a matter of moments, but the girls were trapped. The late Mark D. Packard, rejecting the advice of others standing around watching the fire, ran into the inferno searching for the girls. By the time he found them it was too late. Both girls were interred in a now defunct cemetery that used to be on Fenmore Road between M-46 and the railroad tracks. In 1925, the cemetery was closed and the remains and headstones there were moved to Lakefield Cemetery, which are now within the city limits of Merrill.
The Butler house fire was the only fatal fire in Merrill. A few years after the Butler fire, a boy surnamed Seely was burned to death in a house fire just over the village line in Lakefield Township.
In the winter months of about 1907-1908, the next so-called big fire broke out inside the Whitney store in the early morning hours and was immediately out of control. The Merrill Fire Department was there within a few minutes, but the men were helpless because the hose iced up and blocked the water-flow.
Whitney’s store was the first to go. Next was a large building where Wilson’s store, the old bank building and post office now stand. The fire jumped across Merrill’s
first brick building built by Dan McCauley and then down the Gladwyn block making short work of stores and shops there. On Saginaw Street, a building owned and occupied by the Packard Drug Store disappeared behind a wall of flames. The upstairs floor of Packard Drug was used as a meeting hall for the K.O.T.M. and occasionally feted a small show or play of some kind. Everything in it was lost.
The next fire of mention was the Merrill Hotel in 1918. John Brown had built it around 1886. The hotel was once the finest of lodging between Saginaw and St. Louis. Vern Tippen owned the hotel at the time of the fire. He purchased it from Martin Madden. The hotel had been on the corner of M-46 and Midland Road, the lot remaining empty until the Schwind & Kalahar Auto Service was built in the 1950s.
The last of the big Merrill fires was when the Hiser Creamery and the Kohlschmidt Garage went up in flames in 1922 or 1923. The fire started in the garage and burned up several new cars. All the tools and parts of the garage were destroyed and then the creamery suffered the same fate. Floyd Hiser and another fireman managed to put out the fire in the creamery before much damage was done. When the fire chief who thought he knew more than anyone else ordered the pair to concentrate on the fire in the garage, the fire flashed and the whole creamery was lost. John Kohlschmidt built the present building.
As Merrill grew, so did the need for power, food and housing. The first electric plant was established inside the old Stevens’ store building. The first commercial bakery in Merrill was set up in Bob Demer’s building. Mr. & Mrs. Grant owned it. Mr. Grant was a camp cook for awhile. A lady known as Mrs. Lehman operated a bakery built inside the Jordan building, where Siler’s now stands. She used a brick oven and her secret recipe to bake bread. The bread was so flaky that one could take and eat an entire loaf without slicing it at all. Mrs. Lehman’s bread was nothing like fake fluff available today. The Lehman family moved to Saginaw where, by now, I’m sure they all have died.
The first meeting of Merrill Lodge #411 of the Free and Accepted Masons was called to order on November 3, 1894 in an upstairs room of the newly combined Whitney & Wilson store. The lodge officers appointed at that meeting were Eugene Hillyer, Joshua DeLong, Dr. James H. Hudson and William DeLong.
On February 4, 1896, the F & A.M. held its first official election of lodge officers. The elected were little bit more of the same thing: Dr. James Hudson, Joshua DeLong, J.H. Whitney, A.A. White and Peter Perkins.
Automobiles Transformed Life in the Sleepy Town
Automobiles slowly began to change the face of farming and small town life. These are some of the makes and models owned by the older Merrill residents. They are a fairly good representation of the twenty-five hundred models manufactured at various times in the United States:
John Boutin owned the first gasoline automobile in Merrill. Before that he owned a “brush car.” The new car was a 1905 “curved dash” Oldsmobile. Mrs. Eaton owned the second car, but hers was a Model F Buick with chain drive. After miles of driving the sprocket wore out the teeth and created a hook out of each one. When this happened, the chain would lock up and break the tooth off the sprocket. The chain would fly off and
lash up and then dent the car. The car sat where it went dead until a mechanic from Saginaw could come out to fix it. With a new chain on her car, Mrs. Eaton was up and running again for another five hundred or so miles before the chain would break again. Folks could tell how many times the car broke down by counting the dents in it.
Mrs. Eaton then purchased an “Oakland.” It was the old name for the current Pontiac. This car was the first in Merrill to have the engine under the hood. J.H. Whitney purchased a Buick touring car about 1906.
Mary Gorman was sometimes known as “Molly” Gorman. She lived near Case’s corner. She had the first electric car in Merrill. It would fetch quite a tidy sum nowadays. Mary played the organ in Sacred Heart Parish and was part of the altar society. She held the position of president of the Altar Society longer than anyone did on record. Mary Gorman died April 29, 1948. She is buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery in the Gillie plot.
A man named Hopkins, who was the butter maker at Hiser’s Creamery, owned an electric brush car. Ed Ward had a “disc and thrust” sawmill transmission car made by Carter. Frank Glinke had a Wolverine truck with a pulley for operating machinery on the side of it. Lowell Hudson hit the mother lode and bought the first Cadillac ever to grace the streets of Merrill.
Hugh Dillon purchased a Silent Northern, now Chrysler. It had two cylinders under the seat. Jim Jordan had a 1909 Ford Roadster that his nephew Ves Sidley used to park in the middle of Swan Creek. Herman Proestal’s Studebaker was the first of what could be called a modern car. John Kohlschmidt’s Reo roadster was a real classy car when he first got it. Howard Barber had a Carnation narrow tread, the sports car of its day. John Boutin owned the first and, as far as I know, only Willy’s Knight ever in Merrill. Pete Howley had a Continental a block long.
John Boutin Jr. mounted a single cylinder engine to the dash of a horse drawn runabout, which he drove about town. Mel Thompson, who used to run a garage in the building housing the old skating rink, had a 1909 Auburn with an electric gearshift and real electric headlights. Quite an advance over the old dim oil lamps. Mrs. Eaton’s Buick had a carbide generator on the left running board. Ted Johnston’s Overland had a “Presto-Lite” tank on it. The Coughlin brothers installed a hand operated cranking arrangement from the seat of their Ford. The late Carl Hanshaw won a little roadster in some type of contest. It was the envy of all the boys in Merrill and Wheeler.
Will Martel, brother of the late labor leader Frank X., drove a motorcycle from Detroit to Merrill about 1906 and visited old neighbors in town. Someone I can't remember once stayed at the Railroad Hotel and had a high-wheel International, extremely rare and valuable now. Frank Knapp had a two-cycle Elmore, built in Elmore, Ohio. Would be worth about $2,000.00 today.
The Early Merrill Schools
The first schoolhouse in Merrill was on the southeast corner of Merrill Road and Frost Road. It was built about 1872 and made of logs. It lasted until about 1880 when a frame schoolhouse was built in the John Murphy farm in section 13. It still stands on the southeast corner of Chapin Road and Frost Road.
Sometime around 1890, James Gillie donated land for a school. The Gillie family has been a part of Merrill history since about 1870. The school operated until about 1940
when it was sold and turned into a private residence. James Gillie died June 26, 1907. He is buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery. James’ wife Mary Jane (Shannon) Gillie, known as “Auntie Gillie,” was at one time the oldest living pioneer resident in Merrill. She died March 4, 1930, at the home of her daughter Mary Jane (Gillie) Gorman.
A new school, known as “Bellen School” was built in section four. For the first 15-20 years of its use, the Bellen School was attached to the O’Hara School in Richland. At the time the Bellen School was organized, a shanty Irish family moved into the Bellen district. They had several very nice girls, but their two sons seemed to have escaped from Devil’s Island. Their son’s life’s ambition was to see how many teachers he could run out of school. They practically tore the clothes off one poor woman teacher and physically threw another out of the classroom. Calvin Sylvester, a Civil War veteran, decided something had to be done. He sent word to LaPorte for Robert Winslow to teach at the Bellen School. The first day Winslow arrived to teach, the boys started to take over. Within ten minutes they were reduced to their component parts.
Later that day, Winslow was walking home past the hellion’s house when their father walked out to the road, telling the teacher what he was going to do to him. Winslow took off his coat and invited the man and his sons to show him. No need to go further. Let’s just say that after that meeting, the Bellen School was the most peaceful in Jonesfield.
Mr. Winslow was a trifle worried about the fracas, so he went over to Calvin Sylvester’s house to brief him and ask what he should do next. Sylvester told him, “Sounds like you’ve already done it. Now go on and teach.” Winslow did just that and nothing was ever heard of the incident again.
The first regularly scheduled school district was district two. The building was known as A.J. West School, because he donated the land for it. As time went on though, the color of the building took on more significance than the name. It was then referred to as the “Pink School.” West was the first school director. J. Robinson was the treasurer. Joel Nevins served as moderator. The school was finally closed around 1919 with attendance of four pupils. It never reopened. The present number of elementary school children in Merrill numbers about eighty.
The “Striped School” in school district three was called that because of its construction. It was built of board and batten. Boards painted white, and batten red. Mac Ross donated the site. George and Anson Moulton, the Haney’s and McClune's organized the district about 1870. The school was active until 1954.
The Fleming School in district one was upon land donated by Thomas Fleming in section ten, on Fenmore Road between Frost and Dice Roads. This was the only “little red schoolhouse” in Jonesfield. The Fleming's, Madden's, Keenan’s, Wall's and other well-known local names all went to school there.
The last school district organized was district five fractional. The district extended over into Lakefield and was a mile wide, east and west, and about three miles long, north and south. The first school in the district was a single unit one room building were the Merrill Opera House now stands near Eddy Road.
The next school, built in 1887, was a four-room framed building that was recently replaced. The Village of Merrill bought the old school site in 1898 with plans for a modern school building. The original school building was moved into town to where the
present Village Hall now stands. Only ten grades were taught until 1902, when Amelia Mathewson, nee Chennel, offered to assist her husband, K.B. Mathewson, the school principal at the time, by teaching the extra two grades bringing formal education to twelve years from just ten. She even offered “after-school” classes in geometry, Latin and what is now taught as “civics.”
The 1904 class of Merrill High School graduated twelve students: Class president was W.G. Shannon, secretary was Grace Doyle and treasurer was Gertrude Whitney. Classmates at large were: Rae Hunt, Lillian McAfee, Lorna McClure, Mary McKinnon and Kate Shannon, first cousin to W.G. Shannon. Of the twelfth grade class, five members survive.
The rebuilt district five school had four rooms, but for about 15 years, the school used only two of them. The third room was finished about 1914-1915. The first teacher was Mr. Harrington; followed by Dale Downing. William and Walter Culver, Bud Hillyer, Carl Whitney, Bill McCauley and Bernard Dillon attended there. The Culver’s have already been discussed. Fred LaVoy and several more of the town's juvenile delinquents took over the school after the Culver’s moved on to bigger and better things.
J.H. Whitney, Peter Perkins and some of the more civic-minded folks thought it was time to call a halt to the schoolhouse shenanigans. They hired Eden Wilson as the new principal of the school. Wilson weighed a solid 200 pounds at five feet-six inches tall and he could run the 100-yard dash in ten seconds. Eden had been one of the fastest end-receivers for the University of Michigan’s football team and took on the nickname of “Tug Wilson.”
Wilson took charge the very first day. He called a meeting of the three schoolrooms and went about making his point very clear; he was not taking any guff from anyone. After a couple of physical demonstrations, his point was clear and his word was taken on its own merit. That was the quietest year Merrill School had seen in years. Wilson retired after several years, but I cannot account for his whereabouts right now.
Local Law Enforcement
In the seventy-six years Merrill has been a village, it has had a variety of town marshals. Some were well known and hailed for their outstanding performance. Others were not so good, or maybe they never really had the chance to distinguish themselves. The first of the more notable marshals was William “Bill” Stevenson. Will was a rawboned individual weighing about 165 pounds, all rawhide and whalebone, and he wasn’t afraid of God, man or the devil himself. There hadn’t been a man born that Will was afraid of.
Much of Will’s reputation was built upon a single incident. The Clancy family lived a mile northwest of town in large house with both a front and rear door. One evening, the Clancy family went down the road a piece to visit one of their grown and married daughters. The family left the house locking both doors and knowing no one was
supposed to be inside. The Clancy’s returned home a few hours later and found the back door could not be opened. Mrs. Clancy immediately panicked; believing someone was inside the house and holding the door shut. Jerry Clancy, the eldest son, ran for the barn and jumped on one of their farm bay geldings, tearing out for Merrill to get help.
Will Stevenson and his deputy Henry Turnbull were in the office when Jerry ran in the door breathless. He told Will and Henry what was happening at the family house. Will hitched up a brown mare to a wagon and he and Henry made quick time toward the Clancy farm. They arrived about twenty minutes later and tied their horse to a tree. Will talked with Mrs. Clancy who was nearly beside herself with fear assuring her he would take care of things. Will’s immortal statement, “Hank, you watch the front and I’ll surround the house,” said a lot in itself. Will went to the rear door and was able to see into the house through a high window. That was when Will saw there was no one inside behind the door. Turned out what happened was, when the family left home, Mrs. Clancy had slammed the back door, causing a broom next to it to fall onto the inside doorknob. The stick prevented the door from moving. Will was able to push the door open far enough to reach the broomstick, which he flipped out of the way. Mrs. Clancy, embarrassed at her panic, apologized profusely to the two lawmen. Will and Henry returned to their wagon with smirks and shaking heads. The law dogs returned to their Merrill office, heroes in the community’s eyes.
Several months later, Mrs. Clancy claimed she'd seen a man sneaking through the Cornwall Woods, a 240-acre tract of heavy timber across the road from the Clancy farm. For some reason or another, Mrs. Clancy called Johnny Ryan, deputy of the county sheriff W.W. Burgess, about the mysterious character. Ryan in turn called Burgess at home and the two ventured into the woods in search of the person. Nothing was found; not a footprint or broken branch; nothing. The incident prompted a rumor about the mysterious stranger in the woods. Mrs. Clancy continued to call the sheriff daily. Finally, when the winter frost caused all of the leaves to fall from the trees, there was a clear view all the way through to the other side of the woods. Mrs. Clancy was still convinced someone was out there but that eventually faded away. The Clancy family sold their farm awhile later and all moved to Cleveland, Ohio. All but Patrick Clancy has died. Patrick and his family, a wife and eight daughters currently reside on River Street in Cleveland.
After Will Stevenson left the marshal job, the town remained fairly quiet until the adjacent counties of Gratiot, Montcalm and Midland went dry, local option. The working boys started coming to Merrill to patronize the local gin mills. Once in a while they got a bit obstreperous, leading Mr. R. T. Maynard, the mayor at the time, to hire Angus J. McDonald for the marshal job. McDonald was a rawboned Scotsman, strong as any man, but also quiet and easy going. Some of the so-called tough guys bragged to anyone who would listen that, if McDonald tried to arrest them, he would get the fight he deserved. When McDonald heard about the threats, he just shook his head. When the loudmouths were in town, he just walked up and put the arm on them saying, “Come on boys, we’re going to jail.” They gave no argument and followed McDonald, much to the delight of many whom laughed about the incident for weeks afterward. McDonald left office a couple of years later and faded away to parts unknown.
Merrill was peaceful for several years until the younger lads thought it fun to race automobiles through the streets. They kept folks awake with loud engines and squealing tires. The townsfolk took all they could and finally complained to the town council in droves. A call for a new marshal was put out and a Bay County man, the present marshal, Carl Stegman, came to town. The only comment I can make on Carl is that he has made more Christians in Merrill than Billy Graham has made in New York and wherever else he’s been.
Traveling Circuses and Entertainment
Among the many traveling shows that have visited Merrill, the only real “railroad show,” was the Al G. Barnes Traveling Circus. They rolled into town about 1896 and set up on the creamery grounds near the stockyards. The show consisted of a small menagerie of animals never seen in Merrill, some good clowns, freaks and entertaining horse acts. Even back then, the crowd was usually around 2,000 or more.
The Silver Coronet Band also toured Michigan for several years. About 1910, the Sun Brothers Show set up in what is now the village parking lot. The main tent was erected where the village tool shed now stands. Things were so crowded that there wasn’t an open hitching post in town. Folks tied their horses to the trees around the school and anything else available. More than 5,000 people came to town to see the shows. Two performances were completely sold out. It was the last big road show to visit Merrill.
In 1904, the Merrill baseball team staged a weeklong fundraising carnival on Midland Road. Every nickel-snatching device known to man was in use there. Everyone was happy, win or lose. The waiting lines for the Merry-go-round, Ferris Wheel, and even the hot dog stands were real patience busters.
The biggest attraction of the fair by far though, was a sixty-foot high-dive platform and a tank of water about six feet deep. Twice daily, a barker who looked like William Jennings Bryan, but using the name of James Coburn, would lead spectators to the corner of Saginaw and Midland Roads where he would announce with a distinctly New England accent: “Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great plezhuh to introduce to you, “Professuh Lee Demmars, king of all the head-first divuhs! The professuh will ascend this lofty ladder and dive headfirst into a tub filled with just four feet of wattuh. The professuh takes his life in his hands as for your amusement.” He finished with a wave of his hand up the ladder calling out, “Once again, Professuh Lee Demmuhs!” After a quick roll of a snare drum, the so-called professor would come down headfirst into the tank and pop up unscathed. The old professor’s secret for safe diving remains a mystery.
One moonlit night, after the carnival had closed up for the day, two of Merrill’s local characters, Bud Hillyer and Cy Ault, who were well lubed and mellowed by perhaps soda pop and secret recipe lemonade, decided they were going to repeat the high-dive feat on their own terms. Bud wearing a gray wool suit and a straw sailors hat, decided he would do the dive while Cy barked the spiel better than that New England fellow had. Trouble was that about halfway up, Bud lost his grip and made a rapid descent belly whooping into the tank. He splashed half the water out of the tank before coming to his
senses. That ended their intended imitation of Professor Demmars’ death-defying stunt. Bud was in no condition to continue and Cy obviously knew his limitations.
This story was corrected by P.B. Howley who said the high-dive flop made by Bud Hillyer was actually in response to Cy’s yelling, “Jump you son of a…” Apparently the taunt was so loud that residents in Saginaw were reported to have heard it. I doubt there are three people alive who can attest to this humorous event!
Bobby Green highlighted another big field day with his riding horse. Bobby was Town Marshal of the Day and was doing fine until late afternoon when he was apparently overcome with sunstroke. After watering his horse at the Stanton farm, Bobby rode uptown and promptly fell off. He lay there half-conscious most of the night but he recovered by morning and rode on into Saginaw. Whatever became of the incident is lost in many years of time.
George Zucker was another of the men who helped make Merrill a success. He and his wife had a small farm west of town. George was a man who would work hard and do anything to make an honest dollar. George landed in Merrill around 1895 or so. He ran a meat market, a billiard parlor and a restaurant and was custodian for the school. He even carried mail for awhile too. Rosie, George’s widow, still lives in Merrill.
Fred Creech built and ran a foundry that manufactured engine parts. It stood next to the creamery. The metal he created was so strong and dense that there was no machine that could work it up and still last any length of time. The business withered on the vine and Fred returned to Bay City. There are no memories of him after that time.
The home of George Brown was fitted with carbide lamps. The fuel tanks for the system are buried near the southwest corner of the Eaton home off Meridian Road and M-46.
Kerosene, Oil and Gasoline Lighting Soon Replaced by Electricity
The first lamps used in a Merrill store were two large brass kerosene lamps with tin reflectors around the chimney. Melze’s store had two in front and two at the rear, with several more down each of the walls. All burned kerosene from opening until closing time. It took the clerk more than ten minutes to fill, trim and ignite the lamps that provided the only illumination inside the store after sundown.
Kerosene lamps lighted the main streets too until 1906, when a Saginaw man named Leonard Harris, offered to place an overhead electric lamp on each of the city’s main street corners at a cost of $1,200 per year. The town council agreed and Harris rented a building on the north side of the old Starkweather Saloon, from J.H. Whitney. He went to work and installed two Fairbanks-Morse internal combustion engines belted to the driveshaft of a generator that provided electricity. One generator was used when the load was light. When usage picked up the second one was fired up. The operating schedule for the power was daily from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. If anyone wanted electricity after 10:00 p.m., they could have it at the rate of $2.00 per hour. Five minutes before quitting time, Leonard would blink the lights as a warning. The arrangement was better than straight kerosene and its pitfalls, but everyone kept oil lamps in case of an emergency.
The power business arrangement with the city was basically all right, but it did not allow for depreciation of the equipment. By the end of the third or fourth year, the plant was worn out and there was no money to replace it.
After the electrical venture had played out, Merrill switched to the gasoline lamp stage. A copper tank about thirty inches long was filled with gasoline and then pressurized by pumping air into it with a hand pump. A thin hollow tube, not much bigger than a piece of wire, was hooked onto the tank nozzle. It was tacked up the wall and to each lamp. An alcohol torch was used to ignite the “Wiesbach” mantle until it burned completely white. That done, the lamp valve was opened and the mantle burned the gasoline. This task was performed with each lamp down the line. The J.L. Walking office had the first of these “Coleman” lighting systems, but within a few weeks everyone had them.
After the Harris power plant closed down, John Kolschmidt installed a 100-volt International generator to light the hotel and livery barn. A short time later, Kolschmidt yielded to popular demand and ran two wires up to the opera house, furnishing light for the shows and dances. This arrangement lasted several years.
Sometime around 1900, a New York promoter, a Mr. Furman I believe, came to Merrill offering to establish another electric plant big enough to provide electricity for the whole city. He bought the original lot where the Catizone house currently stands. He erected a building about twenty-four feet wide by forty feet long and installed a Fairbanks-Morse generator. Business was off to a good start providing electrical power all night every day. As a special service, the plant also provided power all day on Tuesdays so the women in town could do their laundry and ironing. Electric irons were the only laborsaving devices in those days.
Mr. Furman had a spate of bad luck and among those dark days was the death of his wife. He sold out to the Sheltraw brothers, two electricians from Saginaw. They ran the plant for some time. After some finagling by the town fathers, the plant was turned over to the township. Jim Smith operated the plant the plant for the township until a special bond initiative passed by the voters budgeted $8,000 to woo the Consumers Power Company from Breckenridge. It worked and ever since that day, people found their utility dollars bringing more value than any other money spent.
Baseball Comes to Merrill
The first baseball diamond erected in Merrill was laid out directly east of Sacred Heart Church. The stave mill had lots of good players and many good games were played there. Around 1899, C.V. Johnston donated the five northwest acres of what is now the Fred Coty farm for another ballpark. It was fenced on three sides and had seats built all the way around the diamond.
The first game I remember was between Lakefield and Merrill. Bert Levi pitched to Alex Vondette for Lakefield. The catcher stood about thirty feet back of the plate and caught some real burners bare handed. Fred Demers was the catcher for Merrill that day. One pitch of the game caught Fred between his index and middle fingers, splitting them wide open, prompting Fred to leave the game. Brother’s Richard and Aubrey Method stepped up along with Tice Bastedo and played quite a game that day. I cannot remember the names of the other Merrill players who gave their all that day, but it was a real moment of civic pride. Merrill was always proud of those boys. They played their hearts out, for free no less!
About 1900, the big mill left town leaving the banking yard empty. Carl Whitney, Dave Furey, Horace Johnson, James Jordan and some of the other local fans leased the mill grounds from C.V. Johnston and went to work creating another baseball field. Home plate was placed just about where Mike Cicinelli’s house is now. First base was a trick. It was placed about forty feet from the open well near Mahoney Street. The diamond’s infield was very good but the outfield was quite rugged with half-buried rocks, sinkholes and mud at times. The men weren’t about to let this newest attempt at a gem that came with all of the usual bragging rights.
The men erected a large grandstand with seating for about 300 spectators behind the players’ benches and the Merrill ball team was in business. The 1903 season established the Merrill team. In no time at all, the team was famous and recognized all over the state of Michigan. The first big series started May 30, 1903. Merrill played against the Kirby House team from Saginaw. The Kirby’s were rated third best in Michigan. During the game Ray Seaver had a foul ball bounce off his bat and right into his nose. It was broken but Ray finished the game. Merrill took the victory that day and the town whooped it up afterward. The second game was played against the “Schemm’s” of Saginaw. Bert Levi pitched the entire game. After some hard work by both sides, Merrill won the game 3 to 2. Merrill also won their next game 5 to 3, but I cannot recall the name of the team.
Throughout the series, Merrill made short work of their opponents beating Edmore, Stanton, Shepherd and St. Charles. The big win of the day though, was against St. Louis. There was not a single open seat in the grandstands that day and voices went hoarse after just a few innings. One of the Pangborn brothers pitched for St. Louis that day, striking out twenty-one Merrill players. Even though he was the “enemy”, the spectators and even the Merrill players cheered him on, having never seen anything like it. After the requisite nine innings, Merrill was the victor, trouncing St. Louis 9 to 0! That game fueled civic pride and smiles for years afterward.
Merrill then took on the “Gilbrides,” Saginaw’s supposed “crack team,” laying waste to them 7 to 3. The only players still living from that game are Judge Wolf and Redd Carrol.
When the Merrill team played St. Charles, it was an arduous trip by horse-drawn surrey that left Merrill around 8:00 a.m. The players, family and spectators would stop at the Heinaman Hotel for lunch before continuing on to the St. Charles baseball fields across the tracks. The game was played and then everyone went to someone’s home or restaurant for supper. The trip back was no better than that of the morning and everyone usually arrived back in Merrill about 10:00 p.m. That meant a short night for farmers who would wake up before sunrise to head out to their fields for another full-days work. The players from Merrill and St. Charles made the journey and played their games without incident for more than twenty years. Nowadays, it’s rare to see a baseball game without some kind of dispute over an umpire’s decision or something gone wrong between players.
On what is now Labor Day, Merrill traveled to Saginaw to take on the Gilbrides again. This game’s outcome was different. Home field advantage went to the Gilbrides. Micky Bowen, playing first base for the Gilbrides jumped at least three feet into the air to rob Aubrey Method of a two-run homerun. Richard Method almost made up for it by
slamming the ball over the fence for a four-run grand slam, but umpire Jack Hessler called it a foul ball. Everyone there saw it was a fair ball by at least twenty feet! When the Gilbrides returned to Merrill for the last and deciding game, the local boys went to work taking back their losses and won the game 9 to 3.
The next season, Merrill was baseball crazy! The boys had a loyal following and they were playing for the town’s honor. Horace Johnson hired Bert Levi to do seasonal jobs if he promised to stay local in-between the Merrill games. The team’s management hired Bill Green and Bill Harms of Owosso, Michigan, Redd Carrol of Saginaw and Tim McCarty of Fenton to play when they could. Those men, together with Merrill’s finest players Carl Whitney, Aubrey and Richard Method, Bill McCauley, Dave Furey and Thad Hillyer, made the town a winner and deserving of the pride that goes along with victory. Some of the other professional players who made their appearances on the Merrill diamonds were Larue Kirby of the Giants, Rube Deneau of the Tigers and “Skull Moore” from a team I cannot recall.
One special player was Clare Bucks, a professional ball player from the “Three I” league. That league was the same as the best of the minor league of today’s baseball. Bucks caught for the Saginaw Schemm’s using a new technique. He squatted on his toes, sitting on his heels, and could fire a shot right to second base without having to stand up. Bucks batted a strong .470, another feat in comparison to the pros today. Bucks most likely would have made it into the big leagues but he was more interested in the blurred stars through the foamy bottom of an empty beer glass than the stars over the ball field. He also developed a penchant for misappropriating hotel silverware after stuffing himself from the ample menus afforded the professional ball players. I don’t know whatever happened to him after those big days of baseball in Merrill.
The only local player who ever threw a baseball close to the skill shown by Bucks was Tommy Johnson, first baseman for Saginaw High School. Whatever happened to Tommy is another mystery. Carl Whitney was another player who really loved the game and all its pride and trappings. Whitney was offered a position on a big league team but he gave away the chance when he declined to play baseball on Sundays. Most pro games were played on Sundays so as not to interfere with harvest and farm operations. Carl was a man of principle and no man could fault his decision.
After the glory days of what was often referred to as “Merrill’s greatest team", another one was put together. The best that could be said for it was the team was just “fair.” One year the manager of the Merrill team was not satisfied with winning or losing on the merits of the team. He conspired with some of the players and managers from the Hemlock team. They agreed to rig the games that they were wagering on themselves. The secret and dirty agreement to play a framed series was hatched and agreed upon. Merrill was slated to win the first game, Hemlock the second. The third game would be played and the truly best team would win because the wagers on the first two games had been paid and the scalawags were happy with their purse. Of course, no one ever consulted with the Hemlock commissioner or Merrill’s Dave Furey because neither would have tolerated such conniving.
In one particular series, the secret slipped out amongst some of the players. Merrill won the first game as scheduled. The teams traveled to Hemlock where, in a last-minute change, Dave Furey took the pitchers mound on his own accord. He proceeded to
win that game too. He covered more ground than Donnie Bush and he hit a blaster every time he was up to bat. Many of the spectators began to notice when Merrill scored runs, some of the players on the Merrill bench were showing an obvious lack of appreciation for them. The situation greatly angered the conspirators and soon Frank Schulte and John Raucholtz, the local commissioners, were asking questions. When they heard the story, they hit the proverbial ceiling. One word led to another and the Hemlock catcher, who was in on the fix, threw several baseballs at Schulte and Raucholtz, trying to disrupt the discussion. Both probably would have been killed if the balls had hit their marks! The series was washed out and so was the spirit of the audience. The game was cancelled and everyone returned to their respective homes. I don’t know whatever happened to the conspirators who wounded the pride of the game.
After the Hemlock-Merrill fiasco, baseball in Merrill rapidly declined. I’m sure the same went for Hemlock. Around 1912 or 1913, Howard Barber, one of the most civic minded businessmen in Merrill, proposed that the township start its own band. Barber built a bandstand, promoted the idea and assembled the “Merrill Marine Band” which won over the town and soon garnered invitations to appear all over the state. The band tour gave the town more publicity than ever before. Sadly, there has been nothing like it since.
A few years later, Barber began to promote the idea of another Merrill baseball team. He built a field on the corner of what is now Frank McNier’s farm, near the Wolohan Elevator site. He built a grandstand to comfortably hold 500 people and he fenced the field by selling advertising space on it. He graded the grounds, planted and cut the outfield grass and put his heart into the task, all for the love of the game and what the team meant to Merrill’s civic pride. Most of the material was donated but, without Barber’s hustle, the field would never have come to fruition. The finished field was spectacular and made for a great second start for baseball in Merrill.
Barber put together a baseball team using Mike Mannion, John Duffy and Bill McCauley as pitchers. Harry Watson was the star catcher. Tom Johnston was first baseman and John Russell played second. Clyde Coughlin played third base. Shortstop was played by John Russell and sometimes covered by Bill McCauley. Equally great men played the outfield but I cannot remember their names.
John Russell, Howard Barber, John Duffy and Carl Whitney were the most scientific players ever turned out by Merrill. They all knew how to play the game and outsmart their opponents. Duffy was not flashy yet he could do more with his control of a slow-ball than many of the higher-rated, paid professionals around today. Leo Petre was a top-notch player and so were the Daley brothers, Jim and Terrance. The new Merrill team was soon well known around central Michigan. They played the traveling league with very good results. I do not have space to list all of those players I’ve seen play on the Merrill diamond over the last forty or so years.
The start of World War One broke up the team and, once again, baseball nearly died in Merrill until Judge Clements, manager of the “Tri-State League,” started his own baseball team in Merrill. Their baseball field was on the Sacred Heart school playground. Daniel Billy was the first string pitcher. Dick Clapsaddle, formerly of Milwaukee’s pro team, played catcher. Cy Frost and Joe Hirzina were among the other players on the Merrill roster. Merrill played various teams from Saginaw, Gratiot and Midland Counties but the fan support was just not there. As the country slipped into the Great Depression,
keeping food on the table and the family farm out of foreclosure was the first concern of Merrill’s residents.
The last game of any importance was played at Swan Creek Corners in a cow pasture that had been leveled for the occasion. The Merrill team handily won the game, but Swan Creek was Merrill baseball’s “swan song.” It was sad to watch another chapter of Merrill’s history come to a close, but sometimes it’s easy to find something funny in the worst of times. One of the game’s lighter moments was when Dick Clapsaddle slid into second base, or what he thought was second base… It’s amazing how well a cow chip can camouflage itself in a baseball infield created from a working pasture. Folks laughed themselves to tears as the story was told and retold; of course, the story got better each time it was told. I can’t think of anyone who saw that spectacle who’s still around, but I’m sure it would be just as funny now as it was then.
Forty years ago, every crossroad on the map had a baseball team. If the boys played well and got to be very good, they could move to the uptown or county team. From there the player may get the chance to tryout for one or more of the 154 minor leagues that used to exist in the United States.
Larue Kirby started out with the Maple Rapids team and eventually landed a spot on the Giants. Skull Morgan of Saginaw went to an American League team somewhere. Charlie Gehringer started playing in high school down in Fowlerville, but whatever happened to him has been lost to time and more pressing issues in a small farming town. Now it seems that the only source of baseball players is high schools.
Softball has killed baseball and the way it used to be. The way it looks, baseball in the U.S. will fold within ten years.
John W. Ederer, 9
“Skull Moore”, 44
“Wiesbach” mantle, 41
100-volt International generator, 42
1865, 5, 6
1867, 4, 5
1868, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14, 15
1869, 5, 6, 7
1870, 5, 7, 36, 37
1871, 11, 12, 14
1872, 11, 35
1876, 8, 15
1878, 6, 8, 13
1880, 4, 7, 15, 35
1881, 8, 10, 16
1886, 13, 19, 33
1887, 2, 37
1889, 20, 26
1890, 7, 13, 17, 28, 36
1890s, 19, 22, 23, 24, 30
1893, 14, 25
1894, 6, 14, 34
1895, 4, 41
1897, 9, 26
1898, 32, 37
1899, 26, 42
1900, 9, 14, 25, 29, 42, 43
1902, 15, 37
1903, 15, 32, 43
1904, 2, 37, 40
1909, 14, 35
1910, 10, 14, 40
1912, 15, 27, 45
1913, 2, 15, 25, 27, 45
1914, 25, 26, 27, 37
1917, 2, 15, 21, 27
1918, 9, 20, 33
1920s, 15, 29
79,200 planks long, 5
A.A. White, 34
A.G. West, 5
A.J. West, 6, 8, 10, 11, 36
Al Becker, 18
Al Cisco’s Bar, 32
Al G. Barnes Traveling Circus., 39
Alex Fales, 5
Alex Vondette, 42
Alexander Prale, 8
Alma Creamery, 17, 18
Amelia Mathewson, nee Chennel, 37
and John Raucholtz, 45
Angus J. McDonald, 39
Angus McDonald, 21
Auntie Gillie, 36
Bay City, 4, 29, 41
Becker’s Garage, 10
Bellen, 26, 36
Bellen School, 36
Benjamin F. Franklin, 29
Benson, 12, 15
Bernard Dillon, 37
Bert Levi, 42, 44
big fire of 1881, 6
Bill Bush, 24
Bill Green, 44
Bill Harms, 44
Bill McCauley, 37, 45, 46
Bill Stevenson, 21
BLACK tulip!, 14
Bloomer, 6, 9, 12, 13
Bob Demer’s Café, 29
Bobby Green, 40
Boutin Mill, 22
Bowery Dance, 23
Breckenridge, 20, 42
Brian Guthbertson, 21
Brian Howley, 25
brush car, 29, 34, 35
Bryant Township, 8
Bud Hillyer, 40
Butler house fire, 33
butter business, 17
C. V. Johnston, 20
C.E. Johnston, 27
Calvin Sylvester, 36
Carl Hanshaw, 35
Carl Stegman, 39
Carl Whitney, 37, 43, 44
Caroline E. Perkins, 2
Caroline Musette Warner, 2
Case Family Funeral Home, 29
Catherine (DuForce) Jones, 7
cattle, 5, 19
Cement Bill, 31
centennial house, 15
Centerline, 6, 9, 28
Chapin Road, 7, 35
Charles Bow, 17
Charles Burnham, 32
Charlie Gehringer, 46
Charlie Johnston, 23
Clancy, 15, 38, 39
Clancy family, 38
Clare Bucks, 44
Clarence Smazel, 27
Clarence Wall, 6
Claudia Becker, 13
Clyde Coughlin, 45
Codd Road, 6
Concord buggy, 18
Coney Lux, 20
Consumers Power Company, 42
Cornwall Lumber Company, 19
Cornwall Woods, 39
Coughlin Brothers, 17
cows, 5, 17, 18, 25
cream using gravity, 18
Cy Frost, 46
Cy Warren, 14
D.L. Eaton, 15
D.W. Furey, 26
D.W. Greene, 8
Dale Downing, 37
Dan Fusso, 21
Dan Haley, 24
Dan McCauley, 25
Dan Russo, 20
Dan Smith, Hank’s brother, 27
Daniel Billy, 46
Darland’s BarberShop, 26
Dave Furey, 44
Dave Furey’s Barbershop, 31
Day, 6, 29, 40, 44
Detroit, 3, 15, 16, 35
Dice Road, 6, 25
Dick Clapsaddle, 46
Dick Doyle, 10, 24
Dillon, 13, 15, 18, 19, 24, 28, 35, 37
Doc Hillyer, 7
Doc Sutherland, 25
Doctor Catizone, 29
Doctor E.H. Ling, 29
Doctor E.H. McCarty, 29
Doctor J.A. Kehoe, 29
Doctor McEwan, 29
Doctor Royal S. Hawley, 29
Doctor Spier, 29
Doctors Benjamin W. Franklin, 29
Doctors Kleinschmidt and Gilmore, 29
Donnie Bush, 45
Dr. Hudson Day, 29
Dr. J.H. Hudson, 9
Duby and Loth, 15
E.B. Clack, 16
E.C. Hill, 8
E.H. Hillyer, 7, 9
Eastern Terminal, 10
Eben Gould, 9
Ed Butler, 32
Ed Rust, 25
Eddy, 6, 13, 37
Eddy Road, 37
Eden Wilson, 38
Edenville, in Midland County, 22
Edward “Johnny” Jones, 7
egg crate nailing business, 19
Elizabeth Furey, 27
Elmer Frost, 7
Emerson Township, 8
Emory B. Warner, 2
F. A. Young, 16
Fales, 5, 6, 18
February 4, 1896, 34
Fenmore Road, 2, 6, 8, 12, 25, 33, 37
fire, 6, 10, 16, 27, 32, 33, 44
First World War, 27
Fleming, 5, 6, 15, 16, 19, 25, 37
Fletch Hawley, 19, 20
Flint, 4, 19
Floyd Gorm, 20
Flynn’s Hardware, 15
Frank Anderson, 19, 20
Frank Glinke, 35
Frank Hood, 14
Frank Howley, 8
Frank Knapp, 35
Frank L. Hood, 9
Frank L. Wixom, 22
Frank McNier, 14
Frank Nichols, 23
Frank Schulte, 45
Frank Shannon, 27
Fred Co, 42
Fred Coty, 19
Fred Creech, 41
Fred Demers, 29, 42
Fred LaVoy, 37
Frederick Hobson Stevens, 14
Free and Accepted Masons, 3, 34
French Canadian, 4
Frost Road, 6, 26, 35
Fussers Ball of 191, 21
Fussers Club, 21
G.H. Sutherland, 29
G.H. Sutherland, the local undertaker, 31
George B. Eaton, 25
George Brown, 41
George McVicker, 25
George Zucker, 41
Gertrude Whitney, 37
Gillie, 3, 35, 36
Glasby, 4, 5
Gorman’s corner, 10
Gorman’s Hardware, 17
Grace Doyle, 37
Grant house, 29
Gratiot County, 8, 10, 15
Gratiot, Montcalm and Midland went dry, local option, 39
Great Depression, 46
Greene’s Mill, 8, 9, 13, 15
Guy Lombardo, 23
Haney’s and McClune's, 36
Harry Watson, 45
Hemlock, 2, 5, 15, 19, 27, 29, 44, 45
Henry J. Smith, 27
Henry Smith, 21, 27
Henry Turnbull, 38
Herb Gladwyn’s drugstore, 32
Herman Proestal, 35
Hillyer, 9, 26, 34, 37, 40, 44
Hiser, 33, 35
Homer Johnston’s garage, 19
Hood, 9, 12, 13, 14, 19
Horace Johnson, 43, 44
Horner & Weiss, 21
horse-drawn, 5, 43
horses, 5, 8, 11, 12, 14, 24, 25, 26, 32, 40
Howard Barber, 45, 46
Howley, 15, 25, 35, 40
Hudson, 9, 20, 26, 28, 29, 34, 35
Ingersoll Township, 8
Ira. H. Witney, 26
Ish Davis’ Beaver Creek Flats, 23
Isham Jones, 21
J. Robinson, 36
J.H. Whitney, 34
J.L. Walking, 42
J.W. Porter, 10
J.W. Robinson, 8
Jack Hessler, 44
James Emeniser, 27
James Gillie, 36
James Jordan, 25, 43
Jerry Clancy, 38
Jim Cunningham, 23
Jim Jordan, 21, 35
Jim Smith, 42
Jim Travers, 19
Jimmy Deering, 31
Jimmy Ross’ Spot, 26
Joe Hirzina, 46
Joel Nevins, 8, 36
Joel S. Nevins, 8
John Bensamen, 19
John Boutin, 18, 31
John Boutin Jr, 35
John Boutin owned the first gasoline automobile, 34
John Brown, 15, 33
John Clune, 8
John Codd, 6
John Doran, a non-citizen, 9
John Duffy, 45, 46
John Kohlschmidt’s Reo roadster, 35
John Kolschmidt, 25
John Murphy, 35
John Murray, 19
John R. Shannon, 21
John Robert Shannon, 27
John Russell, 45, 46
John Spatz, 20
John Tester, 31
Johnson, 4, 5, 12, 13, 19, 20, 43, 44
Jonesfield, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 32, 36, 37
Jonesfield fire of 1871, 6
Jonesfield Township, 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 16, 18
Jordan and Proestal, 19
Joseph McClure, 25
Joseph Wilson, 6
Joshua DeLong, 34
Judge Clements, 46
July 4, 1904, 23
K.B. Mathewson, 37
K.O.T.M.” (Knights of The Maccabees), 21
Kate O’Leary, 28
Kate Shannon, 37
Keenan, 5, 15, 16, 20, 37
Kennedy, 10, 17, 30
Kerosene lamps, 41
Kirby House, 43
L. A. Dygert, 16
Lakefield, 3, 8, 15, 23, 33, 37, 42
Lakefield Cemetery, 3, 33
Lanshaw Players, 20
Larue Kirby, 44
LaVerge Thomas, 19
Lee Siler, 8
Leo Petre, 46
Leonard Harris, 41
Lillian McAfee, 37
Lincoln Northcutt, 27
Lorna McClure, 37
Louise Frost, 7
Lowell Hudson, 35
Lucius Hollenbeck, 32
lumber, 5, 6, 8, 12, 21, 32
Lyman Morris, 8
M.J. Buckley, 23
M-46, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12, 31, 33, 41
Mac Ross, 36
Madden, 5, 6, 15, 26, 32, 33
Mae Lynch, 14
Mahar and Horn of St. Johns, 19
Mahoney, 4, 13, 17, 43
Mahoney Street, 43
March 19, 1873, 7
Margaret Jenkins, 21
Mark. D. Packard, 33
Marlinda Doyle, 29
Mary DeLong, 21
Mary Gorman, 35
Mary Jane (Shannon) Gillie, known as “Auntie Gillie,” was at one time, the oldest living pioneer resident in Merrill. She died March 4, 1930, at the home of her daughter Mary Jane (Gillie) Gorman., 36
Mary McKinnon, 37
Matt Wixom from Bancroft, Michigan, 22
Maurice D, 27
Mayan, 15, 20
Maynard, 9, 20, 39
McCauley, 19, 25, 29, 32, 33, 37, 44, 45
McKibbon’s Barber Shop, 23
McLean, 5, 6, 8
Mel Thompson, 35
Melze, 9, 16, 22, 41
Meridian City, 4, 5, 14
Meridian Road, 26, 31, 41
Merrill, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46
Merrill Beanery, 16
Merrill Fire Department, 33
Merrill Hotel, 20
Merrill Lodge #411 of the Free and Accepted Masons, 34
Merrill Marine Band, 45
Merrill Opera House Association, 20
Merrill Road, 7, 35
Method’s corner, 10, 27
Methodist Church, 21
Midland County, 8, 22, 28
Midland Road, 12, 16, 26, 33, 40
Mike Cicinelli, 43
Mike Mannion, 45
Model F Buick, 34
Montcalm County, 14
Moulton, 6, 7, 16, 36
Mount Pleasant, 6
Mr. & Mrs. Grant, 34
Mr. Harrington, 37
Mrs. Fall, 14
Mrs. Lehman, 34
Mt. Haley Township, 8
N. Niagra, 10
Nell Franklin, 29
Nevins, 8, 16, 36
New Era, 27
Nora Fry, 21
Northern Michigan Elm, 4
O’Hara Road, 7
O’Toole, 4, 8, 9, 15, 19, 24
Old Number Two, 16
Otto Lade, 20
Ouderkirk, 15, 20, 32
Ouderkirk’s Saloon, 32
oxen, 5, 8, 11, 12, 14
Packard Drug Store, 33
Pearl and Anna Gill, 33
peddler wagons, 24
Perkins, 16, 19, 29, 34, 37
Perl Bow’s, 25
Pete Goodspeed, 25
Peter Perkins, 29, 34
Pink School, 36
pioneer, 4, 5, 16, 36
Plank Road, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 31
pole road, 8
population, 4, 5, 8
Porter Township, 8
Prairie Schooners, 10
Pure Gas, 9
R. T. Maynard, 39
R. V. Parsons, 9
R.W. Douglas, 10
railroad, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 22, 33, 39
Railroad Hotel, 35
Randall Post Office, 5
Ray Seaver, 43
Red Carrol, 44
Reverend William Taylor, 17
Richard and Aubrey Method, 42
Richard Doyle, 29
Richard Method, 44
Richland, 2, 5, 8, 10, 18, 36
Richland Township, 2, 5, 8, 10
Robert Shannon Jr., on Fenmore Road, owned a pair of bay geldings that were the only team to ever bring two yards of gravel out of Beaver Creek on the farm formerly owned by Jess Bibber, 25
Robert Winslow, 36
Roland Frost, 7
Rube Deneau, 44
Rufe Perry, Harry Spendlove, Ted Johnston, Caro Whitney, 20
Ryan, 4, 15, 19, 24, 39
Sacred Heart Catholic, 22
Sacred Heart Cemetery, 36
Saginaw, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 27, 29, 32, 33, 34, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 46
Saginaw County, 1, 3, 15, 29
Saginaw County Mutual Insurance Company, 15
Saginaw Street, 32
Saginaw Valley and Saint Louis Railroad, 7
Saginaw Valley and St. Louis Railway, 16
Saginaw Water Elm, 4
Salvation Army, 32
sawmill, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 35
Schwincks and Jost, 19
Sears & Roebuck, 31
section 10, 6
section 13, 20, 35
section 14, 6, 7
section 21, 3, 8, 15
section 27, 3, 5, 8, 13, 15, 23, 27
section 28, 3, 6, 7, 10, 13
section 33, 6, 22
section 34, 3
section 35, 15
section 36, 7
Sewell S. Avery, 6
Shannon, 2, 3, 5, 13, 16, 17, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 36, 37
Shiawassee County, 22
Siler, 3, 4, 8, 19, 21, 34
Silver Coronet Band, 40
Sim Frost, 15
skating rink, 20, 35
Softball has killed baseball and the way it used to be. The way it looks, baseball in the U.S. will fold within ten years, 46
Sophia Dunn, 28
St. Charles, 3, 6, 9, 43
St. Louis, 5, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 27, 33, 43
Starkweather, 14, 41
Starkweather Saloon, 26
Starkweather Saloon Building, 26
stave crew, 4
stave crews, 3
Stop-Over-Hotel and Barn, 10
Sun Brothers Show, 40
Superior Street, 14
Swan Creek, 7, 10, 35, 46
Sweeny, 6, 16
Sylvester, 4, 36
Tannehill Indian Trail, 3
Tannehill Road, 6
Taxable land, 5
Ted Johnston’s Overland, 35
Teddy Roosevelt was in the White, 30
Thad Hillyer, 44
the “Schemm’s” of Saginaw, 43
The “Striped School”, 36
The 1904 class of Merrill High School, 37
The Crusaders, 32
The fifteen original Fussers, 21
The first baseball diamond, 42
The first commercial bakery, 34
The first electric plant, 34
The first full-fledged physician was Doctor O’Hara, 28
The first lamps used in a Merrill store, 41
The first newspaper published in Merrill was “The Merrill Sentinel, 26
The first R.F.D, 32
The first regularly scheduled school district was district two., 36
The first schoolhouse in Merrill, 35
The Gleaners, 23
The last school district organized was district five fractional, 37
The Merrill Monitor, 26
The Merrill Visitor, 26
Thomas Fleming, 37
Thomas Sweeny, 6
Thomas Township, 5
Thomas W. Northcott, 26
Thomas Wall, 21
Tiger Bill’s show, 22
Tim McCarty, 44
Tippin, 15, 23
Titusville, Pennsylvania, 3
to Central Lake, 4, 14
Tom Doyle, 25
Tom Johnston, 45
Tom Northcutt, 26
true account of the naming of Merrill, 16
Tug Wilson, 38
Turner farm, 27
Union Store, 21
Vashaw’s corner, 9
Vayne’s Bridge, 28
Vermont Treadmill, 18
Vern Tippen, 33
Ves Sidley, 35
Village Hall, 5, 37
Village of Merrill, 23
W. G. Shannon had the first rubber tired buggy in Merrill. It was trimmed with battery powered electric lights, fine leather and could be seen coming for blocks. It was hauled by “Patsy;” the fastest buggy horse in the community, 26
W.G. Shannon, 37
W.O. Mason Bank, 26
W.W. Burgess, 39
Walt Frost, 7
West Terminal, 10
Wetmore’s Drugstore, 32
Wheeler Township, 3, 8, 24
White, 4, 30, 34
white maple trees, 6
Whitmore Drain, 10
Whitney & Wilson store, 34
Whitney store, 33
Wickes Brothers, 14
Will Martel, 35
Will Stevenson, 38
William “Bill” Stevenson., 38
William and Walter Culver, 37
William Fleming, 6
William Hogan, 7
William McClelland, 29
William McKinley, 9
William Rust, 21
William Wierouch, 8
Wilson, 5, 6, 28, 33, 34, 38
Wolohan, 13, 19, 45
Wolohan Elevator, 45
World War, 21
 One rod = 5.5 yards
 As of the original publishing date
 Staves are thin pieces of wood or metal set side-to-side forming and strengthening a barrel.
 Data to support this conclusion has not been provided
 Unconfirmed interjection.
 No address given
 Currently Merrill Road
 At the time of the original publishing date of this manuscript.
 Asphalt named for the inventor MacAdam.
 As of the original publishing date of this book, estimated to be 1955-1960.
 Neither location capitalized as proper nouns could be located on the maps today (2000)
 Eastern Michigan northeast of Saginaw Bay.
 Prairie Schooners was a nickname for the canvas-topped and wooden wheeled wagons carrying settlers to the untamed areas out west
 #1 (ibid)
 Referring to the date this book was initially published.
 Frank Shannon’s house was on Shannon Road and N. Mill Street in section 27.
 This statement is unclear at this time.
 Lumberjacks who do the cutting of the trees and hand the trees over to the haulers.
 No Information at this Time
 At time of original publishing.
 As told to W. G. Shannon when he wrote this book.
 The depot closed in the middle 1960s and in the 1970s the building was loaded onto a trailer and moved out to Steel Road, two miles west of the village where it became a bridal shop.
 No relation to W.G. Shannon as opposed to the Frank Shannon who was his cousin.
 The highly acidic soil on the farms caused by the use of bovine manure as fertilizer created a reaction between the soil and the high sugar content of the beets, resulting in literally a chemical reaction causing the beets to burn right there in the ground.
 A stock company is a commercial theatrical company that presents a repertoire of plays, usually at one theatre (Webster’s New World Dictionary)
 No address or street cited
 An organization established for the purpose of benefiting only its members who market or produce something of benefit to the other members.
 Southwest quarter of section 33.
 A casual term for a “freak show.”
 Carbon disulfide a heavy volatile colorless liquid highly flammable and used as a solvent or insecticide. When it hit the air it took on a deep and ominous gray color and was almost opaque.
 A small township on North Merrill Road that is now just an intersection with one general store. It’s in the Merrill limits but the locals still refer to it as “Jam.”
 Having steel or iron leaf springs on the axles which kept the wooden and metal-hoop wheels from flattening out between the spokes.
 Sundown: A home brewed alcoholic drink distilled from sugar beets and grasses like alfalfa.
 Any breed of large draft horses, often gray or black in color.
 A light two-wheeled one-horse carriage having a seat for only one occupant.
 John Robert Shannon, who lived on the Shannon farm in section 27. He passed away in 1923.
 No Date Yet
 Undetermined at this time
 Communicable diseases like tuberculosis, influenza, polio, etc.
 No Definition Yet
 Extremely intoxicated.
 No Definition Yet
 An adult with a childlike intelligence; retarded, at this time it could have referred to someone with Down’s Syndrome or someone like “Lenny” from “Of Mice and Men.”
 Brick s—t house
 Rural Fire Department
 Hat maker
 By the original publishing date of this book.
 Knights Of The Maccabees, a Catholic social organization
 There was no mention of the building being used or rebuilt at the time of the original publication of the manuscript.
 Nee: an old traditional reference to the maiden name of a married woman.
 No notation or mention of the actual names.
 Significance of a backdoor on the house is not mentioned.
 Whether this was prior to or after Prohibition is not stated
 No date given
 Exact location is unknown at this time
 It is assumed that this was the original location of the church that burned down.
 Storage yard where logs were rolled down and stacked before milling
 Won or lost by a plan to coincide with the shady wagers.
 Exact quote from the original manuscript of this compilation.
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