Forestville Bicentennial History Page 4
There are on hand now 2,000,000 shaved shingles ready to ship in the spring. They are the property of Issac Green and H. Deyoe. Joiner is hauling shingles from his mill and has a large lot ready. Plenty of shingles bolts are coming out too---300 cords for Hill of Detroit alone. Green has 60 cords of tan bark and will have much more, as many are now in the bark trade.
Mr. Buel has put up one of the largest and most substantial buildings in the country, now being use as a boarding house. It will be readied for the traveling public soon. It is provided with good livery stable."
In 1866 Buel expanded westward and built a waterdriven saw-and -shingle mill four miles up Mill Creek. There he dammed a large mill- pond, and printed an ambitious prospects advertising lots in the vicinity. The illustration showed a fine beach with rowboats, landing piers and ladies sporting parasols. Buel called his settlement "Cato", and by 1868 there were 19 houses a boarding house, blacksmith shop and a school. Tom Ward of Forestville ( no relation to Elber B.) worked with Jacob Buel on this project.
Long after all this, in 1920, Uncle Frank Wahla who had bought the old Leonhardt farm on Mill Creek, unearthed a section of timber and strap-iron track running parallel to the creek. This was a long forgotten relic of Buel’s lumbering days, when horse- cars hauled in the logs stranded by low water. This track once ran as far as the Cato mill and down onto the Ward dock in Forestville.
It is interesting to note that a similar track was built from the Rock Falls docks to Jenks big log pond situated three miles west of Rock Falls in 1870.
Jake Buel also owned three shingle mills in various locations. This brought the number of such mills between Lexington and Sand Beach (Harbor Beach) to 21 in 1866. Buel owned a tremendous tract of pine, and settlers were moving onto the cut—over lands. In large numbers.
Buel had become a "big operator " and the assessor’s income tax rolls for ’67 showed a taxable income, above exemptions, of $16.400 a rise from $2800 in 1865 and tops for the county. Buel, unlike other big-wigs in those days always paid his property tax (around $2000) to the township treasure. This practice boosted his local popularity.
Jake Buel was at the height of his career when the fire of ’71 wiped him out. Much of land he had contracted for went back to Eber B. Ward by default. He continued on a smaller scale, largely in the shingle business, and in ’73 he built a mill at White Rock. This one burned down the following year, along with 40,000 packed shingles.
Buel rebuilt his White Rock mill after selling much of his holdings to Tom Ward who built sawmill on the property in 1876. He also built the residence and general store, became postmaster and did a land office business in Cato for many years. After Eber B. Ward’s death he bought the default Buel lands from the estate at what was considered a bargain price.---$1,500. By 1880 he was one of the largest local farmers and stock raisers. He had a "one man empire" until the big fire of 1881 burned him out in turn, with a loss of about $25.000.
Two families in the neighborhood lost their lives in that fire: the rest of the population had fled to Forestville to seek safety in Lake Huron. It was repaired at that time that straw stacks and even buildings a half a mile from the fire suddenly would burst into flames. Dead pigs and poultry lay scattered all along the road.
Forestville did not burn, but Str. Dove never -the-less picked up frightened refugees in every threatened Lake town.
Tom Ward rebuilt, and his residence and store still stands at the Charleston corner. The store was purchased by Smith and Cummins about 1900and the big Ward Residence became the home of the James Mahon family.
Tom Ward has been a Civil War veteran, and served with my grandfather , Spoutz, with the Army of the Cumberland and at Atlanta where
he was wounded. He survived to die in 1895. His business was then run by his widow and son, Irving. A daughter, Lizzie, did oil painting as a hobby. We have hanging in our living room one of her better paintings - "A spray of Lilacs".
The Original Cato grist - mill was a 30 to 60 foot structure built by Buel in 1867 and was water driven. Ward’s rebuilt Charelston grist mill was still making flour in 1906. It was then owned by D. C. Williams, and was driven by a huge one Cylinder gasoline engine. Old Mr. Williams lived right in the old mill with a little brown jug for a companion.
MUD ON THE RUG
The new docks at Forestville served as landings for the new settlers seeking government land at 10 shillings ($1.25)per acre. Mich of the desirable land was already in the hands of speculators such as Ward, Pack and Woods or the Belgion land buyer, Palms. This could be bought at three to eight dollars the acre, depending on terrain and location.
There was no real road running west for several except Ward’s timber trail angling northwest above the creek-flats. A half mile out the deep rutted trail straightened west and faded into the wilderness that extended to the Cass river and the Saginaw lumbering area. Dark, virgin forests shut it in on both sides. The trail jogged northwest with Mill Creek where Buel built his water-driven mill in 1866. The first stretch of cleared road ran to this point. By 1870 it was " improved" all the way to Minden; but beyond the trail lay deep in sticky clay