Ellington Twp. First Settlement


Transcribed by Lila Arroyo. Extracted from, "The History of Tuscola, MI," H. R. Page and Co., Chicago, 1883.

First Settlement

The settlement of this town dates back to 1854. The first settlers were William Medcalf, Jonathan White and his sons, B. W. and Almon, I. J. B. McKenney, William Robinson, Simeon Botsford, J. M. Dodge, William Wilcox, James Andrews and Elliott R. Burnett. Of these, Jonathan White, William R. Robinson and William Wilcox are dead; others have moved away.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Mr. Botsford relates that his journey from Oakland County was made with a horse team largely by lumber roads, which, owing to the purpose for which they were constructed, were necessarily winding and indirect. His horses he was obliged to return and sell, a pioneer settlement furnished but little food for their support. The night of their arrival was spent in Mr. Medcalf’s small shanty, twenty persons occupying the one small building. The next day Mr. Botsford commenced work on his shanty, and the following forenoon at eleven o’clock the family took possession. This house was in section 8 on the site of the present village of Ellington. first child born in Ellington was a son of William Medcalf, and was named George Ellington Medcalf.                                                                                                                                                                                                            Rev. I. J. McKenney was the third settler in Ellington and a pioneer in the religious work of Tuscola County. He remained a resident of Ellington until his death, which occurred October 15, 1880. His widow still continues to live at the old homestead near the village of Ellington. Having spent twenty-six years of his life in the Christian ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church, twenty-five of it in connection with the Genesee conference of New York State, he in 1854 took a superannuated relation to that conference and came with his family to Michigan in the fall of 1854 to make a home for his old age. Though adopting the employment of farming and with other pioneers bending his energies to subduing the forest and clearing the soil, he yet did not forget the earlier employment and service of his life. He at once resumed labor in the ministry of religion and preached from time to time in different parts of the country, holding the first service ever held in what is now the town of Ellington in the spring of 1855, and also about that time preaching in what is now the town of Indian Fields the first sermon preached in that town, being thus one of the pioneer preachers as well as one of the pioneer settlers of Tuscola County.                                   


                           THE LUMBERMEN OF THE CASS

      This gives you an idea of the lumbering view of one resident in this area

By: Henry Dodge

 How many of those pioneers, I wonder, are alive, Who used to lumber on the Cass in eighteen sixty-five.                                                                                                                                                                              Over forty years ago, how fast the time it flies: Since when we saw the teams go by that hauled the camp supplies .

And what a road from Vassar up to where Cass city stands. Man cut the brush but the leveling up was not of human hands:

And then those mudholes in the fall the stoutest heart would awe. One codfish and a Police Gazette was all a team could draw.

We have see Bill Finel’s team go by, McDermott held the lines. Hubs in the mud, those were the roads we had in olden times:

No robin then in the early spring would sing our hearts to cheer, But when Finel’s drive came out the branch we knew that spring was near .

As time rolled on our river took its place in brightest ranks. More lumbermen sought their fortunes in the pine upon its banks:

D’ri Avery and the Miller boys each had their share of fame. And many will refer with pride to Warren Malcolm’s fame.

Bill Pinkerton and Baldwin and Tolbert had their share, They each have drove upon the Cass, have known its toil and care:

Have worked all day out on the logs, and when darkness settled down, All tired out they sought a bed upon the cold, wet ground.

At first they’d naught but hemlock brush to keep off rain and snow, Then some got tents, this filled the cup of joy here below:

But how fast the news it traveled, ‘Twas scattered far and wife. When Tolbert built the "Wanegan" to float upon the tide.

When the rollways all were broken the logs went far and wide. But they bore their mark of ownership as they floated on the tie:

The Wyandotte mark of the Willis boys was known upon the drive. And the Clover Leaf of Avery and McGraw’s three forty-five.

When the drive from out the branches to the forks came rushing down, The boys would stack their "peaveys" to top and paint the town:

More whiskey was sold o’er Tennant’s bar to those drivers tried and true, Than would take to float the biggest ship the sails the ocean blue.

In seventy-one the fire came, at night its lurid glow, Would light the heavens far and wide as it laid the forest low.

Then for ten long years the timber dried or rotted in the sun, And then once more the fire came and lumbering here was done.

But where are they ---those pioneers-where are they one and all. Who farmed it in the summertime and lumbered in the fall?

They opened up the forest wild, let in the light of day, And now their labor-hardened hands are smoldering neath the clay.

How few are left above the sod and they are old and fray, They are moving on to the great beyond and soon will pass away.

But they love to sit and tell you of the times they used to pass, When they starved and froze but made a home in the forest on the Cass.

And those men who drove the river, that wild and reckless crew, Are they now beside some mystic Stream beyond the starry blue?

Are they standing on its border waiting for the drive to pass, While they talk of when they lived on earth and drove upon the Cass?




Contributed by Lila Arroyo

December 2000

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