[Saugatuck township], which was the earliest one settled in Allegan County, was surveyed as township 3 north, range 16 west. It is bounded on the north by Laketown, south by Ganges, east by Manlius, and west by the waters of Lake Michigan.

1895 map of Saugatuck

It contains two incorporated villages, Saugatuck and Douglas, situated on either side of Kalamazoo Lake, three miles by the course of the stream from the mouth of the river of that name, but less than a mile from the lake-shore. These villages are important shipping-points for lumber and fruit, and, although without immediate railway facilities, have easy water communication with all important lake points by steamers and sailing-vessels throughout the season of navigation. A regular line of steamers, owned and managed by Captain R. C. Brittain, plies between the two villages mentioned and Chicago. The lumber business, which has been very important, is now declining, but the loss on that account has been made good by the rapid development of fruit-culture. The peach-producing qualities of Western Allegan are remarkably conspicuous, even in so celebrated a fruit bearing State as Michigan, and that section is likely to improve materially in value for an indefinite time to come. Although general farming is carried on to some extent, the cultivation of fruit especially peaches is the great feature in rural industry throughout the township of Saugatuck.

The Kalamazoo River is navigable for large craft to the two villages named, where it expands into a lake, and is also navigable to Richmond for light draught steamers, although latterly not much used for that purpose. The township sought, in 1869, by an offered donation of $40,000, to bring the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad within its borders, but other influences prevailed, and close railway communication is still a much-desired privilege.

Saugatuck Village – Its Origin and Early Settlement

Photo of Saugatuck in 1895

Photo of William Butler

William G. Butler, of Hartford, Conn., came to the site of Saugatuck village as the first white settler, in the spring of 1830.* Mr. Butler had pre-empted the tract now occupied by the village, and brought his wife and two children with him by way of the lakes, a vessel landing him with his family and household effects at the mouth of the river. He speedily erected a log cabin on a spot now in the middle of the street in front of the Saugatuck House**, and began at once the business of trading with the Indians, who swarmed in great numbers in that region, and were always ready to barter game, furs, and sugar for the white man’s goods. Butler had brought but few goods with him, but had some whisky, which latter suited the red man better than anything else, and the demand for it was unfailing.

*There was then no other permanent white resident of Allegan County; the township of Otsego not being settled until the ensuing autumn.

**The Saugatuck House was a hotel located on the northeast corner of Butler and Mason streets in Saugatuck, the location of the present Parrish Drug store building, built in 1913. The Lake Shore Commercial of 27 May 1892 in reference to Willam G. Butler’s cabin states: “the exact location being that now occupied by the Rode Building.” This would place it on the northwest corner of Butler and Mason streets in downtown Saugatuck.

Map of Saugatuck, 1873We may designate Mr. Butler as the first permanent resident of the county. There were already some French traders with the Indians within the county limits, but these did not locate with a view to permanent residence, and are therefore not counted as settlers. Mr. Butler, on the other hand, although for Several years he did nothing but trade with the Indians, had purchased land with the intention of remaining after the Indians had gone as he did. It was doubtless the presence of a natural harbor that led Mr. Butler to locate where he did, for it appears that he counted from the first upon founding a village there. It is also likely that the abundance of hemlock bark and ship timber near at hand strengthened his hopes touching the ultimate importance of the place. However that may have been, it is certain that the capitalists who came a few years later were attracted by the opportunities for lumbering and tanning which existed in the vicinity, and which were promptly improved, those occupations having for nearly fifty years been important factors in promoting the prosperity of the Saugatuck country.

Mr. Butler’s business with the Indians frequently took him away from home, and sometimes he was obliged to be absent several days, his wife meanwhile remaining alone with her children in their log cabin, a voluntary exile from her race, her only neighbors Indians, and her only surroundings the forest. For three years the Butlers lived by the side of the river, the only white inhabitants in the western part of the county, and during that time Mrs. Butler saw no woman’s face save the dusky countenances of Indian squaws, who visited her frequently, and with whom, as well as with the braves, she was on the most kindly terms of friendship.

Although Mr. Butler succeeded well enough in his trade with the Indians and experienced no extraordinary hardships, he was always greatly troubled when brought face to face with the stern necessity of going to mill. During the first part of his sojourn at Saugatuck he was obliged to go to Elkhart, Ind., seventy-five miles distant, for that pur. pose, and the long, tedious, and difiicult journey was always looked forward to with great dislike.

Until the year 1834 the Butler family continued to be the only white inhabitants of this section, but early in that year there came Edward Johonnett and R. R. Crosby**, who built in company a tannery on the river, near where Williams & Grifiin’s saw-mill now stands. Daniel Plummer, a carpenter, also came about the same time, and put up a framed house on Hoffman Street, the same building being now occupied as a residence by Henry Holt. Mr. Plummer remained in town until 1849, when he took the California fever and migrated to the far West. Mr. Johonnett lived in a framed house on the spot now occupied by the Odd-Fellows’ building***, and Crosby (who was a bachelor) lived with him.

**Rensselaer R. Crosby’s wife was Louisa (Johonnett) Crosby.

***The Odd-fellows’ building is located on the Southwest corner of Butler and Mason streets. On Sandborn fire insurance maps it would also be the A. B. Taylor store, then the Russell Taylor “pay as you go” store, then in 1901 for a short time E. L. Leland & Co’s department store, then Goshorn’s.

In July, 1834, Stephen D. Nichols, who had for a year been living in St. Joseph, Mich., came down the lake-shore with H. F. Comstock**, landed at the mouth of the Kalamazoo, and made a prospecting tour up the river. They found on the site of Saugatuck Johonnett & Crosby’s tannery, and the houses of the Butlers, Plummers, and Johonnetts. Nichols concluded to take up 160 acres on section 17, and agreed with Comstock that the latter should put up a warehouse for the former at the mouth of the river ; this course being suggested by the fact that settlers bound for the up-river country had begun to arrive, and there seemed a decided necessity for a warehouse and pier, since there were no conveniences for the landing of goods at the mouth of the river, and captains of vessels did not at that time like to venture into the stream. Having determined upon a plan of action, Nichols and Comstock engaged an Indian to take them up the lake in a canoe to St. Joseph, whence Nichols proceeded with all speed to the East. Nichols returned in September of the same year with his family, and located permanently at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, on the north side. There he began straightway to erect a warehouse and dock. There was no saw-mill in the vicinity, and for Nichols’ warehouse, as well as for the framed houses previously built by Plummer and Johonnett, the lumber was brought down the river from Pine Creek, one mile below Otsego.

**This appears to have been a misprint or error by the author, as no H. F. Comstock is found in records from the area. Most likely this refers to Gen. Horace Hawkin Comstock. Records at the BLM have Horace Comstock having patents at the mouth of the River and no other “H. Comstock” in Allegan county with land grants.

The warehouse was at first used principally for the storing of the household effects of settlers moving by way of the lakes to the up-river country, but ere long there sprang up a driving business in connection with the reshipment of flour coming down the river to be forwarded around the lakes. William G. Butler sought to share the business controlled by Nichols, and early in 1835 built a warehouse on the river-bank, two miles from the mouth, but the location was a poor one, and the enterprise was substantially a failure. Meanwhile, Nichols opened a store near his warehouse, and affairs in that vicinity took on such a lively aspect that there was strong talk of starting a town there, but the project never resulted in anything more definite in shape than a plat on paper.

Map of railroads in 1850

About 1842, Butler built a warehouse on the south side of the river, opposite that of Nichols, and until 1846 both concerns carried on a profitable business in shipping and receiving freight. In that year the completion of the Michigan Central Railroad to Kalamazoo greatly injured the river traffic, and in 1848, when that road was finished to Niles, the forwarding business at the mouth of the river came to an end, unless indeed we include the forwarding of rafts.

One of Saugatuck’s pioneers, Benjamin Plummer, now living in Ganges, relates how he came to the village with his wife in the fall of 1834, and found residing there and at the mouth of the river the families of William G. Butler, Stephen D. Nichols, Johonnett & Crosby, the tanners, Daniel Plummer, and Palmer and Mayo, the latter being two fishermen and Indian-traders living at the river’s mouth. Benjamin Plummer, like his brother Daniel, was a carpenter, and after working at his trade two years started a saw-mill northeast of the village, where he remained until 1846. He then abandoned the mill and removed to his present home. Mr. and Mrs. Plummer, who have shared the vicissitudes of pioneer life forty-six years, have been man and wife no less than fifty-three years.

In 1844, A. S. Wells and O. R. Johnson built a tannery near Plummer’s saw-mill and carried it on until 1854, when it passed into the possession of C. C. Wallin & Sons, the present proprietors.

The Village Laid Out

Original plat map of Saugatuck

Previous to the coming of Nichols and the creation of the warehouse traffic, Butler had, in 1833, platted a village upon his pre-empted property, and called it Kalamazoo. Soon afterwards Henry Hoffman, of Niles, Jasper Mason, of St. Joseph, and John Griffith, of New York, purchased an interest in the village property, of which, however, Butler still retained a share.* A post-office was established at the village in 1835, upon application of R. R. Crosby, who was commissioned postmaster Aug. 4, 1835, the original commission being now in possession of S. A. Morrison, Esq. At his suggestion the office was called Saugatuck, an Indian word meaning ” mouth of river.” The village retained the name of Kalamazoo until the incorporation of the village now bearing that name. Being then deprived of it by the greater celebrity of the latter place, it was called Newark, after the township in which it was located. This appellation was retained until 1863, when the name of both township and village was changed to Saugatuck. William G. Butler, the founder of the town, continued to be one of its prominent citizens until his death, in 1857, when he was killed while engaged in log-rolling.

*The plat was recorded on the 17th of July, 1834, in the register’s office of Kalamazoo County, to which Allegan County was then attached. The village is described on the record as laid out by J. Wittenmeier**, surveyor, for William G. Butler, but it is evident that Mason and Griffith had secured an interest, as two of the streets bore their names.

**By a bio of Lewis Cass Wittenmyer (1828-1904), his father, John Wittenmeyer (1797-1848), the surveyor for William G. Butler, died in Aug 1848.

In the month of May, 1837, Stephen A. Morrison came from Vermont to Saugatuck for the purpose of starting a tannery, having learned that the country thereabout was famous for hemlock-bark. Upon reaching that place he found Johonnett & Crosby already engaged in tanning, and so, instead of starting a fresh enterprise, he bought out that firm. He carried on the business on the old site about five years, when he removed the business to his present location, where he has ever since been employed in the same occupation. Saugatuck village improved slowly at first, and when Singapore reared its prosperous front the former place was completely overshadowed, and could scarcely be called more than a lumber-camp. In 1837 about the only business it boasted was that of getting out ship-timber, and, although Stephen D. Nichols had a small store at the mouth of the river and sold a few goods from his house on Hoffman Street in the village, the inhabitants usually traded at Singapore, for at the latter place only was there a mercantile establishment of even moderate pretensions.

In 1836, Benjamin Plummer built a saw-mill on the site of Wallin’s tannery, on section 3, and in 1837 he and Edward Johonnett operated it. During the next summer the business of rafting lumber and square timber down the river to the lake set in in earnest, and for some years continued to be an important industry.


Building a ship in Saugatuck, 1888

Ship-timber being abundant near Saugatuck, ship-builders came hither early, led by James McLaughlin**, who built at Saugatuck a lumber-vessel which he called the “Crook,” Carter & Co., the successors of the Wilders at Singapore, built at that point a lake-vessel for carrying lumber, and named it the “Octavia.” About that time other vessels were built at Saugatuck and Singapore, and in 1842 Porter & Co. built at Singapore a flat-bottom steamboat, named the “C. C. Trowbridge,” and intended for the trade between Saugatuck and Allegan. That attempt at steam navigation on the river was, however, a failure, and after a few trips demonstrated it to be so the “Trowbridge” was transferred to other scenes.

**Via a bio for his son, Rev. James J. McLaughlin in Portrait and biographical record of northern Michigan, 1895, James and Abigail (McDonald) McLaughlin were natives of Penobscot, Maine. James was a carpenter by trade, and became a pioneer of Allegan, Mich., in 1836. He built the first flouring-mill erected in that village for Alexander L. Ely, formerly of Rochester, N. Y. In 1844 he removed to the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, and sometime later opened a ship-yard at Saugatuck. Here he constructed a number of vessels, and bought and carried on a hotel at Kalamazoo besides. In 1848 he held a position under the Government as a farmer among the Indians. In the spring of 1849 he bought a vessel at Chicago, and, going to the Grand Traverse region, cut the first stick of timber where Northport now stands. In 1851 he removed with his family to Elk Rapids, and kept a boardinghouse for A. S. Wadsworth, who, with his wife and S. K. Northam, were the first white people to locate here. For a few years he engaged in the manufacture of shingles, running a mill for that purpose, and from 1858 to 1863 lived on a farm, where he died April 16, 1863 being then in his seventy-fourth year. His first wife, Abigail, was drowned in the Kalamazoo River, by the capsizing of a boat, July 25, 1841. Their first son, Charles A., was the first white child born in Kalamazoo county. For his second wife, Mr. McLaughlin chose Lydia A. Case, who was born in Vermont, and who died in Elk Rapids Township in 1877.

A second attempt in the same direction, made with the “Adelaide,” built at Allegan, met with better results, and from that time forward until 1869 steamboats plied with more or less regularity between Saugatuck and Allegan each season. First and last, a large number of sailing-vessels and steamers have been built at Saugatuck. Generally the steamers have been tugs, although several lake-propellers and lumber-barges have been constructed there, and several grain-carrying vessels of the larger class have figured in the list. The year 1879 was an especially busy one in ship building at Saugatuck**.

**The Great Lakes Maritime Database has 425 ships listed as being built in Saugatuck, but only the Crook listed as being built in Singapore.

Loss of the Milwaukie

On the 17th of November, 1842, while the three-master “Milwaukie”** was taking on a cargo off Saugatuck Harbor, a sudden squall of wind drove it ashore, when the vessel was wrecked, and the captain and eight of his men lost their lives. The victims were buried in the old Indian burying-ground, then ‘occupying the site now covered by the town-hall of Saugatuck. Other casualties have occurred off the mouth of the river from time to time, but none have reached the tragic importance that attended the loss of the “Milwaukie.”

**The name of the ship is often spelled “Milwaukee” in newspaper accounts of the day. The Great Lakes Maritime Database states the Milwaukie was built in 1836 at Grand Island, NY and was 113 feet long. In Pioneer Collections, Volume 3 it states: Nov 17 1842, the brig Milwaukee was lost off Saugatuck harbor while being loaded, being driven ashore by a sudden squall of wind, resulting in a total loss of her cargo (flour boated down from Kalamazoo and owned by D. S. Walbridge). The captain and eight of his crew all lost their lives. The weather was bitter cold when this disaster occurred and was freezing very hard at the time.


Niles Republican, in their 26 Nov 1842 issue, states: WRECK OF THE SHIP MILWAUKIE – NINE LIVES LOST. – The ship Milwaukie, Capt. Whitmore, was towed out of the St. Joseph harbor, by the Huron, on the morning of the 16th; she sailed for the mouth of the Kalamazoo river, where she received an additional quantity of flour. Two days afterwards, as we are informed, she was discovered about a mile from the mouth, having been driven ashore, and the captain, the two mates, and six of the crew were found frozen to death upon her deck. Four or five were taken off alive. The Milwaukie was heavily laden, having on board 2600 barrels of flour and several casks of whiskey. It is believed that she is a total wreck, and that her cargo is lost. She was owned by Hunter, Palmer & Co., Buffalo. Those are all the particulars we are able to gather.


The original mouth of the Kalamazoo River, before 1905

Saugatuck Harbor

As already noted, the natural harbor at Saugatuck early invited attention. The general government** was called upon to assist in the improvement of the harbor and river, and down to January, 1880, had expended over $100,000 for that purpose. The people of the locality have also expended upwards of $30,000 upon the river and harbor, but all the necessary works are not yet erected. Although vessels of moderate draft may now enter the harbor, there is need of an extension of the south pier at least four hundred feet to adfflit craft of a larger class, and to this end Congress is now being appealed to for further help. The volume of water discharged by the Kalamazoo River is claimed to be greater than that of any other stream emptying into Lake Michigan on the eastern coast, except, perhaps, Grand River. Kalamazoo Lake, three miles from the river’s mouth, is half a mile wide by three-fourths of a mile long, being large enough to contain at one time all the vessels sailing on the lake, and having an ample depth of water to accommodate the largest of them.

**Details of any and all bills proposed and or passed by Congress related to Saugatuck Harbor can be found in the Library of Congress. An example would be a 19 Feb 1836 Senate resolution “That the Secretary of War be requested to transmit to the Senate a copy of the report, survey, plan, and estimate for improving the harbor at the mouth of Kalamazoo river, of Lakes Michigan”.

Clinton - Kalamazoo Canal map

Interest in improvements to the harbor were in large part due to the proposed Clinton – Kalamazoo Canal. In the 1838 report of Jarvis Hurd on the canal to the Commissioners of the Board of Internal Improvement of the State of Michigan, found in ‘Documents Accompanying the Journal of the Senate of the State of Michigan,’ John A. Kerr & Company, Printers to the State, 1838, Hurd writes: “The Kalamazoo river, near its mouth, is a natural, and safe and commodious harbor suificiently deep to float the largest vessels that sail on the western lakes when once within the bar. A severe storm at the time of terminating the survey at the mouth of the river rendered the examination of the bar impracticable.” Via the State Archives, on July 20, 1838 the first shovel full of dirt was turned in an effort to link Lake St. Clair and Lake Michigan via the Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal. The canal was to start at the mouth of the Clinton River near Mt. Clemens and run west through Howell and Hastings and connect with the Kalamazoo River to Lake Michigan. Construction was halted in the early 1840s due to financial troubles after only 16 of the planned 216 miles had been completed.

Saugatuck harbor on an 1895 nautical chart

**To the right is a detail from the 1895 nautical chart “Lake Michigan, Coast Chart No. 7, South Haven to Grand Haven“. This chart was first published in 1877 by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The images were about 44 3/8 inches by 30 1/16 inches originally. The 1905 version sold for 15 cents.

The Pioneer Villagers

In 1837 Saugatuck contained, besides numerous Indians, the families of W. G. Butler, Daniel and Benjamin Plummer, Johonnett & Crosby, Stephen A. Morrison, a Mrs. Jones, and Jas. McLaughlin (a ship-carpenter), besides a floating population of lumbermen and other laborers, without families.

In 1846 the village, showing but slight improvement, still boasted the presence of some Indian families, and of those of Morrison, M. B. Spencer, Butler, Nichols, McLaughlin, and Saml. Underwood (a shoemaker). The place made exceedingly slow progress, and at one period not long after 1837 was abandoned by almost all its inhabitants except Mr. Morrison’s family.

A River Calamity

On the 25th of July, 1841, John Billings, with his wife and six children, the wife of McLaughlin the ship-builder, with her child, R. A. McDonald**, and an Irishman (name unknown) were passing up the river in a small boat, when the craft accidentally capsized, and five of the twelve persons on board were drowned, viz.: Mrs. Billings, three of her children, and Mrs. McLaughlin.

**This is most likely Robert A. McDonald (1820 – 1889) and would either be Abigail (McDonald) McLaughlin’s 1st cousin or brother. The problem is that Robert A. McDonald’s father is stated to be James McDonald of Penobscot County, Maine, Abigail (McDonald) was born in Penobscot County, Maine with her father stated as being William McDonald. However, Robert’s mother, Nancy (Brown) McDonald is stated to be the aunt of Arvilla (Powers) Smith, the wife of Rev. George N. Smith. Arvilla (Powers) Smith mother is said to be Mary (Brown) Powers, but James McLaughlin is stated to be the brother-in-law of Arvilla (Powers) Smith. In addition, Robert A. McDonald named a daughter Abigail McDonald.

Newark Tax-Payers in 1840 and 1843

The Newark assessment-rolls previous to 1840 are either unobtainable or illegible, and as the best that can be done the names of the tax-payers living in the township in 1840 and 1843 are here given:

1840.- Levi Loomis, S. A. and S. Morrison, James McLaughlin, J. B. Bailey, agent for Green Mitchell k Co., J. C. Hale, Benjamin Plummer, L. Jones, James Haines, Mr. Wood, A. Webber, Josiah Martin, S. D. Nichols, Crosby & Co., J. V. Ham, agent for Wilder & Co., Moses Nichols, “tavern-keeper and vender of ardent spirits,” A. Morrison, “tavern-keeper, and sells no ardent liquor.” The assessed acres aggregated 73,816, and the total town valuation was $174,709. The assessors were J. C. Hale, B. B. Wilder, and Benjamin Plummer.

1843 – J. C. Hale,H. Hutchins, J. W. Wadsworth, Jacob Barragar, L. Jones, William G. Butler, C. H. Bartlett, Benjamin Plummer, S. D. Nichols, James McLaughlin, S. and S. A. Morrison, Robert McDonald, Henry Pritchard, P. J. Cook, agent, J. W. Miles, William F. Hale.

The Light-House

**The Light House pictured at left was destroyed by a tornado in 1956. For more information on the harbor and lighthouse go to Seeing the Light – Kalamazoo River Lighthouse.

In 1838 the government erected at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River a stone light-house, the site of which is now covered by a portion of the south pier, the channel being now twenty rods north of where it was in 1838. Stephen D. Nichols was appointed the first keeper, and retained the place about six years. In 1859 the tower began to show signs of decay, and was replaced by a brick structure. The latter wore out in turn, and was succeeded in 1875 by the wooden tower now adorning the extremity of the south pier.

The Progress of Trade

Until 1851, when S. D. Nichols built and opened a store in the village, Saugatuck boasted no such establishment of any pretensions whatever, and until that year the villagers generally did their trading at the mouth of the river or at Singapore. In 1854, Wells & Johnson, the mill-proprietors at Saugatuck, opened a general store at that place, much to the gratification of the townspeople. After that the village began to grow and stores to multiply.

When Wayne Coates came in 1849, and opened a drugstore in a house built by Daniel Plummer, there was no store nearer than Nichols’, at the mouth of the river, or Artemas Carter’s, at Singapore. The town was a forest, and included only the families of William G. Butler, S. A. Morrison, Samuel Underwood, Ellas M. Dibble, M. B. Spencer, and perhaps one or two others. In 1865 there were the stores of John Burns, S. A. Morrison, B. W. Phillips, R. P. Kleeman, and H. D. Moore ; Dunning & Hopkins and H. D. Moore’s saw-mills ; Ebmeyer & Kuffin and Blanchard’s shingle-mills ; a pail-stave manufactory; and two hotels. Main Street from Nichols’ to Morrison’s had but two or three buildings, and beyond Dunning’s sawmill the land was covered with growing timber. The village now contains a dozen mercantile establishments of all kinds, which carry on a business of no insignificant proportions.


The only grist-mill** built at Saugatuck village was erected in 1866 by George P. Heath, and destroyed by fire in November, 1879.

**In the 1859, 1860, and 1863 Michigan State Gazetteer, and Business Directories in reference to Saugatuck it states the village had one steam powered flour mill operated by George N. Dutcher. This Heath Grist Mill is the future Hotel Butler at the river’s edge on the south end of Butler street. At present, this is the location of the Butler restaurant and have all been built on the same foundation, they are all the same building. The 21 Jul 1899 Commercial Record states: Guard, Fairfield & Co., of Allegan are negotiating with A. N. Nysson for the purchase of the grist mill property here. Then on 4 Aug 1899 reports: Work on repairing the grist mill continues. On 18 Aug 1899, the paper reports: The Saugatuck Roller mill (grist mill owned by Guard, Fairfield & Co.) started up Thursday, grinding feed. They expect to be making flour in a few days. On 20 Oct 1899, The Saugatuck millers, shipped 8,000 pounds of flour to Liverpool one day last week. CR 23 Feb 1900, Owing to the scarcity and high price of fuel, the Saugatuck Roller Mills will shut down for a couple of months. It is possible that when they start up again the power will come from gasoline, which is far more economical. CR 5 Jul 1900, Sam Guard, the proprietor of the Saugatuck flour mill, was here Thursday. There is some prospect that he will dispose of the mill building and move the machinery to Allegan, to start a new roller mill in the busisness portion of that town, where a part of the old Chaffee block stood before the fire. -Fennville Herald. Mr. Guard informs us that he has no intention of moving the mill to Allegan, and that the editor of the Herald had no authority for the above paragraph. It is merely some more of Bro. Bassett’s “guess work.” CR 11 Jan 1901, The grist mill property has been sold and the building will be converted into a three-story hotel. The village board has agreed to rent a plot of land adjoining the mill property and owned by the village for $50 a year for as long a time as the building shall remain a hotel. CR 1 Feb 1901, The grist mill property has finally been sold, the purchaser being Mrs. W. G. Phelps [W. G. Phelps]. Work will be commenced soon and the building will be remodeled into an up-to-date hotel. It will be three stories in height, with laundry, etc., in the basement. Mrs. Phelps has also purchased of Griffin & Henry some land lying just south of the building.

Saugatuck Post-Office

A post-office was established at Saugatuck, as already mentioned, in August, 1835, and R. R. Crosby appointed postmaster. The mail-bag was in those days seldom very well filled, and, in fact, for a considerable period came down the river from Allegan upon rafts at such uncertain and irregular times as were most convenient.

In 1840, Samuel Morrison was appointed mail-carrier, and rode at regularly appointed dates on horseback between Saugatuck and Allegan. William G. Butler succeeded Crosby, and then followed S. A. Morrison, who gave place in 1860 to Ward. Samuel Johnson was the next occupant of the office, being followed successively by B. W. Phillips, S. A. Morrison (second term), Hiram Ellis, Samuel Johnson (second term), William V. Johnson, and George T. Arnold, the present incumbent.

Port of Entry

In 1870, Saugatuck was made a port of entry**, and in that year H. R. Ellis was appointed collector of customs. The present collector is George T. Arnold.

**The 1873 Polk’s Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory states “Until the establishment of the Custom House here in 1868 this place was known to the lake trade as Port Kalamazoo.”

First Birth, Marriage, etc.

The first white child born in the township was a daughter of William G. Butler. Her birth occurred in the fall of 1834, and her death early in 1835, she being also the first white person to die in the township. The second birth was that of Andrew, son of Benjamin Plummer, on the 1st day of January, 1835. He is now a resident of the township of Ganges. The first adult person who died was the wife of William G. Butler**.

**Mary (Wells) Butler was the 1st wife of William Gay Butler, who died in 1385. Eliza (McKennan) Butler was his 2nd wife who died in 1843. Emily (Loomis) Butler was William’s 3rd wife, who died in 1864.

The first marriage was that of John C. Wooster, a lumberman, and Ruth Johonnett, in June, 1837. The second was that of S. A. Morrison and Elizabeth Peckham. They were married in the public hall at Singapore, by Rev. Mr. West, of Otsego., Mr. West was a Universalist preacher, and used to come over from Otsego now and then to hold services in the hall at Singapore, which was also occasionally occupied by the Methodists for the same purpose.

The school-house near Singapore was the first one built in the town. Previous to its erection Jane Powers taught the children of some of the settlers, as did Elizabeth Peckham, who came from Allegan in response to a request from Benjamin Plummer, and taught in the house of the latter, near his saw-mill.

A Methodist Episcopal society, now extinct, was organized in Saugatuck village about 1865, and endured until 1875. Revs. Loomis, Benson, Hoyt, Cawthorne, Thurston, Cowen, and Pengally were among the earlier pastors. Rev. Mr. Cawthorne came hither, vid the lake, from Muskegon, with his family and household effects, on board a tug. While entering the river the tug capsized, and Mr. Cawthorne’s two children were drowned.

Village Physicians

Dr. Chauncey B. Goodrich, who came to Saugatuck in 1843 and entered upon the practice of medicine, was the first physician of the village. He soon removed to Ganges, but remained for many years the only physician in the western part of the county. He died in Ganges in 1879. His successor in village practice was Dr. Flowers, who made his appearance at Saugatuck in 1857, and practiced there until his death, in 1859. Dr. S. L. Morris followed him, and remained until 1865. Dr. H. H. Stimson, who began to practice in the county in 1853, went to Saugatuck from the eastern part of Allegan in 1860, and since that time has been steadily in practice there.

Dr. J. B. Cook, who is still a Saugatuck physician, entered upon his professional service in that village in 1862. After him came Dr. David McLean, who made but a brief stay, and then passed over to Douglas, where he tarried until 1879. Dr. Alex. McRca,who came to Saugatuck in 1865, remained until 1871. Dr. R. Pengally, and his son-in-law. Dr. Charles Chamberlain, began practice in 1871, and moved away in 1873. Dr. Charles F. Stimson practiced from 1872 to 1879, when he died. Dr. E. B. Wright, who died in Saugatuck in 1879, had practiced in the village eleven years. The village practice is at present confined chiefly to Drs. H. H. Stimson and J. B. Cook, the only resident physicians.

Village Lawyers

Saugatuck’s first resident lawyer was a Mr. Pratt, who opened an office in 1868, went shortly afterwards to Holland village, and lives now in Grand Haven. His successor, J. S. Maury, came in 1871, and remained two years. He now lives in Nebraska! The third lawyer was R. L. Newnham, who came in 1876, and is yet in practice. The only other resident lawyer is D. A. Winslow, who removed to the village from St. Joseph, Mich., in February, 1880.

Village Taverns

In 1840, Moses Nichols kept a tavern at the mouth of the river, and in the same year S. A. Morrison’s residence at Saugatuck was commonly regarded as a house of entertainment where travelers could find lodging and refreshment, but no spirituous liquors. Mr. Morrison kept open house in that fashion until 1852, when by the donation of a village lot he induced R. S. Smith, of Battle Creek, to come over and build the Saugatuck House. Mr. Smith was accidentally drowned in the Kalamazoo River.

Village Organization

Saugatuck village was incorporated by the board of supervisors of Allegan County in 1868, and on the first Tuesday in March of that year the first election was held. H. B. Moore was chosen President; Hiram R. Ellis, Clerk; Diodet Rogers, Treasurer; R. B. Newnham, Marshal; and George E. Dunn, James Hibbodine, Solomon Stanton, Warren Cook, S. A. Morrison, and Samuel Johnson, Trustees. In 1869, H. B. Moore was President; Hiram R.Ellis, Clerk; and J. M. Pond, Marshal. In the winter of 1869-70 the village was reincorporated by an act of the Legislature. The records having been destroyed by fire, a complete list of the village officials cannot be obtained. The following gentlemen have served as presidents, clerks, and treasurers during the years mentioned;


1870, John C. Bacon; 1871, S. A. Morrison; 1872, Randolph Densmore; 1873-74, Isaac Wilson; 1876-76, D. L. Barber; 1877, L. B. Coates; 1878, H. B. Moore; 1879, A. B. Taylor.


1870, Hiram R. Ellis; 1871-72, Henry Bird, Jr.; 1873-79, R. B. Newnham.


1870, L. O. Tanner; 1871, J. B. Bacon; 1872, John Nies; 1873-76, A. B. Taylor; 1877-79, C. Whitney.

The village trustees serving in 1879 were D. L. Barber, John Nies, David White, W. B. Griffin, George E. Dunn, and John Priest.

The Fire Record

Saugatuck has been frequently visited with serious conflagrations, including (aside from those which have merely destroyed dwellings) the burning of H. D. Moore’s store in 1866; that of O. R. Johnson & Co. ‘s large store and the Empire Billiard-Room**, with a large public hall, in 1876 ; that of the Ebmeyer shingle-mill, Kleeman’s store, and Miller’s saloon in the same year ; that of S. H. Morrison’s store in 1879 ; and that of Heath’s grist-mill, also in 1879.

**CR 26 Dec 1868, adv. Go to J. Wilson’s Empire Saloon for a dish of fresh fish. Via 1873 Allegan County Atlas, John Wilson was the proprietor of Empire Billiard Room, and dealer in choice wines, liquors and cigars. In 1877 John Wilson was the proprietor of the Saugatuck House.


First Congregational Church

In accordance with previous notice, a meeting was held at the Saugatuck school-house on the 11th of January, 1860, to consider the propriety of organizing a Congregational Church. Rev. Thomas Jones was appointed moderator, and Rev. D. Werts scribe. The church council included Rev. N. Grover and Deacon D. McDonald, of South Haven; Rev. D. Wert and Deacon O. D. Goodrich, of Allegan ; Rev. L. H. Jones and Deacon A. Norton, of Cooper; Rev. D. S. Morse, of Otsego; Rev. Thomas Jones, of Galesburg ; and Rev. E. Taylor, of Kalamazoo. The church was organized without delay, and included the following members: Rev. C. H. Eaton, F. B. Wallin, Moses Philbrook, Alanson Gardner, Mrs. M. P. Eaton, Mrs. Orcetia Wallin, Mrs. Mary Philbrook, Mrs. Marila Gardner, Mr. and Mrs. Elnathan Judson, John Harris, Mrs. Hannah Cook, Andrew Alexander, Miss Sarah Jane Cowles.

The first pastor was Rev. C. H. Eaton, and the first deacons Alanson Gardner and F. B. Wallin. Rev. J. C. Myers succeeded Mr. Eaton in May, 1862, and remained in charge until 1868. Rev. J. F. Taylor then entered upon the pastorate, and continued in it until 1878. Rev. W. C. Allen followed for a brief season, and then came Rev. W. B. Sutherland, the present pastor.

During the summer after its organization the society built a church edifice, which was the first house of worship erected in the town. In it also was held Saugatuck’s first “war-meeting” upon the outbreak of the Rebellion, in 1861. The deacons of the church are F. B. Wallin, H. L. House, and George E. Dunn. The trustees are George E. Dunn, F. B. Wallin, H. L. House, H. D. Moore, George H. Thomas, and M. B. Williams. The membership numbers about 80.

The First Dutch Reformed Church

This church was organized in Morrison Hall**, June 21, 1868, with the following members: A. C. Zwemer and wife [Lanegje Knoll Zwemer], H. Van Spyker and wife, G. Jonkhoff and wife, M. De Boe and wife, I. Zwemer and wife, I. G. Neimeizer and wife, J. J. Koke, J. Neis, M. Van Leuwen, Arent Zwaavink, Mrs. P. Kallewoord, Mrs. G. Sluiter. The first elders were J. J. Koke and A. C. Zwemer; the first deacons, G. Jonkhoff and M. De Boe. But two pastors have served the church,—Rev. D. Broeck, from May 1, 1870, to March 25, 1875, and H. E. Neis, from Nov. 5, 1876, to Deo. 30, 1879, the pastorate being now vacant. The present membership numbers 55, and the officers are as follows: Elders, J. Ensing, H. Van Spyker, and M. De Vries; deacons, A. C. Zwemer, M. Van Leuwen, and J. Raman. The Sunday-school superintendent is J. Ensing, and the school membership about 40. The house of worship now in use was erected in October, 1868, and enlarged in October, 1874.

**Morrison Hall would be Stephen A. Morrison’s store building located on the southeast corner of Butler and Culver streets.

All Saints’ (Episcopal) Church

This organization was formed in September, 1868, by J. R. Taylor, who was chosen as the first rector, and who continued in charge until 1878, when he was succeeded by Rev. E. W. Flower, the present rector. The members of the church at the organization were 0. R. Johnson and wife, F. B. Stockbridge and wife, R. B. Newnham and wife, H. H. Stimpson and wife, J. F. Geer, A. B. Taylor, William Dunning and wife, Mrs. Breuckman, Mrs. Merrill, Thomas Donald and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Moses Nash, Pierce Abbey, Mr. and Mrs. S. G. Moreland, David White and wife, Isaac Wilson and wife. The village school-house was used as a house of worship until January, 1873, when the edifice now in use was first occupied. Its cost was about $4000. The first wardens were Robert G. Anncsley and Pierce Abbey.

The vestrymen were F. B. Stockbridge and H. H. Stimson. There are now 40 members of the church, and 50 of the Sunday-school. The school is in charge of A. B. Taylor, superintendent, assisted by six teachers. The rector, residing at Holland, holds services in Saugatuck once every fortnight.

**Methodist Churches – except for a statement under Births and Marriages, Schwartz makes no mention of the Methodist Church, located at the northwest corner of Griffith and Mason Streets. The 1881 Michigan Directory states “The village contains Congregational, Dutch Reform and Episcopal churches,” but the 1897 Polk Directory says “The village contains Congregational, Wesleyan Methodist, Methodist Episcopal, and Episcopal churches,” and the 25 Nov 1898 Commercial Record writes, “The old Congregational church bell goes to the Wesleyan Methodist Church.”

The Saugatuck Fire Department

Babcock fire extinguisher

In January, 1871, the village purchased a hook-and-ladder apparatus and placed it in charge of the marshal, the villagers at large being the working force whenever the machine was called into service. Shortly afterwards 200 pails were bought at public expense, and distributed in convenient places for use in case of fire. In 1873 a Babcock extinguisher was purchased, and a fire department organized with 30 members, of which James M. Pond was chief engineer, and A. H. Gardner first assistant. The extinguisher, which cost $2000, proved a failure, and was replaced with a hand-engine and hose-cart, which now do efficient service. The engine company has 12 members, A. H. Gardner being the foreman. J. P. Hancock is the foreman of the hose company, which is also provided with a hook-and-ladder apparatus. It has 8 members. The chief engineer of the department is John Wilson.

**For more information of Saugatuck’s Fire Department download the “Hand Drawn Hose Cart” pdf.


Saugatuck Lodge, No. 196, I. O. O. F.

[Independent Order of Odd Fellows]

This association was instituted Oct. 17, 1872, with 5 members, viz.: Amos B. Titus, E. O. Cole, Henry Ebmeyer, David White, and Joseph Fischer. The first officers were Henry Ebmeyer, N. G.; David White, V. G.; B. O. Cole, Sec. The Noble Grands since Mr. Ebmeyer’s term were David White, Isaac Wilson, John Wilson, John Priest, James A. Houtcamp, Edmond Skinner, James M. Pond, P. H. Hancock, Samuel Clipson, J. G. Williams, William F. Metzger, C. M. Cook, K. G. Annesley. In 1878 the lodge erected a fine building, in the third story of which the Todge-room is located. The second story is used as a public hall. The active members in January 1880, numbered 83. The officers at that time were K. G. Annesley, N. G.; A. B. Taylor, V. G. ; J. M. Pond, Sec.; S. D. Nichols, P. Sec. ; W. B. Smalley, Treas.

Saugatuck Encampment, No. 60, I. O. O. F.

Saugatuck Encampment was instituted Aug. 7, 1873, with William Corner, Samuel Clipson, Isaac Wilson, J. A. Houtcamp, John Wilson, H. Ebmeyer, John Priest, A. B. Titus, and Charles H. Chamberlain as the first members. The first officers were H. Ebmeyer, C. P.; Isaac Wilson, H. P.; John Wilson, S. W.; John Priest, J. W.; Samuel Clipson, Treas. The membership is now 24, and the officers as follows: Karl Ebmeyer, C. P.; J. B. Cook, H. P.; A. B. Titus, S. W.; J. G. Williams, J. W.; J. M. Pond, Scribe; John Priest, Treas.

Saugatuck Lodge, No. 328, F. AND A. M.

[Free and Accepted Masons]

This lodge was demitted from Dutcher Lodge, of Douglas, and instituted Jan. 26, 1876, with James G. Williams, W. M.; Reuben T. Rogers, S. W.; and L. W. Grant, J. W.; the total membership being 16. The Masters since Mr. Williams have been William P. Hanson and W. B. Griffin. The present membership is 34, and the officers are as follows: J. G. Williams, W. M.; Amos H. Gardner, S. W.; John Martelle, J. W.; E. J. Tedmon, Sec.; Henry Bird, Jr., Treas.; Jacob Metzger, L. D.; Joseph Elliott, J. D.; Lorenzo W. Grant, Tyler. Regular sessions are held in Masonic Hall, Griffin’s Block.

The Saugatuck Red Ribbon Club

This organization was formed in April, 1879, by Dr. Reynolds, a noted temperance working advocate; Morrison’s Hall, the scene of the first meeting, being crowded with an enthusiastic assembly. About 80 persons enrolled themselves as members of the club, and chose Capt. Reuben T. Rogers president and C. B. Scott secretary. The club has continued to flourish to the present time, and through the medium of weekly public assemblies, at which literary and musical entertainment is offered, promotes the cause of temperance in a very satisfactory manner.

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union

This association of the ladies of Saugatuck was organized March 19, 1879, and the hearty encouragement it has received is shown by the fact that it now contains 90 working members. Weekly business sessions are held, and every Sunday a gospel-meeting invites the attendance of the general public. The officers are Mrs. H. D. Moore, President; Mrs. George E. Dunn, Mrs. C. E. Wells, and Mrs. Edmond Skinner, Vice-Presidents ; Mrs. F. B. Wallin, Sec.; Mrs. Z. B. Wasson, Treas.

The Juvenile Temperance Society, organized in June, 1879, has now a membership of 78. Van Wallin is President; Winnie Moore, Sec. ; Ellsworth Houtcamp, Treas.; and Hattie Wallin, Organist.

The Fruit-Belt — Shipments and General Statistics

As long ago as 1835, or perhaps before, William G. Butler stoutly maintained that the country in the neighborhood of Saugatuck was well adapted to the growth of peaches, and he predicted, moreover, that the region round about would one day be famous and wealthy as a fruit producing district. That Mr. Butler was right in his conclusions time has abundantly proven.

Peaches were cultivated to a moderate degree for home consumption in 1840, and were thus grown in a small way every year thereafter, but it was not until about 1869 that the culture of the peach was made an important commercial industry, and thus it has expanded annually to the present time into an enterprise which engages the attention of thousands of people, lays under tribute a vast area of country, and yields yeariy the return of thousands of dollars.

The fruit-belt under consideration includes those portions of Allegan and Van Buren Counties bordering Lake Michigan, and, according to reports gathered at the close of the season of 1879, included 600,000 peach-trees, yielding an estimated product of 3,000,000 baskets of fruit yearly. Reports made to the Saugatuck and Ganges Pomological Society, November, 1879, set forth that in Saugatuck 1200 acres were set to peach-trees, and that over 400 acres were in full bearing. Estimating 100 trees per acre, and 5 baskets per tree, the 1200 acres would give au annual yield of 600,000 baskets. From similar reports it is learned that in Western Allegan during 1879 there were shipments of peaches as follows:

Douglas: Baskets 145,420; Creates 2,173
Saugatuck: Baskets 30,000
Fennville: Baskets 137,500
Mack’s Landing: Baskets 12,000
East Saugatuck and Richmond: Baskets 10,000

Total: Baskets 334,020; Creates 2,173

During 1879 the amount paid at Saugatuck and Douglas villages for peaches purchased at those points aggregated $49,200.

Among the prominent peach-growers of Saugatuck township may be mentioned Williams & Son, R. M. Moore, P. Purdy, Sophia Schulfz, Thomas Gray, J. Grouse, Robert Reid and F. C. Kile, William Corner, William Cummings, Joshua Weed, Dressier & Patcher. Williams & Son and R. M. Moore, having respectively about 10,000 trees, are ranked the largest producers.


As has been seen, this was, during the pioneer period, the most important business, not only of Saugatuck, but of all Western Allegan, and it continued so for many years. Saugatuck was, until a few years ago, a place of many sawmills, but the gradual exhaustion of the timber caused the decline of the business, until now there are in Saugatuck and Douglas but three mills, and for two of these the supply is becoming very scanty. The first steam saw-mill built in Saugatuck village or vicinity was erected in 1846, by M. B. Spencer, upon the site now occupied by the mill of Williams, Griffin & Co. Mr. Spencer had also a lumberyard at the mouth of the river. He carried on the mill until 1850, when he sold it to Wells & Johnson.

Williams, Griffin & Johnson carry on at Saugatuck the saw-mill put up in 1852 by Dunning & Hopkins. Here 40 men are employed in turning out lumber, shingles, lath, and siding. The capacity of the mill is about 52,000 feet of lumber daily. This firm is likely to continue in the business at Saugatuck for some years, as it has an assured and ample stock of logs.

Ebmeyer & Neis now control the Douglas mill-property, owned in 1879 by Gray & Crouse. From 30 to 40 men were employed during the busy periods of 1879, and about 50.000 feet of lumber were out daily. In connection with the saw-mill, there are also large lath- and shingle-mills. H. B. Moore likewise has at Douglas a saw-mill and shingle-mill, employing an average of 25 men.

The basket-factory and planing-mill started at Douglas by Weed & King is now carried on by William Weed. He manufactured in 1879 about 30,000 fruit-baskets.

Other Manufactures

Hutchinson Bros. & Co. have at Douglas a fine grist-mill containing five run of stone, and devoted to merchantas well as custom-work. The site was previously occupied by Crawford McDonald with a grist-mill, of which the present firm became the owners in 1877, and which they have materially enlarged.

C. Wallin & Son are largely engaged in tanning at Saugatuck and Douglas. At the former place they have an extensive tannery, which employs about 20 men, its business reaching as high as 30,000 hides yearly. At Douglas they employ 10 men in a tannery confined to the production of sole leather, which uses about 15,000 hides annually. Among other manufacturing interests in Saugatuck, now extinct, two important ones were H. D. Moore’s extensive saw-mill and the shingle-mill of Ebmeyer & Palzer, both early enterprises.https://mysdhistory.org/history/collection/item/?entry_id=

Singapore – a Deserted Village

On the [1873] map of Saugatuck township** there appears in the northwestern corner the village of Singapore, once a thriving, bustling place, now abandoned by everybody save a few fishermen, who abide there temporarily during the fishing seasons. In 1837, Oshea Wilder and sons, of New York, purchased of the Barnes family (the patentees) considerable tracts of land in Saugatuck township, and proceeded to lay out a village which they called Singapore. They arranged to build a large saw-mill at that point, succeeded in disposing of a good many village lots, and induced quite a number of settlers to locate there. The mill was built as promised, tenements were erected for the mill hands, a store was opened by the mill company, and Singapore started upon its career amid a great flourish of trumpets and a promise of much prosperity. The mill company, known as the New York and Michigan Lumber Company, flourished so well that in 1839 they started the Singapore Bank, of which Daniel Wilder was chosen president, and Robert Hill cashier. A good deal of money was issued by the bank in the shape of handsome-looking notes, which were paid out for mill labor and taken in again at the company’s store, but which belonged, nevertheless, to the kind of currency known as ” wildcat,” although that particular species of wildcat is said to have been a trifle better than the average. Stephen D. Nichols, who invested in two 80- acre lots of wild land in support of the bank, says that the money was good enough at home, but “bless you, you couldn’t travel on it any farther than you could on a piece of sandstone.”

**A detail of Singapore in the 1873 Altas can be found at the University of Michigan’s Michigan County Histories and Atlases with other maps of the area.

Of course the bank came to grief, as did Wilder & Co., together with all their enterprises, but James G. Carter & Co., who soon purchased the various interests, still kept Singapore alive. Its struggle for existence was, however, a hard one, and, although it was not utterly abandoned until 1875, it suffered a serious decline long before that period. The last mill-owners were Stockbridge & Johnson, who continued business at Singapore until the year last named. The stock of desirable timber being then pretty well exhausted, they removed their mill machinery to Mackinaw, and with their departure Singapore breathed its last.

**For additional information read The Historic Significance of the Old Singapore Site Today, By James Schmiechen

The Indians

The vicinity of the mouth of Kalamazoo was, from a period long anterior to the first settlement of the whites down to 1840 or later, a great gathering-place for the Ottawa and some Pottawattamie Indians, who came thither from Mackinaw every autumn, scattered through the country to the eastward to hunt during the winter, and returned to the mouth of the river in the spring. A full account of these migrations, of the habits of the Indians, and of the trading-posts which formerly existed along the Kalamazoo, will be found in Chapters VII. and IX. of the general history. As late as 1842 there existed near Saugatuck several Indian mounds, but the plowshares of the settlers soon obliterated these relics of primeval days. On the hills opposite Saugatuck there were visible until recently traces of Indian graves, and among them that of a chief called Wamnus, but there is now no sign to show where they were.

The Mania for Villages

In illustration of the Western fever for paper villages from 1835 to 1838, it may be noted that in addition to Singapore (which did really become a village) there were the paper town of Kalamazoo Harbor, laid out at the mouth of the river, the town of Naples, on the river near Singapore, laid out by parties now forgotten, and the city of Breese, also on the river, a mile or so above Saugatuck, the site being owned by a Mrs. Breese. These towns were handsomely depicted upon paper, and were represented to new-comers and people living at a distance as being very promising commercial localities, but, unfortunately for their projectors, they failed to delude anybody, and never rose above the condition of paper villages.

Settlements in the South

Settlements in the southern portion of the township did not begin until some years after the pioneers began to gather at Saugatuck and Singapore. On the town-line road, and near there, H. S. Braman, James C. Hale, William Corner, Horace Fuller, William White, Henry Oliver, and Josiah Martin (an early resident in Singapore) were among the first to locate themselves and become permanent residents. On the lake-shore the list of pioneers included Kobert Reid, James McVey (now living in Ganges), John Strahan, J. W. Gill, the Kiles, and others. K. A. McDonald and Wm. Scovell have already been alluded to, while among other early comers may be mentioned John Kenter, H. Weeks, the Kiles, Henry Smith, Philetas Purdy, R. M. Moore, William Plummer, William Cummings, J. S. Grouse, and F. Schultz.

Douglas Village

View of Douglas from the river

Map of douglas from the 1973 Atlas of Allegan CountyThe first settlers upon the site of Douglas village, and indeed the first settlers in Saugatuck township on that side the lake, were R. A. McDonald and William Scovill, who, in 1847, settled upon land in section 16, located for them the year before by M. B. Spencer. That was, however, long before the village of Douglas was even thought of. Mr. Scovill is dead, but Mr. McDonald still lives on section 22. The first effort towards creating a village at that point was made by Jonathan Wade, in 1851. He bought lot 3 on section 16, built a house thereon, interested Wells and Johnson in the project, and set about building a saw-mill on the site now occupied by Ebmeyer & Neis’ mill. He then laid out a village on the south half of his lot, and called it Dudleyville, in honor of his brother, Dudley Wade, of Canada. Presently, William F. Dutcher bought the north half of Wade’s lot, including the mill, and on that tract laid out a village, which he named Douglas at the suggestion of F. H. May, who wished thus to commemorate the town of Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man. Thus it appears there were two villages, known as Douglas and Dudleyville, separated only by the width of a single street. By these names they were known until the incorporation of the entire tract as Douglas, in which were included, besides the two village plats, Spencer’s and other additions.

William Bush, who was interested with Dutcher in the saw-mill, opened a store near the mill, the first one in the village. Shortly after 1861, Wade built the tavern called the Douglas House, the mill business began to expand, Daniel Gerber started the tannery now owned by Wallin & Sons, and the locality soon began to assume a village like appearance, although in 1861 the families were still but few in number. The building, by H. F. Marsh, of the saw-mill now owned by H. B. Moore, materially aided the advancement of the village, but it was not until the region round about began to develop as a rich fruit-country that Douglas attained decided prominence. Since that time the village has been an important shipping-point for fruit as well as lumber, and, although the latter interest is declining, the former is destined to remain permanently valuable.

The village now has two stores, kept respectively by Thomas Gray and D. C. Putnam. Mr. Putnam was appointed the postmaster at Douglas when a post-office was established there, in 1868, and has held the position from that time until this. The town contains a fine Masonic hall, a union school, two churches, two large saw-mills, a tannery, a basket-factory, a grist-mill, and the ordinary minor village industries.

The oldest settlers now living in the village are M. B. Spencer and John Ryan, who became residents in 1861.

Lawyers and Doctors

David McLean, the first physician of Douglas, opened his office in 1864, and practiced until 1879, being the only doctor in the village. Upon Dr. McLean’s retirement. Dr. A. H. Parks, the present resident physician, took possession of the field.

A. Woodworth, the only lawyer who has ever resided in the village, located there in 1876, and is still in business there.

Village Incorporation

During August and September, 1870, the citizens of Douglas met several times to consider the matter of incorporating the village, and appointed C. A. Ensign, D. W. Wiley, and David Porter, Sr., an executive committee on the subject. Upon the prayer of the citizens the village was incorporated by the supervisors, on the 14th of October, 1870, and C. A. Ensign, D. C. Putnam, and D. Gerber were appointed inspectors of election. At the first election, held Dec. 5, 1870, at D. Gerber’s office, the total number of votes cast was 41. The names of those chosen annually to serve as president, trustees, clerk, and treasurer are as follows:

    1. – President, C. A. Ensign; Trustees, M. B. Spencer, Homer Manvil, D. “W. Wiley, Thomas Gray, D. Gerber, and T. B. Dutcher; Clerk, D. C. Putnam; Treasurer, Crawford McDonald.
    2. – President, D. W. Wiley; Trustees, J. S. Crouse, Geo. N. Wade, J. S. Owen; Clerk, John Kirby; Treasurer, L. A. Upson.
    3. – President, D. W. Wiley; Trustees, J. S. Owen, Thomas Gray, Crawford McDonald; Clerk, John Kirby; Treasurer, Jos. Gerber.
    4. – President, Reuben Smith; Trustees, Danl. Gerber, Robert Moore, J. S. Crouse; Clerk, John Kirby; Treasurer, Thomas Gray.
    5. – President, Thos. Gray; Trustees, J. S. Owen, Banl. McLean, J. S. Payne; Clerk, John Kirby; Treasurer, D. W. Wiley.
    6. – President, Thos. Gray; Trustees, M. B. Spencer, Wm. Plummer, Geo. Sams; Clerk, John Kirby; Treasurer, Thos. Gray.
    7. – President, D. McLean; Trustees, Danl. Gerber, D. Porter, H. Walbreight; Clerk, D. C. Putnam; Treasurer, D. McLean.
    8. – President, D. McLean; Trustees, P. Foley, Wm. Plummer, M. B. Spencer; Clerk, John Kirby; Treasurer, D. McLean.
    1. – President, W. S. Gill; Trustees, D. McLean, Saml. Reid, J. S. Crouse; Clerk, John Kirby; Treasurer, D. McLean.
    2. – President, J. S. Payne; Trustees, F. C. Kile, D. C. Putnam, W. S. Gill; Clerk, N. C. Firman ; Treasurer, D. McLean


The Methodist Episcopal Church of Douglas.

This religious body had its origin in what was known as the Newark Class, formed in 1862, which had a membership of ten persons, and was attached to the Newark Circuit. Among the first members were Mr. and Mrs. Wade, Mrs. Carmon, Mrs. Butcher, Marshal Dye, Mrs. Deitrich, Nelson Wade and wife, and Geo. Dunn. Geo. Dunn was the first class-leader, and the Rev. Mr. Bliss the first pastor; The village school-house, which was at first used for services, was replaced, in 1870, by the present church edifice, the only one in Douglas.

Latterly membership of the church has become quite small, although the numerous revival meetings held during the past winter have reinvigorated it to a considerable degree. Divine services and sessions of the Sabbath school are held every Sunday. The present pastor is Rev. N. M. Steele, and the class-leader is Robert Elliott.

The Seventh-Day Adventists

During the year 1874, Elder Kenyon, of Monterey, visited Douglas and organized an Advent Church of 16 members at the house of David McCullom. At that time William Burnet was appointed leader, and has served in that capacity to the present time. Robert Reid, who was chosen the first deacon, sfill occupies that office. Public worship has been observed regularly every Saturday since the organization. Until 1879 various temporary places were occupied for this purpose, but during that year a building in the village was purchased and transformed into a convenient church edifice. The membership is now about 40. The Sabbath-school, in charge of Robert Reid, as superintendent, was organized in 1878, and has an average attendance of 25.


Dutcher Lodge, No. 193, F. and A. M.

This body was organized under dispensation, April 9, 1866, and chartered Jan. 10, 1867. The first officers were Thos. B. Dutcher, W. M. ; H. H. Stimpson, S. W.; and James G. Williams, J. W. The membership has been as high as 80, but stands now at 64, Saugatuck Lodge having been demitted in 1876. In 1875 the lodge built the Masonic hall in Douglas at a cost of $1400, in which it now has commodious and handsome quarters. The present officers are W. S. Gill, W. M.; F. C. Kile, S. W.; S. C. Reid, J. W.; T. C. Gray, Sec.; M. B. Spencer, Treas.; Anthony Slack, S. D.; W. T. Hoy, J. D.; L. Ewald, Tyler.

The Douglas Red Ribbon Club

The Red Ribbon Club was organizedin 1876 with about 100 active members, who chose Dr. McLean president. Regular meetings are held weekly, when interesting exercises are offered as a public entertainment. The active membership is now reduced to 20, although the rolls carry the names of five times that number. The officers are A. W. Woodworth, President; Sarah Gill, Secretary; and Henry Bird, Treasurer.

Township Organization

Under an act of the Legislature in 1836, organizing townships, the township of Newark was created, and then included the territory now occupied by Laketown, Saugatuck, Ganges, Casco, Fillmore, Manlius, Clyde, and Lee, or the whole of ranges 15 and 16 west, and the fractional range 17 west.* The first supervisor of Newark appears to have been Daniel A. Plummer. The township records antedating 1847 were destroyed by fire, and what has been gleaned from them refers of course to events subsequent to that year. In 1847 the votes cast aggregated but 29; in 1853 they rose to 38; in 1854 to 97; in 1856 to 157; and in 1858 to 186. In 1863 there was a still further increase to 201, but in 1864 the number declined to 98. In 1865 it leaped up to 213; in 1867 it reached 266; and in 1870, 313.

* For the date of the establishment of the various townships formed from Newark, now Saugatuck, see Chapter XII in the general history.

We give below the names of those who have served as supervisors, clerks, treasurers, and justices of the peace from 1847 to 1879.


1847-52, S. A. Morrison; 1853-64, E. M. Dibble; 1855-60, S. A. Morrison; 1861, F. B. Wallin; 1862-64,* T. S. Coates; 1865, B. F. Schanck; 1866, T. S. Coates; 1867, R. Dunning; 1868-69, S. A. Morrison; 1870, T. B. Dutcher; 1871-72, S. A. Morrison; 1873-79, Thomas Gray.

* Township name changed to Saugatuck in 1863.

Township Clerks

1847-48, H. R. Seymour; 1849-62, Lorenzo Weed; 1853-60, A. W. Coates; 1861-62, H. R. Ellis; 1863-64, T. B. Dutcher; I865, S. Johnson; 1866, H. Manvel; 1867, J. H. Porter; 1868-69, S. D. Nichols; 1870, D. C. Putnam; 1871-72, S. D. Nichols; 1873-76 R. B. Newnham; 1877-78, D. C. Putnam; 1879, A. B. Taylor.


1847, Lyman Fish; 1848-51, M. B. Spencer; 1852, S. D. Nichols; 1853-58, J. C. Haile; 1859-60, Warren Cook; 1861-64, S. A. Morrison; 1865, T. B. Dutcher; 1866, P. B. Wallin; 1867, Daniel Gerber; 1868-73, J. G. Williams; 1874, J. G. Williams; 1875-76, W. S. Gill; 1877-78, A. B. Taylor; 1879, R. B. Ames.

Justices of The Peace

1847, H. B. Seymour; 1848, William Carley; 1849, T. S. Coates; 1850, J. E. Rowe; 1851, J. C. Haile; 1852, J. G. Rutgers; 1863, A. S. Wells; 1854, E. M. Dibble; 1866, J. C. Haile ; 1856, Warren Cook; 1857, John Nerkin; 1858, M. B. Spencer; 1859, J. C. Haile ; 1860, George N. Dutcher; 1861, J. H. Billings; 1862, M. B. Spencer; 1863, J. Kenter; 1864, T. S. Coates; 1866, F. B. Wallin; 1866, T. B. Butcher; 1867, H. H. Stimaon; 1868, Samuel Johnson; 1869, B. W. Hewitt; 1870, F. B. Wallin ; 1871, E. B. Newnham; 1872, M. B. Spencer; 1873, S. D. Nichols; 1874, N. C. Firmin; 1875, R. B. Newnham; 1876, M. B. Spencer; 1877, F. B. Wallin ; 1878, N. C. Firmin; 1879, R. B. Newnham.


The first school of which there appears to be any present recollection was taught on section 4, upon the east bank of the river, and not far from Singapore; but who was the teacher cannot now be learned. There was, after that, a private school in Saugatuck, taught by Miss Jane Powers**, but touching that as well as other early schools in the township but little can be said, since the early school records were burned many years ago.

**Jane Powers was the sister of Arvilla (Powers) Smith (1808-1895) the wife of Rev. George N. Smith. For more on Saugatuck schools see “General History of Education and Schools” in the online catalog.

At present the township is generally well supplied with excellent schools, Douglas and Saugatuck each having a fine graded school with a combined accommodation for about 500 pupils. The following statistics in regard to the public schools are given in an official report for the year 1879 :

Number of districts: 5
Enrollment: 618
Average attendance: 536
Value of property: $17,700
Teachers’ wages: $2,708

There are also four fractional school districts in the township, with an aggregate of 40 school children.

The school directors for 1879 were H. B. Moore, W. A. Woodworth, James Perry, William Cumming, and L. Harrington.

Biographical Sketches

Horace D. Moore

The life of Horace D. Moore is the record of a successful business man whose conquests were the result not so much of favorable circumstances as of sagacity combined with untiring energy. He is the grandson of Rev. Robert M. Moore, who was educated for the ministry in Edinburgh, Scotland, and whose diploma reveals the year 1610 as the date of his graduation. He came to the United States, and for many years filled the Presbyterian pulpit at Pembroke, N.H. Horace D. was born at Ryegate, Caledonia Co., Vt., June 14, 1821, his parents having been Nathaniel and Dorothy Moore, and his father’s occupation that of a lumberman and farmer. His mother was descended from the family of Banfords, of English extraction, who were among the early settlers in Sanbornton, N.H., and closely identified with its primitive history and the Indian warfare of early days. The estate is still in the possession of the family. It is thus determined that the name of Moore is one which bears with it the record of a distinguished ancestry.

Horace D., whose life, though in a measure uneventful, was still one of conspicuous success, began his career as a tanner, but soon relinquished the pursuit as not congenial to his tastes. At the age of eighteen, with his worldly effects wrapped in a small bundle, he crossed one of the Green Mountain ridges and engaged at labor in a saw- and shingle-mill. In 1841 he changed his location, though following the same pursuit. His duties became more arduous, and admitted of little leisure. Breakfast was eaten at half-past three o’clock, dinner at one, and supper at nine o’clock. Mr. Moore, with untiring perseverance and fortitude, endured this trying ordeal for four years, after which he removed to Monroe, N.H. In 1846 he managed a milling interest at Springfield, Mass., and in 1847, in connection with Gen. Roswell M. Richardson, embarked in an extensive lumbering business, the firm having been Richardson & Moore. In closing this successful enterprise in 1854, their ledger revealed a profit to the partners of fifty thousand dollars, and six thousand four hundred acres of pine-land paid for. Mr. Moore then engaged in speculations in produce, which were not successful. In 1855 he was an extensive purchaser of hemlock bark, which enabled him to restore the losses suffered from former transactions, and secure in addition a handsome profit.

The year 1855 found him a traveler in the West, still actively engaged in business pursuits. The former lumbering enterprise having proved successful, Mr. Moore was in 1856 induced to invest capital in Allegan County, and the following year began in Saugatuck an extensive lumber and manufacturing interest. This he continued until the spring of 1875, having cut more than two hundred million feet of timber and employed many tugs and vessels as an accompaniment of the business. Upon abandoning the latter enterprise, Mr. Moore devoted his time to farming pursuits, having three improved farms to oversee, besides a large quantity of land in Wisconsin and Illinois, and property of various kinds elsewhere.

Mr. Moore is not less remarkable for his business capacity than for his integrity. He has never been known to fail in the payment of all his indebtedness, believing that honest debts should be liquidated upon the basis of one hundred cents to the dollar. Neither at any time has a note of his been known to go to protest. He is not an enthusiastic politician, though a strong Republican, as he has been since the organization of the party. He is a man of temperate habits, and advocates temperance in all things, being in no sense an extremist.

Mr. Moore was married June 16, 1864, to Miss Tamer W. Phillips, of Clyde, Allegan Co., Mich., who is a native of Cass County. Her parents were former residents of New York State, and pioneers to Allegan when their daughter was but eleven years of age, having first located in Cass County. Mr. and Mrs. Moore have had four daughters, one of whom was a victim to scarlet fever at an early age. This concise sketch illustrates in a remarkable degree the success which is possible as the result of integrity coupled with energy. Having began his career with these as his only capital, Mr. Moore is now the most considerable taxpayer in Allegan County.

Stephen A. Morrison

Among the venerable pioneers of Saugatuck the name of Morrison is conspicuous. Stephen A. Morrison, the subject of this biography, was a settler as early as 1837, and became immediately after his advent closely identified with the interests of the township. He was the oldest son of Stephen Morrison, who still survives and is, in his ninety-third year, yet vigorous and active. Stephen A. was born in Danvers, Mass., May 18, 1815, and spent most of his early life in labor, though at disconnected intervals opportunities for study occurred.

At the age of eighteen he acquired the trade of a tanner, having served a weary apprenticeship of four years, after which his steps were turned towards Michigan. On his arrival in Saugatuck but four families inhabited the township, which was destitute alike of highways and other marks of civilization. The following year, in company with Samuel Morrison, his brother, a tannery was started, which was ultimately controlled by Stephen A., and has, to the present day, been profitably and successfully conducted by him. In 1853 a disastrous fire entailed a heavy loss, though the energy of Mr. Morrison very speedily enabled him to recuperate.

Morrison home - now known as Leland House

He was married in 1844 to Mary E., daughter of Samuel and Sophia Peckham, whose birthplace was Vermont, and the date of her birth Aug. 31, 1816. Of their five children, but two daughters are living, Mrs. Leland [Jessie S. (Morrison) Leland], who resides with her parents, and Mrs. Francis [Julia (Morrison) Francis], who is a resident of the village. The original home** has long since been replaced by a more spacious and convenient one, a view of which is seen upon an adjoining page. Mr. Morrison has held successively the offices of county treasurer and supervisor, and has been for twenty years postmaster of his village. His constituents have also tendered him on more than one occasion the nomination for senator and representative in the State Legislature.

**The original home was replaced in 1857 with the above pictured home which was located on the northeast corner of Butler and Culver streets, across from Morrison’s store. It was later the Leland Lodge, which was lost in 1979 to a fire.

According to SOME MORE RAISING THE ROOF, by James Schmiechen “One of the oldest houses discovered in the recent architectural survey is located at 334 Main Street, Saugatuck. It is the home occupied by Stephen A. Morrison, who took over the Saugatuck tannery in 1834. It was where he was living when he married the first school teacher, Mary Elizabeth Peckham, until the couple built an elegant home on the southeast corner of Butler and Culver Streets in downtown Saugatuck.”

William Corner

William Corner home

William Corner was the only child of Hugh and Sarah Corner, subjects of the British Crown, and was born in the county of Devon, England, Dec. 14, 1819. William, until he reached the age of manhood, remained at home, after which he married Miss Mary Ann Goodeve, the date of their union having been Feb. 10, 1841. Two children were theirs, Eliza J., born in Genesee Co., N. Y., Feb. 14, 1842; and Khoda R., whose birth occurred Feb. 26, 1845, and her death in September of the following year. Soon after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Corner sailed for America, and on their arrival located at once in Genesee Co., N.Y., where he followed the trade of a cooper. After later changes in location he determined to become a pioneer, and chose Michigan as a residence, having removed to the State in 1852. He purchased one hundred acres in the township of Saugatuck, upon which he still resides. Having in 1862 been afflicted by the death of his wife, after a lingering illness, Mr. Corner married, in 1864, Miss Lorain Bathrick, who was born in Wyoming Co., N.Y. in 1834. He has devoted much labor to the cultivation of fruit, and made peaches a specialty. Six thousand bearing trees now adorn his farm, which is one of the most attractive in the township.

Mr. Corner is not an active political partisan. He votes the Republican ticket, and has held minor offices, but is not ambitious for distinctions of an official character. He is a man of strong religious instincts, is active as a church member, superintendent of the Sabbath-school, and directs the church music, for which his musical abilities admirably fit him.

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