Cheboygan County MI Genealogy

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Henry A Blake

Source: A History of Northern Michigan and Its People, by Perry F Powers, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912.

Submitted by Lyn Blake Schwartz

Page 614

HENRY A. BLAKE.-Entering the Federal army almost at the dawn of his manhood for the preservation of the Union and suffering great hardships in Southern military prisons in consequence of having been captured by the enemy three months after his enlistment; inaugurating new industries in this part of the country soon after the close of the war in which he engaged; and at all times vigorous, determined and resourceful in work for the benefit of the nation in general and the locality of his home in particular, Henry A. Blake of Cheboygan, has given Northern Michigan a fine example of elevated American  manhood devoted to good purposes during his residence of forty-three years among its people, as he has done through life, wherever he has been. Mr. Blake is a native of Bethel, Vermont, where he was born on March 8, 1842, and a son of William and Nancy Blake, the former born in Vermont in 1800 and the latter in England. They were the parents of twelve children, four of whom are living, Lemon, Levi, Ellen and Henry A. The father passed the whole of his life in his native state industriously engaged in farming. He was first a Whig and afterward a Republican in politics, and attained local prominence in the councils of his party. His wife died in 1846 and his own life ended in 1874.

Henry A. Blake was orphaned by the death of his mother when he was but four years of age, and necessarily grew to manhood without the fostering care and judicious guidance a mother's considerate attention would have given him. He attended the public schools until he was old enough to learn a trade and then learned that of a machinist. By the time he completed his apprenticeship the Civil war was at its height and he shared the zeal and ardor of his section of the country in behalf of the Union. He soon made his patriotism practical by enlisting in Company I, Second New York Cavalry, on August 26, 1864, being enrolled in Albany. His regiment was soon in the midst of hostilities and its services were almost constantly required on either the skirmish line or a more ambitious field of conflict. Mr. Blake took part in all its engagements until he was made a prisoner of war at Newton, in the Shenandoah valley, Virginia, on November 22, 1864.

He was first confined in Libby prison of odious memory, and then transferred to another human shamble located at Salisbury, North Carolina. In these prisons he suffered horrors beyond description, but happily his confinement lasted only about four months, as he was paroled in March, 1865. He received his discharge from the army at Annapolis,  Maryland, on June 26, 1865, and returned to his former home in New England, where he remained but two years. The great West held out a beckoning hand to him, and in 1867 he came to Michigan, locating in Cheboygan a year later. His advent in this section was timely, as there was need here of a man of his caliber and attainments. He soon became busy in connection with his trade, and in 1869 melted the first iron that ever was liquefied for use in the arts in this part of the state. Lumbering then formed the principal industry in these parts, and as he did not find the time yet ripe for the fashioning of iron into instruments of service, Mr. Blake turned his attention to operating a saw mill, which he continued until 1871. In that year he built the first machine shop in Cheboygan, and he has been conducting this enterprise ever since with steadily expanding trade, increasing operations and growing results in output and profits. Mr. Blake has always contributed a good citizen's share to the progress and development of the city and county of his home, and done a good citizen's part toward promoting the peace, comfort and general welfare of their people. He was a member of the first village board of Cheboygan and helped materially to lay the foundations of its municipal government, and in all its subsequent history he has been a potent force for good in connection with its public affairs and its intellectual and social life. The fraternal activities of the community have interested him, too, and he has taken a leading part in them as a member of the Masonic order in lodge, chapter and templar Masonry, and also in connection with the Cheboygan Lodge of Elks, to which he has belonged many years. In addition, he pays his tribute to the memories of his military service by active and appreciative membership in Ruddock Post, No. 224, Grand Army of the Republic. In politics he is a Republican, firm in his devotion to his party and loyal in his support of its candidates and principles, but he has never sought or desired any of its honors or emoluments for himself. Mr. Blake was married on November 22, 1867, to Miss Annie Allen Paton, a native of Scotland. They have three children: Their daughter Jessie; their son William H., who is manager of the Cheboygan Telephone company; and their other son, John A., who is a member of the firm of Henry A. Blake & Son, of which his father is the head. The firm manufactures marine and stationary engines, iron and brass castings and steamboat and mill supplies, and carries on a general business in foundry and machine work. Its large and completely equipped plant works up enormous quantities of raw material and gives employment to a large number of workmen. The industry is one of the principal ones in this part of the state, and its products are held in the highest repute all over the country and in many foreign lands. Their superiority in material, workmanship and adaptability to the uses for which they are intended is mainly due to the skill and ability of Mr. Blake as a machinist.

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