Lumbering in the Fremont Area
by Terry E. Wantz


In 1855, the first big scale immigration north of Newaygo began. Settlers took up land from Newaygo as far north as White River. Among the first were Daniel Weaver and Wilkes L. Stuart. They came in the fall of 1854 and selected lands from where Fremont is located east to Elm Corners. The next spring they brought their families. By the families arrived at the new home, they found about five acres chopped around the log house across the road from the present Fremont High School. Where the business part of Fremont is now located was a hemlock swamp. South an unbroken forest reached to the Muskegon River, west to Lake Michigan, twenty-seven miles, and north eighty miles to Grand Traverse Bay. Nothing but bears, deer, wolves, lynx and wild cats inhabited the region.

During the summer, Daniel Weaver built a water-power saw mill on Darling Creek at the north edge of what is now Fremont. The three Dickinson brothers, Philip, John and Wallace, built the dam for Weaver. The mill had a seven-foot horizontal flutter wheel with the crank at the end of the shaft. The saw hung in a heavy frame (a sash saw) and went up and down lazily. The dam soon went out and the owner’s cash was out, too, but he borrowed a thousand dollars and rebuilt the dam. The original pine which stood near the mill was felled and cut into lumber. In the spring of 1856, Weaver sold 100,000 feet of lumber in Newaygo at $22.00 a thousand feet and he paid the debt off before it was due. When the slashing were the timber had been cut was burned the next summer, the flames could be seen and the crackle heard for miles away.

In 1856, Weaver offered a prize of a load of lumber to the first settler to cut a passable road from White River to his mill. N. D. Macumber cut a road from his place on Section 27, Denver, to the mill and thus won the prize.

Weaver sold the mill in 1857 to Isaac Banker and Andrew and Henry Darling. Andrew Darling and Isaac Banker sold their interests in the mill to Henry and Thomas B. Darling in 1861.The mill burned in 1863 with a loss of $1000 and William P. Clark, a carpenter and millwright came to rebuild the mill and remained here. In 1865, James H. Darling became sole owner of the mill. Darling and Reynolds succeeded James H. Darling in 1869 and in 1872 James H. Darling became sole owner. In 1888, the mill was sold to Joseph B. Jewell.

In 1867 Henry Darling built a mill. It was a water-power mill located on Darling Creek near its mouth. It was on the farm later owned by Henry Rozema. In 1869 James H. Darling was associated with Henry Darling in the mill. In 1870 the mill burned with a lost of $5,000. Henry Darling then went to Kansas and James H. Darling rebuilt the mill. In 1872, the mill was under the firm of Misner, Darling and Co. In 1873, they sold the mill to Jones & Allgire. They installed machinery for making broom handles and cant hook handles. In 1878 Hiram Jones became sole owner of the mill. Jones is listed in the Fremont directory of 1880 as a handle manufacturer.

In the 1870’s, A. G. Meade built a saw mill near Sheridan Center on Section 22. The property on which the pond for Meade’s mill was located, was bought from Daniel Ashcraft. It was on Section 15, Sheridan, and the deed included the rights to overflow all the land necessary to raise the water to 10 feet high with a dam across the stream (Brooks Creek) near or on the south line of section 15. In 1880, A. G. Meade’s son E. S. Meade, took over the mill. C. A. Meade, brother to E. S., was operating it in 1890. In 1891 the Meade brother were running their saw mill day and night and they engaged a miller from Holland to operate the flour mill. In 1895 the dam went out and a steam engine was installed in the mill.

William A. Anderson had a mill at Aetna and in 1886 the White River Log & Boom Co. of Whitehall, bought him out for $30,000. He then moved to Fremont and the next year he built the Crescent Flouring Mills. In 1873 Philip Weaver sold his interest at Fremont Center to the Empire Company, of Muskegon, who now platted the village. Weaver went to Hesperia to operate the saw mill of his father. This same year Kornelius Mulder built a mill at Fremont Center. The Mulder’s Mill was at first a shingle and planing mill. On one Saturday in 1874, Garrup Zuideman, sawyer in the mill, cut 30,000 shingles. In 1878, Mr. Mulder installed complete saw mill equipment. The mill burned in 1881 with a lost of $8,000 and no insurance. It was at once rebuilt and in 1906 the mill was sold to the Fremont Lumber and Fuel Co.

At Fremont Center in 1874, two mills were established, those of James Gibson and Merchant & Hungerford. Gibson’s Mill cut staves and heading as well as lumber. In 1875, the dry kiln burned. In 1881, Charles Brewster was killed in the mill, the next year the stave sheds burned with a lost of $6,000.. This fire was very spectacular. A call was sent to Muskegon for aid and in less than an hour after sending the call, a fire engine mounted on a flat car arrived and was playing a hose on the flames. In 1883, the mill became known as The Fremont Stave Co.

The (Franklin) Merchant & (Albert) Hungerford Mill was located on north side of town where later the Lang’s Pickle Plant was located. In 1884 the mill burned but the large amount of lumber near was saved by the efficiency of the Fremont Fire Department. The mill had a large circular saw, however, it was not large enough to cut some of the big red oak logs that came in. They had to split some of the logs in four parts by inserting a dynamite cartridge in a crack in the center of each of the logs. The mill was idle a few years and then Ralph Grilley, in 1897, bought the machinery and moved it to Maple Range in Oceana County, where it burned in 1900. During its palmy days at Fremont, the mill was one of the village’s leading industries.

Fremont Center received another industry this same year, which utilized a forest product. This was the tannery of D. Gerber and Sons, composed of Daniel Gerber and his sons, Joseph and Corneluis. In 1876 J. Andrew Gerber, another son, became a member of the firm. From its opening until it was sold to the Michigan Tanning & extract co. in 1907, it was in constant operation in good times and bad. It furnished the principal industry of Fremont for all these years, making this town one of the most prosperous in the country. Not only did it furnished a ready market for hemlock bark and work for a number of Fremont residents, but it also, as long as lumbering lasted, furnished a ready market for hemlock bark and work for a number of men and teams drawing the bark to Fremont.

John Cooper built a mill at the west end of Fremont Lake, often called Lake Switch Mill. In 1878, the mill was taken over by John Gibson. In 1880 the mill was owned by A. Stevenson. Heman Childs built a shingles at Fremont near the Merchant & Hungerford saw mill which he sold the same year to Richard Ryerson. It was listed among the industries of Fremont in 1884. The last record of it operation was 1886. A few years later it was used as a potash factory.

Joseph Baillargeon built a steam hoop mill for making a coil hoop on which he had a patent on section 5, Sheridan. In 1883 he moved it to section 8, where Reeman now stands. His mill employed 9 men and turned out from 7,000 to10,000 hoops a day. Later he added a saw mill and feed mill. William A Boyd built a steam saw mill at what became Reeman. It had a capacity of 12,000 feet a day. In 1883 the firm became Boyd & McQueen, In 1884 McQueen sold his interest to Frank Reed and the firm became Boyd & Reed. Boyd also sold his interest to Reed. The mill burned in 1898. John Boyd, finally went into business for himself. At one time he had 1,000,000 feet of logs in at Reed’s Mill.

In 1884, along with the other mills in Fremont there was the heading mill of P. S. Castle; and the shingle mills of Richard A. Ryerson, James Gibson and P. S. Castle. The Castle shingle and heading mills were located on land now belonging to Gerber Products Co. R. N. Lloyd and W. F. Pumfrey built a planing mill this year adjacent to the Castle mill. The property where the Castle and Lloyd & Pumfrey mills were located was taken over by the Fremont Furniture Co. in 1890 and eventually became the property of Gerber Products Co.

In 1886, Bellamy brothers had a mill somewhere near Fremont. Pumfrey & Koyl started a sash, door and blind factory at Fremont. W.J. Kinne Co. started a patent nail key factory at the same place on land now owned by the Gerber Products Co. Burns & Koyl built a saw mill at Fremont on land now occupied by Gerber Products Co.. Koyl sold his interest the next year to Walter Pumfrey and the firm became Burns & Pumfrey. The firm became George Burns and Son in 1893. The mill operated through 1906 when it was torn down to make room for the Fremont Canning Co. now Gerber Products Co.

 

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