An Era of Railroads
in
Newaygo County


They appeared, and in another generation were gone. The Iron horse, bristling with heat and excitement, clanging into the hamlets, bellowing steam and smoke. Bringing dreams to the youth with ribbons of Steal that connected the world. Exporting the finest crop of our lumber, and in return bringing to some, their first sight of an orange or a banana. The growth and prosperity of Newaygo County owes much to the railroads.

History of
Newaygo County Railroads

by Terry E. Wantz


In the spring of 1870, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that the people could not be taxed to build railroads. This effectively killed off efforts to build the proposed Grand Rapids and Muskegon Railroads. The Citizens of Newaygo then turned their attention to the Grand Rapids and Lake Shore Railroad, an enterprise fostered by D. P. Clay of Grand Rapids to further his extensive lumbering interests around Newaygo County.

In 1870, D.P. Clay, a shrewd promoter, and several influential businessmen from Grand Rapids, Newaygo and adjoining areas, undertook to organize the Grand Rapids, Newaygo and Lake Shore Railroad. They would have to raise $125,000 for the construction cost to Newaygo of which $50,000 was needed to pay the contractor, Chester Werner, of Chicago, before the construction work started. The latter amount was raised and the balance $75,000 was obtained by selling bonds, back by the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad. The contractor set the date of June 1872 for the arrival of the first train in Newaygo.

In the mean time, surveyors surveyed the route of a railroad to run from Hart to Newaygo through Hesperia and Fremont Center. The Muskegon and Big Rapids Railroad became rejuvenated and its president L. G. Mason of Muskegon visited New York and made arrangements with the management of the Chicago and Michigan Lake Shore Railroad which had built a railroad and was operating as far as Pentwater, to consolidate with that concern, subject to the approval of the stockholders This was eagerly giving and the construction of the road from both ends began. It reached Fremont Center before the end of 1872.

The Grand Rapids, Newaygo and Lakeshore Railroad, sponsored by D. P. Clay and Associates, reached the county first.

During the winter of 1872, 9,000,000 feet of logs were shipped to Grand Rapids over the new railroad at the rate of 100,000 feet a day. Most of these were shipped from Wonderly's Camp at Ashland City, two miles south of Grant Station. These were the first log trains in Michigan.

The Muskegon and Big Rapids Railroad consolidated with the Chicago and Michigan Lake Shore line out of Muskegon in 1878, to become known as the Chicago and West Michigan. Then in 1881, that line bought out the Grand Rapids, Newaygo and Lake Shore Railroad. Thus all of the railroads in Newaygo County, aside from those short lines owned by the several lumbering concerns, were now in a single hand. Later in 1899, with the passing of the local lumbering industry, and the necessity for expansions of the roads if they were to survive, they were all taken over by the Pere Marquette. Fifty years later the Pere Marquette gave way to the Chesapeake and Ohio.

The railroads were built mainly for and by the larger lumber companies. They needed a way to ship their lumber and logs to a bigger market and to get supplies and food for the men and the horses. As soon as the railroad were built, this made a new way for the pioneers, farmers and businessmen to come to this area. They came from everywhere, the land was cheap and the could cut the trees to build their homes, sell the rest of the logs that they didn't need to the lumber company to help pay for their new land. Many of farm were paid for in this way, all they had to do was to removed the stumps and the land was good for farming. A lot of the farmers even work for the lumber companies in the winter and farm in the summer to help pay off their farms.

With more and more settler coming everyday settlement began to spring up along the railroads, there became a need for depots for loading and unloading the trains. The first settlement that you came to coming from Muskegon to Newaygo County on the Muskegon and Big Rapids Railroad was right at the county line which was called Marionville, named after Charles Marion, who had a saw mill there and did much to established the settlement. It's was also called County Line Station on several old railroad maps. In 1881 when they applied to have a post office there was already a Marionville so they change the name of the settlement to Dash. In 1897 the name was change to Brunswick.

The next stop was the Reeman Station, then came Lake Station, Fremont Center now called Fremont, Wooster, Ryerson Station, also called Wooster Hill and Worchester Hill, Alleyton and Morgan Station, now called White Cloud. The first stop or station after Morgan Station was Swain's Crossing, then came Field's, McLane, Hayes Siding, Traverse Road Station, Home, later called Woodville, Barstows Switch, Hungerford, Lumberton and Trunbull before you reached the Mecosta County Line.

If you were coming from Grand Rapids to Fremont you could take the train on the Grand Rapids, Newaygo and Lake Shore Railroad. The first station or stop that you would come to in Newaygo County would be Ashland City (the post office there was called Lake), then came Ashland Station, later called Grant Station now Grant, next was Brooks and then Newaygo. You could get off the train at Newaygo and get someone with a team to bring you to Fremont or you could stay on the train and go to Morgan Station (White Cloud). There you could switch to the Muskegon and Big Rapids Railroad train and come to Fremont. If you were traveling North you would stay on the train at Morgan Station and the next stop you came to would be Diamond Lake, also called Diamond Loch or Ramona, next was Park's City, then there was Dingman, also called Otia, now called Brohman, next was Brookings, Walkup, Biteley, now spelled Bitely, Lilley and Jewell, later called Alderson, just before you came to the Lake County Line.

Many of these small settlements are now gone. Most of the Post Offices closed with the establishment of Rural Free Delivery or R.F.D. This proved a death-knell to many of the small post offices.


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