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HISTORY OF WEXFORD COUNTY


Wexford County, located in the northwestern part of the lower peninsula, traveled by US-131, M-115 and M-55. Wexford County was founded by JohnLennington, a general storekeeper. The first postmaster (Feb. 1865) was William Masters.

Wexford County, also known as Hanover, first set off in 1840 as Kautawauket (meaning "Land of Water"), although the county government was not organized until 1869. The county was first named Kautawauket after a Chippewa chief. In 1843 the present name Wexford, taken from a county in Ireland, was adopted

The earliest known white settler in Wexford County is believed to have come in 1861. Settlement of the county began at Sherman in 1863 and this village was the first county seat. Manton briefly held the honor, but Clam Lake (now Cadillac), settled a few years later, covented the distinction, and a county seat war of unusual duration and bitterness, lasting for a decade, was waged.

Timber was the forest main industry of the area. During 1873, the canal connecting Big and Little Clam Lakes was completed by the Lumber Mills on land donated by George Mitchell. The channel was roughly 20 feet wide by 0.3 miles long and allowed logs to be floated from the shores of Big Clam Lake to the railroad lines in town. Widening/dredging of the canal has occurred in 1877, 1886, 1894, 1896, 1900, and most recently, in 1965. The canal freezes in winter before either Lake, thaws as soon as both lakes are frozen-not to freeze again until the following year.

In March, 1989, the Canal was declared a State Historical Landmark by the Michigan Historical Commission because of it's significance to the development of Cadillac. An Historical Marker, placed at the East end of the Canal in June 1990, explains the canal's history in greater detail. The Clam Lake Canal now serves recreational boaters, allowing two-day boat traffic between the two lakes. Big and Little Clam Lakes eventually

Wexford County was formerly Kautawaubet County before its name change on the 8th of March 1843 , attached to Mackinac, Manistee & Grand Traverse Counties prior to organization on the 30th of March 1869 .

 

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