The earliest manufacturing establishment of any class put in operation in Oakland County was probably the saw-mill of Colonel Stephen Mack (for his firm, Mack, Conant & Sibley), probably in April, 1819.
It is claimed by many that the mill commonly called "Hersey's mill," on Paint creek, within the present limits of Rochester village, was erected at an earlier date, but the testimony of James Hersey, a son of one of the original proprietors, now living in Oakland township, shows that the Hersey mill was not put in operation until October, 1819.
It is, perhaps, probable that the blacksmith-shop of the company was first put in operation. In this shop Harvey Williams and Elisha Gardner worked at their trade, and were undoubtedly the first smiths in the county.
A flouring- and grist-mill was put in operation about 1820, and run by Colonel Mack until his death, in 1826,when it was rented for a short time, perhaps a year, to Dr. O. Chamberlin, or to Chamberlin & Whittemore. Samuel C. Munson eventually purchased the property, and it is suggested by an old resident that he obtained his title from Enrotus P. Hastings, president of the Bank of Michigan, into whose hands it had fallen. Munson repaired and improved the mill, putting in an additional run of stone, a merchant bolt, etc.
In addition to other works, Colonel Mack erected a distillery about 1823-24, and soon after erected a small woolen-factory. The woolen-factory was run by David Paddack for some time after Colonel Mack's death. About 1829, Mr. Paddack purchased the machinery, and built a new woolen-mill some distance below.
H. N. Howard, who came to Pontiac from Genesee, Livingston county, New York, in 1829, purchased the mill about 1832-33, paying therefor about eight thousand dollars. The purchase included, besides the flouring-mill, the woolen-factory, trip-hammer shop, and all property connected therewith. Mr. Howard owned the property, and operated it until about 1845, when he sold a two-thirds' interest to A. A. Lull and Albert F. Draper (the latter now of Flint). The same year the company built the Pontiac mills, making it the largest and most complete in this part of the country. It contained four run of burr-stone, and had an immense storage capacity. It was in every respect first-class. The motive-power was produced by a gigantic breast-wheel, twelve feet in diameter, and thirty-six feet length of bucket. The shaft was a wonderful piece of workmanship. It was thirty-six inches in diameter, and required a team consisting of eighteen yoke of oxen to haul it from the forest to the mill. It was cut from a gigantic white-oak tree, found on the farm of Jacob Voorheis, living two miles west of Pontiac. It was hauled to town on a set of trucks constructed expressly for the work, and having a tread of about eighteen inches. This firm operated the mill about two years, when Howard sold his interest to his partners, and they sold to A. B. Mathews about 1848-49. Mathews raised the old grist-mill, and also raised the dam some thirty-one inches. The original head was about seven feet. The mill built by Howard, Lull & Draper was valued at one period as high as forty thousand dollars. Mathews operated the mill until his death, about 1870-71. After his death, his son George B. Mathews carried on the business for several years, when he sold to James Orvis, who, at this writing (July, 1877), has purchased mill property and water-power at Cascade, Kent county, and will probably dispose of the property in Pontiac and remove thither.
Messrs. Howard, Lull & Draper put a new set of machinery in the woolen-mill, and operated it for some two years, when, finding there was not sufficient water to operate all their mills, they sold the machinery, and the mill was afterwards changed into a cooper-shop.
About 1837-38, Mr. Howard leased the trip-hammer shop to Petty & Wallace, who put in machinery and operated it as a planing-mill for about two years.
The distillery was operated by Elisha Beach, after Colonel Mack's death, for a number of years. Mr. Howard also carried it on in connection with his old flouring-mill for two or three years, when he built a new one where the large flouring-mill was afterwards erected. This second distillery was afterwards burned.
H. N. Howard, Orson Bartlett, and Amasa Andrews built a dam on the river, where the Parsons dam now stands, and dug a race across the Peninsula to where the old gas-works stand, where they erected a machine-shop. Soon after, Howard purchased the interest of -his partners, and changed it to a grist-mill, which was long known as the "old red mill." He put in two run of stone, and with his six-feet fall did a good business for several years, when the mill was destroyed by fire. The race or canal from the dam to this mill passed through the premises now owned by J. Ten Eyck, Esq.
The old Mack distillery was used as an ashery about 1846.
When H. N. Howard first came to Pontiac he rented a room of Dr. Chamberlin, and opened a general country store, which he continued for several years before he engaged in the milling business. He also built an ashery on Huron street, on the bank of the river, with the view of engaging in the manufacture of pearl-ashes, but the oak timber would not produce them; the manufacture of potash was carried on instead. This branch of business he carried on for several years. Messrs. Howard, Draper & Lull had a general store in connection with their mill.
PADDACK'S WOOLEN-MILL. David Paddack erected a woolen-mill, as near as can be ascertained, about 1829. At first he put in only one set of machinery, which he operated for some time, and then added two more sets. He did a general custom and carding business, and manufactured fulled cloth, flannels, and yarns, for the market.
This mill went into operation in 1830, and continued until Mr. Paddack's death, in 1856. Subsequent to that time his son Hiram carried on the business for twelve or thirteen years, when J. P. Paddack purchased the property and operated it for four or five years, when he sold the machinery to a stock company recently formed in Pontiac, who placed it in a large building on Lawrence street, where it was operated for a short time by steam-power, when the company dissolved, and the machinery was sold to parties who took it to Vassar, on the Detroit and Bay City railway.
FLOURING-MILL. David Paddack erected the flouring-mill still known as "Paddack's mills" in 1845, and operated it until his death, when his son, H. L. Paddack, carried on the business for about five years, and then disposed of two-thirds of the property to Messrs. Baldwin & Thomas, who continued the business for seven years, when J. P. Paddack purchased the one-third interest belonging to his brother Hiram, and within the year purchased the remaining two-thirds and became sole owner. He continued the business for some eight or nine years, when he sold to G. B. Mathews, from whom it passed to the control of the First National Bank of Pontiac on a mortgage sale. The bank recently sold the property to Messrs. Kelly & Jewell, the present owners.
The mill contains four run of burr-stone, and has a fall of eleven feet on the river, making one of the best powers in the neighborhood.
LEGAL-TENDER MILLS. This establishment has passed through a great number of hands. The waterpower was sold by Elon Farnsworth, trustee of the Pontiac company, to Sarah Macomb, September 24, 1827, who disposed of the same (known as outlot No. 9) to Colonel Calvin Hotchkiss, June 1, 1831. Colonel Hotchkiss sold to Barber Egleston and M. N. Robinson, in May, 1850. Egleston & Robinson probably built the grist-mill about this time. A dam and saw-mill were constructed by Hotchkiss & Egleston previously, Colonel Hotchkiss furnishing the means, and Egleston doing the work. Egleston sold his interest in the grist-mill to Marshall N. Robinson, and the title seems soon after to have been in P. Champlin, who soon sold to M. E. Crofoot, and the latter to Barkham, in 1855. In 1863, Barkham sold to Charles Dawson", and he to Proctor & Rowley, in 1865. A man by the name of Green Freeman was taken into the firm in 1866, to whom Proctor & Rowley sold in 1867. Freeman sold to A. Rust in 1874, and the property fell into the hands of Proctor & Rowley on a mortgage in 1877. These parties immediately sold to Guy Kimball, the present owner.
In 1867, Green Freeman expended some twelve thousand dollars in repairs and improvements, adding two run of stone, enlarging the mill, etc.
The mill contains at the present five run of stone, and has a capacity of turning out one hundred and twenty-five barrels of flour daily. The power is excellent, furnishing a fall of fourteen feet.
The old saw-mill which was built at the dam about 1848 has ceased to exist.
A cooper-shop, owned by George Green (who is also doing a large business near Saginaw street, in the city) is connected with the mill.
THE LAWRENCE STREET STEAM FLOURING-MILL. This establishment was originally erected for a plaster-mill in 1862, by Messrs. Fox & Smith, who carried on the business for four years, when it was changed into a merchant flouring-mill, with three run of flouring-stone and one run- for grinding plaster. Fox & Smith conducted the business until 1870, when Henry W. Lord purchased the property. Mr. Lord was special partner with Messrs. Fox & Smith. Lord sold to G. A. Hall & Co., the present proprietors.
When first put in operation a twenty horse-power engine was used, but it was afterwards taken out and one of sixty horse-power substituted. The last engine has been since taken out by G. A. Hall & Co., and material changes made in the mill.
The original cost of the property was about twenty-five thousand dollars. It is a first-class mill in every respect, and capable of doing a good business. The original flouring-mill erected by Colonel Mack, in 1820, was turned into a plaster-mill about the time the Pontiac mills were built, and has continued to be used in that capacity until quite recently. At present it is used for the storage of wool. It is a venerable relic of the early days of Pontiac.
DAWSON'S MILLS. These mills were erected by Charles Dawson in 1852. The building is thirty-two by forty-four feet in size. At first only two run of stone were put in, but a third was added in 1855. The long head-race which supplies the mill with waterpower was constructed at the time the mill was built. The "head and fall" is about eight feet. Mr. Dawson has continued to own and operate the mill to the present time. The business has been and still is mostly merchant work, and the market principally a home one.
This is the first water-power below the lakes, and the mill has the whole stream and a very large reservoir for a feeder.
The original dam near the Orchard Lake road and a saw-mill (now in ruins) were constructed as early as 1833 by one John Jenkins, who operated the mill until the power was purchased by Mr. Dawson, as above stated.
In June, 1833, Robert, John, and Thomas Garner, who had just settled in White Lake township, purchased lumber at this saw-mill to build a shanty with. Mr. Dawson purchased the water-power and saw-mill about 1849. The saw-mill was operated until as late as 1870, or as long as there was timber to saw.
Mr. Dawson was originally from Clackmannanshire, Scotland. He came to the United States and stopped with a brother in Massachusetts for a few months, and arrived in Michigan in the spring of 1832. He first located in Wayne county, west of Detroit, and removed to Pontiac in 1843. He was at one time owner of the " legal-tender mills." Mr. Dawson purchased the farm now occupied and worked by him in 1855. His sons are at present carrying on the flouring-mill. There are four of the Dawson brothers living in Oakland County at the present time,—Charles, Robert, proprietor of a brewery in Pontiac, and John, all living in the city, and Richard, in Troy township, the latter a farmer.
FURNITURE. Moses Fifield and Orson Bartlett had a small shop, where they manufactured by hand previous to 1840. Fifield afterwards sold his interest to Bartlett. In March, 1840, Colonel William G. Page opened a shop on Saginaw street, below the Hodges House, and carried on the business for some years. He died of malignant erysipelas in February, 1845. John G. Crombie carried on the business by hand for two years succeeding the colonel's death, when he purchased the stock, and continued the business until 1854 in the old shop, when he removed to the Peck block, where he fitted up a fine shop and salesroom, in which he carried on business uninterruptedly for twenty years. In 1865 he erected a frame shop on West Lawrence street, and in 1868 built a new brick shop, and put in extensive machinery and a fine steam-engine of twelve horse-power.
Mr. Crombie is doing a general manufacturing and upholstering business in all grades of furniture, including parlor and chamber suites, and in addition conducts the undertaking business, to which he has given special attention for thirty-two years. His facilities for transacting business and the character of his work are unsurpassed. He employs from eight to fifteen hands.
About 1840-41, Petty & Wallace opened a furniture-factory, which they operated for some five or six years. It was located at Mathews' mill, and used water-power. It closed up about 1846. Mr. S. Dart also engaged for several years in this branch of business, employing one or two hands. Alfred T. Fritz was also engaged in the same business for a short time.
PLANING-MILLS. FOUNDRIES AND MACHINE-SHOPS. William and George Allen put a small foundry in operation about 1835 near the Mathews mill. About 1838 they built a shop on West Pike street, which they operated for some two years. In 1839, James Andrews purchased a one-half interest, and in 1840 purchased the entire property, and conducted the business successfully for about thirty years. Upon becoming sole owner, he enlarged the works and put in new and additional machinery. For several years he employed horse-power, but eventually put in a six horse-power steam-engine. He did a general foundry and finishing business, and ordinarily employed about eight hands. In 1859 or 1860, Mr. Andrews sold to John Dawson, the present proprietor, who continues the same general business as his predecessor.
The large manufacturing establishment located in the southwest part of the city, near Orchard Lake avenue, is the legitimate outgrowth of a small foundry opened in the village of Commerce, by D. Smith & Co., in 1857. The firm continued for about three years, when it changed to the present, W. D. King & Co. In 1867 the establishment was removed to Pontiac, where the firm purchased the business of Horace Gray, who was running a small shop on Andrews street, near the D. and M. Railway. Business was carried on at that place for some three years, when the firm purchased the extensive frame building, erected by N. P. Stewart for a stock barn, and including several acres of land, for the sum of four thousand dollars. At the time of the purchase, 1869, J. C. Goodsell was the proprietor. It was at once fitted up as a first-class foundry and machine-shop, being admirably adapted to the purpose. A new and extensive foundry building was erected the same year, and in 1876 an immense stock was put up for the accommodation of the increasing business, and a fifteen horse-power engine added. The firm have about twenty-two thousand dollars invested in real and personal property connected with the business, and are doing all classes of work in their line with promptness and dispatch. For ten years they have made a specialty of the manufacture of turbine water-wheels. They are manufacturing at present horse-powers, plows, circular sawing machinery for farm purposes, mill-gearing, water-wheels, pulleys and shafting (a specialty), and wheel-cultivators. Their jobbing business during the busy season is also very heavy.
The firm furnished for the State Asylum for the Insane some fifteen thousand dollars' worth of iron-work.
They also manufacture every variety of ornamental work for building purposes, including iron columns, fencing, etc.
LARD-OIL AND CANDLES. An establishment for the manufacture of these goods was in operation, under the control of Messrs. Oatman & Davis, for several years, about 1842-43.
AN ASHERY was in operation in 1837, in the name of Birdsall & Roosevelt, which they were operating in connection with their mercantile business. In 1842 an ashery was in operation by Lull & Draper.
CARRIAGE- AND WAGON-FACTORIES. A foundry and machine-shop were put in operation by Mortimer Smith. (now of Birmingham) in 1849, and carried on for about twenty years, when it was purchased by Chapman & Johnson, who sold to Horace Gray, and he to the King brothers, now of the firm W. D. King & Co. The Kings removed from this locality, and, in 1869, Charles Pearsons purchased the property and deeded it to his sons, William and Charles, who are carrying on the carriage-manufacturing business.
This firm confines itself altogether to light work, and employ generally from seven to ten hands. Their motive-power is furnished by a breast-wheel ten and a half by eighteen feet in dimensions, which is driven by the Clinton river, across which at this point a dam of about two feet rise is built. This establishment is on Andrews street, a short distance south of J. Ten Eyck's residence.
Laurent & Emmons, on Lawrence street, commenced business in the spring of 1875. They manufacture all descriptions of carriages, sleighs, spring-wagons, etc. In connection with the carriage business they have a blacksmith-shop, which does only work connected with the business. They employ usually from eight to ten hands.
S. J. Cloonan, also on Lawrence street, commenced the manufacture of light and heavy vehicles in 1868, on East Lawrence street. He removed to his present location, a few doors east of Saginaw street, in April, 1875. Mr. Cloonan manufactures sleighs, cutters, etc., and carries on the business of general blacksmithing in connection. His work is all disposed of in the vicinity of Pontiac. He is agent for the celebrated "Harrison wagon," manufactured at Grand Rapids. Doing a very good business.
PLANING-MILLS. The building at present occupied by Laurent & Emmons was originally erected for a planing-mill, by Wm. H. Jennings and Lysander Woodward, about 1859-60. It was operated in that capacity for about twelve years, when a stock company was formed and the establishment converted into a woolen-mill, of which Jennings and Baldwin were principal owners. It was run by steam, and the business was carried on for about four years, when the machinery was sold and taken to Detroit.
H. Heitsch commenced running a planing-mill in 1869, in which year he built the fine and extensive brick shop now owned and operated by him, on Water and Perry streets. It is fifty by seventy feet, two stories in height, and has an engine-house attached fourteen by twenty-eight feet in size. Mr. Heitsch is doing a general sawing and planing business, and manufactures sash, doors, blinds, mouldings, and everything in his line. The machinery is operated by an automatic cut-off engine of thirty horse-power, and of very superior workmanship.
Mr. Heitsch also keeps, in connection with his manufacturing business, a large and selected stock of lumber of every description required in the market. The entire works employ generally about fifteen hands. The amount of capital invested in all branches of the business is about fifteen thousand dollars, and the total sales for the year will average thirty thousand dollars. The pine lumber handled by Mr. Heitsch comes principally from Ionia and Montcalm counties. The hard wood lumber is purchased at home mostly. Thus the establishment combines the various branches operated by Mr. Heitsch in the city, and is doing a flourishing business. The manufacturing facilities are complete in every respect and equal to any in the country.
PUMPS, -FENCING, ETC. H.N. Hill, on Pike street, near the city building, commenced in 1868 the manufacture of lawn and garden fence at Paddack's mills. Removed thence to the building now occupied by Turk Brothers as a general grocery and provision store. From thence the business was removed to the large building on West Lawrence street, and finally to the one now occupied, formerly by the Methodist Episcopal church building.
Mr. Hill manufactures all descriptions of pumps, including chain, stone cylinder, and common, and makes a specialty of a new style of wooden pump of his own invention, upon which he has applied for a patent.
MARBLE-WORKS. This branch of industry was started about 1850, by Sherman & Judson, who were succeeded by Alonzo Barber, Barber, Moore & Co., Dart & Elmore, James Marsh, Dart & Whittenmore, Dart & Gerls, M. S. Dart, Dart & Burka, and Lewis Burka, all of whom, and possibly others, have carried on the business at various periods. The last-named gentleman commenced business in 1877, and is at present (July, 1877) the only one in that line in Pontiac. He employs, including himself, about five hands usually; furnishes all descriptions of work and all the various materials employed by the trade. Shop on the south side of the bridge, Saginaw street.
BREWING. Robert Dawson, a son of "bonnie Scotland," erected the buildings now occupied by him on South Saginaw street in the fall of 1845, and has carried on the business of a brewer until the present time.
The average amount of manufactured goods annually equals about five hundred barrels, which is marketed mostly in Pontiac. Mr. Dawson employs from two to four hands.
Other parties have engaged in the business from time to time. Among them we may mention Philip Dorner, William Mowbray, and James A. Carhart, the latter of whom erected quite an extensive and costly building on the river-bank, near Patterson street, about 1865, and continued the business for a number of years.
At present the establishment of Mr. Dawson is the only one in operation in the city.
PONTIAC KNITTING-WORKS. This important branch of the industries of Pontiac was established in 1872, by Mr. E. Wakeman, who started operations with two "Lamb" machines over John Pound's store. The business was continued at that place during one winter.
In February, 1873, Mr. P. A. Hitchcock became associated with Mr. Wakeman, and the works were removed to rooms over Frank Boyd's store, where ten machines were put in operation, and continued for one year. The company removed to their present rooms on Lawrence street in 1876, at which time ten additional machines were put in operation. The first year after the partnership was formed about five thousand dozen of hosiery were manufactured. In 1876 the amount reached eight thousand dozen. In the latter year the company took out letters patent on a new style of hosiery for men and women's winter wear.
About twenty-five machines are now in operation; and, commencing with three or four hands, the number has steadily increased until it reaches, at the present time, three hundred.
It is getting to be the most important manufacturing interest in the city, and their success is very gratifying to the energetic gentlemen who have ventured upon the new branch of industry. The manufacture for 1877 will probably reach ten thousand dozen of common work, and about five hundred dozen of the patent variety.
The goods are manufactured entirely from. wool, and are fast becoming known for, their superior quality, style, and finish. The market already extends throughout the northern States, from Boston to St. Paul, and is being constantly enlarged.
The employees are principally women and girls, who work by the piece, and receive an average of one thousand dollars per month in the aggregate. This money reaches a class of people who would otherwise have very little opportunity for earning anything, and would sooner or later have been compelled to remove to other localities. The total sales of manufactured goods for 1877 will probably reach from thirty thousand to forty thousand dollars.
This establishment demonstrates what can be done by careful management and well-applied industry. It is only enterprises of this character that will enable Pontiac to maintain her supremacy and increase her business. Her ordinary mercantile business cannot hope to cover any larger extent of territory than at present, and only a judicious investment of capital and labor in some profitable branch of manufactures can enable the city to keep pace with the growth and improvements of the State generally.
LUMBER-YARD AND PLANING-MILL. Henry W. Lord, Jr., near the depot, carries on a general lumber business, and has in connection a planing-mill for dressing lumber. His variety includes all descriptions of pine lumber, and he keeps for sale sash, doors, blinds, and all kinds of finished work in his line of business.
PRODUCE DEALERS. George W. Dewey is doing a general produce business, dealing in grain, flour, feed, wool, etc. He also has a large trade in plaster, lime, salt, and coal. Among other general produce dealers are Freeman & Taylor, John M. Smith, Charles Dawson, D. C. Buckland, and Hammond & Hilton.
RAILWAY BUSINESS. The railway business of Pontiac is large, and comprises quite an extensive variety. The following is a condensed statement for 1876:
Number of passengers, 26,507; receipts for same, $24,007.83.
Wheat shipped, 4,740,822 pounds; oats shipped, 2,167,481 pounds; corn and rye, 47,175 pounds; barley, 839,686 pounds; buckwheat, 37,123 pounds; barrels of 'flour, 26,615; barrels of apples, 25,742; dressed hogs, 515,862 pounds; potatoes, 981,261 pounds; wool, 184,872 pounds; sundries, 3,351,948 pounds; freight receipts, $21,845.15; live-stock receipts, $1005.41; total freight receipts, $22,850.56.
INWARD FREIGHT. --Lumber, staves, etc., 7,855,793 pounds; coal, 4,047,664 pounds; lime and cement, 1,486,900 pounds; salt, 1380 barrels; plaster, 860,000 pounds; sundries, 9,109,238 pounds. Freight earnings, $23,795 61; live-stock earnings, $115.74; total inward earnings, $23,911.35.
EARLY HOTELS.Dr. Olmstead Chamberlin built one of the first hotels in Pontiac, on the southwest corner of Saginaw and Lawrence streets, as early as 1822. The National block now occupies the site. Dr. Chamberlin kept a hotel in his building for about two years. It was a frame, two stories in height, and quite an imposing building for those days. This house stood until April, 1840, when it disappeared in the fire and smoke of the great fire of that year.
Solomon Close built the National block, as a sort of rival to the Hodges House, about 1842-43. Colonel David Stanard built a two-story frame hotel on the corner opposite Dr. Chamberlin's about 1823-24, and painted it yellow, and it was long known as the "yellow tavern."
The most famous, as well as the most costly, hotel which Pontiac has ever boasted was the Hodges House, erected in 1838 by Schuyler Hodges. Mr. Hodges was born in New Hampshire, April 1, 1798. He was the son of Sanders Hodges, who, with his wife Jane Knapp, were also natives of the " Granite State." In the autumn of 1800, Sanders Hodges removed to Stanstead, in Lower Canada, were he remained several years, when he removed to the village of Colborne, in Cramahe township, Northumberland county, Upper Canada, in which place he died and was buried in 1820. His wife survived him until 1840, and died in Whitby township, in the same province, at the age of sixty-four years.
Schuyler Hodges came to Michigan about 1822. In 1823 he was working by the month for Aaron Webster at Auburn, and must have settled at Pontiac about that time, where he engaged in the mercantile business and soon became a prominent citizen. In 1828-29 he was sheriff of Oakland County, and in the first-named year married Mary A. Williams, daughter of Major Oliver Williams, the first settler in Waterford.
About 1838 Mr. Hodges commenced building the public-house which still bears his name. He had large accounts trusted out among the farmers and others, for which he took lumber, stone, brick, and any kind of material which he could utilize in his new building, besides labor, teaming, etc. The building is about eighty by one hundred and thirty-two feet, three stories and basement, and finished for several stores on the first floor. The brick were manufactured in the vicinity, and the cut stone was all brought from Ohio, by water, to Detroit, and thence by wagons to Pontiac. The building was completed and opened as a hotel, February 17, 1840. It was claimed to be at that date the finest hotel building in the State, and was probably surpassed by none. It contained over fifty rooms, and was in every respect a first-class house for that day. The stores below were opened in 1838. The total cost of this famous structure was about thirty thousand dollars. After the lapse of forty years the building still ranks number one among those of a similar character in towns of the size of Pontiac. Mr. Hodges died in Pontiac, April 29, 1845.
The following proceedings of the township board on the 1st of February, 1840, explain. themselves:
"Whereas, Schuyler Hodges has applied to the township board for license to keep a tavern in the brick building at the corner of Pike and Saginaw streets, in the village of Pontiac, within the township; therefore,
"Resolved, That the clerk be ordered to issue to said Hodges a license to keep a tavern in said building until the 1st day of May next, on payment of the fees required by law.
"CHARLES M. ELDRIDGE,