Michigan Pioneers

The following article was written by my 2nd cousin twice removed. It was sent to me by a Cox cousin. Although it talks about several of my ancestors other Surnames are also mentioned. lI thought that others would enjoy reading this article as well. Although it is a little long, it is very easy reading. The George Wickham and wife Lydia Cox who are mentioned are my GGGgrandparents.This article gives a good overview of life in the area after 1868.


Written by John Charles Wickham. Published in the Houghton News sometime in 1964.

My grandad, Albert R. Wickham, first came to Houghton Lake in the year 1868. He was land looking for a quarter section of Cork Pine, as he called it (White Pine). The Norway or Red Pine, was also in demand as masts for sailing ships.

Born on an island in the Maumee River, south of Toledo, Ohio Albert R. Wickham and brother John C. Wickham, who was two years older (1842-1844) were the sons of George Wickham and wife, Lydia Cox. They had nine children in all, Great Grandma, Lydia Cox Wickham was the first white child to be born in Hancock Co. Ohio inside the fort where Findley, Ohio is today. Albert and John answered President Lincoln's call for volunteers in 1861, along with two cousins, William Hale (later to be Roscommon County's first Judge of Probate) and Layfayette Hale (Uncle Laff in my father's stories) and Uncle Bill. Also a neighbor boy, Alfred Wilson, who later married a Wickham girl. He was the fireman in the great train robbery, a suicidal attempt to end the Civil War, when a spy and Union soldier started a locomotive and raced into the South tearing rails and burning bridges. Walt Disney made a picture of the story, and Colliers's magazine featured it also.

Now there was another cousin, Noah Cox who walked to town that day in 1861 and they all enlisted in the 21st Ohio Volunteers. Noah lost his sight at Missionary Ridge, but lived to be a father of eleven children. Now all these mentioned, followed my grandad to Roscommon County to take advantage of a quarter section of pine to Veterans, under the homestead Law's as did father's of the Owen and Knapp families and others. There was a small middle aged gun smith in the army from Wood County, Ohio. WIlliam Stocking and his wife Mary Lamb Stocking, she planted the Apple trees that are being torn down now on the Poppleton Estate to make room for a swimming pool.

John and Albert were privates and detailed to help this gun smith. He took a liking to the boys and told them, "I've got two pretty daughters at home, single, and both have something wrong with them. Come see us when this war is over." Well, John and Albert did just that. John married Sadie, born deaf in one ear. She died at Summit Ht. Houghton Lake about 1940. Albert, my granddad, married Mary, blind in one eye. She stood on a block of wood in school sharpening a pencil with a pen knife, when the block rolled and she put her eye out. She had been fitted with a glass eye, and as a joke on the boys, the girl's secrets were kept by all. The boys kept looking their brides over for many moons before they found out what they didn't get for their money.

John and Albert and the entire command were captured at the battle of Chickamauga Creek. They spend two years and ten months In seven southern prisons, (Libby, Andersonville, Richmond, Danville). John and twenty-three others tunnelled out of Danville, Virginia prison. Albert, too weak to walk, lay on rotten blankets covering the hole. All were recaptured, but John and two others, who's names I've forgotten. John was twenty-one days and nights in the wilds of West Virginia, hiding by day and traveling by night, he was fed by the poor blacks and made it to the Union lines. A month later, Albert was released on a prisoner exchange and sent home. He was in delicate health for some years. Later, with a wife and two daughters, Mae and Sadie, Albert's wife contracted consumption or T.B. at a G.A.R. reunion in Cincinatti, Ohio. Albert took Mary to his Army Colonel, a famous doctor in Cincinnati. After a complete examination, he told Albert he was going to lose Mary soon if he didn't move from Toledo to a dryer place. Before they left Cincinnati for home, a council of war was held at the home of Colonel Kapplan. Here is where Houghton Lake enters the story. The Colonel said, "Boy's, I was on a hunting trip with a college friend by the name of Houghton, two years ago. The State of Michigan has built a road from Saginaw Bay, northwest to Traverse Bay. My friend helped on the survey and they named a big lake after him, it's about 100 miles north of Saginaw. The hunting and fishing is the best I ever saw and Virgin Pine line the south shore. The big lake is a paradise. Now, Albert, here is my advice, sell your meat business in Toledo, homestead a quarter section of Pine, get as close to the lake as possible. As it's the headwaters of the Muskegon River, logs can be driven downriver. Some company will come there and start a big operation, have your logs banked on the shore and they will buy them. Go find the piece you want, build a camp on it. As for Mary she must have complete rest, your girls are big enough to help some. Make her a pillow of Pine needles, also a mattress. Complete rest and my medicine are her only hope. Boy's I'll help with money and medicine, and come to see her as often as I can. (An excuse to go fishing.)

So grandad sold his meat business to his brother John, and went to work for Captain Canfield, buying and delivering big draft horses to camps near Lansing and Midland. Three and four teams at a time, riding one and leading the others. After several years of this, he was able to come to the lake with a borrowed team. He fixed his camp at what is known as Five Points, Denton Township, north of the Baptist Church at Owens Lake. Grandad was ready to move in 1869, but Mary was very weak, and to complicate things, pregnant. Well, they started anyway, travelling slowly. At Diamondale, Michigan she could go no farther. So at a big lumber camp on Snow Lake he went to work as a cook. The boss, was a veteran of Missionary Ridge, and he fixed a nice shanty for Mary and her daughters. There in the shanty on Snow Lake on September 25, 1870, my dad, a little red-headed boy was born to Mary and Albert. Surprisingly, Mary lived. The boy was named William Case Wickham. The men in camp were all happy for Mary and her son, and when the Diamondale doctor gave the "all's well", they went on a toot that landed a good number of them in jail in Eaton Rapids. Mary was too weak to leave for Houghton Lake for 18 months. During that time grandad made trips to their homestead and built a barn for oxen. In the spring of 1872 Mary and children went by train to Red Keg, which is now Averill. There, grandad waited with him by the name of Wm. Emory, he was the son of some people who had settled half-a-mile southeast of their homestead. How grandad hated the trip to Midland for salt; sixty-five miles. We had to roll barrels up those Nester Hills, as oxen could not pull the cart and all. Nester Hills is now Mid-Forest Lodge. In the spring of 1872, grandad got in a huge garden and a field of corn and taters. They Emory's helped build a root cellar and the remains are still there. The winter of '72 and '73 was a tough one for the Wickhams, grandads kidneys were shot, as a result of drinking sewage while in the rebel prisons. By the spring of '73 Mary's lungs had improved and they had a visit from the Colonel doctor. He knew by Mary's letter that her eye was failing, so he brought a kit and fitted her to glasses. Then he gave Mary a lecture. He said, "Mary, your folks gave you a mighty fine education, even public speaking on account of your eye accident. Now, you are the best read woman in the north, you must teach Albert to read and write. He had to make an X when he enlisted. You must start a school and a Sunday school. This settlement will grow so you will have to keep timber records for yourself and the neighbors or they will be cheated. These things you can and must do. Hell, Mary, you are no dead weight -- you have to be boss of this outfit." And she was, till her dying day. Granddad took to figures later in life, bought and shipped sheep, cattle and hogs to Detroit and Buffalo. He also studied public speaking and law. He was under sheriff a lot and had a shingle out in the yard. I remember, A.R. Wickham, Auctioneer, and how the loved to cry and sell. In the spring of '75, an old army buddy and his relation moved to Houghton Lake and settled on homesteads. The Hale's and Blind Noah Cox, with a big brood of children. Each following spring brought more settlers and the Chapels. In grandad's yard they dug an open well; 80 feet down, and lined it with cedar slabs. Mary's lungs were still healing and she was still boss and everyone helped each other. She wrote letters and did figures for backwoods boys and girls. Lumberjacks hoed her sweet corn, and in return she would write to their folks. Mary was always fair, but always collected somehow. There was always company there and Mary couldn't get travelling Indians to help her, they were always begging meat and potatoes. Bill Emory was growing like a weed, and he brought Mary many deer. When the Prudden's came to East Bay, Prudden hired grandad to cut and skid logs. Bill Emory went along to drive the oxen and hook chains. He was very young, but tall and strong. What a hunter and trapper he was, and his younger brothers were not far behind. More people came this winter and grandad cut meat in Roscommon during the winter months so the girls could get some schooling. In the spring dad said he and another kid caught Grayling White Trout in the creek by William's Gas Station, which is now Roscommon Village. They took the fish to a hotel outside of town, and some fancy ladies bought them. They gave the boys candy, soft drinks, and a big price, which was more than they got at the meat market. But they got caught! Mary found out and gave her red-headed son Willie, a whippin and made him promise he would never go near a place like that again. Grandad said, "don't make my boy swear to a lie." Grandad's kidneys weren't working right, so about twice a year he had to go to Midland and have his bladder tapped. He often told me of the agony of riding to Midland on an oxcart as his body was swollen because he would always wait too long before starting: hoping for relief without help. He would sleep for days after the doctor tapped him. Somehow grandad got a skid-road built to Lake Shore. It was the first road to Houghton Lake. I asked grandad how he got so much done with on money for labor. He said, "It seemed like folks always owed us something". Mary did a lot of nursing during the war. She was born with healing hands. Then the Colonel gave her some needles, medicine, and medical books. By Golly, when Mary set an arm or leg she did it right, no matter how much they yelled. Nobody had any money, but she had a way of making folks work and pay us back." When Ole Pluckett got his shoulder chewed by a bear, Mary kept him for weeks, but he was too old to work. She wouldn't dream of letting him pay her. Each year grandad's clearing grew. Things were looking up as Mary was on the mend, besides her father and mother left Toledo, Ohio for Houghton Lake Village where Skytop is now. Grandfather Stocking would open a gun shop and wagon works there. Then disaster struck again in Camp 16, which is now Edenville, Michigan. Some half-breed French and Indians stole Grandad Stocking's boat, and his beloved tools for rifling, etc. Someone told him in time and he borrowed a rifle and shot the fellow poling the boat in the thigh. He recovered his property but the culprit died weeks later going down river on a raft. A US marshall arrested grandad  for murder in the 1st degree with no bail and returned him to the Edenville jail, which was Camp 16 then. So to get his father-in-law (William C. Stocking) freed, Albert Rosewell Wickham sold his team of oxen yoke and chains to Ole Prudden, his employer at that time. He walked to Saginaw and hired a young red-haired lawyer just out of law school. After hearing Albert's story, the lawyer said, "I'll free him for $100. I'll prove he died of neglect and that those mustard plasters caused the gangarene." He won and Albert had his hot-headed father-in-law back, but no oxen. The big break came the following spring. Stephen S. Hall came to the head of the lake with a camp of sixty-five men and settled on the bluff which is Houghton Heights now. At that time, there were some big dugout canoes on the lake, left by Indians. The settlers polled the canoes over to the Muskeogon River and down river to a marsh hay on the poles. After waiting for a good Northwester to blow, they would push out from shore for a wild ride to Denton Pt. and Johnson's Indian Village to stack their hay for the winter. They had to watch for rattlesnakes now. They killed big ones every summer. The fire of 1909 must have killed the snakes, as I have hunted here for over fifty-years and haven't seen one. When grandad heard of the big camp at Muddy River, he said, "Boy's, we'll give 'em a mess of fish." So they gathered on the Norway Pine Patch and put wagon boxes across canoes with a large iron basket in front. One dark, quiet spring night they set forth with two men poling and two spearing. At dawn they were pulled up in front of Stephen Hall's camp with a load of fresh fish. Hall was delighted and said, Boy's, I'll give you barrelled salt pork, pound for pound." Grandad often said of all my dealing, that was the best deal I ever made; because when the girls boiled potatoes, they put enough salt pork in to do the job and had salt left in the barrel for the stock. No more ox cart trips to Midland. Shortly after, Mr. Hall called grandad and said, "Folks, I didn't know a settlement was so near. I'll buy every tater, onion, carrot, turnip and cabbage you can raise; and pay you with cash or goods. I'll hire your teams in the winter, too. Wickham, I want your logs at once." He even gave grandad cash in advance. Grandad went south and bought two big teams of horses this time with sleighs and wagons. One wagon was a sprinkler, a gift from his old boss at Snow Lake. Grandad's logging business went ahead but his bladder troubles got worse. An old Indian medicine man had the squaws gather roots and bark, Juniper and Balsam. It was bitter to take, but it cured him. Mary sent the good old Colonel Doctor some, for he had been a prisoner, too. In the year 1877, there was a school house at Five Points. The first pupils were Fred Hale, Etta Hale, Mae Wickham, Sadie Wickham, William Wickham, Sophia Cox, and Tom Cox. About this time, the Colonel applied for John and Albert Wickham and got them $8.00 a month pensions. Other settlers came fast now. Grandmother's lungs were healed and she wanted to go back to Ohio where her pretty daughters wouldn't have to marry illiterate lumberjacks. Grandad and grandma finally sold out and moved to Toledo.       In 1909, my grandparents returned to Houghton Lake and bought twelve acres across from the Pines Theater. They lived the rest of their lives in Northern Michigan. A year or so later about 1911, my parents moved to the lake, and bought eighty acres from Michael Davis and his mother.

Previous  |  Next ]     [ Up  |  First  |  Last ]     (Article 19 of 29)