Back to Previous Page

History Lives Here Text

PioneerDaniel Variell and Family

In December of1875, my father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen D. Variell,accompanied by my father's brother, Daniel Varielland wife, my mother's sister, moved from near Mason in Ingham county to a farmon the Hooter road, later known as the Dan Kitchen place.

Theyencountered all of the hardships and joys of the early settlers in clearing offa farm of virgin forest and trying to wrest a living from the land.

After four orfive years of rather doubtful success they decided to dissolve partnership andmy uncle and aunt purchased a farm in Bravo township in what was then known asthe Bowles district where they lived until my uncle's death. My aunt latermarried Elihu Eaton and has made her home in Douglas for twenty years or more.

My father tookhis share of the money from the sale of the farm and purchased the schoonerIda, which he rebuilt into a rather large tug carrying one mast.

I think it wasthe spring of 1 880 that we purchased the house and lot on Lake street that isnow owned by Henry Perkins; later father sold it to my grandmother, Mrs. PollyRutty, who lived there until her death. We then moved onto North Main Street in what was later knownas the Doud place.

At that timethere were only two general stores, the A. B. Taylor and the Barber stores.Mrs. Nies owned the hardware, the WalzBros. the meat market, a man by the name of Wormsnestwas the baker; he later petitioned the legislature and had his name changed toBaker.

C.E. Bird wasthe druggist, I believe he is the only one of the old merchants left. TheSaugatuck House was the only hotel; Mr. Morrison owned and operated thetannery; there was a cooper shop and a planing millnear the north end of the bridge to Douglas; the sawmill just west of theschoolhouse on the river bank gave employment to a large number of men. I'llnever forget how there was always a large boomful oflogs back of our place on Lake street that extended from thesawmill to the south end of the first bridge. I had been warned not toventure out onto the logs, but one day I decided that my duck must have a swim;so tucking her under my arm, I started out across the logs for clear water. Ihadn't gone far before I stepped down onto a butt of a log that had been sawedoff and was only about a foot thick and was floating flat side up; as it tippedup I screamed and went under. My Uncle Earl Rutty and my brother, Charlie, wereplaying on the logs, they caught a glimpse of me as I went down and came to myrescue; when they got me out I was unconscious, but I still had my duckclutched under my arm. That was one stunt I never tried again.

 

Thisphoto ca 1871 shows such a raft of logs. In the background to the southeast isthe new (and first) bridge to Douglas.

 

I think it was the 27th day ofNovember, 1881, that the cooper hired my father to go to Holland for a load ofbarrel staves. It was a bad day with a hard wind blowing. He made Holland,loaded up and started back for Saugatuck around six o'clock; by the time he hadreached the mouth of the river (the old harbor) the wind was blowing so hardthat he decided not to try to get inside, on account of a shifting sand bar, butto head out into the lake and try and ride the storm out.

By this timeit was pitch dark, the lookout discovered signals of distress near the shore.It was the barge Mudge loaded with brick and carryinga crew of two men. The Ida threw them a line and after a hard fought battlewith the elements both boats succeeded in reaching the dock at Saugatuck.During the storm the passenger boat Alpena foundered and every soul was lost.

About noon thenext day several bodies and the piano were washed ashore near Pier Cove. Thisstorm held the record for the greatest loss of lives and boats on lake Michigan until a year ago.

In March of 188 my father traded the Ida far a farm in the Ben Tryschool district, but he sailed that summer as first mate on the passenger boatthe Severens, but the days and nights of exposurewhile sailing had taken a toll of his strength and he died in 1887.

After my father's death I lived with my grandmother and attended schoolthe year of 1887 and 1888 in the old school building which was new then.Professor Trowbridge was the principal, Maria Newnhamtaught the grammar room, Hattie Spencer the intermediate and I can't remember whotaught the primary department. The only change in the school staff the nextyear was that Rena Ames took the place of Hattie Spencer who left to teach in Douglas.

There are many other things that I would like to write about,especially the Choats fire, but I feel this letter isgetting too long...

Loa Variell Randolph

Rives Jct.,Jackson Co., Michigan

 

 

In 1930 Loa (Variell) Randolphwrote a letter describing the Saugatuck that she knew as a young girl. Theplace she lived on Lake Street, whore as a young child she got into trouble bytrying to walk the logs, was later the Utopia Resort owned by Mr, and Mrs. Hank Perkins, and is the present site of ShadyShores. The Saugatuck House, with several name changes was located where thenew drugstore was built in 1913. The A. B. Taylor store was at the southwestcorner of Mason and ButlerStreets. It was later the Old Landmark Store, still later Flint's, and now the home of Kilwin's main shop. The Barber store burned in 1903. Walz Bros. meat market was in the building now used by EastOf the Sun. The Hooter Road runs along the Kalamazoo River toward Fennville, named in honorof a large number of owls that lived there.