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A Bit of Historical Trivia… Lumber in the Port Huron Area

By Derek Smith

1. In 1749, the first lumber mill in the region was owned by a Mr. Jervais of Detroit. It was located at the mouth of Indian Creek, which was in the area where the 10th St bridge is now located. Indian Creek is no longer in existence.

2. In 1853, the pine lumber business in St. Clair and Sanilac counties amounted to 92,900,000 board feet.

3. In 1867, Port Huron had seven lumber mills yielding 29,706,000 board feet and 13,037,500 Lath (pieces). The greater part of the lumber went to Ohio and some of the clear to Albany, NY. These seven mills were Avery and Murphy, Howard and Son, WB and J Hibbard, John Ewells and Sons, Jacob F Batchelor, A, and H Fish, Z. Bunce. N&B Mills had together sawed 112000 logs during the above year.

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4. The total amount of logs inspected on the Black River during 1867 was 64,700,000 feet of the usual board measure.

5. In 1875, the W.B & J Hibbard Co. of Port Huron is the oldest lumbering firm in operation. It was destroyed by fire on Sept. 3rd, 1875, but was rebuilt on a grander scale.

6. Hibbard purchased the Horton estate at the confluence of the St. Clair and Black Rivers and broke ground for a new building in October of 1875. The cost of the new mill was in the range of $10,000.00 to $15,000.00.

7. Lumber at the time was selling for $16.00 per thousand feet and shingles were $4.50 per thousand.

8. “Timber Cruisers” worked for lumbermen and would select the best-wooded land available and reserve it at the land office. Much of this land sold for as little as $1.25 per acre.

9. Most logs were too big and heavy to take from the woods by dragging, so the loggers made ice-covered roads where the logs could be pulled on sleds. The logs were then taken to the river banks awaiting the spring thaw and then floated to the mills. There was usually a friendly competition between logging teams to see who could skid the tallest pile of logs. I am sure the logging companies did not object as they were getting “more bang for their buck.”

10. In the middle to the late 1800s into the early 1900s, some of Port Huron’s wealthiest and most well-known citizens were involved in the lumber business. This list included such names as D. B Harrington, John Jenkinson. Henry McMorran, Nelson Mills, and Nathaniel Boynton.

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