FELCH

Felch is located off M-95 in Dickinson County.  This is one community where logging, mining and farming have coexisted in the township from its beginning.

Research in Felch can be difficult since those people residing in the area today are rarely descendants of the first people who opened the area.  Even most of those names appearing on early township records as members of the board or other official positions are no longer present in the township.  Also, Felch researchers should understand that this township's history is buried in records of both Marquette and Iron counties.  To complicate matters further, today's Felch was known locally (up to at least 1900) as East Metropolitan and as "Old Town."  I emphasize the word "locally" since, luckily, all the residents are listed as living in Felch during the enumeration of the censuses.)

The lumbering business was in Felch Township as early as 1848.  In those early days there were literally hundreds of lumberjacks in the forests around Felch.  On the scene were early timbermen:

 

Jesse Spaulding Kirby Carpenter Company John Munro Longyear
William Holmes John Emmett Flannigan Pittsburgh Company
Sawyer-Stoll White and Friant Keweenaw Land Association
C.T. Pendleton Ed. J. Atkinson Mann Brothers
H. Ludington Company A.M. Harmon Lawrence Flannigan
National Pole Company Wm. D. Houghteling Carl J. Sawyer
L.S.S.C. Railroad & Iron Company C&NW Railway Company D.M.&M. Railway Company
William Bonifas Lumber Company Menominee River Lumber Company Metropolitan Iron & Land Company

 

Many nationalities found their way into Felch Township: Scotch, German, French, Irish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegians, Italians, and others.

Mrs. Jean Carlson was one of the earliest settlers in Felch.  She was the mother of the first child, a daughter, born in this village.  As a gift, the Metropolitan Land and Iron Company gave the baby a plot of land.  This plot is the site of the present Coop Store, a former Helmer's General Store, and previous to that, a Rian's Store.

The village of Metropolitan (now Felch), was platted in 1882 with the request signed by S.P. Burt, president and secretary of The Metropolitan Iron and Land Company.

Plans were already in motion on November 7, 1882 to allow organization of a township to be named Felch.  A committee appointed to run the first annual meeting and to form the township was composed of Jefferson Day, William Hutchinson, and Patrick Carey.  The meeting was held in the Metropolitan Land and Iron Company Store in Metropolitan.  Researchers should bear in mind that all this took place in what was then Marquette County.

Felch township was formed when the area was still in Marquette County.  It became a part of Iron County when that county was formed in September, 1885.  It was taken from Iron County and made part of Dickinson County in 1891.

Most names appearing on early township records as members of the board or other official positions are no longer present in the township.  Timothy Mahon was township clerk in 1887; J. Mahon was agent for the C&NW Railway and was on the township board; B.M. McLaughlin, T.A. Phillips, P.J. Carey were board members and William Michaud was school inspector.

In 1887, the Felch area had a population of 400 and was in Iron County.  Dr. L.A. Friedrichs was postmaster, physician and druggist; Swan Anderson had a saloon and livery stable; A.M. Burns was a shoemaker; P.J. Carey had a saloon; H.S. Carlson had the Metropolitan hotel; Marmaduke Harper was Justice of the Peace; M. Hourigan had a saloon; C. Kasper had a meat market and grocery store, and M. Kuril also had a meat market.  Barney McLaughlin was also a Justice of the Peace; Frederick Parry had a general store; the Metropolitan Iron and Land Company had offices there; The Metropolitan Lumber Company had a sawmill in full operation; and White and Friant, a logging company, had offices there.

In the Felch Township Board minutes dated January 12, 1891, the following appears:  "On motion of G. Murray, seconded by the clerk, the board adopted the following resolution:  Resolved that this board does hereby protest against the proposed erection of a new county to be formed from territory to be taken from Menominee, Iron and Marquette counties, for the reason that we see no necessity for the organization of a new county and we are satisfied to remain a part of Iron County in preference to incurring the trouble and expense of organizing a new county and paying taxes to build a new and expensive county building."

About 1900, Andrew Rian was manager of a General Merchandise store.  He sold to Erik Johnson the following items:

 

one saw $4.00
one pair handles   .25
saw tools   .65
one Night Chamber   .75
four pounds of butter  1.00
one pair of rubbers   .50
100 pound sack of flour  2.20

TOTAL
$9.35

Township officers in 1913 were: Carl A. Carlson, Supervisor; Olaf Rian, Township Treasurer; John V. Sundstrom, Township Clerk; Alfred Anderson, Postmaster; Leander Nylund, Highway Comissioner; Arthur Anderson, Game Warden.

John Ovist and Andrew Rian had General Stores and Andrew Rian had a hotel.  He was also postmaster.  Felch had a resident physician then, Dr. Theodore Moll.  Morris Powers was a teamster, and Ward Solberg, a confectioner.

As lumbering declined and mining operations came to a standstill, dairy farming came to the front.  Felch farmers built a creamery to handle the milk from their farms.  However, milk prices fell off; yet the cost of production kept rising.  As a result, many farmers turned to growing potatoes.

FELCH TOWNSHIP BOARD EXTRACTS: [In these early days, there was no separate Board of Education.]

12 May 1888:  A proposition was offered by the Metropolitan Lumber Company to furnish cull plank enough for a sidewalk two planks wide from the schoolhouse of School District No. 2 to the line between the Village of Theodore and City of Felch Mountain alongside of the township road to the line between the Village of Theodore and City of Felch Mountain alongside of the township provided the township would do the work of laying the plank, which proposition was accepted.

2 November 1888:  A motion was made and carried that the polls of the General Election be removed to the office of the township clerk in the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Depot at the location known as "The Metropolitan Lumber Company Mill.

11 October 1889:  The report of the Health Officer was received and seven cases of typhoid fever reported.

May 1891:  On a motion made and seconded a school district to be known as School District No. 3 of the township of Felch was formed to be made up of the following described lands:  Sections 4, 5, and 6 of township 42-30, and Sections 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and 33 of township 43-R 30.

29 July 1891: On a motion made and seconded the salary of the librarian, Miss Celia Fry, was fixed at $52 per year.

20 April 1892:  The resignation of J.B. Gaston of the office of School Inspector was offered and accepted, Gordon Murray being duly appointed to fill the vacancy.

19 November 1892:  A piece of land 150 ft. x 75 ft. for a school site was offered to the Board of Education by Gordon Murray and William Drummond in the NW corner o the NE quarter of Section 31, Town 42 F. 28, the ground to be cleared and prepared for seeding to grass, with a five board fence with cedar posts around same, the consideration being two hundred dollars ($200).

BOARD OF EDUCATION EXTRACTS:

3 August 1908: Motion was made and seconded that the secretary write to the Huron Iron Mine Co. for a lease of ground for the school house at Groveland Mine and that the Felch Township School District buy the old frame house from Captain H.A. Lawry for school purposes for the sum of $100.

12 September 1908: Mabel Massie was hired to teach the Groveland School for a term of 9 months with a salary of $50 per month.

1 June 1910: Owing to the poor outlook at the present time at Groveland Mine, the board decided not to hire any teacher at the present time for next year. [Two months later, the Board made a decision to build a new schoolhouse at the Groveland since had begun operations.]

1 October 1910: Motion made and seconded that the outhouse at Groveland School be removed further out from the school building. 

16 November 1918:  Jack Isaacson was awarded a contract to build a backhouse at Ader's School (Graysville area) to be 12 ft. by 6 ft. and to be shiplapped inside and will also have to be painted.

17 November 1917:  Miss Bessie Haltug was hired to teach at the Sturgeon School.

17 May 1921:  Motion was made and carried that the secretary be instructed to write to the Superintendent of Public Instruction if the Bible reading is permissible in schoolroom before the schoolwork starts.

 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH - "Meet" the man for whom Felch Township was named...

The Honorable Alpheus Felch was born in Limerick, York County, Maine, September 28, 1806. His grandfather, Abijah Felch, was a soldier in the Revolution; and, when a young man, having, with others, obtained a grant of land between the Great and Little Ossipee rivers, in Maine, moved to that region when it was yet a wilderness. Mr. Felch's father, the youngest of several children, was brought up on the farm; but, soon after attaining his majority, entered upon a mercantile life at Limerick. He was the first person to engage in that business in that section of the country, and continued in it until his death, at the age of thirty-five. His family consisted of six children, Alpheus Felch being the only son. The death of the father, followed in a year by that of the mother, left the orphans to the care of the family relatives. The subject of the present sketch, then only three years of age, found a home with his paternal grandfather, with whom he remained until the latter's death. He enjoyed the usual advantages of early education in the district school, and afterwards in the neighboring academy. In 1821 he became a student at Phillip Exeter Academy; and, subsequently, entered Bowdoin College.  Felch graduated with the class of 1827.

Immediately after graduation, he commenced the study of law; and, in the autumn of 1830, was admitted to the bar at Bangor, Maine. In the same year, he engaged in the practice of his profession at Houlton, Maine, a new and sparsely settled portion of the State, where he continued until 1833. In the meantime, the severity of the climate had so debilitated him that he found it necessary to seek residence in a warmer climate. In the spring of 1833, Felch left Maine intending to join his friend, Sargent S. Prentiss, then living at Vicksburg, Mississippi; but, on his arrival at Cincinnati, Felch was attacked by cholera, and, after recovering sufficiently to resume his journey, found that the danger from that disease was too great to permit a voyage down the river. He therefore determined to return to the North, and came to Michigan.

In this State Felch began a practice at Monroe, and continued there until 1843, when he removed to Ann Arbor. He was elected a member of the State Legislature, from Monroe County, in 1835, and continued as a member of that body during the years 1836 and 1837. While he held this office, the general banking law of Michigan was enacted, and went into operation. Felch was convinced that the proposed system of banking was  not beneficial to the public interests; and that, instead of relieving the people from the pecuniary difficulties under which they were laboring, it would result in still further embarrassment. He, therefore, opposed the bill, and pointed out to the House the disasters which, in his opinion, were sure to follow its passage. The public mind, however, was so favorably impressed by the measure that no other member, in either branch of the Legislature, raised a dissenting voice, and but two voted with him in opposition to the bill. Early in 1838, he was appointed one of the Bank Commissioners of the State, and held that office for more than a year. During this time, the new banking law had given birth to numerous "wild-cat" banks, with nearly every village having one. The country was flooded with depressed "wild-cat" money. The examinations of the Bank Commissioners brought to light frauds at every point.  Those reported to the Legislature were followed by criminal prosecutions of the guilty parties, and a closing of many of the institutions. The duties of the office were extremely laborious; and, in 1839, Felch resigned. The chartered right of almost every bank had, in the meantime, been declared forfeited and the law repealed. It was subsequently decided to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the State.

In 1842, Felch was appointed Auditor-General of the State; but, after holding the office only a few weeks, was commissioned, by the Governor, as one of the Judges of the Supreme Court, filling a vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Judge Fletcher. At the legislative session held in January, 1843, Felch was nominated, by the Governor, to the Senate.  Felch was confirmed by that body, both for the unexpired term of his predecessor and for the next ensuing full term of six years. In 1845 he was elected Governor of the State, and entered on the duties of the office at the commencement of the following year. The important events under his administration may be summed up as follows:  The two railroads belonging to the State were sold to private corporations--the Central for two million dollars, and the Southern for $500,000.  In 1846, the University of Michigan Library was enriched with a choice collection of five thousand volumes, purchased in Europe.  These books were much needed by the University, and added largely to its usefulness.  The exports of the State for 1846 amounted to $4,647,608; the aggregate capacity of vessels enrolled in the collection district of Detroit was 26,928 tons; the steam vessels numbering 8,400, and the sailing vessels 18,527--the whole giving employment to eighteen thousand seamen.  In 1847, the counties in the State numbered thirty-nine, and the townships four hundred and thirty-five, of which two hundred and seventy were supplied with good libraries, containing in the aggregate thirty-seven thousand volumes.  The pupils in the common schools numbered 98,000.  In the 2,869 districts 1,200 male teachers were employed, and nearly 2,000 female teachers. 

On March 3, 1847, Governor Felch resigned his position as Governor to accept a seat in the United States Senate for six years. His resignation took effect the following day, when his Senatorial term commenced. While a member of the Senate, he acted on the Committee on Public Lands; and, during four years, was its chairman.

In March, 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed Felch as one of the Commissioners to settle Spanish and Mexican land claims in California, under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Felch went to California in May, 1853 as President of the Commission. The duties of this office were important and diplomatically delicate. California was a new State, and the fortunes of many of its citizens, both the native Mexican population and the recent American immigration; the right of the Pueblos to their common lands, and of the Catholic Church to the lands of the Missions, were involved in the adjudications of this Commission. In March, 1856, the Commission ended with a final disposition of all the claims that had been presented.

In June, 1856, Felch returned to his home in Ann Arbor, where he engaged principally in the legal profession. In 1873 he withdrew from the active practice of law and, with exception of a tour in Europe in 1875, led a life of retirement.

Felch was a regent of the University of Michigan, 1842-47, and Tappan professor of law, 1879-83. He was president of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society.  In 1877, the University of Michigan conferred upon Felch the degree of LL.D.

In 1878, Felch had been declared the oldest surviving member of the Legislature from Monroe County, the oldest and only surviving Bank Commissioner of the State, the oldest surviving Auditor-General of the State, the oldest surviving Governor of the State, the oldest surviving Judge of the Supreme Court of Michigan, and the oldest surviving United States Senator from Michigan. Alpheus Felch died at Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 13, 1896. He is interred there in the Forest Hill Cemetery.


Sources for the biographical sketch:
Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1949: The Continental Congress September 5, 1774, to October 21, 1788 and The Congress of the United States From the First to the Eightieth Congress March 4, 1789 to January 3, 1949, Inclusive. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1950, page 1149.
Herringshaw, Thomas William. Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century, Chicago, IL: American Publishers' Association, 1902, page 355.
Johnson, Rossiter, ed. Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans. Volumes I-X. Boston, MA: The Biographical Society, 1904, pages 727-728
Library of Congress. Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820-1910.  Washington: Library of Congress, 1999. Michigan State Medical Society. Medical History of Michigan. Minneapolis, MN: Bruce Publishing Co., 1930, page 414.
Tuttle, Charles R., General history of the state of Michigan: with biographical sketches, portrait engravings, and numerous illustrations.  Detroit: R.D.S. Tyler & Co., 1873.

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