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Kawkawlin Township: History

  • by Norma J. (Sauer) Campbell (September 2002)

    The village of Kawkawlin was settled early in history by lumberjacks not interested in permanent settlement. In 1844 the second sawmill built in Bay County was erected on the Kawkawlin River by Lower Saginaw promoter James Fraser and associates.

    One of Kawkawlin's first settler was Harvey Williams - a pioneer blacksmith, a pioneer manufacturer of agricultural, a pioneer builder of engines, and a pioneer lumberman. He also was a fur trader and a fisherman.

    The village was organized by Q.A. Ballou, John Sutherland, Dennis Stanton (the first postmaster as of March 6, 1868) and others. In 1855, Kawkawlin had 2 mills, 5 cottages, 2 log huts, several Indian wigwams and 100 million mosquitoes.

    A famous dynamite factory call the Ajax Plant was destroyed April 3, 1905. When it blew up, it was heard and felt distinctly in all parts of Bay City. Three men were blown to pieces. The dead were George Godfrey, Moses Irland and George C. Uhlricht. While four other men were at the plant, they were unhurt, although they were knocked down by the terrific concussion. Within a radius of two miles, windows of farm houses were blown in and Kawkawlin village, considerable damage was done by the breaking of glass. The force of the explosion was further shown by a hole in the ground 18 feet deep, while several trees were uprooted. The nitroglycerin stored there was left from the previous year's stock and was estimated at about 500 pounds. No cause was assigned for the explosion.

    The Indian name for Kawkawlin was U GU H KON NING or "place of pike fish".

    Beaver Road developed from the trail out of West Bay City into Kawkawlin and in a westerly direction on through Beaver Township. Small communities developed at every other crossroad - Bedell, Hamblen, Lixey, Willard, Loehne, Seidler, Beaver and Duel.

    BEDELL - this hamlet was located at Beaver and Mackinaw Roads. Frank Goulet established a grocery, hardware store there, first in his home, then in 1893 he built a store with a hall above where dances were held. After he died in 1990, his wife Harriet (Hattie) LaDuke Goulet continued the grocery, hardware business. The store was closed for a while, then reopened in 1921 by Moses Joseph Goulet, one of their sons.

    Frank became the first Post Master of Kawkawlin April 28, 1884 and the Post Office operated until February 28, 1901. Bedell had a population of 70 people in 1910, two stores and an I.O.O.F. Hall. Rural free delivery was established in 1918.

    This building still stands there as of today, and the year 1893 is located on the front of the building.

    HAMBLEN - located at Beaver and 7 Mile Roads derived its name from storekeeper Noah Hamblen.

    LIXEY'S CORNER - located at Beaver and 8 Mile Roads, also called Tar Paper Corner. After the turn of the century, a recreation and dance hall was erected in a grove of trees called Streval's Hall.

    WILLARD - named after Levi Willard in 1876. A lumber mill, store, blacksmith shop, saloon, cheese factory, post office and homes were established. in 1871, fire swept through the area. The Post Office was established February 26, 1885 and J.F. Ittner was the Post Master. Louis Mason built the Beaver Hotel, a saloon at about the turn of the century and the saloon was closed with Prohibition in 1920.

    LOEHNE - named for Edwin Loehne who became the first Post Master on April 20, 1894. A lumber and Stave Mill was set up on 9 Mile off Beaver Road. After 20 years Loehne became farm land.

    SEIDLER - located on Garfield and Seidler Roads. It was a good size settlement and a very busy crossroad in the 1880's to 1920's. It claimed a hotel, saloon, livery stable where travelers from southern Michigan stopped to rest horse on the way to Crump in Garfield Township. Henry Seidler ran the hotel, livery stable and general store. Archambeau and Trowbridge owned the blacksmith shop, cheese factory, and two lumber and stave mills.

    BEAVER - located on the intersection of 9 Mile and Parish Roads. Polish families built St. Valentine Church. They had moved in to farm the land, but they first worked in the lumber woods. Enough Polish settlers found homes in the area, so John Zboralski donated land for church purposes. More land was purchased by Ed Tucholski.

    DUEL - located at the intersection of Flajole and Parish Roads was founded by Luther Duel, who operated a general store and a post office. The post office opened November 30, 1892 and discontinued business March 31, 1908.

    Other place names in the Kawkawlin area were - STEWART - a name of a summer resort on Saginaw Bay in Kawkawlin Township and was named for the manager - Ollie E. Stewart.

    BRISSETTE - a beach on the Saginaw Bay at the end of Parish Road named for a first owner, Peter Brissette. He had hoped a portion would always be opened to the residents of Kawkawlin Township. Behrens, who ran the Phoenix Brewery, purchased some of the land and opened a park, naming it Phoenix Park.

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