The McMorran Dock


Image:  Henry McMorran receipt, circa 1876. Source:  John Stillson Probate File

In life we all get our start somewhere.  In most instances, that start begins with experiences and connections we share with people.  Henry McMorran’s start is no exception.  As I discussed in an earlier blog, Henry worked for W.H.B. Dowling as a clerk until his business closed in 1860.  During the Civil War period from 1861 to 1865, Henry went to work as a clerk for two men, John Stillson, who was engaged in the lumbering and mail stage business in Brockway & Port Huron, and Myron Williams, who is known for having been heavily involved in the lumbering and vessel building trade in the Marysville area with his son-in-law, Nelson Mills, starting in 1850.  In 1862, Myron sold his interest in the lumber mills to Nelson and focused entirely on his vessel business.

Henry developed a strong personal bond with Dowling, Stillson, and Williams.  By 1865, Henry was poised to open his own business, a grocery store, which he named H. McMorran & Co.  The location he chose to place this business was on Commercial Street.  The property on which it stood was owned by Williams and Dowling.   Henry’s ownership of this store is the root that grew to shape his business life.

H. McMorran & Co.

In November of 1865, Henry purchased a one-quarter interest in Lots (24), (25), (26), & (27) on the east side of Commercial Street from W.H.B. Dowling for $825.00.  At this time, the east-side of Commercial Street was in downtown Port Huron along the St. Clair River front and ran parallel with Merchant Street.

1867 - McMorran Property Where his store was

Image: 1867 Commercial Street with view of wharf where Henry operated H. McMorran & Co.  Source: Bird’s eye view of the city of Port Huron, Sarnia & Gratiot, St. Clair Co., Michigan 1867 & Point Edwards, Lambton Co., Canada West


1876 Commercial Street 24-27

Image:  Commercial Street, Henry’s Lots 24-27, 1876.  Source: Everts & Stewart

This area was best known in local circles as “The foot of Butler.”  The property included a wharf which fronted McMorran’s store.  The business started out as a wholesale and retail grocery business where Henry sold supplies to vessel owners and residents.  When Henry started his grocery business at the foot of Butler in 1865, James Moffat had already been running a ferry and tug business on Commercial Street, at the foot of Sarnia, since 1851.  By 1854, George E. Brockway was running his tug business on Commercial Street in the same location as Moffat.  At this time Brockway and Moffat started purchasing vessels together.

Henry McMorran receipt

Image:  Henry McMorran receipt, circa 1877. Source:  John Stillson Probate File

While most written accounts of Henry’s early days only speak to his operation of a grocery store, it is well documented that by 1866, Henry was also selling insurance and operating a vessel business with Myron Williams at the foot of Butler.  In 1866, Henry is listed as a claimant in two lawsuits involving claims against ship owners he had provided ship chandlery and vessel towing services for.

1866 – McMorran and Williams Tawas


Photograph: Tawas (1864), Tug, Towboat. Source:  Great Lakes Maritime Collection.  Alpena County George M. Fletcher Public Library


The first suit was filed August 16, 1866, in the United States District Court in Detroit against the Barge “Dart”.  The claim filed by Henry and Myron amounted to $35.00 for towing services performed by the tug “Tawas” for the barge “Dart” from Port Huron to Detroit on July 22, 1866.   Interestingly, the “Tawas” was a steamer built in 1864 by Myron Williams in Marysville.


Schooner Caledonia

Photograph: Schooner Caledonia, date unknown. Source: Great Lakes Vessels Index Online, Bowling Green State University

In the second suit filed December 8, 1866, Henry and Myron were again listed alongside other creditors of the schooner “Caledonia.”  In this case, their claim was for a larger sum of $1,866, plus interest for ship chandlery services, wherein Henry had provided furnishings for the schooner at Port Huron in October of 1866.  The United States District Court in Detroit ordered the schooner Caledonia to be sold at public auction in Port Huron on January 15, 1867, to pay the debts of the creditors listed in the lawsuit.

Emma and Henry

Image of Emma C. McMorran & Henry G. McMorran paintings, date unknown.  Source:  Port Huron Museum

The year 1866 is also important in Henry’s personal life.  It was on October 29th that he married the love of his life, Emma C. Williams.  Coincidentally, Emma was the daughter of Myron Williams and Mary Gallagher.  The ceremony was officiated by William H. Stein, Minister of the Gospel in Marysville.  The witnesses to his marriage were Emma’s sister, Hannah Williams, and Henry’s friend, Henry Batchelor.  Mr. Batchelor was the son of Jacob Batchelor, who was known as a lumbering business tycoon in Port Huron and later Saginaw.  It is Jacob Batchelor who left a special bequest in his Last Will & Testament to the city of Port Huron to erect a Soldiers Monument.  This monument still stands in Pine Grove Park today.

Soldiers Monument - Pine Grove Park

Soldiers Monument, Pine Grove Park, Port Huron, Michigan (circa 1905).  Source:  Detroit Publishing Company: Detroit Publishing Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

I read a neat piece on the Wm. Soutar Collection, from Friends, 1871-1878 owned by Lynn Secory, recently highlighted in a blog from the Port Huron Area History & Preservation Association.  One of the letters discussed in the collection was written by Henry Batchelor.  Henry McMorran is briefly mentioned in a letter as well.  Being that my research on Henry McMorran has led me to do extensive research on the Batchelor family, I was delighted to see the letters emerge.  What a contribution to Port Huron history and to those of us who research it!  I find the collection fascinating, and I thought it worthy of a mention here.

In 1868, Henry purchased his second one-quarter interest in Lots (24), (25), (26) & (27) on the east-side of Commercial Street from Myron Williams for $1,800.  This purchase made him an owner of one-half of the property on which H. McMorran & Co. stood.  As McMorran’s little grocery business at the dock grew, other businesses came to the location.  This business area eventually became known in the community as “The Dock” or “The McMorran Block.”  Other businessmen on Commercial Street included tug agent and vessel reporter Mr. Daniel Lynn, ship ticketing agent John W. Thompson, shipping freight agent J.E. Botsford, shipping and commission broker Theo R. Wright, ship broker insurance agent Erwin Carrington, and sailmaker D. Robeson.


Images: J.E. Botford & Co. Ad (1874) & Old Business In New Hands (Theo R. Wright) (1874).  Source:  The Port Huron Daily Times


Images:  D. Robeson Ad (1881) & J.W. Thompson Ad (1874).  Source:  The Port Huron Daily Times

In 1872, George E. Brockway moved his tug fleet office over McMorran’s storehouse. After Brockway moved in to the storehouse, Henry started buying vessels with Moffat and Brockway.  These vessels were used for commercial shipping and towing purposes.  One of the vessels he owned with them was the tug, George E. Brockway.

George Brockway - Tug

Sketch:  George E. Brockway (1867, Tug Towboat).  Source:  Great Lakes Maritime Collection.  Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library

This business relationship helped Henry expand his ownership of the property in the Commercial Street area as well.  In 1872, he purchased lots (18), (19), (20), and (21) on the east side of Commercial Street, south of his store, for $900.00 from George E. Brockway.  Henry’s longstanding relationship with James Moffat is an interesting one.  These two men were connected by family ties, which I will discuss in a later blog.

1876 Commercial Street Both

Image:  Commercial Street, Henry’s Lots 18-21 & Lots 24-27, 1876.  Source: Everts & Stewart

Henry soon found himself in the coal business down at the “McMorran Dock.”  He sold this fuel source to both vessels and the public.  By 1874, he was outbidding his competition and landing contracts with the city waterworks board.  It is also in 1874 when Henry purchased the remaining one-half interest in lots (24), (25), (26), and (27) from Myron for $15,000, and his business was said to be “booming.”  Henry’s purchase history of these lots over a nine-year span is representative of the value of his businesses on Commercial Street.  To think the value of his first property purchase for which he paid $850 had grown by nearly eighteen times when compared to his last purchase for $15,000.  It is no small wonder Henry was noted in the community as being one of the most prominent businessmen, having one of the largest businesses in the area.  In 1877, it was disclosed he was averaging sales of $1,000 a day, roughly $350,000 annually.  That was no small sum he was earning.  Today, his sales of $350,000 annually would equate to roughly $8,835,000 a year.

The Entrepreneur Emerges

Port Huron Savings Bank with Henry Signature

Image:  Port Huron Savings Bank receipt, circa 1884. Source: John Stillson Probate File

From 1865 to 1878, in addition to operating his businesses at the dock, Henry also became involved with other business ventures and served as a leader in the community.  He was an original stockholder involved in the organization of “The Port Huron Times” newspaper in 1869.  He served as an Alderman for the City of Port Huron in 1867 and as elected Treasurer in 1876.  In 1872, Henry became an original stockholder, trustee, and first Vice-President of the Port Huron Savings Bank.  Upon the death of Daniel B. Harrington in 1878, he became its President.  Henry started a lumber transportation business in 1873 with his brother-in-law, Nelson Mills, known as “The Mills Transportation Company.”  Henry served as Vice-President for this company.

Steamer Pawnee Mills Trans Co.

Photograph:  Steamer Pawnee, 1903.  Source:  Port Huron Daily Times

In 1874, Henry purchased the old Linabury flour mill, on the east side of Water Street.   He bought this business in partnership with Myron Williams with the intention of learning the flour mill business and moving the mill equipment to another location.

Lindbury Flour Mill Location 1876

Image:  Linabury Mill site, 1876.  Source: Everts & Stewart

In 1877, Henry would build his Farmers’ Elevator across the street from this mill on the corner of Water and Third Street.

Aug 1887 - Farmers Elevator McMorran & Co Sanborn Fire Maps

Image:  Farmers Elevator, 1887.  Source:  Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan.

True to his word, Henry did indeed move the equipment from the Linabury mill site.  In October of 1877, he opened his new mill southeast of the Linabury Mill site at the mouth of Black River stretching south all the way to Court Street along the St. Clair River.  This property included a wharf on Black River, a flouring mill, cooper shop, and a second Farmers Elevator (later known as the McMorran Elevator).

McMorran & Co 1887 Sanborn Fire Map 2

Image:  McMorran & Co., 1887.  Source:  Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan.

He called his new business, McMorran & Co. and advertised as Michigan Mills.  Years after Myron Williams death in 1884, Henry reorganized this business in 1889 with his son, David McMorran, and Charles F. Harrington, calling it the McMorran Milling Company.  Around the 1890s, Henry leased this mill to George R. Davidson for roughly five years.

McMorran & Co 1878 Ad Michigan Mills

Image:  McMorran & Co. & Michigan Mills, 1878.  Source:  The Port Huron Daily Times

Michigan Mills

Image:  Michigan Mills, 1893.  Source:  The Port Huron Daily Times

In January of 1878, just before Henry became involved in the organization of the Port Huron & Northwestern Railroad, serving as its General Manager, he disposed of his businesses on Commercial Street to William Campfield, Denis Jones, and D. Robeson.

Port Huron and Northwestern Railway receipt 3

Image:  Port Huron & Northwestern Railway letterhead, circa 1884.  Source:  John Stillson Probate File, 1878

William Campfield and Dennis Jones had worked for Henry for many years.  They took over the grocery, coal, port, and oil businesses and incorporated as W.W. Campfield & Co.  Mr. D. Robeson and his son, William Robeson, took over the ship chandlery business.  Mr. Robeson, who had been operating a sail loft in another building on Commercial Street, re-purposed part of the top floor of McMorran’s grocery to accommodate his sail loft business, and George E. Brockway continued to run his tugging business office from this location.  It has been said the top of McMorran’s grocery store held a balcony with a glass front where the river and lake could be seen for several miles and scanned for the approach of vessels.

Campfield & D McMorran

Image:  W.W. Campfield & Co. Ad, 1879 & D. McMorran & Co. Ad, 1892.  Source:  The Port Huron Daily Times

Interestingly, Henry did not sell his commercial properties on Commercial Street when he disposed of his businesses there.  In fact, Henry held ownership of this property for most of his life, earning income from the commercial rent of the location.  When his son, David McMorran, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1892, Henry approached his old employee, Dennis Jones, who was still operating as W.W. Campfield & Co. on Commercial Street.  He purchased the business back from him.  He reorganized it as D. McMorran & Co.  Dennis Jones stayed on with the new company acting as manager.

White Star Line - The Tashmoo Foot of Butler

Photograph:  The Tashmoo at Port Huron, circa 1906.  Source:  Detroit Publishing Company.  Detroit Publishing Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

Other businesses came and went over time on the Commercial Street property.  Probably the most well-known business that operated on McMorran’s property was the White Star Line ticket office and dock.  Perhaps you have seen pictures of the office or of “The Tashmoo” docking at Port Huron.  Henry finally sold this property to the White Star Line of Detroit in March of 1927, just a few years before his death in 1929.

And to Think It All Happened on Commercial Street!

It is with H. McMorran & Co. where we begin to see McMorran’s entrepreneurial nature emerge as he stretches his grocery business into a ship chandlery, insurance, coal, oil, vessel, and commercial property rental business.  It is during this time Henry starts to build his image and become a vital member in the Port Huron community.  It is in operating this business where his next business ideas take root in the railroad, grain elevator, milling, ferry, wrecking and real estate businesses.

Henry McMorran Pen Sketch 2

Image:  Henry McMorran, Capitalist, 1905.  Source:  Our Michigan Friends “As We See Em.”

This caricature of Henry was printed in Our Michigan Friends “As We See Em” by the Newspaper Cartoonists Association of Michigan in 1905.  This cartoon was applicable to him then, but what most people do not know is it was also applicable to him in 1865.  While the times dictated the title of “Capitalist”, Henry showed early on he had the makings of what we would call an “Entrepreneur” today.  His ability and interest in being involved with many business enterprises at one time and his willingness to take chances on new businesses did not start in 1905.  In fact, it all started in 1865 with H. McMorran & Co. down at “The Dock.”


An Old Business in New Hands (1874, March 7) [image].  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Barge Dart.  Legal Notice.  District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Michigan, as In Admiralty.  (1866, August 31).  Detroit Free Press.

Bird’s Eye View of the City of Port Huron, Sarnia & Gratiot, St. Clair Co., Michigan 1867 & Point Edwards, Lambton Co., Canada West (1867) [image – Commercial Street].

Business Booming Michigan Mills (1893, June 26).  The Port Huron Daily Times

Business Prospects at “The Dock.” (1874, March 10).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Caledonia:  Registry and Rig Information.  Historical Collections of the Great Lakes. Bowling Green State University: Great Lakes Vessels Online Index [photograph].  Retrieved from:

City Officials (1875, May 4).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Coal (1874, Aug. 8).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Crampton, E.J. (1921).  History of the St. Clair River.  St. Clair Michigan: The St. Clair Republican.

  1. McMorran & Co. Ad (1892, July 19) [image]. The Port Huron Daily Times.
  2. Robeson Ad (1881, March 26) [image]. The Port Huron Daily Times.

Daily Stage (stage coaches carried the U.S. Mail)– P. Huron & Brockway by J. Stillson & Co. (January 5, 1856).  William Lee Jenks Papers, 1856-1936.  Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Call No.  851894 Aa2.

David McMorran is Home from the University (1892, March 26).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Death of Henry McMorran (1929, July 19).  The Times Herald.

Deed from W.H.B. Dowling to Henry McMorran dated November 18, 1865 & recorded December 1, 1865, Liber 20, Page 416. Conveyance of one-quarter of Lots (24), (25), (26), & (27) on the east-side of Commercial Street according to Thorn’s Plat in the Village of Port Huron (now City).  St. Clair County Register of Deeds Office.

Deed from Miron Williams & wife to Henry McMorran dated March 11, 1868, recorded April 28, 1868, Liber 28, Page 531.  Conveyance of one-quarter of Lots (24), (25), (26), & (27) on the east-side of Commercial Street according to Thorn’s Plat of said City of Port Huron.  St. Clair County Register of Deeds Office.

Deed from George E. Brockway to Myron Williams and Henry McMorran dated June 14, 1873 & recorded July 14th, 1873, Liber 47, Page 526.  To replace deed recorded February 23, 1872, Liber 37, Page 310, which contained a description error.  Conveyance of one-half of Lots (18), (19), (20), & (21) on the east-side of Commercial Street according to Thorn’s Plat of said City.  St. Clair County Register of Deeds Office.

Deed from Myron Williams & wife to Henry McMorran dated February 24, 1874, recorded February 26, 1874, Liber 49, Page 496.  Conveyance of one-half of Lots (24), (25), (26), & (27) on the east-side of Commercial Street according to Thorn’s Plat of said City.  St. Clair County Register of Deeds Office.

Deed from Henry McMorran to the White Star Line of Detroit, Michigan, a Michigan Corporation dated August 25, 1925, recorded March 7, 1927, Liber 289, Page 487.  Conveyance of Lots (24), (25), (26), & (27) on the east-side of Commercial Street in Thorn’s Plat.  St. Clair County Register of Deed’s Office.

Emma C. Williams Portrait, date unknown [image of painting].  Port Huron Museum, Port Huron, Michigan.

Everts & Stewart (1876).  Port Huron City 1, Combination atlas map of St. Clair County, Michigan: Philadelphia [image:  Commercial Street].  Retrieved from:

George E. Brockway (1867, Tug Towboat) [sketch].  Great Lakes Maritime Collection.  Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library.  Retrieved from:

Henry G. McMorran Portrait, date unknown [image of painting].  Port Huron Museum, Port Huron, Michigan.

Henry McMorran: Sketch of the Career of the Republican Candidate for Representative in Congress (1902, October 21).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Hotchkiss, G.W. (1898).  History of the Lumber and Forest Industry of the Northwest, pp. 55-56. Chicago: George H. Hotchkiss & Co.  Retrieved from:–VslalgSLLdw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwixxYfi1-LdAhUp5IMKHTRvC7wQ6AEwAnoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=myron%20williams%20nelson%20mills%20two%20thousand%20acres&f=false

History of Marysville (2018).  Retrieved from:

J.E. Botford & Co. Ad (1874).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Jenks, W.L. (1912).  St. Clair County, Michigan, Its History and Its People: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress and Its Principal Interests, Volume 1, p. 401, Ferries.  Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co.

John Stillson: Lessee lumber business, Lewis Brockway, Owner (June 1, 1855); Mail stage carrier business in Brockway and Port Huron (January 5, 1856).  William Lee Jenks Papers, 1856-1936.  Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Call No.  851894 Aa2.

John Stillson Probate File (Feb. 25, 1878).  [images:  Henry McMorran receipt, circa 1876, Henry McMorran receipt, circa 1877, Port Huron Savings Bank receipt, circa 1884, & Port Huron & Northwestern Railway letterhead, circa 1884]. Michigan Wills and Probate Records 1784-1980; Provo, UT, Operations, Inc.

J.W. Thompson Jr. Ad (1874) [image].  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Marine News, Steamer Pawnee, Mills Transportation Co. (1903, July 28) [photograph].  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Marine – Port of Detroit, December 5, Vessel Sales (1872, Dec. 2), Detroit Free Press.

McMorran Milling Company.  McMorran Milling Company Minutes.  Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Call No.  852114 B.B.2

Michigan Mills (1893, July 17) [image].  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Michigan Mills McMorran & Co. Ad (1878, April 15) [image].  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Mills Transportation Company of Marysville (1873, Oct. 10), The Port Huron Daily Times.

New ferry building for Moffat and Brockway (July 8, 1854).  William Lee Jenks Papers, 1856-1936.  Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Call No.  851894 Aa2.

Notice sale of W.W. Campfield & Co and Incorporation of D. McMorran & Co. (1892, April 16).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Port Huron (1877, Sept. 9).  Detroit Free Press.

Port Huron Area History & Preservation Association (2018).  Wm. Soutar Collection, from Friends 1871-1878.  Retrieved from:

Port Huron Industries – Its’ Flouring Mills – What There Is and What is Needed? (1873, Oct. 21).  The Port Huron Times.

Ruger, A. & Chicago Lithographing Co., contributors (1867).  Bird’s eye view of the city of Port Huron, Sarnia & Gratiot, St. Clair Co., Michigan 1867 & Point Edwards, Lambton Co., Canada West, Chicago: Chicago Lithographing Co. [image:  Commercial Street with view of wharf].  Retrieved from:

Sale of the Linabury Mill Property (1874, February 28).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Sanborn Map Company (Aug. 1887) [images:  Linabury Mill, Farmers Elevator & McMorran & Co]. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan.    Retrieved from the Library of Congress,0.772,0.782,0.296,0

Savings Bank (1872, Oct. 22) The Port Huron Daily Times.

Schooner Caledonia.  Legal Notices.  District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Michigan, as In Admiralty.  (1866, December 17) & (1867, January 8).  Detroit Free Press.

Schooner Caledonia, date unknown, Great Lakes Vessels Index Online [photograph] – Bowling Green State University. Retrieved from:

Ship Building:  List of Vessels Built on St. Clair River Now in Commission (1873, May 9).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Sketch of Henry McMorran (1910, Sept.1).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Soldiers Monument, Pine Grove Park, Port Huron, Michigan (circa 1905) [photograph].  Detroit Publishing Company: Detroit Publishing Photograph Collection (Library of Congress).  Retrieved from:

Tawas (1864), Tug, Towboat [photograph].  Great Lakes Maritime Collection.  Alpena County George M. Fletcher Public Library.  Retrieved from:

Tawas (Propeller), exploded, 14 May 1874.  Maritime History of the Great Lakes.  Retrieved from:

The Batchelor Will:  A General Contest Commenced by Henry Batchelor – Port Huron’s Interest in the Matter (1892, June 3).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

The Savings Bank (1878, July 16) The Port Huron Daily Times.

The Tashmoo at Port Huron (circa 1906) [photograph].  Detroit Publishing Company.  Detroit Publishing Photograph Collection (Library of Congress).  Retrieved from:

Unveiled: An Elegant Picture of the late Jacob F. Batchelor Unveiled at Ladies Library Hall – Speeches, etc. (1892, October 13).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA:, Operations Inc., 2007.  Original data:  Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for Michigan, 1862-1866; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M773, 15 rolls); Records of the Internal Revenue Service, Record Group 58; The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Henry McMorran & H. McMorran & Co. cited for tax years 1865 and 1866 through online search “Henry McMorran” in U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 [database on-line].

W.W. Campfield & Co. Ad (1879, March 15) [image].  The Port Huron Daily Times.

The “Henry McMorran”


Articles of Association

The Port Huron and Northwestern Railway Company

In March of 1878, D.B. Harrington, John P. Sanborn, Henry Howard, Fred L. Wells, Charles A. Ward, William Hartsuff, James Beard, Henry McMorran, Silas S. Ballentine, Peter B. Sanborn and Charles R. Brown, came together to form the Port Huron and Northwestern Railway Company.  They formed the company to construct a railroad with a gauge of three feet that would travel in the city of Port Huron and through a portion of St. Clair, Sanilac, and Huron counties to the village of Port Austin.  Each member held 100 shares in the railroad, except D.B. Harrington; he held 110 shares.

Harrington and Wells

D. B. Harrington and Fred L. Wells

Brown and McMorran

Charles R. Brown and Henry McMorran

Hartsuff and Howard

Gen. William Hartsuff and Henry Howard

The company commissioned the Porter, Bell and Co. Locomotive Works to build a narrow-gauge steam engine capable of hauling passenger traffic and freight.  The contract was signed December 5, 1878.  It was anticipated the engine would weigh 19 thousand pounds and exhibit driving wheels 36″ in diameter and cylinders 8″ in diameter.  Excitement was felt throughout the city as all waited for delivery of the machinery.  When the new Locomotive No. 1 (2-4-0) arrived in Port Huron, it was christened the “D.B. Harrington” in honor of the original shareholder who had passed away the previous July.

DB Harrington Pic

D.B. Harrington engine, 2018

The engine only ran on the railroad for a short period.  It was sold some time after 1884.  Over the years it held many different homes, but in 1991, it found its way back home to the Port Huron Museum.  It is amazing this little engine survived all of these years.  I was very happy to read the Community Foundation, Port Huron Museum, SC4 and the Gaffney family have all joined together to restore and preserve this historical treasure.

The Road to the “Henry McMorran.”

While the D.B. Harrington was the first engine purchased by the Port Huron and Northwestern Railroad, it was not the first narrow gauge engine built by Porter, Bell and Co. Locomotive Works to catch their eye.  In fact, before the purchase of the D.B. Harrington all the eyes of Port Huron were focused on the little narrow gauge steam engine James Beard was running to haul lumber in Alcona County, Michigan.  A little engine he called the “Henry McMorran.”

James Beard and Henry McMorran were well acquainted in business.  They were both shareholders in the Port Huron and Northwestern Railroad and the Port Huron Savings Bank. However, their connection ran deeper than just business.  It is obvious a strong friendship and trust existed between the two men.  This is marked by the fact that James Beard named the beloved little steam engine that saved his business in Alcona County the “Henry McMorran.” James also named Henry to act as the fiduciary of his estate, which he did when James passed away in 1882.    I imagine their friendship as a meeting of the minds, as both men liked to have their hands in the cookie jar and shared an entrepreneurial spirit.  During their lifetimes both men would be associated with many business ventures.

In. 1842, when James was 27 years old, he and his brother, John Beard, took over the lumber mill business originally run by their father.  Because of the high demand placed on vessels to haul lumber and the inflated costs to ship it, James and John had to split the chores of the business.  One of the brothers took leave of cutting the logs, while the other oversaw hauling the logs to Detroit to be sold.  This would have proved taxing and laborious for the brothers, not to mention costly to their business.  To remedy the situation, James  moved to Detroit in 1845 to start a lumber yard.  He chose a location close to the waterfront situated down river from the old Detroit waterworks dock at Jefferson and Randolph street.  While James lived in Detroit he also started a fire company there.  This would seem a likely choice for James, as fire would have been the greatest threat to the lumber industry.

City of Detroit Areas

City of Detroit Areas, Source: Wikipedia

By 1856, the Beard brothers dissolved their business, and James partnered up with a friend he had met in Detroit, Elijah R. Haynes, and together they ran a lumber mill business in Port Huron.  According to William Lee Jenks, the men bought and operated the mill that David Whitman had built in 1853 on the St. Clair River next to the Simon Petit and A. & H. Fish mill.  At this location, their business operated off of logs that were transported down the Black River from Sanilac County.  They ran this mill until about 1863.

The next business venture for Haynes and Beard came about in 1865 in the lower northern region of Michigan in Alcona County.  The catalyst behind this grand adventure into Michigan’s wilderness had to be a reaction to high competition in the lumbering business in Port Huron at the time.  Too many mills were operating and logs were scarce, making them dependent on lumber from outside of the area.  The costs associated with transporting the lumber were high.  By constructing a saw mill in a remote location, Beard and Haynes would have access to plenty of lumber in their own backyard, which would equate to greater profits.  They built the first saw mill in Alcona Township in partnership with two other Port Huron natives, John Johnston and F. H. Vanderburg.  They went by the firm name Johnston Haynes & Co.

In the beginning, the work was tough.  Workers were scarce and hard to come by because of the remote location.  Men demanded a higher wage to come out and work in an uninhibited place.  Supplies were limited and could only be delivered by small boats to the edge of the lake shore.  Further complicating the delivery of supplies was the fact that large vessel owners who could transport the small boats necessary to approach the shore line did not think it worth their time and effort to deliver a meager volume of supplies to a small band of logging men working in this remote area.

Lumber Camp

Lumber Camp.  Source: Alcona County Historical Society

By 1871, Johnston and Vanderburg decided to get out of the lumber business in Alcona due to the hardships associated with it.  Beard and Haynes held firm in their belief their business could be successful and pushed forward.  Little by little, they made a dent in overcoming the hardships.  They brought working men to the area and set up logging camps for them to live in.  They began cutting timber along the shore of Lake Huron, and they managed to haul logs to the mill on carts using manpower along wood rails and carts pulled by horse power.  However, these forms of transportation were limiting.  Hauling logs was best completed by aid of the snow that would cover the area in the winter months (Prescott, R.E., 1934).

log jammer to load logs onto rail cars

Workers using a log jammer to load logs onto a rail cart.  Source:  Ronald J. Sortor, owner

In 1875, Elijah Haynes died.  James assumed his part of the business and took his son, F.E. Beard, into business with him as James Beard & Co.  As the timber along the shore of Lake Huron was used up, Beard & Co. had to reach back westward into the expansive pine woods to feed their saw mill.  This made transportation by cart and horsepower very time intensive, and hauls to the mill took greater lengths of time.  While logging was known to be highly profitable, these profits were heavily dependent upon transportation.  The logs had to be able to get from the woods to the mill, then from the mill to the shoreline to be transported to the consumer.  Any interruptions or delays in transportation could spell bankruptcy.

History of Lake Huron Shore - Logging Train

Alger Long Timber Train, Alcona County.  Source:  H.R. Page and Co., 1883

In 1876, Winfried Scott Gerrish, a lumberman in Clare County, Michigan, attended the World’s Fair in Philadelphia where he witnessed a locomotive that could run on a narrow-gauge track.  On his return, this new discovery led him to build a narrow-gauge track to haul the logs for his mill.  He was able to haul logs all year round, and with a speed he had not been afforded before.  While logging railroads were in existence in 1876, there were none in Clare or Alcona County.  Many in the area were skeptical until the implementation of hauling logs via a narrow-gauge railroad changed Gerrish’s fortune.  At the time Gerrish built his railroad, he was facing bankruptcy and the use of this new method of transportation quickly made him into a very rich man.

By 1876, with the use of a logging railroad in close proximity, success for a lumbering entrepreneur in the Alcona area was guaranteed.  This is well established by the fact the area drew the attention of Alger, Smith & Company, who put down a mill with a team of 600 men in the Black River area of Alcona Township.  Alger, Smith & Company specialized in long timber logging and would become the largest logging company in the world from 1876 to 1880.

rollway of timber logging railroad

Rollway of Timber on a Logging Railroad.  Source:  North County History Facebook Page

The winter of 1877-78 was a mild one.  The lack of snow caused transportation issues at the Beard mill and spelled a loss of profits for the company.  With the Alger, Smith & Company in his backyard and the winter loss under his belt, Beard followed in Gerrish’s footsteps and began cutting out and leveling road to build a narrow-gauge railroad track in May of 1878.  By July 3 of the same year, three miles of track had been completed, and his new steam engine was running on it.  He christened the narrow gauge steam engine “Henry McMorran.”  By August, four and a half miles were completed and his little logging railroad was fully operating.  On August 20, 1878, The Port Huron Daily Times reported on the Beard road as follows:  “… for about two miles the road runs through a thick cedar swamp, where nothing can be seen except the narrow opening for which the track runs and the thick branches on either side …. the road has cars all made by the Phoenix Iron Works of this city and costing $75.00 dollars each … the company have one locomotive and in hauling logs eight cars carrying 2,500 feet of logs, make up a train … we are pleased to learn that the road is likely to prove an entire success, financially and otherwise.”

On August 28, 1878, The Port Huron Daily Times ran an article about James and his railroad originally published in the Alcona County Review that gave the following details about his handsome locomotive:  “The locomotive ‘H. McMorran’ used on the road was built expressly for Messrs. Beard & Co. at the Porter, Bell and Co. Locomotive Works of Pittsburg, PA, and we do not hesitate to say that it is an excellent piece of machinery.  Its weight is 10 ton; size of cylinder 10 x 16 inches; drive wheel 36 inches in diameter.  The engineer, Benjamin Dupont, is certainly practical in his business.  He not only knows how to care for and run a locomotive, but can build one if required.  He was formerly an employee in the shop where the McMorran was built, and came with it to Alcona.”

It was at this time that James Beard decided to switch gears and leave the long timber logging to Algers, Smith and Co. and concentrate on short logging.  He felt with the advancement of such a large company entering his area, it would be a relative short time before long timber prices dropped due to mass manufacturing.  His tract of land contained pine that numbered approximately at 25 to 30 million.  He had 70 men within his employ.  He operated a general store to serve local farmers and his employees.  With the construction of his tiny railroad, James Beard had plenty of work to do, and he was content in his backwoods wilderness.

The Work of Time

As I continue to pursue my research of Henry McMorran, I am frequently reminded of those who came before me and dedicated themselves to the act of presenting historical information that offers historical accounts of events, people, and places.  Further, I am truly appreciative of those individuals and organizations that work diligently every day to preserve and provide access to historical materials.  Without these two communities, my research would not be possible today.  Historical research and preservation is truly a gift that keeps giving to the whole of society, whether we are cognizant of it or not.  What we can derive from this gift is bountiful and forever endless in what it teaches us. Those of us who seek knowledge of the past can also contribute to its teachings by passing on what we have found in our research and study, often finding new details that lead to further discovery or clarification of historical events that can enrich our history for future generations to expound upon.  This blog post serves as an example of just that.

This post is possible through the culminating efforts of Roland E. Prescott, writer and publisher of the Alcona County Herald, the Library Board of Alcona County, Michigan, Charlotte McMorran, Pamela Fox, the Port Huron Museum, William Lee Jenks, and T.J. Gaffney.  I wanted to end this blog by taking the time to pay homage to these individuals and organizations who took the time and effort to create, research and preserve the printed materials and artifacts which allow me to tell the story of the Henry G. McMorran and the D.B. Harrington narrow gauge steam engines.  My appreciation is best expressed by the words of Roland E. Prescott, who said in great wisdom, “It is of great events – physical, political, and social, that histories are written.  It is of small events and by ordinary human beings that history is made, and records compiled by historians reflect only the surface.  The facts – or versions accepted as facts – omit two most important elements necessary for their understanding:  the ‘atmosphere’ prevailing at the time, the events transpiring, and the human equation.  A frontier region is open by adventurers who are followed by settlers and permanent home builders.  Era blends into era each generation too busy with the present to record the past; and links with the earlier days are broken, unless some effort is made to preserve them in printed form.  This is the mission of these little books – to give a picture of existing conditions and to preserve the ‘atmosphere’ of the era, as described by those who lived through it or from information obtained from other authentic sources.”  Prescott’s mission resonates with me and is exactly the reason why I perform and share my work through this blog.  Without the writings of Mr. Prescott and William Lee Jenks, the research efforts of Charlotte McMorran, and the preservation efforts of Pamela Fox, the Library Board of Alcona County, Michigan, the Port Huron Museum, and T.J. Gaffney, this post would not be possible.  Thank you.


Alcona County Historical Society website (n.d.)  Lumber Camp [image].  Retrieved from:

Articles of Incorporation for the Port Huron and Northwestern Railway Company (1878).  Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).  Retrieved from:

Austin, D. (2018).  Water Works Park Tower.  Historic  Retrieved from:

Bird, M.J. (2012).  Gerrish and his logging railroad: Part one.  Retrieved from:

Bunn, B. (1991, March 27).  Historic locomotive returns.  The Times Herald.

Community Foundation of St. Clair County (2018).  The D.B. Harrington [image].  Retrieved from: 

D.B. Harrington (1878, July 8).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Death of Elijah R. Haynes (1875, April 27).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Dinsmore, R.E. (1984).  Archaeological perspectives of the lumber industry in northern lower Michigan 1865 to 1920: Master’s Thesis.  Western Michigan University ScholarWorks at WMU.  Retrieved from:

Find A Grave (2010) [image of Charles R. Brown].  Retrieved from: 

Find A Grave (2011) [image of Gen. William Hartsuff].  Retrieved from:

Fred L. Wells Died Suddenly (1904, May 16).  The Port Huron Daily Times [image of Fred L. Wells].

Fuller, G. N. (Ed.) (1924-1926).  Historic Michigan, Land of the Great Lakes: It’s life, resources, industries, people, politics, government, wars, institutions, achievements, the press, schools and churches, legendary and prehistoric lore, Volume 3.  Dayton, Ohio: National Historical Association, Inc.

Henry McMorran Was A Pioneer (1903, Sept. 2).  The Port Huron Daily Times [image of Henry McMorran]

H.R. Page and Co. (1883).  History of the Lake Huron Shore:  With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.

H.R. Page and Co. (1883).  History of the Lake Huron Shore:  With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.  Long Timber Train [image]..

James Beard (1882, April 29).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Jenks, W.L. (1912).  St. Clair County, Michigan, Its History and Its People: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress and Its Principal Interests, Volume 1, p. 368, The Browning Mill.  Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co.

Jenks, W.L. (1912).  St. Clair County, Michigan, Its History and Its People: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress and Its Principal Interests [image of D.B. Harrington], Volume 2.  Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co.

Locomotive ‘Henry McMorran’, (1878, July 9).  The Port Huron Daily Times

Locomotive No. 1 (1879, February 3).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Locomotive purchased (1878, December 5).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Michigan Probate Court (St. Clair County), James Beard Estate, Calendar 3, pages 1002-1056, Case No. 1049, 1882, – Michigan Wills and Probate Records 1784-1980 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2015.

Mr. Beard’s railroad (1878, August 20).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

North County History Facebook Page (n.d.).  Rollway of Timber on a Logging Railroad [image].  Retrieved from:

Prescott, R.E. (1934).  Historical Tales of the Huron Shore Region and Rhymes.  Michigan: Alcona County Herald.

Savings bank (1872, October 22).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Sortor, R.J. (1997).  Lumber Camps in the Curtisville Area.  Log Jammer used to load logs onto a rail cart [image].  Retrieved from:

Summer Logging (1878, August 28).  The Port Huron Daily Times.

Wikipedia (2017).  Alcona Township, Michigan.  Retrieved from:,_Michigan

Wikipedia (2018).  Henry Howard (Michigan), [image].  Retrieved from:

Wikipedia (2018) National Register of Historic Places Listing in Detroit, [image City of Detroit Areas].  Retrieved from:



Those of Us Who Try……DO. Part I

Sometimes an idea is sparked by a simple thought, a notion, or a gesture that stays with us.  We let it mull around in our minds for a while, keep it close, and when the time is right we put it to use in our physical world.  These kinds of ideas mass produced by all of us contribute to our personal experiences and essentially create and dictate the world we live in.  Other times, it is almost like the form of an idea runs quickly across our consciousness and is filtered out.  Gone.  Was it a missed opportunity for exploitation?  Doubtful.  I like to think that ideas that brushstroke our consciousness are in fact faulty thoughts gone astray that our mind was supposed to weed out and dispose of in the trash receptacle space of our unconscious mind.  But who knows?  All I do know is we are lucky creatures to have the intellect that we do and the physical means to share it.  When I read or hear a personal story that entails an idea that take hold, grows, and shapes our world or someone’s individual life path, I love to share it. So here we go……

I recently came across a fella by the name of R.C. Mudge who lived in Detroit in the late 1880’s.  In his youth, he loved to attend parties in the hopes of meeting a special young lady.  In the winter months, his walks to those parties were cold ones.  On one particularly cold night, he decided to put some newspaper underneath his coat for insulation.  What he found out was that it served as a good insulator.

He used the newspaper all that winter to brave the cold.  One evening it caught the attention of his friend, Edgar Wasson.  The two men got to talking about the matter, the talking sparked some ideas, and their ideas eventually led them to design and make a paper vest out of sulphite fibre.  They were so happy with their design and product they became convinced there was a market for it.

mudge vest patent

They applied to patent their design in July of 1888, and by February of 1889, their patent was approved.  At the time they filed for patent, Mudge and Wasson decided to go forward and began a manufacturing company in Detroit under the name American Co.  They hired a handyman from Canada, John C. McLaughlin, to help them and started manufacturing the garments.  Within a few months, they had produced and sold 20,000 paper vests, and the orders kept coming.  Because their supply of sulphite fibre had to come from Ohio and they lacked the capital to expand, they could not keep up with the supply to meet demand.

Sulphite Paper Works Plant No. 2

The Sulphite Fibre Works Plant No. 2, 1907

At the end of December 1889, it came to Mudge’s attention that a sulphite fibre company had opened up on the Black River in Port Huron.  The company was called The Sulphite Fibre Works.  Lacking the funds to expand and the fear of losing his business caused Mudge to make the journey to Port Huron in early May of 1889 to ask local capitalists to invest their money with him.  With a spring in his step and a dream in his pocket, Mudge met with a group of men and proposed forming a stock company with the capital to manufacture his paper clothing in Port Huron.  Some of the men he met that day included:  Henry Howard, James Goulden, H.G. Barnum, Dr. F. Lohrstorfer, O’Brien J. Atkinson, Philo Truesdeli, E.J. Spaulding, S.L. Ballentine , W.F. Davidson, and Henry McMorran.

howard and atkinson

SL Ballentine

the boys

After hearing Mudge out, the men made an initial investigation.  They decided to give Mudge and his new company a chance.  On May 25, 1889, the stock company was organized under the name R.C. Mudge Paper Clothing Company, and the necessary funds were subscribed in the amount of $75,000.  The Directors took a vote and elected the following officers:

President – W.F. Davidson
Vice-President – Philo Truesdeli
Treasurer – E.J. Spaulding
Secretary – E.M. Wasson
General Manager – R.C. Mudge.

RC Mudge Paper Clothing Company

Mudge and his business moved to Port Huron in July.  He brought John McLaughlin and Edgar Wasson with him, and once again they were in business.  Initially Mudge planned to manufacture 1,000 garments a day, but they soon had to double that figure to meet demand.  In addition to making men’s paper vests, they started producing ladies’ vest, skirts, blankets, and shoe insoles.


Aerial view of the Fair, 1889

In 1889, Mudge and Wasson sponsored a company booth at the Detroit International Exposition and Fair where they displayed their paper clothing. Their booth drew large crowds and was considered one of the popular booths.  A newspaperman summed up the whole experience in a spotlight article on the company in the Detroit Tribute: “The men’s vest cost 50 cents, the ladies’ 75 cents and other goods come at corresponding prices.  These paper garments cannot be compared with inferior woolen garments.  Wind will blow through wool.  It simply can’t get through this paper, which, besides being warm is tough, standing a pull of 98 pounds to the inch without tearing.”

By November of 1889, the company employed 110 people, 97 of them women. When the company started in July, it employed only 3 women.  To have enough space to mass produce their products, the company had expanded their operations on Butler Street into two buildings located next door.  They were looking to occupy two more buildings on the block in the next few months, and there was talk of the need to build a brick factory within the next year.  It was predicted the factory would employ approximately 500 people.


The main building of the company was powered by electric light from the Excelsior Electric Light Works.  Electricity also powered 27 Singer electric sewing machines.  Women working for the company used the machines to sew the garments together and finishing touches, such as color sateens sewn over the paper were hand sewn.  Orders were coming in from New York, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, and all parts of Michigan.  The women were paid wages of between $2.50-$6.50 a week for their work.  The highest paid employee was John McLaughlin, who acted as the head cutter.  He earned a wage of $25.00 per week.

I love the humble origin of the R.C. Mudge Paper Company, and I’m so glad I could share it with you.  But R.C. Mudge was not only an idea man.  He was also kind, handsome, generous, and talented.  My favorite characteristic about him was the generous spirit he showered upon his community.  So, it is no small wonder the Port Huron community opened their arms and embraced him. If only for a little while.

Oh, goodness, there is so much more of this story to tell and I have run out of time to tell it.  One blog on this one is just not enough.  I guess it will have to keep for another day.

Until then……if you can……take a moment…… and THINK ALL OF THE THINKS YOU CAN POSSIBLY THINK and if one good THINK stays with you…. share it, savor it, cultivate it like a garden, and try like a mad hatter to grow it.  And most importantly, remind yourself that sometimes in life all it takes is a good IDEA in your head and a DREAM in your heart to make the impossible POSSIBLE.  I am sure Mudge and McMorran would more than agree with me.

Til’ next time.



Captured image of the Excelsior Electric Light Works, (1887).  Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan, Sanborn Map Company, [Image].  Library of Congress.  Retrieved from:

Don, the Up North Memories Guy, (2016).  Sulphite Paper Works, circa, 1907, Plant No. 2, Port Huron, MI [Image], flickr.  Retrieved from:

Google Patents, (n.d.).  Paper Garment No. 397,437, February 5, 1889.  Retrieved from:  

Hug emoticon, (2017).  The Happydemic Blog.  Retrieved from:

Michigan Art Company, (1904).  Men in Michigan: A Collection of the Portraits of Men Prominent in Business and Professional Life in Michigan, Michigan Art Company: Detroit.  Portraits of Wilbur F. Davidson and Henry G. McMorran [Image]

R. C. Mudge Paper Clothing Co.Garments envelope with logo, (1889), [Image], Treasurecoastamp, Ebay.  Retrieved from:

The Alice T. Miner Museum Blog, (2016).  Ariel view of the Fair, circa 1889, Detroit.  Retrieved from:  

The Port Huron Daily Times, (1889, May 25).  A New Enterprise.

The Port Huron Daily Times, 1889, November 2). Paper Clothing.

The Port Huron Daily Times, (1889, June 27).  Paper Clothing Company.

The Port Huron Daily Times, (1901, July 9).  O’Brien J. Atkinson [Image].

The Port Huron Daily Times, (1889, September 28).  The Way it Came About.

The Times Herald, (1949, June 22).  Silas L. Ballentine [Image].

Wikpedia, (2018).  Henry Howard [Image].  Retrieved from:

Wink Wink emoticon, (2015).  Faith, Sigh & DYI Blog [Image].  Retrieved from:

Young Henry

Life is a journey

(Source:  Ready to Change Life Coaching Blog, 2014)

We have all heard the expression “Life is a Journey”. As we progress through our lives, this sentiment truly begins to morph from a mere saying into a true feeling.   During my examination of Henry McMorran’s life, this feeling of journey and the passing of time holds steady in me.  The process of putting together the pieces and parts of a person’s life from an historical perspective makes me personally reflect on my own life and serves up a large slice of inspiration pie.

I wanted to take a moment this week to reflect on the boyhood of Henry McMorran.  There is not much information written about him as a young man, but if one looks close enough you can catch a glimpse of Henry’s youth contained within the odds and ends of what is available.  It is a view that must be pieced together but well worth the research effort.

Sperry's Department Store

(Sperry’s Department Store, Port Huron, MI, circa 1982.  Source:  Pinterest: Michigan’s Past on #Port Huron, Russell Sawyer picture – property of Port Huron Museum)

If you grew up in Port Huron and remember Sperry’s Department store, I ask you to do me a favor before you read further.  Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and imagine yourself in Sperry’s.  How old are you?  Are you inside or outside the building?  Hold that picture in your mind and feel that memory.  How does your memory make you feel?  Now let it go and smile.  This space like many others in the Port Huron area is unique because of the memories we hold of it.  What is also unique about this space is that there are people who came before us who have memories of that space as well.

Henry had memories there.  In fact, he was born there on June 11, 1844 to Robert W. McMorran and Isabella Kewley McMorran.  Back in 1844, it was known as the corner of Huron and Butler Street, it was considered a part of the Village of Port Huron, and Henry’s home stood there instead of a department store (The Port Huron Times, 1905).  Lots of variables as to description, but the same space nonetheless.

Huron Avenue 1857

(Huron Avenue, 1857, looking north from Military Street. Source: The Russell Sawyer Collection: Property of Port Huron Museum)

As a boy, Henry attended the Crawford school.  Some of his schoolmates included:  H.W. Stevens, John Atkinson, William Campfield, Watson Beach, George W. Howe, Bernard O’Rourke, and Henry Kingsley (The Port Huron Times, 1895).  The Crawford School was taught by Alexander Crawford, and children came from all over the area to attend.  Mr. Crawford taught his school in the Old Brown school house from 1844 until 1858.  William Lee Jenks describes Alexander Crawford as “a stern disciplinarian, but possessed of the faculty of instilling a desire to learn, he attracted pupils to his school, and impressed them strongly.” (Jenks, W.L., 1912).

Bernard O’Rourke, who attended the school with Henry in 1855, remembers “Our family lived in the Township of Kimball, St. Clair County at that time and good schools in those days were wanting.  My father took the opportunity of sending me to Port Huron to attend school.  Mr. Crawford was a teacher that thoroughly understood his business and was what you might call a first-class teacher in those days.  I remember well a rod of correction he kept by his desk for certain purposes.  It consisted of a round piece of rattan about thirty inches long and one half an inch in diameter.  I think some of the old school boys remember it also.”  I think Jenks was right, Mr. Crawford did leave a strong impression on his students.  Bernard’s recollection perfectly paraphrases a childlike version of Jenks’ description of Mr. Crawford (The Port Huron Times, 1895).

In 1855, the schoolhouse was located in an area of property at Huron Avenue and Broad Street.  By 1859, this area became a park and by 1895 it was serving as the location of the county court house and jail.  Today, Broad Street is known as McMorran Boulevard, and the McMorran Auditorium and Arena stand on this property (The Port Huron Daily Times, 1895).  The school would have been conveniently located for young McMorran to walk to as it was just a block north of his home.

1859 Map Snip

(Snippets – Business locations of A.E. Noble, M.D. and W.H.B. Dowling Grocery. Source: Library of Congress – 1859 Map of the Counties of Macomb and St. Clair, Michigan)

Robert McMorran, Henry’s father died in 1855.  This tragic event ended his education and Henry went to work to provide for his family at the age of 11 in a jewelry store doing odd chores for a few years.  It is my approximated guess that Henry worked for Alonzo E. Noble in his jewelry store.

McMorran Bosford

(Henry McMorran and Frederick Botsford, circa 1860 (Source: Port Huron Museum)

After his time at the jewelry store, Henry went to work as a cash boy at the age of 13 for W.H.B. Dowling in his general store.  He earned $10.00 a month for his labor.  What follows is a newspaper article that showcases a recollected exchange between W.H.B. Dowling and a young Henry at 13 and at 15.

“About six months afterward, he called the boy and said to him, ‘Henry, I want you to go down stars [stairs] and check off some new goods that have just arrived.  Mark the regular percentage on it for profit.’ Henry went downstairs, and, never having received any instruction in arithmetic, concluded to look up [at] Mr. Dowling.  ‘I guess I’ll have to quit Mr. Dowling’, he announced.  The good merchant was amazed.  ‘Quit’, he exclaimed.  ‘What for?’ ‘Well’, explained Henry, ‘I’m not very good at figures and that job you gave me is too much.’ ‘Now is the time to learn,’ remarked Mr. Dowling.  ‘Go ahead and do as I told you.’  Henry then took a friendly clerk into his confidence and soon learned to figure the percentages and went ahead; afterward reporting his success to Mr. Dowling.  When McMorran was 15 years of age Mr. Dowling said to him: ‘Henry, my bookkeeper has left me.  I want you to take charge of my books.’  ‘I don’t know a thing about bookkeeping Mr. Dowling,’ he replied.  ‘You had better get somebody else.  I’ll mix the books all up.’  Mr. Dowling insisted and Henry took charge of the books and remained in that position until Mr. Dowling went out of business in 1860.”  (The Times Herald, 1902).

Thank goodness Henry had such a good role model and mentor in Mr. Dowling.  As we all know, his efforts would not be wasted on the boy!  I have to admit I could not help but chuckle when I first read the examples of Henry’s boyhood presented here.  I love the fact that I get to see Henry when he is most vulnerable and full of the self-doubt of youth.  If I have learned anything through this process, I will have to say it is this……….

Life is indeed a journey to which we as individual’s never quite experience in the same way or manner as those who come after us.  The imprint we will leave on this planet is happening as we live, it forms our own unique timeline whether we know it or not, and it is discoverable long after we are gone for someone else to pick up and enjoy.

As a researcher, I can view Henry’s life journey as a whole and draw inferences about it that he could not and would not ever have been able to draw while he lived.  I can view his life through a lens that enriches and adds value to that journey and to my own as well.  I can recollect my own memories of spaces such as Sperry’s Department Store and McMorran Auditorium.  I can draw comfort from him knowing he had recollections of the same spaces that I do and that such a successful man experienced self-doubt within his life too.  A connection forms from these realizations.  It screams to me that I am not alone.  We have all traveled the same path at one point or another.

McMorran Arena

(McMorran Auditorium and Arena, n.d.  Source:  Blue Water Wave)

When Henry attended the Crawford School, he would not have had the ability of anticipating that one day an auditorium and arena would stand on the same site where he attended school.  Not only would this auditorium and arena stand in this place where I imagine he played and messed around with his friends as young boys do, but it would bear HIS NAME. It would serve as a tribute to all his successes as a businessman, his dedication to the progression of the City of Port Huron, his contribution to the United States, the State of Michigan, and the St. Clair County region as a congressman, and most important of all, it would be built and dedicated by his two daughters, Emma and Clara, because of their memories of his dedication to his family as a loving and devoted father.  Chew on that for a moment!


(Connection and Community Source.  Leadership Summaries Blog, 2012)

When you live in a small town commonalities are born among the people who live there that revolve around people, places, and things.  I think one of the most wonderful aspects of small town living is talking to someone and not having to explain a certain area or place.  They just know it as you do.  You can see it in their eyes they get exactly what you are talking about.  It is there within that moment a connection is made.  A connection that binds us as a community. It makes me feel amazing that I have memories of the same space that I know a man born 173 years ago has memories of too (perhaps you feel the same).  While time may change spaces, it cannot change memories.  Sometimes, we have to find them, but they remain.  To me, that sort of amazing feeling exemplifies the power of history.

BY THE WAY, when I think of Sperry’s, I always recall how much I loved to ride the elevator while my grandmother shopped.  So, my memory is easily depicted in this photograph:


Lula Petty, Sperry’s Elevator Operator. Source: Pinterest

Anyone else in the community share a similar memory?


Blue Water Wave website (n.d.).  McMorran Arena Blog [Image].  Retrieved from:

Hernandez, J. G. (2012).  We are all in this together.  Leadership Summaries Blog.  [Image – Connection and Community] Retrieved from:

Library of Congress website ( n.d.).  Map of the counties of Macomb and St. Clair, Michigan.  Philadelphia : Geil, Harley & Siverd, 1859, N.Y. : R. Pearsall Smith, Map Manufacturer [Image].  Retrieved from:

Michigan’s Past on #Port Huron (1982).  Pinterest.  Sperry’s and JCPenney in Downtown Port Huron [Image: The Russel Sawyer Collection – property of Port Huron Museum].  Retrieved from:

Sperry’s Department Store in Port Huron, Michigan.  Pinterest.  Lula Petty, Sperry’s Elevator Operator, [Image].  Retrieved from:

Port Huron Museum.  McMorran-Murphy Collection (74.1.125).  [Image – Henry McMorran and Frederick Botsford, circa 1860].

The Port Huron Daily Times.  Congressman Henry McMorran (July 15, 1905).

The Port Huron Daily Times.  Henry McMorran:  Sketch of the Career of the Republican Candidate for Representation in Congress (October 21, 1902).

The Port Huron Daily Times.  In the Old Days:  A Letter to the Editor from Bernard O’Rourke (April 4, 1895).

The Port Huron Daily Times.  Olden Times: When Alex Crawford Taught the Village School (March 29, 1895).

Rootsweb Ancestry website (2008).  Port Huron in Pictures and Collections: The Russell Sawyer Collection [Image – Huron Avenue 1857 Looking North on Military Street].  Retrieved from:

ThyroidCancerSurvivor (2014).  Life is a Journey, Ready to Change Life Coaching Blog.  Retrieved from:

Jenks, W.L. (1912).  St. Clair County, Michigan, Its History and Its People: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress and Its Principal Interests, Volume 1, p. 339, Dr. Alonzo E. Noble.  Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co.  Retrieved from:

Jenks, W.L. (1912).  St. Clair County, Michigan, Its History and Its People:  A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress and Its Principal Interests, Volume 1, p. 273, Alexander Crawford.  Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co.  Retrieved from:

Jenks, W.L. (1836-1936).  William Lee Jenks papers. Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan (call no.  851594 Aa2).

McMorran’s “Digs” in Washington

Henry G. McMorran served as the US Congressional Representative for the 7th Congressional District of Michigan from 1903-1913 (United States, Congress, n.d.).  While in Washington, he and his family frequently took up residence at The Portland located in the Thomas Circle neighborhood. (The Port Huron Daily Times, 1909 & Detroit Free Press, 1912).

The Portland, circa 1924 (Source: DeFerrari, J., 2016, Streets of Washington Blog)

Built in 1879, it was designed by German architect, Adolf Cluss, and it was originally called The Portland Flats (Williams, P.K., 2001).  In later years, it was known as The Portland Hotel.  It was the first luxury apartment building in Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia, 2009).  It was built by Edward Weston, a retired banker and designed by Adolf Cluss.   Weston’s intent was to build an apartment building for the middle and upper class modeled after the popular “French Flats” in Paris.  This new architectural style was taking root in the United States after receiving noted attention and success in New York.  (National Republican, 1881).  Rutherford Stuyvesant was the man who brought this new housing design to New York.  It is said Stuyvesant visited Paris and admired the apartment buildings so much he decided to elicit the help of French designer Richard Morris Hunt to design the new building for him.  The Stuyvesant was finished in 1869, and the units were rented before it even opened its doors in 1870.  Up until Stuyvesant built The Stuyvesant in New York, some middle-class residents lived in row houses.  However, row houses were not a popular choice due to the stigmatism associated with working class tenement housing and poor design.  The new one-floor plan of the Stuyvesant eliminated the large number of stairs residents of row houses had to climb and created a comfortable space for them to live in. (Gray, Christopher, 2013).

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The Stuyvesant Apartment (Source: Library of Congress)

It was the mass appeal of “French Flat” living in New York that attracted Weston’s attention.  Weston and others interested in the real estate market in Washington D.C. believed this new form of housing could be the answer for those who temporarily took up winter residence in the area (National Republican, 1881).  They were right.  In 1912, twenty years after the Portland was built, Michigan Senators and US Representatives were taking up winter lodging there, including Senator Townsend of Jackson and Representative McMorran of Port Huron (Detroit Free Press, 1912)

A Sketch of The Portland and Thomas Circle, circa 1885 (Source: DeFerrari, J., 2016, Streets of Washington Blog)

The Portland was situated on the corner of 14th Street and Vermont on the southside of the Thomas Circle (Boese, K., 2009).  The neighborhood McMorran called home while in Washington was conceived as part of the L’Enfant Plan, an urban development plan, created in 1791 by Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant for President George Washington.  (Wikipedia, L’Enfant Plan, 2017).  It is marked by a circle in which stands an equestrian statute of Civil War General George Henry Thomas that was commissioned by John Quincy Adams Ward in 1879 (Wikipedia, Thomas Circle, 2017).  According to District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation, circles were used in the L’Enfant Plan to provide a strategic defensive boundary north of the White House (District of Columbia Department of Transportation, n.d.).

1905 Thomas Circle

View of Thomas Circle from The Portland 1905 (Source: Library of Congress)

According to the 1906 Digest of Appropriations for Support of the Government of the United States, there were appropriations specified to pay day watchmen throughout the city.  One of the areas where a watchman was designated was in Thomas Circle neighborhood (United States, 1906).  So, Henry McMorran would have come home after a long day’s work at the Capital in his private horse drawn carriage driven by a coachman over a pair of “Wilkes” steeds he owned and kept in the city for private use to the Portland Flats, a well watched area in town. (The Daily Herald, 1904).  He would have had the luxury of dining with his wife and family in one of the two communal dining halls located into the apartment building.  Or he could have taken the building elevator up to his private apartment suite that most likely included a parlor, dining room, three chambers, servant room, kitchen, pantry, and bathroom.  He would have appreciated a white-walled parlor, carved walnut dining room, and large, glass windows with inside shutters, a small elevator that could be used to send up any necessities he would require, an ash tub made with an iron door to send down his garbage to which a janitor was responsible for its disposal, electric bells throughout the apartment and a speaking tube to communicate his desires to the porter who was located in the basement (Our French Flat, National Republican, 1881).  His “digs” are not too shabby for a small-town boy from Port Huron, Michigan, who started from humble beginnings.


Boese, K. (2009).  Then and Now the Portland Flats. Greater Greater Washington website.  Retrieved from:

DeFerrari, J. (2016).  History of the Portland Flats on Thomas Circle, Streets of Washington Blog.  [Photograph – The Portland, circa 1924 and Photograph – A Sketch of the Portland and Thomas Circle, circa 1885] Retrieved from: and

Detroit Free Press.  “Michiganders in Washington.” (December 8, 1912).

District of Columbia (2009).  District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites.  Retrieved from:

Gray, Christopher.  “Apartment Buildings: The Lastest in French Ideas.” (July 11, 2013).  Retrieved from:

National Republican.  Our Real Estate, The Condition of the Market:  An Interesting Interview with Several Prominent Dealers, New Features in Architecture, Washington as a Winter Residence,  An Active Spring Predicted (January 8, 1881).

National Republican.  Our French Flat (March 18, 1881).

The Daily Herald.  Brown City Banner Editor Accompanies the Michigan Newspapermen to Washington (Feburary 9, 1904).

Wikipedia (2017).  L’Enfant Plan.  Retrieved from:

Wikipedia (2017).  Thomas Circle.  Retrieved from:

Williams, Paul, K. (2001).  The Neighborhoods of Logan, Scott, and Thomas Circles.  Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.

Library of Congress.  [Photograph – Thomas Circle from The Portland, 1905 and Sketch -The Stuyvesant Apartment].  Retrieved from: and


Mary L. Botsford in her own words.


As far back as I can recall, I have always been captivated by stories about real people.  As an adult, I naturally gravitated towards genealogy.  Over the course of the past year, I’ve ventured into personal history writing.  What I found to be true in my quest to understand my family history is that we all have a personal history to tell.  preservation-of-records

The proof of our existence can be found in the documentation we generate and keep.  Personal history is about more then sharing history just to share it.  It includes an individual’s thoughts and experiences along their life’s journey.  Personal source materials can include, but are not limited to, photographs, newspaper stories, letters, business records, vital records, tax filings, real estate records, estate planning documents, journals, blog posts, social media posts, etc.  The list could go on and on depending on the person. These resources are like puzzle pieces that come together and breathe life into people and families from the past.  Of course, personal records should be preserved over time to capture a personal history.  But in the case where personal papers are not preserved, there is always hope for personal history writers to find documented resources of personal value in public or private record depositories. I wanted to share this post with you to highlight the value of personal record preservation.

For the past year I have been researching Henry G. McMorran.  Henry G. McMorran, as most people know, was a pioneer of Port Huron, Michigan.  In my research, I have stumbled upon other pioneers and their family members who have attracted my attention.  One of these inhenry-mcmorran-pic-pujo-committeedividuals is Mary L. Botsford.  I do not profess to be an expert on Mary  and I can’t tell you that much about her.  What I can tell you is she was married to John Botsford aka J.E. Botsford.  The Botsfords lived on Military Street in Port Huron close to Henry McMorran around the years 1892-1895.   That is all the information I have put together on Mary’s background so far.  The first time Mary showed up in my research was in a newspaper article.  Two observations came to mind when I read the article.  I wondered why John Botsford wasn’t the one quoted as to the reason behind his family’s move to Chicago and I was struck by Mary’s forthright manner of speech.  I thought to myself, “Mary certainly doesn’t beat around the bush.”  The second time Mary came into my life was via deposition testimony regarding a lawsuit her husband and McMorran were involved in as plaintiffs to the action.



I won’t go into the case in this posting, but I do want to share with you a powerful affirmation that was again confirmed for me this past month.  Words are life.  It’s as simple as that.  So write them, speak them, share them, and preserve them.  “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”  John 6:63.  And last, but not least, a big shout out to Mary for showing up, captivating my attention, and tickling my heart over a hundred years after your testimony. Bravo!