DAYS GONE BY: Civil War pioneers were first law and order


Editors note: This article is part of Days Gone By, in which members of the Lake County Historical Society share stories of Lake County’s rich history. The articles will appear every other week in the Lake County Star. The Lake County Historical Society office and museum are located at 830 N. Michigan Ave. in Baldwin. Its mailing address is 830 N. Michigan Ave., P.O. Box 774, Baldwin, Mich. 49304. 

In the fall of 1866, Civil War veteran George Washington Collier, along with his wife Eleanor, son Tunis and infant daughter Adah stopped in Big Rapids at a trading post for much needed provisions. Traveling a blazed trail, the Colliers put faith in their team of oxen to get them to their new homeland in western Osceola County. 

George Collier served in the 28th New York Light Artillery and was a woodsman and bridge builder by trade. George was born on Feb. 22, 1833, in Syracuse, N.Y. and named by his parents for the nation’s first president. George would build a square timber home and barn in Pinora Township and, along with other Civil War homesteaders, would soon settle near the village of Chase. 

Rivermen and lumberjacks were filling the woods along the Pere Marquette River as lumber barons laid claim to a forest of virgin white pine. And so on March 18, 1871, under Act 357, the State of Michigan organized the County of Lake. The state appointed pioneers Robert Bigbee, Abel Gibbs and James Foster to hold an election for the first county officers and George Collier was elected as Lake County’s first sheriff. At 38 years old, George proved to be a fair and honest sheriff and served for almost three years. He also served as Supervisor and Treasurer in Pinora Township. He was also active on the local School board. Mr. Collier died in 1918 at age 85 and is buried in Pinora Township Cemetery.

In 1871, another Civil War veteran started a flour and feed business in a booming village in Lake County called Baldwin City. Isaac Grant, wife Daney, and their children laid claim to 160 acres near the village. 

Isaac was born in 1846 near St. Johns. At age 15, Isaac would join Company I of the 10th Michigan Calvary, serve in the Union Army of Cumberland, and eventually participate in 52 battles. Isaac was a staunch Republican and considered a fine specimen of physical manhood at 6’ 1” and 215 pounds. In 1874, Isaac Grant was elected the second sheriff of Lake County and re-elected in 1880. At this time, the county seat was Chase. 

With the completion of the Pere Marquette Railroad to Ludington came the boom in logging. Soon Isaac was faced with not just farmers but hardy lumberjacks. French Canadians, Swedes, Finns, English, Scotch, Poles and Irish would now fill the lumber camps. Suddenly Chase went from Hotels and General Stores to five saloons, an Opera house and three houses of ill fame. A fresh bank roll and whiskey on a Saturday night made for a deadly combination for some shanty boys. One of the first jails in Lake County was in Chase. Iron and masonry were scarce and so the jail was made of 4-inch by 12-inch planks held together with #30 spikes. Isaac would transfer his livery business to Reed City in 1883 and would be elected Judge of Probate of Osceola County in 1904.