Historical documents provide insight on Battle of Chase
CHASE — With the 143rd anniversary of the Battle of Chase approaching, Lake County Historical Society President Bruce Micinski presented original historical documents pertaining to the epic tug of war for the Lake County seat. Baldwin residents came to Chase by train to steal the county safe and claim the county seat on April 30, 1875. Banter about the battle still is tossed around by Lake County residents today, but the original documents give names, facts and backbone to the story.
The first settler, Lorenzo Conklin, a farmer, arrived in 1862 in what later would became Green Dell and then Chase. By 1871, the Lake County Board of Supervisors voted to establish the county seat at Green Dell. The county safe and records were kept near Charlie Joiner’s sawmill, broom factory and shingle mill. The town was renamed Chase in honor of Salmon P. Chase, governor of Ohio and Secretary of Treasury for Abraham Lincoln.
In 1874, a resolution was passed by the board of supervisors to remove the county seat from Chase to Baldwin City, which later was renamed Baldwin.
On April 22, 1875, voters approved the resolution to move the county seat with 355 votes in favor and 299 against. Shortly after, citizens of Chase attained a circuit court injunction signed by Judge Harrison H. Wheeler to stop the move with an informant claiming the election was fixed. Cornelius Forman, a lumberman from Forman Mills, questioned the votes in Pleasant Plains Township upon learning the township had 125 registered voters, but 209 votes were cast.
On April 30, the train left Baldwin City for Chase carrying 40 or more men with clubs, crowbars and pistols. County Clerk August Towner interjected, showing the court injunction. The battle ensued resulting in bloody noses, bruised faces and other injuries. With blunt force the Baldwinites broke down the shed containing safe and records, loaded the safe on the train and triumphantly headed west back to Baldwin City, the new county seat.
On June 15, charges were filed by Lake County Prosecutor Darius Warner, assisted by Michigan Attorney General Andrew Jackson Smith. More than 20 residents of Baldwin City were charged with conspiracy, assault and attempting to steal the safe and records. Some of those charged were William Wood, proprietor of the Baldwin House Hotel; Henry Bray, Justice of the Peace; Henry Rudd, saloon keeper; Alex DeLong, wagon maker; and Charles Radcliffe, editor of the Lake County Star.
On Aug. 9, a special court session took place at the hall in Chase. Judge Wheeler expressed Chase was not taking good care of the county records and attorneys White and Fitch of Ludington represented numerous clients requesting all charges be dropped. Wheeler, wanting to catch the afternoon express to Ludington, promptly dismissed the case.
Years following, there were still disputes about the county seat, whether it should return to Chase, stay in Baldwin or even be located at Luther. To this day, Baldwin remains the county seat.