This work is not available anywhere for sale. Albert wrote to me that he was making
a copy for the Benzie Historical Society. The original contains photographs, sketch
and plat maps. I have omitted parts of it pertaining to the details of the logging
operations and some stories of family interest. Anyone interested about this or for
anyone wishing copies of Chapman/Waterson genealogy or pictures may contact me at
Jerri Waterson Bearce
"Averytown has been generally thought of as just another logging town of Benzie county
that came and went with the loggers, but there was more of a story to it than that.
First inquiries among half a dozen or so oldtimers of the Honor area brought the
unanimous reply, "Sure, I've heard about Averytown. A guy named Snover built a sawmill
there in about 1900. It was down on the Platte River right where the river goes into
the Big Swamp, back of where the outdoor movie is now. There was a stand of pine
in there that he planned on logging off. Another fellow named Avery Thomas got into
the deal, owned the mill or something, and he named the place for himself."
That was it---and just about all of it.
There is one solid fact to start from. The site is still there, preserved and untouched
for almost a hundred years, and the Main Road on which it stood can still be traced
out. Its spot on the map can readily be found too.
In specific terms, Averytown was on the southeast portion of a 40 acre piece of land,
owned by Louis Sands, in the northeast corner of Section 7 in Homestead Township.
It seems to be an accepted fact that Snover built the sawmill and its surrounding
buildings, and probably the homes for its workers that made up the town, with sundry
factors indicating that this was done in 1898. At about this same time other subsequently
important events were taking place too.
First was the purchase in 1899 by a promising young carpenter, J.C. Kuck, of an irregular-shaped,
61-acre piece of land on the other side, east of the river from Averytown. Next,
in the same year, a Klotz family bought 80 acres adjoining Averytown on the south.
Two years previously they had sold off their holdings near Nessen City, packed their
goods in a covered wagon and headed west for Montana. The father, Edwin, was ailing
when they left and by the time they reached Nebraska he was so ill that they turned
around and came back. There were two boys, Ed and Orville, and two girls, Lorena
and Elizabeth, all grown. The father died within a year after their return. The land
they purchased had belonged to Avery Thomas and held the stand of pine already mentioned,
although the timber didn't go with the sale. It had probably already been logged
off by Snover anyway.
The Benzonia Trail cut across the east end of this eighty and there was a long, two-story,
hall-like building here, facing the road, that had been a combination general store
and inn for travelers, and at one time a saloon. It was empty at the time---possibly
the storekeeper had moved to the new Main Road at Averytown where all the traffic
had gone by then. In any case, Avery Thomas had agreed to move it and he did, across
the road to a high piece of ground overlooking the river where it remained until
recent times. The move wasn't made, however, until the Klotzs' had built a home for
themselves and no longer needed it to live in.
It seems entirely possible that the young carpenter across the river helped, as a
good neighbor, in the building of this home, for it wasn't long before he married
one of the girls, Elizabeth...and in 1902 little Beatrice Kuck was born. This was
at Frankfort. The new husband hadn't had time to finish a home for them on his own
place. Beatrice grew up right there at Averytown, however, and eighty years later
was able to provide an invaluable source of information for this story. She had become
Mrs. Lish Peckens. Her death in July of 1983 left a vacancy in Averytown history
that could never be filled.
Her brother, Oral, was born at the farm home in 1910 and has lived there all his
life, all alone now, since the death of his wife. While he was too young to have
any personal memories of Averytown, it is he who has preserved the site of the historic
town all these years, untouched by plough or excavator's tools. He and Beatrice inherited
the eighty acres owned by Ed and Orville Klotz, and like the Klotz brothers, they
have held out firmly against repeated efforts of real estate developers to buy the
cottage sites along the river, that have grown steadily more valuable. The Averytown
site, of course, was north of this property on the Louis Sands forty, but there was
no access to this land except through the Kuck property. Just last summer Oral sold
a strip along the river to provide this access to a new owner of the forty, yet not
without retaining control of the access rights himself, to Averytown.
The south portion of the Klotz eight, along U.S. 31, was sold off, first, to the
outdoor theater, then to the Beulahland Shoppe on the west side and then the J&W
plumbing on the east. A Consumers Power Company substation is on the southeast corner.
All of these, however, are far distant from the Averytown site.
Now comes the question of why, in the first place, Averytown was built in the back
corner of nowhere that became its destiny.
Of course, the town was there because the mill was there, and why the mill was put
there will take considerable delving, into seemingly far flung yet unavoidable local
circumstances like, for instance, roads.
A glance at ...(a) map will give the immediate impression that a sawmill, or a town,
could hardly have been located at a more crossed-up pattern of crossroads. Five highways
intersected here, plus a half encircling railroad and a twisted river, and none of
this was as yet a fully settled situation. Up until 1896, just two years before Averytown,
there had been only two roads here and, most of all, there had been no Honor.
The Deadstream Road, coming in from the southeast, had been little more than a wagon-track
trail winding its way down, northeastward, through the Platte valley, keeping to
the east and north side of the river. A few settlers were scattered along its route,
and nothing else. The jumble of hills to the east and north were covered by an almost
unbroken forest of virgin hardwood. When the valley narrowed and swung off more firmly
to the west, the river swung with it and so did the trail. Then, in scarcely a mile,
the valley opened wide into a sprawling plain on the south side and into a vast impregnable
cedar swamp on the north. The river, as if in protest of the deep swamp ahead, made
a twisting turn due north, but after a quarter mile, gave up and plunged northwesterly
into the dark evergreens to swing west presently and be on its way to Big Platte
The Platte River Trail only acquired the title of "Deadstream Road" after it had
been extended, a bit before 1900, out northwest across the swamp and over the Dead
Stream itself on a concrete bridge, to run on along the Big Platte Lake north shore
to the sawmill village of Edgewater. It was built across the swamp by sinking hardwood
logs side-by-side crosswise, flat down into the muck until they reached firm bottom.
Endless wagon loads of clay and gravel were then piled on top and rolled down to
make a solid roadway. It was an extremely bold undertaking and a phenomenal achievement,
almost beyond belief. It hardly seems possible that Benzonia or any other township
would have ever undertaken it or even remotely considered financing it. It did, later,
after the coming of Honor with its railroads, prove to be invaluable for the development
of summer resorting on both Big and Little Platte Lakes. In 1900, however, a traveler
could drive from the Lakes four or five miles to the Indian Hill Road and still be
six miles over high hills from a railroad---and summer people came by railroad, or
maybe lake boat. No, sir, resort development would have been no justification whatever
then for the cost of building that swamp road.
But who built this road and why, and who financed it is another story. Its importance
to the story of Averytown lies in the fact that it was essential to the logging off
of the Deadstream swamp.
Incidentally, the Dead Stream (no current) was a natural channel joining the Big
and Little Platte Lakes. It separated the crown of high, firm land between the lakes
from the marsh of the swamp to the east.
Getting back now to the crossroads: Coming down from Leelanau County was the Indian
Hill Road which skirted the Big Swamp and came to an end (for the moment) at the
crossroads. It had taken over the "Old Benzonia Trail" which originally ran from
Glen Arbor on Lake Michigan southward through Benzie County to Benzonia. In 1900
it ran from the crossroads, down across the Platte River and then off southwest across
the valley to join the Beulah Road (now the Worden road) on the original route. The
valley here was hemmed in for eight miles westward by a ridge of high hills too steep
to be negotiated by a wagon without a great deal of effort. Oral Kuck relates how
many, probably the majority, of settlers in the northern part of the county came
there by boat to Glen Arbor, and on southward on the Benzonia Trail.
Into this, unheralded and unexpected, came, in 1895, the Guelph Patent Cask Company
of Ohio with blueprints and surveyors and two railroads, the Pere Marquette from
the main line at Bendon and the Manistee & Northeastern from Lake Ann. They both
brought horses, workmen, tools and building material. By the fall of 1896 the mill
was ready, the loggers were out in the woods and a town was getting started. The
mill builder named the town "Honor" after his daughter. Thus Honor was born, or rather
it popped up like a ripe mushroom in the middle of the progressive and well-tended
farm of Robert Buchins, who raised potatoes along with apples and grapes. This development
may have raised hob with Farmer Buchins, but it really blew the lid off with the
Homestead Township Board and particularly with the bewildered highway commissioner.
Here, out of nowhere, was a wildly booming logging business and a town rapidly filling
up with people and houses and stores---and with no roads to get to or from it except
one little wagon trail that went no place in particular.
It helped some, quite a lot, in fact, that one of the railroads, the M.&N.E., did
not end its line at Honor but went on west and north alongside the wagon road to
intersect with the Indian Hill Road at the Deadstream Swamp. There it turned north
and laid its tracks between the edge of the swamp and the Indian Hill Road a couple
of miles to the foot of the hill where it veered off northeast to make a junction
with the Empire and Southeastern line, which by one connection or another would eventually
reach Traverse City. Of more importance, however, to Averytown was the fact that
back along the Indian Hill Road, off on the east side, there was a considerable stand
of white pine that extended back into the foothills, beginning at a point just a
half-mile north of the crossroads and going on to the hill.
At this rapidly declining stage of the Michigan lumbering era, finding a stand of
white pine was like falling into a gold mine---and this stand had the prime advantage
of being located where the cut logs could easily, in the winter, be taken by sleigh,
downhill all the way, to a mill at the river. In the summer, by laying a spur track
out into the pine, they could be taken by train.
So there, after three full pages, is the reason why Averytown was built where it
was. It had a railroad, its mill had pine to cut and an almost endless stand of big
With that incentive Snover began his mill building. There just wasn't room on the
east side of the river to put up a sawmill and town of homes for the more permanent
workers and their families. The railroad mainline, along with its sidings and freight
sheds, took up most of the space, and there had to be a wagon road through all this,
besides. It would be better, anyway, to set up the mill on the west and south side.
This meant that the first thing necessary was a strong bridge for hauling supplies
from the railroad across and sawed lumber back. The logs would be rolled into a widened
pond in the river and pulled up the other side into the mill.
The ideal spot for the bridge---and maybe the originally planned spot---was the high
firm ground on both banks at the edge of the swamp, and that's where it can be more
or less seen in the background of the pictures, taken by Ed Kotz in 1902, of the
mill. These pictures give a good idea of the general layout, or at least an idea.
The bridge, though, needs a bit more description. It was built of heavy timbers laid
across from bank to bank and decked over with thick hardwood planks. It had no railings,
only a timber, probably eight inches square, fixed securely along each edge.
At this point it becomes necessary to change this account into a first person narrative.
There is so much that must be told by deduction, surmise and just plain guesswork
that the telling becomes a matter of personal opinion and maybe background knowledge.
My knowledge may be open to question, but I do have a family connection with Averytown,
one that I must confess with deep regret I failed to pursue when that was possible.
As a bit of clarification I might add that I first began looking into the Averytown
story in 1978 at the request of present-day family members. Other matters intervened,
but I did eventually get a little sketch of the story together, intending to do the
job properly later, which has become now.
Again we must delve into highway problems ... I have said that the Old Benzonia Trail
crossed the Platte River, but I didn't say how. Well, it was with limited safety
on an aging log bridge that was well on its way to collapse. By 1898 it had become
a critical key in keeping open the only route of access to Honor from the west, which
was still by way of the Deadstream Road. There had to be a new bridge immediately---and
this was a problem not easily solved. Two townships were involved, Homestead on the
Honor side and Benzonia on the west, and the Marshall Road, as the dividing line
between them, had been long planned as a trunk line to go northward to the river,
cross it on a bridge on the township line and then veer east to join the Indian Hill
Road and go on north into Leelanau County. The stumbling block was the river, which
turned north at the Benzonia Trail and wrapped itself in a double curve around the
township line, leaving no suitable place at all for a bridge.
The highway commissions of both townships were still beating their brains, trying
to find a solution to this, when they received a petition from a group of citizens
from both sides, reminding them that the Marshall Road still lacked half a mile of
even being laid out to the river..... a trail of sorts swung off westward from the
end of the Marshall Road to join the Benzonia Trail. That was all.
(The) ... petition ...reads: "Application to Lay Out Highway to the Commissioners
of Highway, etc."The "New Bridge" they refer to was one that had been approved by
the highway commissions but was still on the drawing board. ...the date: April 22,
1898, just about the same time that Snover was finishing his bridge, which, by some
rare flourish of fate, was exactly on the township line. When news of this development
reached the commissioners, there was undoubtedly a celebration of major dimensions.
The petitioners did, in time, get their wish, too. In 1924, a group of business and
professional men of the Honor-Beulah-Benzonia area bought the property on both sides
of the Marshall Road to make a golf course. It was then the road was put through
on the township line to join the Indian Hill Road. Even so, plat maps of the 1900
period show the road cutting straight through on the line.
In February of 1982 Beatrice (Kuck) Peckens wrote, in answer to one of my notes,
"None of the roads in this area were on a section line, or any other line, no matter
what the maps show. This (the area around Averytown) was a confusing mass of roads
when I was a child. The bridge and the road that ran through Averytown and along
the swamp was the main traveled road."
This latter road was no stump-dodging wagon track. It thrust out westward from Snover's
bridge to skirt the upper side of Averytown and then turn south and a little west
to run down on the firm ground on the edge of the cut-over swamp to the Platte Lake
road, and it, even today, has the earmarks of a professional job, surveyed out on
a straight line and graded up to a consistently level surface. Although unable to
find any documented proof, I would still say that it was built by the Benzonia Township
road commission. Why would Snover have built such a road? He had no use for one.
Incidentally, it was this road that in later years gave rise to the often repeated
contention, even up to the present day, that a railroad did truly exist at one time
in and through this wide part of the valley. Portions of the Platte Road that were
abandoned in the final re-routing, added fuel to the belief. Oral Kuck declares positively
that the railroad never crossed the river. Maggie Hooker, another one of my best
informants, who was born in 1895 and lived all her life within half a mile or so
of Averytown, was equally postitive that there had never been a railroad on the Averytown
side of the river.
There is a little more to be said about this "Main" Road. It went to the Platte Lake
Road, but it didn't stop there, not for long. People traveling through weren't about
to turn back east at this point and turn southwest again on the Benzonia Trail to
get on to Beulah or to Steve Miner's straight over the hill. Not a bit. When they
came to the end of the Main Road they drove straight on across the field to where
the Benzonia Trail hit the Beulah Road (now Worden) and within a month or so the
Benzonia Trail was forgotten for all time. .... So the Beulah Road became the Main
Road to Beulah and Benzonia until 1932 when U.S. 31 took over and it became the Worden
Road. So Averytown was on the Main Road from Leelanau County to Manistee, and points
There were and still are some interesting questions about the building of Averytown.
Snover built the mill and its necessary structures, but did he build the homes that
made up the town? Or did Avery Thomas build them? Did Snover own the mill? Or did
Avery Thomas own it? Beatrice writes, "The mill was owned by Avery Thomas." Harold
Brozofsky added his full agreement to this positive statement. Maggie Hooker wasn't
so sure. She was of the opinion that Snover and Thomas were partners in the ownership,
with Snover running the mill. Harold, born in 1898 and passed away in 1982, was the
son of Barney Brozofsky, a progressive and notably public-spirited settler who had
a well-established farm on the higher, richer land a scant half-mile southwest of
Averytown. Oral Kuck was too young to have had any personal remembrances of the mill,
but he contributed the thought that the land on which the mill and its town were
built was owned by Louis Sands, then and for a number of years afterward.
It was when Snover started putting up the homes, and the mill, that the question
of ownership became of significance. Normally the homes of a mill town were thrown
together by the lumberjacks and were made of rough boards covered with tarpaper,
and so was the mill. After all, they were only to be used for two or three years,
five at the most. To put up finished buildings meant that carpenters had to be hired
and smoothly planed lumber shipped in, no doubt by railroad from the planing mills
at Manistee, altogether a decidedly expensive operation. Mrs. Kuck often visited
with the women of Averytown in a neighborly way with her little daughter going along
with her, and Beatrice could remember those cottages clearly. "Those homes were really
nice," she wrote, "perfectly finished outside. I remember some of them painted white.
They had fitted woodwork inside and patterned wallpaper. I wish you could have seen
the living room of the Prentiss house." As the daughter of a carpenter, Beatrice
would notice these things.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a picture of even any part of the Averytown
homes. I do have, however, a few pictures of the mill and the logs. These were made
from half-a-dozen 4x5 glass negatives taken by Ed Klotz in about 1903 or '04. They
are all Beatrice had been able to find from the many that he took during that time.
They are reproduced with this account ---and they are well worth studying a bit.
They show clearly that this mill was no slap-dash board shack. It is square and plumb
and neatly finished at the corners and aorund the eaves of the roof. Under a strong
magnifying glass it can be seen that the wide roof was of cedar shingles and it had
a cleat ladder up to the peak where there was a squarely-braced fire walk with several
water barrels for quick dousing of roof fires. The barrel on the end toward the camera
was missing, probably taken down to have the hoops tightened. The wall on this end
shows tight, tongue-and-groove finish siding. It had the appearance of having been
built to serve some big city for fity years.
....... It took a lot of people to carry out a logging project as big as the one
laid out for Averytown. The mill itself would require no less than eight or ten men
and when it began making shingles and other cedar products the number would go up
to twenty or so. This...(along with the normal staff of the camp)...adds up to about
35, most of whom were married and required homes. Then there were fifteen or twenty
lumberjacks and their several foremen who worked out in the woods. Mostly these men
slept in the bunk house and ate in the dining room....There was (also) the saw shack,
...tool house,...an office building... .
Another building that would certainly be included...was a boarding house. There was
one here, because all my informants remember it, only none of them can remember where
it was. I would guess it would have been facing on the Main Road somewhere, for it
served as a hotel for passing travelers as well as visitors to the mill, such as
...traveling salesmen...or lumber buyers. The boarding house was also used for quarters
for any female help like the maids, washwoman or possibly a woman cook.
The camp needed no company store, ...Right there on Main Road across from the mill
was a big private store. Maggie Hooker remembered it. Harold Brozofsky could recall
going there once with his father when he was about five years old.
That about concludes the account of the Averytown buildings, unless the note might
be added that the homes all had cellars. They were small ones, about four feet square
and the same depth, and they are still there, two rows of homes in a long-ago time.
They were reached through a trapdoor in a pantry, or maybe a kitchen floor, a place
where vegetables, fruit and other foods could be kept cool in the summer and warm
enough in the winter to never freeze.
In those first years the Main Road through Averytown was a busy thoroughfare. Wagons
and buggies to and from Honor were constantly passing. In the summer, fishermen and
resorters, brought into Honor by train, went through there to the Platte Lake road,
sometimes in quite fine carriages. They stopped at the boarding house for lunch or
cold lemonade and at the store to trade. The people of Averytown grew together as
a close-knit, friendly little community, out in the open country yet as up to-date
and in the swim of things as a big town.
The mill finished up its pine cutting and changed over to machinery for sawing cedar
and making shingles. New families came to town, families of the skilled men who sawed
shingles. Shingle weavers, they were called.
During all this the Klotz brothers were no doubt working at the mill, Ed especially.
Ed was a remarkably capable fellow. I knew him quite well in later years. I don't
think there was any job he would hesitate to tackle. Back in that day the best of
cameras were little more than an adjustable lens and shutter and required the skill
of experience to produce good picturs, but Ed taught himself to take remarkably professional
pictures and develop and print them himself. When radio came along in 1921 he made
his own crystal receiving set and was one of the first in Benzie county to hear radio
So it was that when the mill was ready to use cedar, he was picked for the job of
logging off the huge Deadstream Swamp. This was an assignment that would stagger
even the most skilled and experienced timber foreman, and I can well imagine that
it staggered Ed Klotz too. It would demand, above all other qualities, an unusual
amount of engineering ability, an ability based on experience. This definitely wasn't
anything that could be undertaken on a trial and error basis. Well, the Ed Klotz
that I was acquainted with, when confronted with a tough job, would have known at
first glance what had to be done and at second glance would have figured out how
to do it. This time, however, at second glance he realized that he would have to
have someone of long experience looking over his shoulder before he even started.
At least I am sure that's what a man of his sound sense would have thought. But where
could he have found such a person in the lumberjack field?
Well, I have an idea that the proper man just showed up one day, probably a grizzled
old logger that dropped off the train looking for a job, and the problem was solved.
Louie Sands would have operated that way.
So it was that, as Oral Kuck told me confidently, Ed Klotz logged off the Deadstream
Swamp. Oral knew well enough what an awesome undertaking that was, so did the numerous
old-timers who, down over the years, had told me the same thing, proudly. How it
was done is another story---like why the Deadstream Road was built. All I know about
it is that this was when that road came into real use. Three roads, maybe four, were
cut straight north from it back into the swamp, wide roads closer than a quarter
of a mile apart. The stumps were chopped down as flat as possible, cedar boughs were
packed down over and between them. When the snow came it was packed over this with
a roller and on cold nights, days too, the road was sprinkled with water which froze,
with more sprinkling, into a bed of solid ice. Eight-foot-wide sleighs, loaded high
with big logs, could be pulled over such a road easily with a four-horse team of
sharp-shod horses. The tricky part was in getting the logs out of the swamp on each
side of the road and loading them on to the sleighs. It was the Deadstream Road,
of course that took the loaded sleighs on to the mill at Averytown. In the summer
the logs could be cut along the west side of the swamp and loaded on to the railroad
I know about these swamp roads because back in the Twenties and Thirties they were
readily visible as a streak of shorter growth going back into the higher second-growth
trees. They made a convenient route, if you knew swamp travel and ignored the rattlesnakes,
back to a creek that was full of the biggest, fattest brook trout Benzie County has
ever produced. Those snakes were what the Indians called saugers, water rattlers
that seldom grew over two feet long. They would rather run than fight and weren't
Incidentally, the second growth, though thick, has never really grown up. The big
cedars of 1900 don't seem to be coming back. The timber south of the Deadstream Road,
I should note, was evidently pulled out to that road and taken in by sleigh.
Meanwhile, along about 1903, there was a big change at Averytown. The Homestead Township
highway commissioners finally built the Platte Lake Road straight on east along the
half-section line into Honor, having, of course, to build a bridge across the river.
The exact time of this can only be guessed, since the commissioners, while keeping
detailed records of their constant planning meetings, never jotted down a date of
when their road or bridge jobs were completed. In this case, the big problem was
that from the township line on east there was swamp and some rather soupy marsh,
and the road builders avoided this kind of terrain like the plague. Actually, a few
drainage ditches and some dredging out and filling would usually take care of the
matter and did here. Still, it wasn't undertaken until every other possibility had
been thoroughly hashed over and abandoned. So we do not know the completion date
but we do know that the road is still holding up firmly as the base for U.S. 31.
The Honor side of the river was swampy, too, but entirely firm when opened up to
a little sun and drainage.
A thirty-acre portion of the Kuck farm extended up the river and east along this
road line and had been covered with big cedars, until Ed Klotz logged it off before
starting on the Big Swamp job. He floated the logs down the river to the mill. The
land was fine for farm crops.
To Averytown, the opening of this new route just about wiped out the travel on their
Main Road. Some of the farmers around came to the store, but Honor was fast becoming
a "big town" and certainly a lively one. To the majority of people, just to visit
it and see the sights was worth the extra mile of driving. Summer people, of course,
took that more direct route to the lake. It is probable that the Averytown store
held out as long as the mill was running, but no longer.
The mill evidently closed out in the spring of 1905. Oral says he's sure the machinery
was shipped off to Northern Wisconsin. Anyway, it was cleaned out. There was still
maple and beech around and other hardwood, but there was much more money in cedar.
Shingles were in great demand and millions of board feet of clear cedar went into
lead pencils. It was used for all kinds of water tanks, big and small, and for tubs
and bucket and all manner of liquid containers, for posts and timbers set in the
ground, even for boats. The more specialized mill workers moved away to other mills.
Some found jobs easily enough at Honor where they could walk back and forth and continue
to live where they were.
The other attractive little homes and expertly built mill structures were abandoned
for anybody who wanted them. But not for long. The dust had hardly settled when one
Dave Waterson appeared and probably by some pre-arrangement with Avery Thomas, took
over the store building and a number of the homes for his own use. The store building,
he and his wife, Sally, known as Nad to the family, quickly fitted out for preparing
and packing woods ferns to go out by train every night to a wholesale florist in
Chicago. Their son, Francis, aged five, wasn't of much help in this, but George,
four years older, did his bit. At this time, Dave and Nad selected homes for a crew
of relatives who were to be their workers in the fern business. They included their
daughter Goldie and her husband Martin Wright; Nad's two sisters, Emily Griffin and
her five children, and Mary Griffin and her three. Though both husbands were Griffins,
they were unrelated. Both were away at the time, working on other jobs.
The fern business involved gathering the long stems from the woods, then sorting,
bunching and tying these and packing them in wooden boxes to ship. Hauling in the
lumber and building the boxes and then hauling them off to the train was quite a
task in itself. They had to be handled with painstaking care, not a leaf could be
bruised or broken. A one-horse, covered delivery wagon was used to bring them in
from the woods. They were spread carefully on cheesecloth-covered frames which fitted
into racks spaced four inches apart in the wagon and the wagon had to be kept closed
so that wind wouldn't whip through it and disturb the ferns.
The business flourished right from the start. More men had to be hired in the woods
and in the box shop, and more women had to be found for the sorting and tying. Some
of these were from among the Averytown wives, some from around the countryside. One
of the latter, a couple of years later, was Maggie Hooker who furnished most of the
information about all this---for, Heaven help me, I was too plain stupid to have
gathered information concerning the fern hooraw and everything else about Averytown
when I had it right before me.
You see, Nad Waterson was a Chapman, my aunt. I lived right across the road from
the Watersons from 1930 to 1942, close neighbors. Averytown was the high point of
their lives and naturally an always present topic of their conversation. I enjoyed
hearing about it, yet I remembered practically none of it. It went right through
my empty head like a summer breeze. They lived about three-quarters of a mile south
of Averytown then on the Marshall Road and I lived across from them on the Old Worden
Place, sweating out the depression. I was born in April of 1903 at Thompsonville
where my folks were visiting my father's relatives. We left soon afterwards to return
to his work at Louisville, Kentucky. He was a "fancy" brick and stone mason, and
the summer work was coming on. It was after World War One when I came back to Michigan
and in 1926 when I reached Benzie County, where I was to get into newspaper work
and become acquainted with a great many people, many of whom had been a part in Benzie
County's early days. I learned much of Benzie County history and recorded some of
it, but not enough.
Averytown settled down into being just a nice little village. It had no government,
unless Avery Thomas could be counted as a mayor or something. People around seemed
to think of him as the person in charge. He was ready enough to listen to problems
and to try to find solutions, but he never set himself up as any kind of an authority.
There was a doctor who must have served quite a wide area. There were people around
back in the Thirties who remembered Dr. Prentiss. There was a school at Honor, only
a mile away. There doesn't seem to have been any religious services at the town,
but there was a large and active Methodist church up on the corner of the Marshall
and Covey Roads, about three-quarters of a mile south where just about everybody
attended. It served the Champion Hill community, a long-settled, fertile if hilly
area of open-hearted farm people. Nobody at that time would have given a second thought
to walking that short distance and there were enough horses and conveyances at Averytown
to take everybody on rainy days, or with sleighs in the deep snows of winter.
Beatrice Peckens, in her childhood remembrances, could count up as many as twenty
homes in the second stage of Averytown and she wrote down the names of some of the
people that she knew. There was the doctor and his wife Mattie, then a Claude Prentiss,
probably his brother, also Alto Ames, Mr. And Mrs. Hunt, Mr. And Mrs. Gilbert Melvin,
the two Griffin families, the Watersons, Mr. And Mrs. Martin Wright, Avery Thomas
and Mrs. Ella Sheldon. The others she just couldn't recall. There was the Klotz family,
too, who, though they had a home of their own, lived in the edge of Averytown. The
boarding house was still there and still had patrons among the visiting fishermen
and hunters, and maybe two or three bachelors who worked in Honor or were hired by
Dave Waterson. "Avery Thomas lived there," Beatrice wrote. Mrs. Sheldon kept house
for the place. She had three children, Bill, George and June. My mother used to visit
with her and she usually took me along." She didn't mention the other children around
town, although there must have been quite a few of them, and no doubt she knew the
majority of them. I've heard Harold Brozofsky talk of the boyhood fun he had attending
school with Francis Waterson and Walter Griffin, both of his age. Walter was Aunt
I think it was in 1908, maybe '09, that tragedy came very close to striking at Averytown.
That was when Aunt Mary's girl, Edith, won quite a bit of newspaper fame and almost
lost her life when she was caught in a forest fire, and ran through it, carrying
her three-year-old brother, Harry. She was only eleven. She was severely burned,
her legs especially, but she lived. Harry had only minor burns. I don't know where
around Averytown this happened. I don't think I ever knew, even though it became
a family legend. Little Beatrice Kuck went with her mother when Mrs. Kuck went to
the Griffin home to help change the dressings. The sight of those terrible raw burns
made an impression the six-year-old mind that Beatrice never forgot. It left Edith
with deeply scarred and weakened lower limbs for the rest of her life.
Averytown could hardly have been otherwise than a friendly little community of parents
and children and a few unmarrieds, all with common interests and all sharing in the
joys and sorrows of each other. All of the Watersons and the Griffins talked fondly
of "those wonderful times at Averytown." There were spur-of-the-moment potluck dinners
and picnics, sometimes out at Platte Lake, sometimes at some shady grove near by.
A favorite place was under some big pines over on the Kuck place. There were quilting
bees for the women and wood cutting bees for the men, song fests and, of course,
all the usual games and self-made entertainment of that day for the kids, square
dances for everybody in the empty dining room of the camp. There was plenty of fun
to be had. One of the very special pastimes for the children was the digging into
a certain sandy spot over near the railroad for Indian beads. Years later Francis
Waterson showed me a long necklace made from the beads that he had dug there as a
boy. It was made of bright stones of many beautiful colors and designs and ranging
in size from as big as a walnut down to some so small that it was beyond belief how
the Indians could have found a way of holding and drilling such tiny round objects.
Some were flat and thin and several inches in diameter with the color in stripes
or spots. They must have been gathered from the beaches of Lake Michigan where they
had been washed and polished by thousands of years of sloshing waves.
... I hesitate to bring up the subject of roads again, but I should have said right
in the beginning that the Old Benzonia Trail followed along quite closely on the
same route as the ancient Indian trail that went from Mackinaw southward along Lake
Michigan to Manistee and beyond, keeping inland far enough to maintain a fairly direct
line. Passing through Benzie County it naturally skirted the Big Swamp and crossed
the Platte River where the banks were low and firm enough, especially on the north
side for easy fording. It was also an ideal spot for making contact with Lake Michigan
by canoe. Canoes would have been kept here for the convenience of passing travelers.
I've never heard of any artifacts being found to indicate that there was ever an
Indian village here, and no skeletons to mark the spot as the site of some great
battle. It seems more likely that parties of Indians---men, women and children---from
the north and south gathered at this halfway point to visit and barter and have a
good time in general- -and at the same time to gather pebbles and make beads. For
some reason, the early Indians did not seem to fancy Benzie County as a place to
Another fun affair of the Averytown folk was rushing to the river bank to see the
motorboats go put-putting by. A small gasoline-engine driven craft, a little bigger
than a rowboat, they had appeared around 1905 and would have been there sooner, only
the logs in the river at the mill blocked them before that. The river was deep enough
up to the new bridge on the Honor Road for quite large launches, of sufficient size
to carry groceries, furniture, building supplies and even sizable loads of lumber
to the cottages that were springing up around the Platte Lake shores, and, of course,
they transported summer visitors and their baggage, and endless numbers of fishermen,
local as well as visiting. Oral Kuck remembers that his father was starting to build
summer homes and he went back and forth to the lake by boat.
The river was full of trout, both rainbow and brook, and everybody fished, from small
children to visiting grandfathers. People raised gardens, too, generally having enough
potatoes and root crops to see them through the winter. There was good land in the
heavier ridge of soil along the edge of the swamp.
... Before the Big Swamp was logged off, it had had a considerable population of
bears. Most of them wandered off into the scrubby growth of jack pine and oak along
Lake Michigan. Some, however, just drifted about, homeless and not knowing what to
do about it. The swamp land west of Averytown had long since been cut over for its
usable timber, and now the smaller stuff that had been left had grown up into cover
enough for a bear or two.
... Things went along at Averytown without much change. As soon as Edith Griffin
was healed enough to travel, Aunt Mary took their little family and went to East
Jordan to join the father, Frank who had landed a job as foreman of a railroad section
crew. Sometime between 1908 and 1914 a concrete bridge, probably the same one approved
by the Homestead highway commission in 1898, was built across the river on the Old
Benzonia Trail. This wasn't done, however, without quite a lot of neighborhood pressure
that culminated with Ed Klotz making a trip to Traverse City and retaining a lawyer.
Again, I was unable to find any record of the date when the job was done. This bridge
was needed because the Main Road through Averytown had been left rather high-and-dry
as a through county route. This new bridge joined the Indian Hill Road and the Marshall
Road as the trunk line that had been originally intended. The road problem at that
particular point still wasn't settled, however. One of the very first of Oral Kuck's
remembrances as a small boy was watching a crew of men out in front of his home spreading
strips of cedar bark on the roadway. The bark came from where some woods workers
had been peeling cedar fence posts to ship out on the railroad. Its purpose on the
road was to cover the deep sand that came up the rise from the bridge. Even a big
team of horses had a tough time pulling a loaded wagon through there. The new automobiles
that were beginning to come along didn't have a chance. The bridge was just about
useless without some clay and gravel on the road.
It wasn't because there was any shortage of gravel, either. There was a big gravel
pit---that was to become one of the largest in Western Michigan---less than a mile
up the road towards Honor. A couple of years later, when Oral was walking back and
forth to school on that road, the highway workers were hauling gravel that they told
him they were having to haul the full length of the Deadstream Road just because
his Uncle Ed Klotz had tore it up so bad dragging cedar logs over it that it was
about to sink out of sight. Afterwards Oral realized they had just been kidding him
but at the time he felt pretty bad about it. What they had really been doing was
building up the road for automobile travel. It was the automobile that, within a
few years was to make that stretch of highway worth a hundred times its original
Now I have said about all the good things concerning Averytown, it's time to mention
the one, fatal flaw. That was the long, hard winters.
The fern business ended the first of November and couldn't be revived again until
the middle of April, or sometimes May. The men of the enterprise, including Uncle
Dave, went to Honor to work in the woods. The women, and they were quite a few, were
out of a job. So were the freelancers who gathered ferns on their own and brought
them in. It might be said, and has been, that the people of Averytown could have
turned the big mill building into a cannery for berries and peaches, maybe vegetables,
but that could only have hired people for two or three months in the summer. No one
seems to have been interested anyway. The Watersons had only one aim in their fern
business and that was to make enough money to pay down on a small fruit farm. I doubt
if they even thought about building a town. Neither, it seems, did Avery Thomas.
Most of the men who lived at Averytown worked at Honor where the winter was even
busier than summer.
The plain fact was that Averytown was in reality a suburb of Honor. Well, in 1913
the Watersons had the money to buy an eighty-acre fruit farm and they dropped the
fern business. In 1915 Honor, still booming, became the county seat. In 1916 the
veneer mill was slowing down. In 1917 it finished out the year and was closed. In
the meantime, the United States had plunged into a war over in Europe that had begun
That delayed Honor's collapse, and also Averytown's, for a couple of years, since
the government needed long-timbered red elm, of which there were still some good
stands in the Honor area. These would be sawed into forty-foot planking and kiln-dried
for the building of "Liberty Ships" to transport war supplies to France. The elm
had been left out in the logging because it was of little value in any normal use.
Another by-passed timber was basswood and this too was needed. It was shipped in
eight-foot bolts to Grand Rapids where it was chewed up into excelsior for packing
around artillery shells, hand grenades and other military gear during shipping.
When the war was over, the Pere Marquette pulled up its tracks and left. The M. &
N.E. held on until 1922. But back as early as 1916 many of the Honor workers and
families had packed their trunks and left for the teeming war plants in the southern
part of the state, many of them going by Model T. The automobile was becoming quite
common in Benzie County by 1917.
...At about this same time, 1917, everybody in Averytown seems to have shut the doors
to their nice little cottages and just walked off.
With the Honor boom gone bust, the next thing was for settlers to move into the cut-over
land and start clearing out the stumps for farms. They needed homes, so they picked
out an Averytown home and loaded it on a sleigh and took it along, or maybe they
tore it down, carefully saving the lumber, and set it up again where they wanted
it. I asked Oral what became of the big sawmill and he said he didn't know, it was
And that was the end of Averytown....with Louie Sands still owning the land.
With the pulling out of the railroad soon after 1920 and the removal of the big barn
and other logging buildings, the land along the east side of the river started building
up with small summer cottages. By 1925 it had become quite a colony. But Averytown
remained a ghost, quietly revered and respectfully untouched.
Last update February 19, 2009
Excerpts from Averytown By Albert Chapman 1991 Contributed by Jerri Waterson Bearce