Howard Mesick and His Family

Howard Mesick, son of Jesse and Susan (Fish) Mesick was born in Canada. It is not known when Jesse and Susan might have moved to Canada where Howard was born on April 18, 1839; because Howard’s parents were both born in New York. Howard’s father, Jesse, was born in Claverack, Columbia, New York in 1811 and he died in Kingston, Frontenac, Ontario, Canada in 1850. Jesse married Susan Fish, born in New York in 1817, at the Ghent Christian Dutch Reformed Church in Claverack in 1836. After Jesse’s death in Canada in 1850, Susan is found back in Claverack, Columbia, New York again where she married Daniel Jackson in 1850. Susan died in Stockport, New York in 1888.

Howard is listed as having immigrated back to Claverack, Columbia, New York in 1849 where he is living with the Polson family in 1850. In 1855 he is found working as a servant at the age of 17 for a family by the name of Helms in Stockport, Columbia, New York. The 1860 census reports Howard, and his brother Walter, living with the James Monlague family at Green, Mecosta Co., MI, near Big Rapids. Even at that early age Howard and his brother Walter are listed as trappers. (This is the first indication that Howard was a trapper.) By 1865 it was reported that Jesse, another brother of Howard and Walter served in the Civil War.

After the war, Howard is found living in Springville, Wexford Co. MI, where he married Eleanor Baker, daughter of Aaron and Clarissa Baker on May 23, 1866. 

Howard and Eleanor’s first son, Walter, was born in 1867-1889 on the new homestead that Howard had acquired through the Homestead Act of 1862.  The property crested a hill that overlooked the winding Manistee River (one of the reasons the trapper had come north).  The property was located between two Ann Arbor Railroad grants that proved to help him be the success he was in his lifetime. 

Nevertheless, let’s go back to Howard and Eleanor’s early days in Mesick.  Their family was born in the following order: After Walter mentioned above, George E. Mesick (1868-1869); Irvin E. Mesick (1871-1872); Edward Mesick (1875-1957); Adelbert Mesick (1876-1951); John W Mesick (1879-1957) and Doctor Henre Mesick (1883-1883) died of Whooping cough.  The hunter/trapper and his wife lost 3 of their 7 boys to death in their first year of life and Walter died at age 21 in a logging accident.   

Howard did not remain a full-time hunter/trapper.  He was needed at home to help with the family.  So, it has been said, Howard burned 100 acres of his forest land down and started a farm from scratch and rubble.  The Grand Traverse Herald writes in January of 1874 about Howard Mesick’s property, “There are several good farms in Springville, of which that of Howard Mesick’s is perhaps the best. This is located one and one-half miles west of Sherman and has seventy acres under a good state of cultivation.  He raises fine crops and an abundance of them.  

Moreover, the Mesick Brothers were quoted as killing 28 deer in one hunting season.  So it seems that the Mesick brothers provided well for their families in the long-seasoned winter of the north woods while taking advantage of the summers to farm the fertile ground. 

Howard became a good farmer since the land he settled on was very fertile soil.  He was good at farming but when the railroad tracks were built through his property, he had a problem with others driving across his fields and ruining his crops instead of using the provided roads.  Howard’s son, Edward, recalls what happened at that time.  

The east and west streets are named after the Mesick boys: Adelbert, Edward, Mesick Avenue, John, and Henry.  (Henry’s name was actually Doctor Henre according to his tombstone.) North and south streets are Walter, Alvin, and Eugene. Clark was already thus named, as it had been the first main road from Mesick to Grand Rapids Michigan (the State Road),. However, Alvin and Eugene are believed to have been a namesake taken from Eleanor’s brother, Alvin Eugene Baker.  

Surveyor Wells chose his two lots after the platting of the Village of Mesick, and then Howard built the first store, (installing his son Edward as storekeeper so some documents read, others say Howard was the first storekeeper). Then he built the first sawmill (putting his son Adelbert in charge, later Edward was).  It was known as Mesick Manufacturing Co., located on the northwest side of the railroad tracks, making shipping very accessible.  

Last of the Mesick buildings was the blacksmith shop (run by his brother Walter). This building (an old schoolhouse) was said to have been moved and put into place beside the Seventh Day Adventist Church.  

The Adventist Church building started in 1895 in Sherman and moved to Mesick in 1897.  Mesick’s family was members of this church. As a matter of fact, Eleanor spent her last days in the James White Memorial Home in Plainwell, MI, which was a Seven Day Adventist operated home.  Past residents commented that the Mesick family was very generous to the church and the land was donated to the organization by Howard and Eleanor Mesick (others say the lot was sold for $60) At one time around 1901, a school was held in a building behind the church. 

Because Howard’s homestead was located where the Ann Arbor Railroad went through, we think of Mesick as Howard’s village.  However, Walter and Jesse, his brothers, lived here for many years.  Walter moved south the year after Howard passed away, 1906, to be near his daughter Ettabelle and his brother Jesse who had moved south after living in Mesick for nearly 20 years. Each of the brothers had married the daughters of Aaron and Clarissa (Perkins) Baker, a family that had arrived in the area before Howard and his brothers. All the brothers added to the growth of the village of Mesick by making it thrive and function into what we see it as today. 

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