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East Tawas History

The following is a history of the City of East Tawas as drafted by Neil Thornton.  Please understand that this history of the City is still in draft format but is being included here due to the historical significance and the unavailability of a published history.  We think you will find it very interesting.  Neil has a DVD that goes along with this written history and photo references in the written history are actually photos that are on the DVD.  Neil Thornton has published many books about the area which are available at The Booknook, located at 114 Newman Street in East Tawas, and are available for sale at the Iosco County Historical Museum, 405 West Bay Street.   

 By Neil Thornton


With unbounded faith in the future, Editor C. R. Jackson of the losco Gazette took pencil in hand and fashioned this headline:

EAST TAWAS:

The Coming Metropolis

Of the North!

It was 1893 and the entire nation was experiencing one of the worst economic recessions of the 19th century. The US would not pull out of that nosedive until the turn of the century, despite the Chicago world's fair. Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Temple mery, East Tawas's fortunes were never brighter, regardless of the fact that the now fabled white pine era had run its course in northern Lower Michigan.

Together with Nelson Holland of Saginaw, Holland and Emery Lumber Company had constructed a new sawmill on the site of today's Tawas Bay Beach Resort east of the state dock, a salt block, expanded docking facilities, a new two-story office building-store and the beautiful Holland Hotel.

The entire project, originating in 1891, was based on rafting white pine logs across Lake Huron from Canada. Unfortunately, that bubble burst only seven years later when Ontario cut off the supply of saw logs. The inland area back of the Tawases was rapidly filling in with small farmers, working 40 to 120 acres of land, but this is getting ahead of the story about East Tawas.

The community known in the early days as east town, owed its origination to a crooked land agent, according to the diary of James O. Whittemore, first editor ofthe losco Gazette George P. Smith and Henry Perkins Smith of Tonawanda New York State, principle owners of the firm of Smith, Van Valkenburg and Company, had retained a Bay City land agent by the name of Miller to locate some land for a mill site at Sand Point on Michigan's thumb.

According to the diary of Whittemore, resident manager of Tawas City's Whittemore Lumber Company, "It was a lucky break for us that Miller used the Smith's money to buy the site in his own name and then wanted to bleed them heavily before he would deed it to them."

That circumstance, he said, drove the Smiths to look for another site for their mill. They chose a site OD Tawas Bay in Tawas Township, east of the struggling hamlet occupied by the pioneer Whittemore sawmill enterprise. That event took place in 1864 and the Smiths, with substantial capital behind them, soon had their new mill in operation, purchased some additional land from the Whittemores and began setting off lots for a new town site. Incidentally, the Smith family is still associated with East Tawas through third and fourth generation members of the family at Tawas Beach Association.

 

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