History of Lewiston
In Days of Yore
The actual beginning of Lewiston can be traced back to the founding lumbering operations here by the Michelson and Hanson Lumber Company in 1892. The town was named for Lewis Jensen - a stock holder and bookkeeper for the company.
The Company had originally intended on building at McCormick Lake but it was found that East Twin Lake would be more advantageous. There were two mills here owned by the lumber company. The saw mill was located on the shore of East Twin Lake and the planning mill was some distance away. After the timber was sawed into lumber, it was shipped out by way of the Michigan Central Railroad which has a standard gauge track running from Lewiston to Grayling.
The value of good timber land can be shown by this example. Approximately 17 acres of White Pine located west of town on 612, owned Earl & Ida Rinke, was first sold in 1866 by the Federal Government to a private concern. It was sold in 1886 for $500.00 and in that same year sold again for $9,000.00. Finally, when it was sold to the Michelson and Hanson Company in 1891 the price was an astounding $35,000.00. Almost each pine proved to provide 2,000 board feet of lumber. With the building of the mills, three hotels were also built to accommodate the lumberjacks and visitors: The Daley House, The Kitchen House, and the Johnson House. Homes were then built for the lumberman's families. A Company Store was built to supply the daily needs of the new arrivals. Druggist Frederick L. Baker became its first postmaster on April 25, 1892. "Main Street" was named Kneeland Street after Daniel M. Kneeland who was part owner of the Kneeland-Bigelow Lumber Company. His home is now the site of the Lewiston Historical Society Museum.
The Quebec Hotel, part of which remains as the Runway Restaurant was purchased by Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Cauchon Sr. in 1902. Many of the registers are still in existence and show that people from as far away as Paris, France; Dublin, Ireland; Denmark; Boston, Massachusetts; and Minnesota once visited this area. Once, a traveling troupe registered at the Hotel advertising that at "The Opera House Tonight" they would play "Land of the Midnight Sun" - a five act sensational drama" complete with scenery and costumes. The Cauchons, having emigrated from Canada, thus speaking with strong French accents, were devout Catholics and were instrumental in getting the first Catholic Church started here.
The lumber mills ran from 1892 to 1910 and during that period Lewiston was a wide open town. Typical, almost as typical as the towns of the Old West, of any good size lumbering town, there were saloons to quench the thirst and restaurants to quiet the appetite. Celibacy was not commonly practiced among lumberjacks. Lewiston had five established "fancy houses" and many independent agents among whom was the "notorious" Black Suzi. Black referred to her character, not her race. Black Suzi was especially generous to any local charity and it was said she couldn't pass a child on the sidewalk without giving a penny or two. But respectable society would have nothing to do with her and she was openly ostracized. Also of local color was Peg Leg Pete who had lost his leg in a lumbering accident some years before. Local saloon patrons would pay for this drinks to see him dance around on his peg leg.
One of the lumber camps was a scene of a murder or, maybe justifiable homicide. Seems as though one of the lumberjacks, a big husky fellow, went to town every Saturday night, would get drunk, and go back to the camp the next morning and beat up the camp cook, a much smaller fellow. One particular Saturday, the lumberjack was warned before he left the camp by the cook that if it happened again he'd kill him. Early Sunday, when the lumberjack arrived back at the camp, he went for the cook who met his lurch with at butcher knife - sticking it right through him, killing him instantly. That same day the cook took the first train out of town and was never seen in these parts again.
To take care of the spiritual needs of the community a Congregational Church was started in 1892 when Mr. Williams of Chicago University came to Lewiston under the sponsorship of the Home Missionary Society of the Congregational Church. In 1893, the State Conference sent in Rev. Lucius D. Boynton as the first pastor with a salary of $300.00 per year. Of this the Conference paid $225.35 and the congregation paid the rest. The Michelson and Hanson Lumber Company had deeded two lots in the village for a church when the town was laid out and now those lots were deeded to the infant church. The church was built at a cost of $3,000.00 and was formally dedicated on November 7, 1874.
As lumbering gradually died down the membership of the church declined from a peak of 75 to 3. To consolidate membership, the East Church as the "Finnish Settlement" was moved into town and attached to the present building; it was removed in 1955. In 1960, the present Parsonage was built at the cost of $13,000.00 and was paid off by 1965. In the meantime, the church had been remodeled and moved back about 40 feet onto a basement which since has provided space for many community activities.
A Catholic Church was located where Builders Supply is today. It was built about 1910 and service were held monthly on the first Tuesday after the first Sunday at 9:00 a.m. The Rev. Father Riess from Grayling was the Pastor. It was quite an occasion when Father Reiss came to town because he had the first automobile and many children and adults gathered around the amiable curiosity. This was a mission church and not consecrated, neither was there a consecrated cemetery: the deceased were either taken to Gaylord or Grayling for burial. For many years, the church building stood empty. When the church at West Branch had a fire, the statues and altar were taken from this church to replace those destroyed. Finally, the Diocese of Grand Rapids sold the building to private ownership.
A school was started in 1894 but the building of all records were destroyed by fire in 1896. A new school was built on the same site with an enrollment for the new school year (September 4, 1896 - June 4, 1987) of 105 students for grades one to eight. Proof the town was growing can be seen in the enrollment of September 1, 1903 of 245 students in grades 1-10. There were ten grades in 1942. this building is now known as the Masonic Temple.
The present school was built on a new site, east of the old building and was dedicated in August 1950 on Golden Wheeler Day. "Goldie" Wheeler retired after having taught for thirty years in Lewiston, eight years in Atlanta, and three years in Vienna Township. "Goldie" was originally from Hetherton but had grown up in Lewiston.
A bank was established in 1914 by two men named Beckman and Barkman. Mr. Beckman, a little Jewish fellow, kept a gun because he always took the bank's money home with him at night. One day he went to George Sachs' store and asked to buy some bullets. George took the gun from him, found that it had three bullets in it, and fired the gun three times toward the back of the store. "Now," he said, "you take that gun home and hide it so that you'll forget after a while where it is, otherwise you might hurt somebody, maybe yourself." About 1920, the bank was taken over by Herman Lundeen and Company with Edith Dyarmond as cashier. In 1930, the bank was known as the Doty, Briley and Company with Bill Briley as cashier. This bank never closed during President D. Roosevelt's famous "Bank Holiday." It did not have to close because it was entirely privately owned. In 1945, it became know as the Lewiston Bank. Jack Paul was cashier from 1933 till 1954. The Paul's were an early pioneering family whose homestead is today the land and home owned by insurance agent Tom Sawyer. It is located on Highway 491 north of town.
Local residents remember traveling into Lewiston by train and viewing mile after mile of stump land. There, also, had been many fires. Two out of three trees in Michigan had been destroyed by fire. Between 1910 and 1916 a series of fires destroyed two main downtown blocks. The first burned the Drug Store and other buildings on the west side of Main Street. The second burned Gassel's General Store, the Bank and the Township Hall. With the destruction of much of the business district and the disappearance of the White Pine forests, the area began to greatly decline. The lumber mills ran from 1892 to 1910; the railroad until 1933. Although, spur lines to outlying lumber camps had begun to be pulled up as early as 1929. Once it was cleared of marketable timber, speculators came to buy up and re-sell the land.
There was a common bond for the lumbering and settlement periods of local history in the person of George Sachs. After having completed four years of blacksmith apprenticeships in Canada in 1908, he joined his two brothers, Charles and William, who had already established themselves as blacksmiths in the Lewiston area. Mr. Sachs' first shop was located where the Villager Restaurant is today. Although he started his store in 1910, he still continued his blacksmithing after that under certain circumstances. In 1920, he was still putting bands on wheel wagons. The story is told that in the lumbering days, Mr. Sachs had sold a saddle and bridle to someone from one of the lumber camps. When questioned by the bookkeeper as to whom the bill should be sent, Mr. Sachs found he couldn't remember who had made the purchase. So he told the bookkeeper to send the bill to all the camps and the one that had bought it would pay for it. To his surprise, all the camps sent payment except two - seems as though they had not saddle horses at all.
Mr. Sachs, also told that on many a Sunday he was asked to drive lumberjacks back to their camps after a "night on the town." Upon reaching the camp, many times they refused to pay for the ride saying that they had spent all their money the previous night. Mr. Sachs, not a violent man, turned to keeping a revolver so he could demand payment at gunpoint if necessary.
When farming became the principal occupation around Lewiston, Mr. Sachs went into the farm machinery business. He held many local mortgages and his son, Al, recalls, as does Nia Buell, that he never foreclosed on anyone. In fact, Al had observed his dad tearing up mortgages because he knew the people would never be able to pay them off. Mr. Sachs was active in many areas; he was agent for the Michigan Central Railroad, which entitled him to free passes, he was Probate Judge of eight years, Bank President and on the School Board among many other activities until his death on December 31, 1957 at the age of 80.