SIDNAW - From its hand-sketched map of bygone Kitchi to its recipe for Kenton Cake, dozens of photographs, remembrances and write-ups on local landmarks, the History of Duncan Township is a milestone accomplishment for the Kenton-Sidnaw Historical Society.
The 316-page spiral-bound volume -which took almost three years to compile and produce- was recently released to the glowing reviews of the residents in that part of southern Houghton County, which includes the towns of Sidnaw and Kenton.
"Everyone just really likes it. They can't believe it," said Joan Thompson, president of the Kenton-Sidnaw Historical Society and one of roughly a half-dozen dedicated volunteers who worked to create the book. "We were shocked ourselves when we held that first copy up -all the hard work and the hours and hours, it was worth it."
The book compiles family histories given to the historical society, with additional research done by the society through census records and other sources.
"There are many stories and accounts to be told of the Duncan Township area. We have done our best to provide what we hope is an enjoyable and factual reading," the book's introduction states. "This was the best way we saw fit to help to preserve the history of the area for future generations to learn of their ancestors and the development of the area."
The historical society was formed in 2006.
In 1890, Duncan Township -then a densely covered pine forest- was established by an action of the Houghton County Board of Supervisors and its chairman, John Duncan.
The Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railway crossed the area in those days. Kenton was homesteaded in 1887 by George C. Townsend, a stop along the railway two years later, and platted in 1890.
"By the mid-1890s, Kenton became the site of a large sawmill financed by Edward Wheeler Sparrow, of Lansing. Sparrow had organized the City National Bank of Lansing and had been its first president," said Duncan Township Supervisor Frank Pentti in a news release. "William Kroll had purchased a homestead north of Kenton in 1891 and began acquiring lands in the area in Sparrow's name. Together, Sparrow and Kroll incorporated under the name of the Sparrow-Kroll Lumber Co. on April 19, 1895 and built a sawmill on the east branch of the Ontonagon River."
Pentti said the mill operated until 1909. Kenton reached a population of 500 by 1900, with many people living in the surrounding logging camps.
A few miles east along the railroad tracks was Sidnaw, which got its start with railroad construction in 1888 and was platted in 1889.
"Early Sidnaw was a farming and lumbering town with logging, sawmills, logging camps, shingle mill, planing mill, butter dish factory, a broom handle factory and hotels and stores," Pentti said. "In 1900, it was a bustling town with a population of 600 with electric lights, an opera house and a telegraph and express office, and had a newspaper."
The first school was built in 1890 and a church followed in 1894, which was called the Union Church and was used by all denominations. Pentti said two large farms were located in Sidnaw -the Roycroft Farm built by Walter S. Prickett and the Highland Farm built by Andrew G. Johnson.
Kitchi began in 1887 and was located along the rail line between Kenton and Sidnaw. The town developed rapidly with stores and a shingle mill.
"The town's decline began around 1900 when the big timber ran out and has since largely returned to nature," Pentti said.
The History of Duncan Township includes write-ups on churches, town halls and businesses, information on schools, sports, fire departments, camps and local organizations along with numerous miscellaneous items of interest including a 1911 election ballot, cough syrup and salve recipes and a General Hospital Co. bill from 1945, which itemized a total of $45.95 charged for six days in the hospital for delivering a baby.
The book is available for $25 plus shipping by writing to Frank Pentti at the Kenton-Sidnaw Historical Society, 1551 Golden Glow Road, Kenton, MI 49967. For more information, contact Pentti by email at: [email protected].
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is [email protected]