Harris Township, with an area of 144 square miles, is made up of four surveyor's towns, or townships. Early surveyors finished the work of laying out these towns in the summer of 1852. Iron deposits are indicated, for the surveyors' field notes say that certain lines "could not be run with the needle."
Harris has been largely settled by pioneers of a more recent day than many farming sections of Menominee county. A considerable number of the people making up the adult population came from rural areas in Poland and Bohemia and other lands. After arrival in the United States some lived for a while in cities, corking in factories or mills, or in mining regions where they delved for ore, but their love for the soil led them to northern Michigan where they could acquire unimproved lands at prices they could pay and where by their own efforts they could establish homes in a farming country. With long hard hours of toil many have succeeded and pioneer days are receding into the background. With them pass, too, many of the old customs and ways of the settlers' native lands as families have taken root in America.
The old charcoal kilns near Wilson, along the Northwestern tracks are a present reminder of the times when settlers were more interested in the wealth of the woodlands than the wealth of the good earth beneath their feet. At Hannahville and Indiantown are the last Indian settlements in Menominee county.
Indians Were the First Settlers
Indians of the Pottawatomie tribe were the first people to settle in the area now known as Harris Township in 1872. They settled on the land which is now reserved for them by the United States government and is located three and one-half miles south of the present village of Harris.
The Indians built log cabins with ground floors and split roofs. To earn a livelihood for themselves they hunted, fished, and trapped. Venison or bear meat were on their daily menu. The fishing was done with the aid of spears in Forty-Seven Creek, Cedar River and the Ten Mile Creek. Trapping began just as soon as the furs were prime and continued through the winter. In the spring months the Indians carried their winter catch of furs to a trading post; at first to Spalding and later to Bark River. At the trading posts the Indians traded their furs for groceries and other provisions.
The Indians were primarily interested in hunting and trapping and neglected to till the soil even to the extent of supplying their family needs with vegetables.
First White Settler
Harris, named in honor of Michael B. Harris, was formerly called DeLoughary after George DeLoughary who was the first white settler in the *vicinity* of Harris. George DeLoughary operate the first saloon in the village of Harris. It was located where the present residence of David Flynn stands. M.B. Harris was the first white man to settle with the Indians at their reservation.
The first white settler in the area now known as Harris Township was Oliver Bezier. He settled on a farm near the Menominee-Delta county line not far from Bark River, shortly after the Indians settled near Harris. Other pioneers settling in the vicinity between the years of 1875 and 1881 were George DeLoughary, Patrick DeLoughary, John Keef, Joseph Jilbo, John Jilbo, M.B. Harris, Maurice Flynn, Frank Krutch, Michael Kane, and John Shanahan.
Harris Township Organized
Harris Township is now one of the northernmost townships in Menominee County and has a population of 1,465 according to the 1940 federal census. It consists of four congressional townships in length and one in width. It was separated from Spalding Township December 19, 1902 and called Harris Township in honor of Michael B. Harris who initiated the division because of inequalities of taxation.
The dense forests in this area attracted men who were interested in lumbering. Woodsmen's camps sprang up here and there; and as the lumber industry flourished, the camps grew into small villages.
When the pioneers needed provisions they had to notify the railroad officials who would see to it that the provisions were delivered as soon as possible. The pioneers lived in log structures hewed to perfection with the broadaxe. All their furniture was made from the forest products then in abundance.
M.B. Harris built a shingle and lumber mill at Harris. Following these, a store, hotel and blacksmith shop and a cheese factory were constructed. Shortly after construction, the mill and hotel were destroyed by fire. The mill was rebuilt in 1910 and again was destroyed by fire a few years later.
The garage, now closed, marks the location of the first blacksmith shop which was owned and operated by Alex Chiverette. The residence now owned by James DeLoughary marks the location of the hotel before it was destroyed by fire.
The second store of the store, which is still doing business in Harris, served both as a school and a church. Miss Ellen Forest was the first school teacher. The first schoolhouse now stands and was later moved near the old highway and is now use as a residence of the school janitor.
The division of Spalding Township in 1902 gave Harris Township two of the finest schools in Menominee County. One building was located at Wilson and the other at Harris.
Schools were constructed wherever community residents desire them and had ten or more children of school age. School buildings were constructed in farming areas when a group of farmers so desired. Consequently, eleven different schools were built up to 1925; namely, Wilson, Kleiman, Forty-Seven, Belgian, Harris, Hannahville, Page or Radford, Eustis, Whitney, and Dryads or Section 13.
Transportation of school children in large all-steel school busses and consolidation has close all but four of the original eleven buildings. Perronville, which has four teachers, now enrolls grades K-8, inclusive, and includes the area previously served by Section 13, Whiney, Radford, and Eustis schools. The Wilson school, which has three teachers and which is now enrolling grades K-6, inclusive, has been remodeled and serves the area previously served by Forty-Seven, Kleiman, and Belgian. The Harris high school which was organized in 1922, has six teachers with pupils of grades 7-12 and serves pupils in Harris Township and neighboring townships. The Hannahville school serves only the Indian school children. Mr. Fred Bennette was the first superintendent of schools from 1922 t 1926 and from 1928 to 1930. Mr. Victor Vaughan served in 1926 to 1928. Mr. Joseph B. Gucky, who is still serving, has served continuously since 1930.
Mr. Dona[ld?] LaBelle was the first full time school custodian employed in the Harris school and Mr. Peter Glowacki [was] at the Perronville school in 1936.
The early occupations were fur trading, fishing, lumbering, spinning, and weaving.
The occupation that attracted many white people to this region was the manufacture of charcoal. The first charcoal was made by placing maple logs eight feet in length on end in a shallow pit with a diameter of about 29 feet. Then four-foot logs were paced on top of the other logs in a form of a beehive. The entire pile of logs was covered with dirt with the exception of a small opening at the top in which was placed dry combustible material. The pile of logs was ignited and carefully watched so that it smoldered for several days. The charcoal was then shipped by railroad to the Union Fuel Company located at Pittsburgh. In 1910 the charcoal was made in brick kilns. The brick kilns were larger and were usually constructed on the side of a hill in order to facilitate the rolling of logs into the kiln. The only remaining kilns of this kind left in the township are located at Houle's. At present they are used as ice houses.
Farming as an occupation developed slowly. The individual desiring to clear some land made a "bee" and all the neighbors lent helping hands. Small and large timber alike was cut down, sawed into convenient lengths, piled up and burnt. During the progress of the bee, beer and whiskey flowed abundantly. Fiddlers appeared in the evening and dancing, drinking, feasting, and fighting wore out the night. Other bees were in order for such purposes as barn raising, spinning, and quilting.
Old folks' and young folks' dancing parties were held every Saturday night at the Clairmont house where the music was always furnished by fiddlers, of who Oliver Bezier at Harris is remembered as the most famous.
Early settlers carried provisions for the house on their backs, walking over winding trails through the forests. During the winter months hand-sleds were used in carrying the heavier loads. To get things from either Escanaba or Spalding, the pioneers flagged the train at the point where their trail reached the railroad track and placed their order with the head of the train crew. The ordered provisions were usually delivered the following day at the same point that the order had been given, provided the person ordering was there to accept the goods.
Before post-offices were established, pioneers mailed their letters at any point along the railroad track by typing the letter to a hoop which was caught by the engineer while the train was in motion.
If passenger service was desired the individual demanding the ride would flag the train and board the caboose. At first, only passenger service between Escanaba and Green Bay was by boat via Bay de Noc and Green Bay.
The first supervisor of Harris Township was M.B. Harris. Others comprising the first group of officers were: Clerk, Willard French; Treasurer, Frank Lefler; Highway Commissioner, Patrick DeLoughary. Dr. Walker, whose office was in Spalding, was the first physician.
At that time they stylish woman wore long skirts with a tight basque and huge sleeves. The men wore peg-top breeches and German socks.
Source: Menominee County Book for Schools, edited by Ethel Schuyler. Menominee, Michigan: Office of County School Commissioner, 1941.