In August, 1847, surveyors began to lay out the town now called Gourley Township. Little was done then and the work ceased in October. Surveyors spent a little more time in the field the following summer and again dropped the work unfinished. After a long interim the survey was resumed in August, 1852 and finished in September, although the sworn statement of its completion was not made until July 12, 1853 by George O. Adair of Macomb County, the last deputy surveyor on the job.
From March 19, 1863 until December 17, 1920 the land now in Gourley Township was a part of Cedarville Township. At the latter date Gourley was set aside as a separate township, deriving its name from the settlement of Gourley, which carried the name of its founder, Arthur Gourley.
Big logging camps that housed from 50 to 75 men were built in Gourley by the Spalding Lumber Company and later sold to the Crawford Company. Camp "J" was on the bank of the Big Cedar River on the place now owned by Louis Mack, Jr. and Camp "I" was up on the Ray Wery place. It burned and was rebuilt near the Evrard place.
Timber was cheap at one time, big, sound, knot-free logs were worth only four dollars per thousand and landed on the river bank, where delivery was made. A dam was built on the river down at old camp "B" in Cedarville Township to make it possible to drive the logs down river each spring.
One spring during the annual spring drive an old Indian was set to watch the logs where a sharp bend in the river always caused the logs to pile up in such a way as to make a big jam. The logs started to come down river, and true to the tradition of the stream started to pile up. The Indian set out on a run down the road to where some river drivers were, crying out, "Jam -- Dam! Jam -- Dam!" Hence this bridge, and this little community at the northeast corner of the township have from that time forth been called Jam Dam.
A gay sentinel still stands guard at this picturesque spot. His home swinging aloft from the topmost branch of a big water elm, the Baltimore oriole with his mate be seen by the observant passerby.
The little log schoolhouse built in 1890 burned in the spring of 1913 and two months remaining of the term were taught in a little house on what is now the Peter Wojakowski place. A new schoolhouse of frame construction was built across from the old one in the summer of 1913, and the school was opened in the new schoolhouse in the fall.
Many of the people in this community were of Belgian or French parentage and nearly every boy and girl learned how to skate on the old cut-off, as it was usually called, back of the schoolhouse. The cut-off was a deep hollow where the water from the river backed up. Many an adventurous lad has taken a ducking here for going skating when ice was too thin.
Many of the people of Belgian and French parentage in this community were Seventh Day Adventists and in the year 1908 built a church at the corner, and in the back part of the church made a schoolroom. Emil Baurain, Peter Wery and Antone Lanaville were some of the men to put much thought and labor into the construction of this small church. This church has the greatest number of members of any church of this denomination in the Upper Peninsula. For many years a church school was operated; but this has been closed since the spring of 1936.
A quiet little country church yard cemetery lies just behind the church where a tall blue spruce stands guard. Some of the pioneers lie peacefully at rest in this quiet spot.
Modern bridges have replaced the old inverted type V bridge which bridged the Big Cedar River in four places. The last one to be replaced was the Old McCarthy Bridge in 1936. The river winds its way in a leisurely manner from the northern to the southern border of the township.
Maybe the pioneer fathers who established this school took some thought of the fact that the Otradovec hill, one of the steepest in Gourley, is located near by. Many a lad and lass has received some big thrills and some big spills sliding and skiing, even though both parents and teachers marked it as Forbidden Ground.
Our father's first team was a team of oxen. Not long ago we found an old shoe that had been used to shoe the oxen years ago. Ox shoes were made in two parts." (Jos. Jasper)
The people in what is now the Gourley district started a little log schoolhouse and the rafters were up when due to some dissatisfaction on the place where it was located across from what is now the Loddie Jerabek farm, work on it was discontinued. In about 1904 or 1905 a frame building was erected where the Gourley school now stands.
One of the first sawmills to be located in Gourley was on the old McCarthy place, not far from McCarthy bridge.
There is many a favorite swimming hole but perhaps the one spot most favored by swimmers is LaCount's High Banks.
Oftentimes on a warm summer evening 75 to 100 people may be counted taking a slide down the big sand bank into the river. This is also a favored picnic spot because of the many big maple, beech, and hemlock trees which afford plenty of shade. It is located about one-fourth mile southwest of McCarthy bridge.
Many of the folks in the southern and western part of the township are Bohemian. They too, like the few Germans, Belgians, and French came from near Green Bay and Kewaunee. Many of them belong to Lodge Perum; in the northwestern corner of the township they have a big hall at Four Corners where they hold social gatherings. Many of these people are of the Catholic faith.
Source: Menominee County Book for Schools, edited by Ethel Schuyler. Menominee, Michigan: Office of County School Commissioner, 1941.