Northeast Michigan Genealogical Society

The Early History of Alpena County

     In 1840, just three years after Michigan acquired statehood the Legislature attached Anamickee County also known as Thunder Co. to Mackinaw County for governmental purposes. Anamicke was the name of a famous Chippewa Chief who signed the Treaty of 1826.
     Legislature changed the name to Alpena Co. in 1843 which is a native American word for partridge or bird. During the 1840's the population of Alpena Co. was about 250 persons,this included fishermen and families of Thunder Bay Island and the coopers who built the barrels in which the fish were shipped to Eastern States.
     In 1853 Alpena Co was attached to Cheboygan Co. In February of 1857 Alpena CO. was formed and included the unorganized counties of Alcona, Oscoda, Montmorency, and a part of Presque Isle Co. for judicial and municipal purposes. Initially Daniel Carter, Harvey Harwood, D.D. Oliver formed a board of supervisors, Carter as Supervisor, with the purpose of a lawful election which was held November 2 of that year. Election results included: William R Bowman, Sheriff A.F. Fletcher as County Clerk and Coroner; Joseph K Miller County Treasurer and Register of Deeds; David D Oliver, County Surveyor; David Plough,Circuit Court Commissioner. Many should recognize that it was Geo Fletcher who played a major role in helping to form Alpena Co. George sent Carter to Alpena as a" land looker"he encouraged his father-in-law and son to relocate, this was to fill the much needed 12 freemen required for government a County. The first action was to create a township and the first Township formed was that of Freemont which encompassed all of Alpena Co.
     The next year the County had doubled in population when 35 (male) votes were cast to re-elect the county officers. It soon became apparent that Alpena Co needed representation in Lansing, as It was impractical to travel to Traverse City to vote. When Alpena became a county it was thrown into a district which represented all of Northern Michigan and had a representative form Traverse City. In 1858 the Alpena leaders felt the district was too large, should be divided into at least two districts. A.E.Person was elected to represent Alpena and Northeastern MI in the State Legislation. The job he had been elected to perform was a very bold move and he required a great deal of encouragement to perform the task. He traveled to Lansing presented himself to the Bar of the House of Representatives, was sworn in and recognized as the "member from Alpena". This gave importance and notoriety to Alpena, among her sister towns and brought to her shore many seeking employment and expedited the settlement of the region.
     Still the isolation was felt by all the pioneers so  a petition was sent to Washington and in 1858 to establish a Post Office  which was granted in 1857 Native Americans carried the mail from Saginaw to Mackinaw so it can at least weekly to the now 290 residents.
    D. D. Oliver was engaged to lay out the city in 1860 and  E. K. Potter made the first assessment roll. In 1863 Sam Hitchock built a large court house near the harbor with the provision that it should be used as a place of worship when not in use for court. By 1864 the population had increased to 670 and Alpena was called on to produce their  portion of soldiers for the Union Army. A bonus of $100.00 was offered for each volunteer and 30 men responded. Also that year a bond was issued to build a bridge over the Thunder Bay River. which lasted only five years before a new  bridge was built in 1870.
     Prior to 1868 religious services were held in homes and the strong women of the community pushed for Churches, remembering the civilized life they once enjoyed. Two religious communities first evolved; the Trinity Episcopal church was built and St Bernard Catholic church was built on the main streets in the City.
     All Banking was done through Detroit Banks, little currency saw it way to Alpena as there was no safe place to deposit it. Families bartered for items needed and when all else failed they charge items at the Mills store where the cost was deducted from the wages of the head of household. In 1872 two Banks were formed the Alpena Banking CO. o rganized by Chas Bewick and the Comstock brothers. and the Exchange Bank organized by Geo Maltz and J. L. Whiting. At last currency was brought to Northeast Mi.
     About this time a Jail was needed and built in Alpena in Jesse Square. It housed the sheriff and family and provided for four cells for prisoners. In 1870 the population was 2,756 , which included 351 enrolled students. In 1870 42,000,000 feet of lumber was shipped from Alpena's port. For the rest of  Alpena's story consult text: The History of the Lake Huron Shores, Home was Alpena, or check out this link to the Billie Boulton Book.
Description of the city of Alpena Alpena Business Directory
Zeph Couture was a Corporal in the US Army Description of Alpena from the 1873 Polk Gazetteer Business Directory from 1873 Polk Gazetteer

Interesting Databases for Alpena County
A Listing of the contents of the VanNocker Glass Negatives. [56 pages]