Northeast Michigan Genealogical Society

Early History of Montmorency County

     Legislation set apart a county which one day would become Montmorency County in 1843. The lands set aside to later become Montmorency County. were given the name, Cheonoquet County to honor an early Ojibwa Indian who was instrumental in the negotiation of several land cession treaties. The county name was changed to Montmorency County only a few years later by Henry Schoolcraft. The county lands were initially attached to Mackinaw County but in 1853 became attached to Cheboygan County. The responsibility of government was under the direction of the parent county. By 1857 the County was attached to the newly formed County of Alpena, this union continued for twenty-two years.
     In 1879 Allen Briley, long time resident of Montmorency County, and many others began a movement to be an independent County, they desired to  govern their County. On 21 May 1881 the County organization was complete and the State Legislature recognized Montmorency County. In the early years three townships were created; Briley, Montmorency and Rust. The County Seat was located at Brush Creek, currently known as Hillman Village. In 1893 the County seat was relocated to Atlanta as the residents felt it was a more central location for all to do business, participate in government. By 1901 Montmorency was divided into six townships adding Wheatfield, Albert, Hillman. Later Wheatfield became known as Vienna and was divided into the Townships of Loud and Avery.
     The first homesteaders arrived in 1881 motivated by the lumbering business. But life was not easy in the forest, logs for a cabin were easily obtainable but other stapes required a 20-mile hike to a nearby town of Gaylord or Alpena, few pioneers owed horses so it was a long day hike to and from the nearby town and two days of lost work. Few could grow gardens or farm as the soil that was cleared was not suitable, and generally the soil  was not conducive to agriculture. Carol Jacobson in her 1981 text Life In The Forest  explains the impact of the end of lumbering in Montmorency. "Eventually the valued timber was exhausted and the lumbering activity took a sudden and drastic decline. Many families lost jobs with the lumber companies and were forced to move away from the County. For them life without the forest was impossible. Those who did choose to remain in the County suffered many years of economic hardship." Montmorency was slow to develop, Only a few fulfilled their Homestead contracts. Hence the population remained stagnant. 
     Later on in the 1920's and 30's folks began to see the beauty of the land, many small lakes were plentiful with fish of all types. The county was still in a natural form, roads were few.  Real Estate began to sell to families from downstate who wanted to leave the city. Isolation wasn't a problem as automobiles were useful transportation.  This opened the door to a new business for the County, tourism. The forest and lake offered much to the sportsman and many large hunting camps developed, cottages began to spot the shorelines of the many lakes. The development continued as land was cleared in the Northern areas of the county where to soil proved to support all types of farm products, many large farms sprang up. For more about Montmorency County's development see Carol Jacobson's book Life in the Forest.
WWI Soldiers compiled by Pat West