The Cultural Resource Survey--Purpose and Scope

A cultural resource survey is required as an integral part of the environmental assessment and impact evaluation by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (PL 91-900). Section 101 of NEPA elucidates general policy regarding cultural resources as existing "to preserve important cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage, and maintain wherever possible an environment which supports diversity and variety of individual choice."

Regulations concerning treatment of historic properties during preliminary planning stages of Federal projects are further considered by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (PL 89-665) and Executive Order 11593 (1971). Guidelines regarding the implementation of the cultural resource survey are contained in the Code of Federal


Upper Left: Project Location

Left: Project area (Scale: 1"=800')


Regulations, Title 36, Chapter VII, part 800, Procedures for the Protection of Historic and Cultural Properties, that states that such survey should be done at the earliest stage of planning or consideration of proposed undertaking by an agency, including comprehensive or area-wide planning." Michigan Executive Order 1974-4 further requires an environmental study of all major state-sponsored projects be submitted to the Michigan Environmental Review Board and be in compliance with Federal or State statutes or regulations.

The field investigation reported below constitutes a Stage I survey consisting of: 1) literature, archive and site file research to identify any known or potential cultural resources (historical, architectural, or archaeological) not already identified by inclusion on the State or National Register of Historic Places: 2) a surface inspection of the proposed project corridor with subsurface testing sufficient to determine the presence or absence of prehistoric or historic materials.

Left: Physiographic zones of West Central Michigan

  1. Tolston Beach (605')
  2. Caulmet Beach (620')
  3. Glenwood beach (640')
  4. Border of High Plains: Hatched area represents morains.

Stage I survey was thus conducted to determine the location of archaeological or historic sites within the project corridor, and if possible, their parameters and nature. In the case of significant resources, eligibility determination for the National Register of Historic Places has been undertaken.

The Project Setting


The presently proposed highway construction and bridge improvement is located in Section 18 of T-12N, R-12W of Newaygo County (Fig. 1). The project corridor or the Right-of-Way (ROW) extends from the northern end of the bridge spanning the Muskegon River in the village of Newaygo northward approximately a mile to its intersection with Highway M-37 (Fig. 2). The project area is located geomorphically in the Charlotte Uplands or morainic terrain into which the Muskegon has cut its channel (Fig. 3). Penoyer Creek further dissects the landscape to the north of the Muskegon River. The Muskegon at this point, flowing from the central High Plains, cuts through the Charlotte Moraine and continues westward into the Lake Michigan Lowland Plain (Fig. 3). The result is one of salient relief with high bluffs overlooking the flood plain of the river.

The modern landscape surrounding the project corridor is predominately rural with cleared fields and scattered stands of trees and brush along Penoyer Creek. At the northern end of the project ROW a stand of mixed hardwoods, dominated by oak, exists, Although historically an area of known commercial and farming activity, modern population is sparse throughout most of the project area with residence structures occurring only in the northern portions.

The Newaygo-Croton section of the Muskegon Valley has been a focus

of archaeological research by the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology. In 1965 and 1966 an intensive survey and excavation program was carried on in the area. Investigations conducted at that time provide the basic knowledge of the prehistory of the area. Research done by William Lowery for this report adds a historic component to our understanding of the cultural history of the region.

Prehistoric Overview Figure 4)

The original occupants of Michigan, called Paleoindians by archaeologists, represented a continent-wide cultural phenomena during the terminal- and post-Pleistocene period. These hunting and gathering bands, descended from those people who had crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Asia, entered what is the continental United States through the ice-free corridors of Northern Canada. The fluted point, the diagnostic artifact of the Paleoindian people, is found from the southwestern to the extreme northeastern United States.

Paleoindian groups entered the Southern Peninsula of Michigan soon after its colonization by plants and animals, following the retreat of the Wisconsin Ice front. They supposedly hunted the Pleistocene megafaun which contemporaneously wandered the spruce fir parkland of the area. Undoubtedly, the hunting of smaller game and gathering activities figured large in the daily subsistence activities. Cold adapted to periglacial conditions, they lived in the southern sector of the Michigan Peninsula while the ice still hovered at the Straits of Mackinac. The northern distribution of the fluted point distribution runs roughly from Saginaw Bay to the Traverse Bay Region (Quimby, 1958; Mason, 1958) Fluted points have been recovered from the Newaygo area, three having been precisely located in Newaygo County (Mason, 1958). One fluted point find is located on the uplands overlooking the Muskegon Valley near the village of Croton east of the project area.

Some 9,000 years ago a marked change in the forest cover of the eastern United States occurred (Cleland, 1966). This is directly associated with the further retreat of the Wisconsin Ice northward and the amelioration of climate in the Great Lakes region. In general, evidence gathered from palynology, geology and other sources indicates a change from the post-Pleistocene in the forest community from a spruce tundra parkland to a pine or coniferous forest and finally to the incursion of deciduous elements producing the mixed broadleaf-coniferous forest found in the Newaygo area today. Major vegetational and climatic changes following the Pleistocene produced dramatic changes in the distribution of resources necessary for human livelihood. Communities living in the Great Lakes region, as throughout the Northeast, responded to this change by adapting to the new and local condition of environment. The period beginning about 8,000 B.C. is known as the Archaic in the archaeological record. Essentially wanderers, as their predecessors, and constituting a small band of persons, they probably moved seasonally in defined territories of the Great Lakes. Their diagnostic artifacts, the stone tools manufactured for the hunting and processing of game, as well as wood-working are found throughout the Southern Peninsula of Michigan. Several collections are known from the Newaygo area although no Archaic site in the area has been excavated.

The Woodland period, beginning the 6th century B.C., is marked by the introduction of ceramics, an innovation ubiquitous in the Northeast at this time. The burial complex already highly developed in the Archaic period takes on the form of a conical burial mound. A new and distinctive stemmed projectile point graces the hunting shaft. Besides these innovations, the Early Woodland of Michigan is thought to be much like the Archaic in economy and seasonality (Fitting, 1975). No evidence of Agriculture is forthcoming as the archaeological record now stands. Hunting and plant gathering, a diffuse economy as described by Cleland, would seem to characterize the Early Woodland community (Cleland, 1966, 1976).

Beginning with this period, it is probable that inhabitants of the river systems draining into Lake Michigan in western Michigan began specific interaction with communities further south in the Illinois Valley in trade and exchange matters, a phenomena that is well-proven for the succeeding Middle Woodland period.

With the inception of the Early Woodland period, the archaeological record in the Newaygo area is much more precise (Prahl, 1966, 1970). This period is dated by radiocarbon dates at the Carrigan and Croton Dam sites, a group of five mounds erected at the confluence of the Big and Little Muskegon Rivers in the village of Croton, east of the present project area. Although no habitation sites associated with this burial complex have been located, projectile points and other lithic material from the hearth at the base of one of these mounds compare favorably with those at the Early Woodland level at the Schultz site (Prahl, 1970). A similarity of these projectile point types with those found by Munson at the American Bottoms on The Mississippi River (Kramer Points) has also been noted (Ozker, 1977). Cremations, hearth with burnt animal bone and projectile points, small amounts of copper ornaments and red ochre, characterize the Croton Dam and Carrigan burial group (Prahl, 1970). These two Early Woodland manifestations, the Carrigan-Croton Dam mound group and the Schultz site in the Muskegon and Saginaw Valleys, both date from the 6th century B.C. The living condition of the Early Woodland people at the Schultz site have recently been described by 0zker (1977).

The period known as the Middle Woodland begins two or three centuries before the Christian era and is known spectacularly in the Ohio and Illinois Valleys by the Hopewell burial complex. The Middle Woodland economy in the Upper Great Lakes is riverine oriented, associated with regional trade networks and large burial works with sub-floor burials and grave goods, some representing trade items. Michigan Hopewell sites are highly evident along the river systems in Western Michigan and were formulated by Quimby as the Goodall Complex (Quimby,1941, 1943). Again, no direct archaeological evidence for an entirely agricultural-based economy is present, although mud flat horticulture has been suggested. From what evidence exists, the typical Middle Woodland community might be hamlet-sized rather than a large nucleated village. The adaptive pattern may still be diffuse utilizing a wide range of resources from disparate microenvironments. While the archaeological evidence in Ohio suggests a chiefdom level of community service operating from seasonally occupied ceremonial centers, evidence from the Middle Woodland Schultz site in the Saginaw Valley suggests a much simpler social organization (Fitting, 1975)

Excavation done by Flanders at the Norton Mounds and other sites on the Grand River has provided the basic outlook on western Michigan Hopewellian sites and their association with the Illinois Valley (Griffin, Flanders and Titterington, 1970). Prahl subsequently excavated and reported on several of the Middle Woodland sites in the Muskegon Valley, the northern extent of the Hopewellian influence in Michigan (Prahl, 1966, 1970).

The Middle Woodland period is represented in the Newaygo County area by several mound groups in Section 22 of Brooks Township (T12N, Rl2W). The Brooks, Parsons, Palmeteer and Schumaker mound groups are all erected on the same upper glacial terrace of the Muskegon River. Below this terrace on the flood plain of the river lies the Jancarich site associated temporally and culturally with the above-mentioned mounds. The Jancarich site, approximately three acres in size, represents a small Middle Woodland hamlet. Early Middle Woodland or Naples Dentate ceramics were recovered from this site (Prahl, 1966, 1970). These sites all date from one or two centuries before the Christian era.

An additional mound group representing the Late Middle Woodland period is found south of the Muskegon River at Brooks Lake in Section 27, Brooks Township (T12N, R12W). A small Middle Woodland occupation site was brought to the attention the past summer (1979) of Grand Valley State Colleges field team at the residence of Henry Plank of Croton, Michigan (Field notes on file, GVSC Anthropology Laboratory), The Toft Lake Site north of the village of Newaygo also represents a Late Middle Woodland component (Losey, 1967).

The Late Woodland period is represented in the Newaygo area by the Brunett Mound just east of the village of Newaygo and occasional surface collections found in the upland lake area north of the village (Prahl, 1970). As yet no extensive Late Woodland occupation area has been found in the vicinity of the Muskegon River adjacent to the presently proposed project area, although intrusive mound activity is evident at the Brooks and Carringan mounds in the form of burials added to the upper level of the original mounds. The period of intrusive mound activity at the Carrigan Mound dates from the 6th century A.D. (Prahl, 1966, 1970). The Late Woodland Spring Creek site, known from extensive excavation, is downriver from Newaygo. Much of the Late Woodland activity would appear to shift to areas north of the Muskegon Valley such as the headwaters region of the Pere Marquette and White Rivers flanking the western edge of the central High Plains of Michigan.

Historically, the Ottawa, a central Algonquin group, occupied the Muskegon Valley. The documented Indian settlement at Old Women's Bend, downriver from the village of Newaygo, represents the last vestige of Indian life in the area.


Penoyer Creek is a small secondary stream, which begins in the chain of lakes located in the northern tier of sections of Town 12 North, Range 12 West, and Town 12 North, Range 13 West, Newaygo County. After finishing a complex series of meanders, it empties into the Muskegon River in Section 19, T12W, Ray, falling nearly 120-feet in its course of around five miles (Fig.5).

A century ago it was said that the creek received most of its volume of water from perennial springs located along its lower four miles, springs so regular in their flow that the stream never varied more than six inches in depth from year to year to year. Although the hydrology of this watershed may have changed since the 1870's, field examination in the late summer of 1979 revealed an impressive amount of flow. In the lower few miles of its course, Penoyer Creek has cut a deep and narrow ravine through the high bluffs marking the edge of the Muskegon Valley, one of the most scenic areas in the middle part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

The three above-mentioned elements, l) a great fall of water; 2) steady flange year round, and 3) terrain which facilitated construction of dams, have drawn man's attention to Penoyer Creek since the 1830's. The uses to which this hydropower has been put and the associated buildings and structures provides the focus for this study of the historical implications involved in the realignment of M-37.

Early History


Penoyer Creek* received its name from the three Penoyer brothers, Henry, Augustus, and Frederick A., speculators from Chicago, The brothers, in company with Hiram Piersons and presumably others of like mind, planned in the mid-1830's what would today be called a land grab. The plan was elegant in its simplicity. Land in western Michigan was not yet available for purchase from the government, and in fact Indian title to this land had only been extinguished by the Treaty of Washington in 1836. The "great land company" of which the Penoyer's were members proposed to locate sites suitable for water power dams throughout the country from the Grand River to the Manistee, "squat" on these parcels until they came into market, then purchase these valuable mill sites at the low "settler's" price of $l.25 an acre. In a few years, if the company members were sufficiently industrious and yet discriminatory in their selection of sites, they would have a stranglehold on the future economic development of much of western Michigan. The seemingly endless pine resources of the area were already gaining fame, and promised wealth to the people who would exploit them.

Augustus Penoyer, accompanied by Sam Rose, a man of whom we will hear much further on, explored the Newaygo area in November, 1836, walking through the woods from Grand Rapids and possibly herding before them a team of oxen. Penoyer apparently liked what he saw along the creek that now bears his name and decided to establish one of his company's somewhat dubious claims there, although the honor for this action may actually rest with an employee, Jack McBride.

Penoyer and Rose returned to their headquarters in Chicago for much of the winter of 1836-37, but spring saw them return to the mouth of the Muskegon, the new jumping-off point. Carpenters and sawmill equipment arrived at the same time, and a boat was fashioned to carry the outfit upriver. A cabin was constructed on "Upper Penoyer Creek" and timber was cut with which the carpenters built a sawmill "at the mouth of Penoyer Creek." The mill, which went into operation on September 1, 1837, was owned by the Muskegon Lumber Company, consisting of Augustus Penoyer and Alex N. Fulton. Rose engaged in logging operations for this firm, which he later claimed to have cut the first timber ever cut in Newaygo County, and to have shipped the first lumber from Muskegon. Their product was rafted downstream to the developing port, from which it was shipped back to Chicago on the schooner Celeste. Henry Penoyer had already built a house on Muskegon Lake, where he no doubt managed the export aspects of the pioneer lumber firm.

In 1837-38 other settlers came to the Newaygo area, including John A. Brooks, the founder of Newayqo village in 1854. There seems little doubt, however, that it was the mill on Penoyer Creek, which provided the major attraction to the early settlers and offered their chief source of employment. In 1838 Rose and his partner, George Walton, cleared timber along both sides of the creek.

The mill continued in operation until 1839, when it was closed until the fall of 1841. During this two-year hiatus the government land surveys had been completed, and on May 25, 1840, Augustus Penoyer finally got legal title to his coveted water power sites, paddling a canoe to the land office in Ionia to make the purchase. Rose and associate Hannibal Hyde then leased the already constructed sawmill.

Below: Project Area Showing Historic Sites 1 &2

Soon after the 1841 lease was signed Rose, together with F.A. and Augustus Penoyer, returned to their old stomping grounds at Chicago to lay in supplies for the winter. They returned on separate ships, the Penoyer boys sailing October 22 aboard the Postboy, a lake schooners. Sometime during the short passage uptake, the Postboy floundered, taking to their deaths the ten passengers and crew. Rose heard of the tragic accident while still in Chicago, and adding additional supplies to his previously purchased stock, he hurried back to Newaygo, bearing the first news of the loss of the settlement's most prominent members.

Rose and Hyde continued their operation, and on July 23, 1842,they contracted to deliver at Kenosha, Wisconsin, 200,000 board feet of lumber. The price was $5.00 per thousand feet.

New leasing arrangements were made in 1843, with Rose taking on a new partner, Robert W. Morris, and Hyde retiring from the scene. Another sawmill was added to the sawmill site on Penoyer Creek, and the two men continued their joint venture until 1846. At that time Rose left to rent larger mills in another township, in 1847-48 turning out 5,000,000 board feet of lumber, more than anyone else on the Muskegon River, he claimed.

A Period of Decline


With Sam Rose's departure from Penoyer Creek, our knowledge of operations there greatly diminishes, although there seems little doubt that newer and larger lumber mills supplanted in importance the old original. By 1853, the Penoyer mill was no longer operating, and that year all the Penoyer properties at Newaygo were sold to the Newaygo Company, a group of lumbermen from Glens Falls, New York, who lived in an area of the white pine belt that was already feeling the pangs of timber depletion. Newaygo at that time was touted as having "water power ...unsurpassed by any village in the State," and as if to establish this boast, in 1854 the Newaygo Company opened the largest water powered sawmill in Michigan, taking the source of its power from the mighty Muskegon, rather than puny Penoyer Creek.

The tax rolls of 1855 show that the "Penoyer Mill properties" were assessed at only $1,020, while the total assessment of the Newaygo Company was $50,570. This places in the proper perspective the significance of the old mill in the new scheme of things. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the Newaygo Company, although owned by different groups of investors, was to be the economic colossus of the area. It was claimed as late as the 1880's that Newaygo was the "headquarters of the lumber business north of Grand Rapids." Probably the Penoyer mill was left to fall into decay, and its dam to be slowly eroded away. Details of its demise are not known, but it is believed that today only archaeological remains of this pioneer operation are to be found.

Note on Sources


Much of the foregoing history is taken from a single source, the Chapman Brothers Portrait and Biographical Album of Newaygo County, published in 1884, to which is appended a brief history of the county. Historiography of this type is commonly termed a county history, and large numbers of these were published for many parts of the country in the 1870-1920 period. Highly commercial ventures, they were usually based on a bare minimum of research, often little more than interviews with old settlers, local officials, and newspaper editors. Information presented in them is highly selective, and often erroneous or self-contradictory. The Chapman Brothers Newaygo County volume fits well this general description.

Furthermore, much of the publication in question, particularly the portions dealing with Penoyer Creek and early days in Newaygo, is apparently the reminiscences of Sam Rose, made nearly 50 years after the events in question. Rose was still alive and aged 67 when the Chapman Brothers contribution of 1884 was issued. He is described therein as "the character of Newaygo." A "revered oracle of the community...he is the referee as to dates and events along the whole line of the Muskegon." After a long effusion of this sort, the Chapman Brothers anonymous author ends by speaking of Rose's "poetical memory...of frontier life."

Professional historians do not care to base their opinions on such doubtful materials as those described above. Ideally, several independent sources made contemporaneously with the events they described should be utilized before a factual assessment of the past is made. Unfortunately, and this is the case with Newaygo County, such comparison is not always possible. County histories and pioneer reminiscences often the only sources readily available, particularly when one is dealing with the settlement period. Undoubtedly, if materials like these did not exist, an important part of our heritage would be lost.

Sam Rose was not superannuated when he aided the Chapman Brothers in their efforts. Many of the dates, which he supplied, are contradictory, but on the whole his account must be taken at face value unless other, more primary, sources are available. The dates and exact sequence of events presented in this report do not always coincide with those found in the Chapman Bros. volume. Where they do not, they are based on other sources or are the current author's reconstruction of the probable situation in the 1830's and 1840's.

A good case in point is the location of the Penoyer mill. Rose claims it was at the mouth of the creek, and elsewhere states that it was "located near the present site of the furniture factory." This factory, torn down about 1970, was at the mouth of Penoyer Creek; its remains are clearly evident at the present time. Other local historians, notably Harry L. Spooner and Robert Thompson, have concurred with Rose's locational statements, probably without seeking additional sources of proof.

However, an 1838 map prepared by government surveyors is extant in the Michigan State Archives (Fig. 6). This clearly shows that the Penoyer Mill, although it was not labeled as such, was some distance upstream from the creek mouth. Since the government surveyors were charged with establishing section lines and corners, they apparently made no great effort to locate the mill exactly on the map. No distances and azimuths from an established point are evident, for example. However, they undoubtedly visited the operation for conversation and refreshment, and their map location for this site must be regarded as valid. Sam Rose apparently meant his siting of the mill at the creek mouth to be taken in general terms, and the misconstrual of his statement has perpetuated an error for nearly a century.

Rebirth of Penoyer Creek









As stated earlier, the Newaygo Company was the economic lynchpin of Newaygo until the early 20th century, The Company was not without its setbacks, however. In 1857 it was forced to assign its assets and reorganize and in 1867, when its large sawmill burned, it was not rebuilt for two years. The Panic of 1873 brought suspension of operations until 1880, at which time Daniel P. Clay and other investors bought the assets and resumed business under the old established name.

Left: The 1838 Plat Map of Sec 18 of T-12 N, R-12 W. of Newaygo County.

Clay was a wealthy Grand Rapids businessman with extensive interests in pine lands, lumbering, and the manufacture of wooden products such as buckets. He and others induced the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad to extend their line to Newaygo to enhance their business interests there. The G.R. and I., the first railroad into northern Lower Michigan, spread prosperity and touched off a boom in logging wherever it went as it advanced toward its terminus at Traverse City.

Clay observed this boom and began to enlarge his holdings in Newaygo. In late 1875 he bought what was called the "Blaisdell property" north of Newaygo and announced plans to build a dam and sawmill on Penoyer Creek, which the railroad conveniently skirted. The new mill went into operation in April 1876, but immediately ran into difficult legal problems. Clay may very well have foreseen these problems, but he was not the type of man to be deterred by considerations of this sort.

The Penoyer Creek Improvement Company had been organized in 1874 with the expressed purpose of constructing up to four dams on the creek, as well as cutting through the numerous oxbow turns in the upper reaches. When completed their works would make it possible to drive logs down a previously impassable stream. The PCI Company had access to 200,000,000 board feet of timber standing near the headwaters of Penoyer Creek, and they claimed that the only economically feasible way of getting them to market was to drive them downstream. The dams would be suddenly released and a mass of water and logs would go hurtling down the creek, depositing the logs in the Muskegon but wiping out anything in their way, including Mr. Clay's new dam and mill. Someone was go ing to have to give in.

River improvement companies such as the PCI Company were authorized by an act of the legislature in April 1869. The intent of the act seems to have been to grant logging interests the right of easement over privately owned lands along the streams which they planned to re-channelize. The improvement companies were to attempt to make a financial settlement with the riparian landowners whose property would be adversely affected by their undertakings. If this were not possible, the companies could petition the probate court of the county in which they were located, and the court could appoint a board of three commissioners to study the situation and assess equitable costs. The specific powers of the commissioners were specified by the 1869 act to be equivalent in scope to those of the commissioners of plank roads.

By the spring of 1876 the battle lines along Penoyer Creek were well established. Clay, no man to be pushed around, had a new dam and sawmill and he was having delivered to its pond by railroad some 1,000,000 board feet of pine timber. No sooner had this operation gotten into full swing than Clay began another dam, with a shingle mill, on the same stream. The PCI Co. claimed it had spent $30,000 on their improvements, had plentiful timber waiting upstream to be harvested, and now only needed to wipe out Clay's dams to put their plan into operation.

The Newaygo Probate Court duly appointed the commissioners, who walked over the land along Penoyer Creek, deliberated, and awarded their verdict for the hometown boys. The PCI Co. was given the right to cross Clay's land and to occasionally flood it, giving Clay in return $2,500 and the right to remove his recently installed machinery.

Clay was understandably outraged, took the issue to the State Supreme Court, and succeeded in having not only the verdict of the Probate Court set aside, but in having the river improvement act of 1869 declared unconstitutional. The court ruled that the law was too vague in assigning river improvement commissioners the l00 acres of their plank road counterparts. Secure in his tenure of land, Clay that fall planned to plant 100 acres of wheat on his Penoyer Creek property.

Lumbering on the creek did not cease, since the former PCI Co, built a railroad to haul its logs to the Muskegon, while Clay's "Little Mill" was still a going concern as late as 1884 In that year, Clay's personal property was taken over by the Newaygo Company, which he headed. The company also began that year to build the Newaygo Furniture Company plant at the mouth of Penoyer Creek. This factory, which continued in operation well into the 20th century, received most of its power from the stream which flowed beneath it.

Our first detailed view of what the mill actually looked like dates from about this time. In 1880 the first of three eventual Newaygo County atlases was published (Fig. 7). This shows the mi11pond, railroad, and Prospect Hill addition to Newaygo much as they appear today. Also indicated are the mill itself, an associated building, a railroad siding, and two nearby unidentified buildings. Most often, atlases of this type intended such unidentified symbols to be houses. A photograph of the mill and dam is shown in Figure 8. Although undated, the shot was probably taken in the 1880's.

Later in that decade, reverses once again befell the Newaygo Company, Their major assets were attached in April 1887, and in 1889 they were taken over by the Converse Company of Boston, apparently a firm owned by J.W. Converse, an old friend of Clay's. The new owner began to improve the old Penoyer Creek property, and converted the old sawmill (the Little Mill) into a shingle mill. This move was in line with the economic realities of the time, since after the late 1880's, lumbering along the Muskegon sharply declined. The remodeled mill went into operation on December 23, and two days later it lay in ashes, the supposed victim of a fire started by tramps trying to keep warm on Christmas. Total loss was $2,000, insurance coverage only $1,000.

The days of the water-powered sawmills were coming to an end with the closing of the century.

Below: The 1880 Atlas Map of Penoyer Creek Area.

In 1897 the Converse Company offered for sale its hydropower on both the Muskegon and Penoyer Creek, together with 22 houses which it owned, for only $25,000. It is not known if there were any takers at these modest terms.

Another county atlas was published in 1900 (Fig. 9). It showed the old Clay mill site as owned by the Newaygo Improvement Company, with various other buildings on the property. The final atlas, published in 1922 (Fig. 10) showed the property owned by the Rowe Mfg. Co., the firm which took over the old Newaygo Furniture Company. W.A. Ansorge owned the property to the north of the tracks.

Field Methodology

Standard survey procedures included surface testing (observation and collection) of the entire project area. Subsurface testing, carried out within the proposed corridor, involved the use of 2-foot by 2-foot test pits which were taken down to the depth necessary to reach sterile soil. The contents of each test pit were then sifted through a 1/2 inch mesh screen to aid in the recovery of biological and artifactual evidence of cultural activity. The frequency of subsurface testing was based upon the selected area's sensitivity in relation to site potential. The sensitivity criteria are based upon such attributes as geomorphology, proximity of known historic and prehistoric sites, and surface disturbance. Upland areas adjacent to wetlands for example, are usually tested more intensely then isolated upland areas due to the greater site potential associated with prehistoric wetland procurement and settlement areas. The location of two-track roads has proved a significant association with the loca tion of historic sites, which do not follow the overall settlement pattern, of prehistoric populations.

Left: The 1900 Atlas Map of the Penoyer Creek area.

Field Survey

Field survey for sites of historical or archaeological significance along the proposed realignment of M-37 were conducted in September of 1979. Kathy Ataman of the Michigan Department of Transportation accompanied the field crew on portions of the survey. No evidence of prehistoric activity was found during field survey or indicated by prior research. This section of this cultural resources evaluation will deal only with the sites of historical association that were located (Figure 5 and Plate l).

Just north of the present crossing of Penoyer Creek by M-37, and at the top of the steep bluff, there existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries a line of dwellings sometimes referred to as "Bloody Row" or "Murderers Row." The buildings were utilitarian two-story frame houses, and possibly comprised part of the 22 houses offered for sale in the late 1890's by the Converse Company. Mr. Jack Brooks, curator of the Newaygo County Historical Museum, reported that workmen from the furniture factory at the mouth of Penoyer Creek lived here, and that at an undetermined date the houses were moved away or demolished. No trace of these buildings was found during field survey within or adjacent to the project corridor.

At the lower millpond on Penoyer Creek there was located a reinforced concrete dam and what appears to be a reinforced concrete turbine/generator house (Figure 12 and Plate 2). Little is known of the date of construction of these structures, or the purpose that they served. At the present it is assumed they were built in the 1905-15 period, a time when there was great development of hydroelectric resources all along the Muskegon. The electricity may have served the factory at the mouth of the creek, since the company which owned that Penoyer dam, and possibly the Clay dam #1 as well.

Below: Map of Modern Dam & Remains of 19th Century Earthwork Dam. Historic Site Area #1.

The 1837 Penoyer lumber mill played an early and decisive role in the history and development of Newaygo. It existed long before the town did, and was the first permanent settlement in the area. In fact, the mill and the cabins where the mill employees lived may have been the first settlements on the Muskegon River above Muskegon. The Penoyer mill was the pioneer operation on what was to become the most important lumbering river in the nation. It is of great historical and archaeological significance, and all possible efforts should be made to locate its exact site before it is possibly impacted by the M-37 alignment. The former building sites north of the railroad tracks will definitely be impacted by this construction. Almost definitely they are associated with the Clay enterprises of the mid-1870's, and they may be as early as the area's 1830's activities. Adequate archaeological testing and historical research should be undertaken for these before construction begins, in view of their possible early age and association.


In view of these considerations, it is recommended that Stage II historical and archaeological research be conducted in the area where the proposed M-37 bridge would cross Penoyer Creek, and in the former habitation area north of there. Archaeological procedures are discussed elsewhere in this report, but following are specific recommendations for further historical research.

1. Examination of property abstracts for the affected areas.

2. Examination of deed and mortgage records for the area.

3. Examination of mated ala in Newaygo County llistorica1 Archives, especially Harry L. Spooner scrapbooks.

4. Search for family and business records of the Penoyers, Samuel Rose, Daniel P. Clay, and the Newaygo Company.

5. Search for unmutilated 1854 map of Newaygo.

6. Re-examination of Newaygo County tax rolls and census records in Michigan State Archives, in light of findings from above-described research. Interviews with informed residents of Newaygo area.

7. Interviews with informed residents of Newaygo area.



Cleland, Charles E.

1966 The prehistoric animal ecology and ethnozoology of the Upper Crest Lakes Region. Anthropological Papers, Museum of Anthropology, No. 27. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

1976 The Focal-Diffuse Model: An evolutionary perspective on the prehistoric cultural adaptations of the Eastern United States. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology Vol. 1, No. 1 : 59-76.

Fitting, James E.

1975 The Archaeology of Michigan. Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills.

Griffin, James B., Richard E. Flanders and P.F. Titterington

1970 The burial complexes of the Knight and Norton Mounds in Illinois and Michigan. Museum of Anthropology Memoir No. 2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Losey, Timothy C.

1967 Toft Lake Village Site. The Michigan Archaeologist, Vol. 13, No. 3;129-34. Ann Arbor.

Mason, Ronald J.

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building appears to have also owned flowage rights to the creek.

About 30 yards downstream from the concrete dam, and near the center of the proposed M-37 ROW, there is the remains of what appears to be a large earthen dam. Evidence of this dam is found on both banks of Penoyer Creek (Figure 12 and Plate-3).

Two hundred yards north of the above-described feature, and again nearly in the center of the ROW, there are a number of depressions in the ground, and remains of building foundations (Figure 13, Plates 4 and 5). This site seems to consist of the two houses and associated outbuildings and structures which were indicated as extant on the 1880 map (Figure 7).

This habitation area appears to be associated with the Clay sawmi11, due to its proximity to the mill and the distance from public roads. It may also have been associated with other Penoyer Creek enterprises, and as late as the 1920's, Mr. Ansorge owned at least one of the buildings. Their date of demolition is not known.


Seven or more dams, some with associated mills, existed along Penoyer Creek in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In chronological order of construction these were:

1. Penoyer dam - 1837

2. Clay #1 dam, the Little Mill - 1875

3. Clay #2 dam, the shingle mill - 1876

4, 5, 6. Penoyer Creek Improvement Co. dams - 1874-76

7. Power House dam - 1905-15

This presents a complex set of data for the historian to deal with, since the dams were in geographical proximity to each other, a confused chain of ownership is involved, and remains of all these dams may still be present.

Left: Map of building remains at Historic Site Area #2


The structure which has herein been termed the Power House dam is, of course, extant. It seems to be around 60 or 70 years old and, according to the Engineering Report for this project, it will not be disturbed by construction. If its presumed age and purpose are correct, this project will have no impact on what minor historical significance it may possess.

The PCI Co. dams seem to have been located some distance from the area that is to be affected by the M-37 realignment, as indicated on an 1876 Supreme Court Map (Figure 14). Remains of one of these dams may be seen just to the north of the present M-37 bridge over Penoyer Creek. Due to the distances involved, the proposed project will have impact.

Clay #2 dam is thought to be at the foot of the second millpond, upstream from where this project proposes to cross Penoyer Creek. Due to the distance involved, there will be no impact.

Clay #1 dam is not so easily disposed of. The 1880 and subsequent county atlases are not to be regarded as having a high degree of accuracy. Like the county histories with which they were contemporaneous, they were compiled with the view of gaining as many subscribers as possible while investing a minimum amount of time. However, they are accurate enough to state that there is a high probability that Clay dam #1 and its mill, were either on or immediately adjacent to the proposed M-37 crossing of Penoyer Creek.

Left: Map of the Pennoyer Creek Improvement (1876 Supreme Court Map)

Although exact, on-the-ground location of the Clay operation has not been determined, field comparison of the late 19th century photograph (Fig. 8) with current terrain features indicates that its location may have been at the same point as the Power House dam. However, it may also have been located downstream some little distance, possibly at the feature thought to be an earthen dam. This would place it directly under the bridge and associated construction area which is planned to span Penoyer Creek, and construction of this bridge would undoubtedly adversely impact the site.

The location of the 1837 Penoyer dam and mill remain unknown, except that the 1838 map (Fig. 6) indicates it was notat the mouth of the creek, as later writers have suggested, but rather some distance upstream, nearer to the proposed location of the new M-37 bridge.

It seems reasonable to assume that Clay, when he was building his dam and mill in the winter of 1875-76, would have taken advantage of any remains of the 1837 dam in order to make his work easier. In this case, the archaeological remains of both periods would be found together.

On the other hand, the old Penoyer dam may have become so decrepit that Clay would simply have constructed his operation a slight distance upstream from the older structure, in order to take advantage of as much of the old millpond as possible. Or, Clay may have had entirely different site requirements than the Penoyers, and located without reference to the scene of their former operations.

Whatever Clay's thinking may have been, it is felt that the feature termed the earthen dam could very well be the remains of the