William Henry and Rachel Roe came here from Huron County, Ontario, in July, 1885, that was shortly after their marriage, but W. H. had been in the "Michigan Country" several years prior to 1885.
He came first while still in his teens, getting off a boat in St. Ignace, walking all the way to the Sault, and walking back again to where old Charley Pickford and a half dozen other sturdy Canadian families were homesteading land. The Roe farm, however, was not homesteaded. It was purchased outright from the railroad by W. H.’s father, Richard Roe, on the plea of his uncle, Sam Roe, who was the very first of the Roe family to set foot in Chippewa County. (See Roe History on previous pages.)
That first winter of 1882-83, a young William Henry worked for the Moiles Brothers, who had a lumber camp at Johnson’s Hill about 9 miles north of what is now Pickford. His wages were $23 per month and board, and that winter the Moiles crew produced 7,000,000 board feet of logs. The logs were banked along the Munuscong River and in the spring of 1883 were driven down the swollen river to Mud Lake, from there, being rafted to the Moiles Brothers’ new mill at DeTour.
Two years later, W. H. took time off to return to Canada, remaining there just long enough to marry Rachel Carr, after which the two of them began the return trip. W. H. found the second trip into Michigan, like the first one, tough going all way. In July 1885, however, he had Rachel by his side and that seemed to make things easier.
They landed in the Soo on a boat called The United Empire. After buying some supplies, including dishes, and acquiring two cows, they started out on the old Mackinac Trail, walking every step of the way, and driving the cattle ahead of them. It required two full days to make the trip, so they remained overnight in the area now called Donaldson.
When finally they arrived at what was to be their new home, they moved into a 12 x 18 shack which had been built and occupied some years earlier by a man named Neil McInnis, who had been lumbering in the area. It had no windows and was a poor shelter at best. The roof leaked and the wind whistled through the logs and mosquitoes were everywhere.
All of the nice new dishes W. H. and Rachel had purchased in the Soo had fallen and broken just as they completed the long 20-mile walk, and W. H., having only fifty cents to his name, could not afford to buy more. So with makeshift dishes, plus a few they borrowed from W.H.’s, older brother, George, who was starting a farm nearby, he and Rachel started housekeeping. They lived in the tiny shanty for 6 months, but the bitter cold of that first winter was too much for them. They moved into a house with George, across the road, and lived there until W. H. had completed a new 16 x 24 foot home.
Farming in those days generally started with lumbering, because trees had to be removed to make way for wheat and oats and flax. This was backbreaking work, but it brought a little money, because the lumbering moguls, then at the peak of production in Upper Michigan, were ever ready to purchase a man’s logs at their price. So foot by foot, and acre by acre, W. H. toiled to clear that portion of his land he had to farm. Everyone was poor in those days, but W. H. managed, somehow, to buy a couple of steers and break them in as an ox team. He couldn’t afford to buy full-grown oxen. He’d use the oxen to help him clear land and once in a while he’d drive them to town for supplies.
" It was not at all unusual," Mr. Roe said, "to see a half dozen or more ox teams on the streets of Pickford. They were awfully useful critters in those days. Of course, many a time, when I didn’t have the oxen, I’d walk to Pickford, or even to the Soo, and carry supplies home on my back."
" Transpottation? Well, yes, there was a boat line that came down the St. Mary’s from the Soo, then up the Munuscong to a place called Jolly’s Landing at what is now Stirlingville. A man named Bill Stirling operated the boat, with his wife as helmsman. They had a small store at Stirlingville."
" Many of the settlers, myself included, used that boat from time to time, to bring in supplies, then lugged them on our back from Stirlingville. So every pound we brought in involved a lot of footwork and muscle."
Farming, of course, was limited to the fairer months of the year. Winter times, W. H. like the others struggling to carve farms out of forests, labored in logs and lumber. For four consecutive winters, beginning during the winter of 1886-87, W. H. worked for the Haynes outfit at Prentiss Bay, which then was a flourishing sawmill community.
He walked from Pickford to Prentiss Bay in the late fall, and home again in the late spring just in time to begin the annual summer task of clearing more land, planting a few crops, or cutting and peeling cedar posts for the ever-hungry post market.
During those never-ending winters, with their short days and almost unbearably long nights, Rachel Roe remained alone in the little house north of Pickford, tending the oxen, milking the two cows, and doing other chores incidental to holding an embryonic farm together in the winter times. When the wind howled too mournfully or loneliness engulfed her – which often happened – she wrapped an extra coat about her and visited with her husband’s people across the way, or with her brothers, Hugh and John Carr, and their wives, who lived nearby.
When the children started coming (there were to be 10 boys and 1 girl) Rachel Roe had company during the long winter months when W. H. was away. That lightened her loneliness, but it greatly increased her responsibilities. So her winter vigil required a brand of courage equal to that shown by any of the early settlers.
And what about the other early settlers? Well, scattered thinly about Pickford, there were families which had preceded the Roes to Michigan by a few years. They all came from Canada, some of them homesteading, some of them, like the Roes, purchasing. They were neighbors with whom Rachel Roe had much in common, but Pickford seemed awfully far away and she saw very little of them.
There was, to start with, old Charley Pickford, with his flowing beard, who had opened a store and established a post office, and after whom the tiny cluster of frame buildings fronting on muddy streets was named. And there was Pat Taylor, the Goughs, the Greens, the Millers, the Cleggs, the Raynards, the Bests, the Wilsons, the O’Neils, the Harrisons, and the Ryes. To the south were the Kennedys and to the southwest, the Blairs and Beacoms.
There were others, of course, but that paints the picture: a few families scattered over what then represented a wide area, and all intent upon building a home in an untried wilderness. Some ten or twelve miles due south, the waters of mighty Lake Huron splashed against the shores of Les Cheneaux’s many islands, which even then were bidding to become summer havens.
But W. H. and Rachel Roe, busy building a farm and raising a family to the north and west of town, had little time for travel or summer pleasures. The Roes had a hard row to hoe. The eleven children, all except two, were raised to maturity.
WELDON, who was with the Chrysler organization in Detroit, died in 1970.
HILTON operated a farm, but is now retired and lives two miles north of Pickford. He married Grace Sterling (deceased). Their children are Patricia, Jane, Jack, Donald, Mason, and Emily. A number of years after Grace’s death, Hilton married Mrs. Etta Rowse Warner. She died in 1971. Patricia married Maitland Pennington and their children are Ronald, Marsha, Dennis, and Joann. Jane married Fred (Elwin) Smith of Rudyard and their children are David, Darlene, Pamela, James, and Marlene. Jack married Edna Pennington. He is in the real estate business and lives north of Pickford. Their children are James or Cedarville, who married Marie Harrison and has three children: Jim, Steven, and Christopher; Roger, who married Patricia Belinski; and Francis who married Cindy Donnelly. Donald lives in Ocala, Florida. Emily (Mrs. Joe Foley) lives in New York. Mason is deceased.
FORD married Lottie Peffers and was in the hardware business in Rudyard until his death in 1956. Their two sons are Glen and Loy. Glen is Cashier in the Sault Savings Bank in Sault Ste. Marie. Loy and his mother operated the hardware store until 1965 when they closed it. Lottie then moved to the Sault.
BERT was a carpenter in Ypsilanti for a number of years, then operated a gift shop at Whitmore Lake. He was married to Ethel Beacom. Their children are Lyle and Jean. A number of years after Ethel’s death, he married Pearl Harper Smith. He is now retired and lives east of Barbeau.
SAM married Lily Jarvie and was a merchant in Sault Ste. Marie until his death in 1969.
CLEVELAND (deceased 1967) was a superintendent of schools in a school near Detroit, as was MERLIN, who retired in 1970.
GEORGE was a surveyor for Chippewa County Road Commission until his retirement in 1971.He married Delphina Stevenson.
BERTHA, the only daughter, married Dr. M. N. Hess (deceased), a foot specialist of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. They had one son, Carl, Superintendent of Redford Township School.
Adam Roe, one of W. H. Roe’s brothers, was a blacksmith in Pickford. He married Myrtle Crawford. After her death Adam married Effie Blair. They are all deceased now. George Roe was another brother of William Henry Roe.
Sam married Lily Jarvie. They were in business in Pickford and later in Sault Ste. Marie. Sam died in 1969 and Lily lives in the Soo. Their children are: Betty, Avis, Nancy and Dean. Betty is married and lives in Cleveland; Avis is married and lives in Baltimore, Maryland; Nancy (Mrs. John McKay) lives in Sault Ste. Marie; Dean married Marjean Smith and they live on his grandfather (William Henry) Roe’s farm. Their children are: Mark, Todd, Charlys, Meta Lee, and Michalanne.Older postNewer post