The mill pond, several cement foundations, and the boarding house are the last remnants of the once lively and thriving lumber town of Robinson’s Mill. This is also known to some by the name of “Goodar”.
In 1907 the McGraw Lumber Company sold their timber rights of a huge tract of land to S. A. Robinson and S.E. Eastman. Mr. Robinson had operated a mill at Grayling. Mr. Eastman lived in Saginaw and only visited the area occasionally. It is said that he financed the mill while Mr. Robinson was the operator.
The rights were purchased in 1907 but he mill didn’t start operations until 1909. The first action taken was to build a narrow gauge railroad the first four miles from South Branch to the mill site. Meanwhile an eighty-acre parcel of land was purchased from the government for a small sum. Here the mill and main buildings were built. Many narrow Gauge Railroads were extended into the timbered area for brining in the logs.
Around the mill a settlement sprang up almost overnight. Soon the settlement boasted of 25 buildings. These were mostly tarpapered buildings. The main buildings, besides the mill itself were the two boarding houses and the general store and the post office combination.
The General store carried almost anything a lumberman or his family would need. The only thing not available was liquor. This had to be purchased in South Branch. An old spring beside the road about half way between Good and South Branch has quite a legend.
This spring is called “Whiskey Springs”. The legend goes something as follows. When a couple of men went to town they purchased whiskey for their buddies. Of course, they wanted to sample the liquor on the way home. The spring made a good stopping place. Here the clear spring water made a good “chaser” as well as being a convenient source of “liquor” to replace what the carriers had consumed.
As many families lived on the mill grounds a doctor was hired. His salary was paid by deducting one dollar a month from each man’s wages. This guaranteed Dr. Hull a living and his ethics weren’t too becoming for a doctor. However, good doctors were scarce in the area and he served the purpose.
Frank Gordon was the able blacksmith in the first years of the mill and he was replaced by Lonzo Jones in 1913.
Hank Ash was the superintendent of one of the camps. He always prided himself on the supply of meat which he provided for his crew.
Neil McDonald was the superintendent of the other lumber camp. He had previously worked in this same camp for McGraw. He later became manager of the bank in Lupton.
About 75 men operated the mill and worked in the yards under the competent leadership of Superintendent Shiras. He received six dollars a day, some of the other key men received three dollars a day but the regular laborers only received one dollar a day. Small homes were rented to the family men for four dollars a month… The 125 men in the woods also received a dollar a day. Their board was deducted from this but I was unable to find out the amount charged for board.
The steam operated mill had three large boilers for steam. Two were always in use and the third boiler was held in reserve. Sawdust and slabs were used to fuel the boilers. The mill also had a steam operated dynamo which provided lights for the settlement.
Harry Cline (brother in law of Robinson) was the train engineer. As far as I know the death of Mr. Cline April 12, 1961, closed the source of inside information concerning the actual operation of the mill.
In 1914 the lumber supply became depleted and the mill was moved to Oscoda. With the mill went many of the families and the little town of brawny lumbermen and their hardy families gradually became quiet. The school finally closed and the train no longer came. Only a few families remained in the settlement. Mrs. James Dunham is the only original settler left there at present time. (1961)
It is claimed that when the mill operated at its peak about 200 thousand feet of lumber were processed daily. The sawed lumber was shipped by rail to pints south to market.
Of course, such a huge operation as this took its toll. I have been told that three men were killed but could only get details about Jay Durfee. He was killed during the winter of 1913-14 while unloading a load of logs from a railroad car. Seems he didn’t get out of the way fast enough when tripping the chain fasteners.
A chore boy in one of the camps was killed when a load of hay spilled on him. But I could not find the name or nay other details about the accident.
The third man was killed in the woods but I have no other details.
Without a doubt the Robinson and Eastman Lumber Company has played a bigger part in the economic development of Goodar Township than anything else. The town maybe lost but its memory lingers on.
Again this was written by Evelyn Berry in 1961. This is used with her permission and the permission of the Rose City Area Historical Society. The photographs are courtesy of Beulah Taber Huebner.