Posted by: Rae | March 4, 2008

1879 – 1889: Byron and Louisa See

In 1879, the Philo Beers estate was finally settled, with block 2 divided and sold to a number of eager buyers at the courthouse. It was divided into three sections of approximately the same size, running from the Pine River channel to Main St. , now known as Park Avenue.

The western section was sold to Mr. Amos Fox, one of the town’s earliest settlers, owner of the sawmill.  Fox owned several docks that extended far into Lake Michigan, to supply timber to fuel the Lake Michigan steamships.   The beautiful home he built on that spot, the "Amos Fox house," years later became the official residence of the lighthouse keeper. It was known during those years as the Hoffman House. The home was razed during the 1960s and the spot became Hoffman Park.

The middle section included the only building on the block, the Philo Beers homestead.  It was sold to Mr. L.D. Bartholomew. Bartholomew had moved to Charlevoix in 1874 and purchased Samuel See’s interest in the mercantile business Carpenter & See, which was then renamed Carpenter & Bartholomew.  In addition to this business, Bartholomew had a large shipping and marine business, owned a scow called Supply and had part interest in the steamer Nellie Booth.  Bartholomew later acquired the lot across the street at the southwest corner of Main and Bridge, where he built his store and opera house.  The opera house occupied the second floor, and seated 600.  The building burned in the 1920s, and today a real estate company occupies the corner. 

In 1886, Bartholomew sold the middle section of block 2, including the Beers homestead, to Louisa See, wife of Byron See. Louisa paid $1800 for the property, which extended from Pine River to Main St.

The eastern section of block 2 was further divided into 7 sections, all fronting Bridge St.  The two northern lots bordering the channel were sold to Levi Lewis, a doctor who had acquired Philo Beers’s drug stocks upon his death in 1872.  Lewis did business from several locations until he acquired the Bridge St. lots and built a large store with Mr. John M. Ackert.  From the "Lewis & Ackert Building" he continued his practice of medicine, and sold drugs, groceries, and provisions for some years.  Today Clint Berlage’s building, which is undergoing renovation from businesses to condominiums, occupies the site. 

The other lots were sold to Mr. Richard Cooper, who kept the Fountain City House, the first hotel in town; Seth Mason; and A.J. McLeod.   Byron See, whose wife Louisa a few years later would acquire the middle third of block 2 from Mr. Bartholomew, purchased the southernmost lot at the northwest corner of Bridge and Main.  See built a store on the corner, and sold general merchandise.  The building burned in 1906 and was replaced with a bank. Today it houses Talula’s, a clothing boutique.

Samuel and Byron See were Mormons. Their father Adam had lived on Beaver Island during the time of "King" Jesse Strang, although the family had moved from the island to the Pine River area before Strang’s assassination.  One of their brothers had drowned attempting to take provisions by small boat to residents of the island in a late November storm.  Adam, his wife, and several other of his children relocated to Adams County, Wisconsin after Strang’s assassination; Byron, Samuel, and one other brother remained in Charlevoix.

Byron and Louisa had no children. Although Byron held a number of moderately important positions in local government and participated in some social activities, the couple’s role in the community was probably somewhat impaired by their association with Strang.  Nonetheless, Byron’s business (and Samuel’s contracting business) enjoyed modest success through the 1870s and 1880s.

Byron and Lousia sold sections of Louisa’s property to Levi Lewis, M. Chamberlin,  McLeod, and Bellinger, a jeweler, but retained ownership of the southernmost section along Main St. where the Philo Beers house stood.  It was occupied by a variety of tenants, including the jeweler Bellinger for the period when his Bridge St. store was being remodeled, and a tailor named Smith.  In 1889, they sold the store and corner lot to Emma Geiken, wife of Geik Geiken, a ship captain and German immigrant, for $4500; and the Main St. lot with the Beers homestead to Charles Smith, the tailor. A few months later, Smith sold the lot to Geik Geiken.

Although they had spent the previous three years building a new home on State St., according to the local newspapers, the finest in Charlevoix, Byron and Lousia seem to have sold everything and moved to Detroit, where they were listed within months on the social register.  It is possible that they had suffered from financial difficulties for a few years.  The newspaper advertisements for Byron’s store were much smaller than those for other stores, and decreasing in size; their home seems to have taken a much longer time to build than others in town; and they sold many pieces of property around town in the late 1880s.   Samuel’s business was destroyed by fire during this period, and the loss was not insured. Adam’s death the same year may have provided Byron and Louisa with the cash needed to get a new start in a place where their history was unlikely to be known.

I will continue the saga of the oldest building in Charlevoix in my next installment, featuring Geik Geiken, the German immigrant who mysteriously became a Danish immigrant after he was investigated as a spy during World War I.



  1. I have a photo of Byron, if interested. I recently donated his Civil War papers to the New York History Museum.

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