Alexander Richards and the Flat Iron Block

Circa 1880’s image of Alexander C. Richards. Photo Courtesy Anthony Perkins

Circa 1880’s image of Alexander C. Richards. Photo Courtesy Anthony Perkins

        Alexander Richards was born on September 26, 1844 in Quebec, Canada to Lambert and Serafine (Serois) Richards, Alex was the eldest in a sibling group of eight children. Little is known about his early life in Canada. He immigrated to Michigan in 1866 at age 22 and resided at Fayette where he operated a butcher shop. Richards married Roxanna Knapp in Delta County on January 2, 1869 and seven children were born from this union.

            The family lived in Garden, Michigan for a time, but moved to Manistique in 1876. While living in Manistique the family resided in a large home on the corner of Cedar and Walnut Street, which was the future site of the A. S. Putnam drug store. Eight people lived in the home, including a servant. The servant was a necessity, as Richards’ wife Roxanne had gone blind. Richards was very kind to all his children, and only reprimanded them when they moved items in the home which made it difficult for Roxanne to move around and find things. He had a playhouse built for his daughters in the back yard complete with a toy cook stove.

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Artifacts from the Ossawinamakee Hotel

Business Card from the Ossawinamakee – George Orr Collection donated by Chris Orr

Business Card from the Ossawinamakee – George Orr Collection donated by Chris Orr

            During the late 1880s and 90s, Constant Moody Ruggles was the proprietor at the Ossawinamakee Hotel. Ruggles was a Civil War veteran from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, who first came to Manistique in 1875 with Ebenezer James. Ruggles was a partner in the James Bros. Sawmill which flourished briefly at the village of Jamestown on the Manistique River. He had diverse business interests including a butcher shop, stage coach line, livery stable and a strawberry farm. According to the above business card, Ruggles was also a guide for tourist fishermen seeking a good trout stream.

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The Naming of the Ossawinamakee

A late 1800’s photo of the Ossawinamakee Hotel (SCHS)

A late 1800’s photo of the Ossawinamakee Hotel (SCHS)

            During the early spring of 1883 the citizens of Manistique eagerly awaited the opening of a fancy new hotel. Wright E. Clarke, editor of the Schoolcraft County Pioneer, reported regularly on the progress being made. By late March of 1883 the masons were finishing up with plastering the walls, and the painters would soon be busy with their brushes. Clarke predicted that all would be in readiness in time for the opening of navigation on Lake Michigan in the spring. Clarke was overly optimistic. The hotel room doors did not arrive until the second week in May and were “fitted up” as rapidly as possible. The hotel was compelled to welcome a few travelers before work was totally completed, but by the end of May, 1883, the Ossawinamakee was finally open for business.

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