Welcome to Custer Township's web site
Established to provide the residents with a source of information on the history and happenings of Custer Township.
History of Custer Township
Source: History book "Mancelona Area 1872-1972"pg 8 Sponsored by Mancelona Area Centennial Commission< Mancelona Elementary Library, Mancelona, MI
The first settlers in Custer Township were John Adair, who arrived from Scotland to North America and after a short stay in Canada moved to Custer in 1867 and James Mills who also came to the area and homesteaded here in 1868. His brother Clark joined him a short time later and they carved their farms out of the wilderness. Their farms were later owned by Andrew Lennington an Ron Meeder.
Another early settler was Noah Chapin, who was a shoemaker, as well as a farmer. Noah and his son built a boat twenty feet long and eight feet wide for the transportation of hay along the Grass River. The boat carried over a ton of hay and was mirthfully called "Noah's Ark'.
In 1868, Darius McGuirk settled in Eastern Custer Township, he was also later the township's first Supervisor. He later moved to Mancelona. In this same year, Henry Maddocks and Benjamin Turk came with their families.
In 1869 Peter Weaver and Charles Leonard established homesteads. Custer Township was organized in January, 1875. Mr. Leonard was the first Township Road Commissioner and owned the first threshing machine. Charles Leonard built the Leonard Centennial Home in 1902 from solid virgin timber of maple, pine, elm and cherry. The home has curly maple and walnut woodwork all taken from the farm. His granddaughter, Kathleen Leonard, was Treasurer of Custer Township for four terms in the 1970's and 1980's. The Centennial Farm is still owned by the Leonard Family to this day.
The first annual meeting was held at Maddock's Schoolhouse. The first inspectors of election were William Rush, Darius McGuirk and Theodore Meade. Elections were held at the Maple Grove School by those first settlers.
Angus Campbell and his family arrived in 1870 and located in section 26. Abram Jackson and Z.T. Swawn came in 1872. Mr. Jackson was the first Treasurer of the township. Also arriving in 1872 were August Ludwig, William Call and David Lively. Issac Wilcox arrived in 1876.
Ashley Elder, traveling by boat from Detroit to Northport to Elk Rapids to Spencer Creek, survived a near fatal storm off the shores of Elk Rapids to settle in Section 24 in 1872. Ashley was given his parcel of land for his service in the Civil War. He and his brother would later clear out a road between their homes. The road still exists today and is known as Elder Road. Ashley's great, great grandson Ray Elder served 7 terms as a Custer Township Trustee. Ray's daughter-in-law is today's Township Treasurer.
John and Joseph Troyer along with cousin Christian came to Custer Township in 1881. John and Christian owned a sawmill on Section 8. They later moved the sawmill to a place they called Arkona Siding. John was also the Postmaster at Arkona, having the Post Office in his home where a stagecoach made a stop and dropped off the mail. Christian's granddaughter, Anna Simpson, was the clerk of Custer Township for many years. After retiring from her position as clerk, she served as Chairperson for the Election Board for many more years. She is still in the area and currently resides in Bellaire.
Henry Richards arrived in 1882. He cleared his land single-handed. Henry named his prosperous homestead "Hilly Dell Farm". Also arriving in 1882 was Samuel Chapman. He would move to Custer Township in 1888. He was a beekeeper and produced 23,500 pounds of honey in one year; a state record at that time. Mr. Chapman donated the land to the township for the Chapman Cemetery. You can view many tombstones in the Chapman Cemetery today that date back over a hundred years ago.
Henry Wisthoff came to the township and would be the township blacksmith for many years. His home was considered a rendezvous for neighbors who came from miles around to have work done and socialize.
Information on the history of Custer Township will be added to this page as it becomes available. We are in the process of interviewing older residents to gather as much information as we can.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 35.2 square miles, of which, 34.7 square miles of it is land and 0.4 square miles of it is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 988 people, 397 households, and 294 families residing in the township. The population density was 28.4 per square mile (11.0/km²). There were 914 housing units at an average density of 26.3 per square mile (10.2/km²). The racial makeup of the township was 97.06% White, 0.51% Native American, 0.20% Asian, 0.40% Pacific Islander, and 1.82% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.51% of the population.
There were 397 households out of which 29.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.5% were married couples living together, 6.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.7% were non-families. 21.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 2.90.
In the township the population was spread out with 23.5% under the age of 18, 4.6% from 18 to 24, 25.0% from 25 to 44, 31.4% from 45 to 64, and 15.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 100.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.6 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $41,645, and the median income for a family was $46,458. Males had a median income of $32,283 versus $22,356 for females. The per capita income for the township was $19,643. About 4.1% of families and 6.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.0% of those under age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.