1856 : Samuel Horton Settles at Horton Bay

August 1, 2018 all-day

Samuel Horton, accompanied by his family, traveling on the small sailing vessel Rover, arrives on a beautiful bay and decides to settle there.   The Bay and area still bears name — Horton Bay.   They are the first white settlers in this area.

The rest of the story:

It is believed that Samuel Horton was born in Canada in 1800. Little is known about his youth, but at the age of 23 he moved to Toledo, Ohio, where he started his family. Then in 1856 he gathered nine people, including six of his daughters, and sailed a flat-bottomed sailboat, the “Rover,” north through Lake Huron, around the northern tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula and then down the coast of Lake Michigan. His goal was to reach Grand Rapids where two of his sons lived, but the sailing party ran into difficulty and had to make a stop.

“They only came to the Horton Bay area because they needed supplies. They came into Pine Lake, which is now named Lake Charlevoix,” Way said.

Horton must have liked the area because he stayed for a while.

According to historian William Ohle, Samuel Horton was the first white man of record to live by the bay that became known as the village of Horton Bay in 1876.

Over the next 25-30 years Horton made a living in various ways. He transported goods in his boat to cities around the area, he sold a cure-all medicine known as “Original Horton’s Tonic,” he was elected as justice of the peace and eventually he became a landowner.

At some point after 1880 and before his death in 1893, Horton moved to Elk Rapids to be with one of his daughters.

Although there are records of his death on Feb. 28, 1893, there were no accompanying records of a burial location in city or county records.

Descendants and local historians have been searching for Horton’s grave site by studying old documents and records and tracing family lines, but until recently always came up short.

“A woman I know in Cadillac discovered some information. It said Samuel Horton was buried next to his seventh daughter,” Way said.

Horton’s seventh daughter’s name was Maria, and after doing some more searching they discovered she was married to James McLaughlin, who was buried with other members of his family at the Elk Rapids Cemetery in the city of Elk Rapids.

“I came to the cemetery and asked where the oldest section was so I could search for the McLaughlin graves. They told me to look back here,” said James Hartwell, a Horton Bay resident and historian.

Hartwell found the McLaughlin family gravestones, including Maria’s and the unmarked grave of her father, Samuel Horton.

There was some discussion of whether or not to exhume the remains to see if Samuel Horton was indeed buried on the spot, but out of respect for him and his family the idea was dismissed.

On Thursday, a group of Horton Bay residents and descendants of Samuel Horton traveled to Elk Rapids to have a small ceremony and place a grave marker over where they believe the remains of Horton rest.

“He was a pillar of a community and because of that he is to be honored. He is not to be forgotten,” said Ken Lawrason, a member of the group honoring Horton.

Where is Horton’s Bay?

Named for pioneer settler Samuel Horton, this village was founded as a lumbering community in 1876. Young Ernest Hemingway frequently came here to fish and camp on “The Point.” This area is the setting for several of his famous “Nick Adams” short stories. Hemingway was married here in 1921. Hemingway spent his first 19 summers In Horton Bay where he delighted in fishing for trout in the Waloon Lake.

A map of Horton’s Bay

Boyne District Library BC Historical Timeline.

David Hopkins, “Horton Bay founder’s grave found, honored“, Petoskey News, October 8, 2010.

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