Ontonagon County was laid off, boundaries defined and named, by an act of the Legislature entitled "An act to divide the Upper Peninsula into six counties and define the boundaries of the same," approved March 9, 1843. It was attached to Chippewa County for judicial purposes.

An act approved May 18, 1846, entitled " An act to organize the counties of Houghton, Schoolcraft, Ontonagon and Marquette," provided that the county of Ontonagon, as laid off and bounded by the act of 1843, should be organized by an election of county officers, to be held on the first Monday of August, 1846, including a County Judge. The county was, by this act, attached to Houghton County for judicial and other purposes. The act of 1843 also provided that the first election should be held for all this territory, including Ontonagon, at Copper Harbor, Eagle River and L'Anse. By another act, approved March 17, 1847, it was provided that an election for county officers in Houghton County, including Ontonagon as attached territory, should be held in all the townships thereof, on the first Tuesday of July, 1847.

An act, approved April 3, 1848, was passed, providing for the organizing of four counties in the Upper Peninsula, Section 3, and defining and naming Ontonagon County as one of them. The act provided for the election of county officers on the first Tuesday of July, 1848, in Ontonagon County, which, with Marquette and Schoolcraft, are attached to Houghton for judicial purposes.


The first election in these townships or precincts, under the separate and independent organization of Ontonagon County, of which any record or information is found, was held April 2, 1849. At the organizing election thus held in Ontonagon Township, there were twenty-one votes cast by the pioneer electors, as follows: Samuel O. Knapp, Daniel P. Cash, J. B. Townsend, P. B. Eastman, John Smith, Francis Anthony, Edmond Lockwood, James K. Paul, Edwin Emmons, Josiah B. Jeffrey, Henry H. Wolcott, Asa A. Jeffrey, Daniel Beaser, W. French, S. Shelley, J. W. Parker, George B. Mansfield, Thomas McDonald, Peter Geise, Lathrop Johnson and Josiah Chandler.

The first officers thus elected by the above constituency were: Supervisor, Daniel S. Cash; Clerk, P. Eastman; Treasurer, Josiah Chandler; School Inspectors, Peter B. Eastman and James B. Townsend; Assessors, Edward C. Rahm and William French; Highway Commissioners, Daniel Beaser and S. O. Knapp; Justices of the Peace, S. O. Knapp, Edwin Simmons, Daniel Beaser and Edmond Lockwood; Constables, George B. Mansfield, H. H. Walcott, F. W. Anthony and James W. Parker; Overseers of Poor, William French and Asa Godfrey. The Inspectors and Clerk of this election were J. B. Townsend and P. B. East man respectively. Daniel Beaser, one of the Justices of the Peace elect, at once went to Eagle River, about one hundred miles, to be qualified, so he could administer the oath to the other township officers elect, which he did on his return, that being the nearest point where he could " swear." Thus the civic machinery of Ontonagon Township was placed in operation.

Election of county officers held November 6, 1849. 

Twenty-one votes cast by the pioneer electors, of which John S. Barry, for Governor, received seven, and Flavius Littlejohn, for Lieutenant Governor, received thirteen. Samuel O. Knapp, Daniel P. Cash, J. B. Townsend, P. B. Eastman, John Smith, Francis Anthony, Edmond Lockwood, James K. Paul, Edwin Emmons, Josiah B. Jeffrey, Henry H. Wolcott, Asa A. Jeffrey, Daniel Beaser, W. French, S. Shelley, J. W. Parker, George B. Mansfield, Thomas McDonald, Peter Geise, Lathrop Johnson and Josiah Chandler

The election of county officers was held void, since the organization of the county was not then perfected legally.  Had the election not been voided, those elected to fill county positions were:

Judge of Probate John Bacon
County Clerk L. P. Morrison
Treasurer John Linter
Register of Deeds M. W. Kelsey
Sheriff Harris Phillips
Surveyor Samuel W. Hill
Coroner James K. Paul



The first or organizing election of the county was held on the last Tuesday of September, 1852 at two voting precincts - one in the township of Ontonagon, and the other in the township of Pewabic, which townships were defined and named by legislative enactment March 16, 1847.

The following were the county officers thus chosen:

District Judge Ira D. Bush
Judge of Probate J. W. Edwards
Circuit Court Commissioner W. W. Spaulding
Clerk and Register of Deeds H. R. Close
Treasurer T. B. Hanna
Sheriff Peter Dean
Surveyor Charles Merryweather


These officers, together with the Board of Supervisors, organized and placed the civic machinery of the county in operation. The first Board of Supervisors was composed of Augustus Coburn, of Ontonagon Township, and James Van Alstine, of Pewabic Township, chosen, with other township officers in their respective townships, at the said first election.

Again, no act had legally perfected a separate county organization of Ontonagon, although a special election was held therein on the last Tuesday of September, 1852, and an organization thereof thus perfected, but was held illegal because it was irregularly held as to time and manner. However, a curative act was passed, approved January 17, 1853, which provided "that the election of county officers in Ontonagon County, held on the last Tuesday of September, 1852, and the organization of said county under and by virtue of said election, be and the same is hereby held and deemed to have been duly organized on and after January 1, 1853."

The same act also provided " that all of Houghton County lying west of the line between Ranges 35 and 36, heretofore constituting a part of said county, is hereby annexed to and constitutes a part of Ontonagon County." Thus the detachment of Ontonagon County from Houghton for election, judicial and revenue purposes, and the complete organization thereof by itself, dates from January 1, 1853, notwithstanding all the legislative acts and efforts made to this end prior thereto.


Held on Friday, July 15, 1853, at which the following county officers were elected:

Circuit Court Commissioner William W. Spaulding
Clerk and Register of Deeds Daniel Pittman
Treasurer Augustus Coburn
Sheriff Peter Dean


The vote cast at this election was sixty-one, which the foregoing persons received entire. The vote was canvassed July 19, 1853, by Levi Hanna as Chairman; D. Pittman, as Clerk of the Board of County Canvassers. This was the second election under the legally perfected county organization.

Representatives elected during the 1859-1874 elections:


1859 John Greenfield
1865 George C. Jones
1869 William D. Williams
1870 William Willard
1871 William Harris
1872 William Harris
1873 William Harris
1874 William Harris


The vote of Ontonagon County for President from 1860-1880:


Abraham Lincoln




Stephen A.  Douglas




Abraham Lincoln




George McClellan




Ulysses Grant




Horatio Seymour




Ulysses Grant




Horace Greeley




Rutherford Hayes




Samuel Tilden




James Garfield




Winfield Hancock




James B. Weaver




The total vote in the county for Governor from 1854 to 1880 was:

1854 Kinsley S. Bingham Republican 193   John Stewart Barry Democrat 79  
1856 not returned                           not returned                      
1858 Moses Wisner Republican 119   Charles E. Stuart Democrat 109
1860 Austin Blair Republican 331   John Stewart Barry Democrat 302
1862 Austin Blair Republican 101   Charles E. Stuart Democrat 157
1864 Henry H. Crapo Republican 251   William M. Fenton Democrat 444
1866 Henry H. Crapo Republican 226   Alpheus Starkey Williams Democrat 380
1868 Henry P. Baldwin Republican 229   John Moore Democrat 300
1870 Henry P. Baldwin Republican 166   Charles Carter Comstock Democrat 215
1872 John J. Bagley Republican 239   Austin Blair Liberty 141
1874 John J. Bagley Republican 195   Henry Chamberlain Democrat 243
1876 Charles M.  Croswell Republican 203   William L. Webber Democrat 324
1878 Charles M.  Croswell Republican 184   Orlando Mack Barnes Democrat 236 National 65
1880 David H. Jerome Republican 217   Frederick M.  Holloway Democrat 228   David Woodman Greenback 25

Kinsley S. Bingham (1808-1861). Governor, 1855-1858 - Bingham served as Michigan Democratic congressman, 1847-1851, Republican governor, 1855-1858, and U.S. senator, 1859-1861. Wife Mary Warden; son James (First Lieutenant, Sixteenth Michigan Infantry, who died in 1862).

Moses Wisner (1815-1864). Governor, 1859-1860 - Wife, Angelina.

Austin Blair (1818-1894). Governor, 1861-1864 -

Henry H. Crapo (1804-1869). Governor, 1865-1868 -

Henry P. Baldwin (1814-1892). Governor, 1869-1872 -

John J. Bagley (1832-1881). Governor, 1873-1876 - Bagley was a Detroit businessman, Republican governor of Michigan, 1873-1876, and candidate for the U. S. Senate in 1881.

Charles M. Croswell (1825-1886). Governor, 1877-1880 - Croswell served as Republican state senator from Adrian, Michigan, and governor of Michigan, 1877-1880.

David H. Jerome (1829-1896). Governor, 1881-1882 -



Circuit Court Judge William D. Williams
Probate Judge Theobald Dreiss
Circuit Court Commissioner S. J. Harring
Prosecuting Attorney C. F. Burton
Clerk M. A. Powers*
Treasurer Stephen Loranger**
Sheriff P. J. Cusic
Register of Deeds M. A. Powers
Board of Supervisors Byron N. White
Thomas Hooper
Samuel B. Harris
Henry Miller
Superintendents of the Poor John G. Parker
James Hoyt
John Cheynoweth

*Was elected by the people, served part of his term, and appointed H.L M. Powers in his place, whereupon the Board of Supervisors appointed William J. Coulter to till M. A. Powers' vacancy, which H. M. Powers declined to recognize, and " held the fort" until the Circuit Court, at its term in September, 1882, invited him to vacate, whereupon W. J. Coulter assumed the duties of the office until the Supreme Court determined the matter.

**Held the office from 1856, by election, successively until 1876, when Capt. Henry Buzzo was elected, and died soon after he entered upon his second term, in 1881, whereupon Mr. Loranger was appointed to fill the vacancy.

Source: Western Historical Company. History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Chicago: The Western Historical Company, 1883.