April 4th: The Battle for Wexford County

manton-michigan

Main Street in Manton, circa 1915, photo courtesy Seeking Michigan

Battle for Wexford County by Brenda Irish of Seeking Michigan begins:

The fight for the Wexford County seat is a story of bribery, corruption, intimidation, inebriated county officials and the organization of illegal townships to boost votes.

Cadillac’s decade-long struggle for the county seat came to a head on April 4, 1882, when ballots were cast throughout the county to determine whether the coveted prize should be moved from Manton to Cadillac. Twelve months earlier, residents of Cadillac and Manton had united to remove the county seat from Sherman to Manton. Now Cadillac was determined to secure the prize for itself.

Feeling duped by Cadillac, Manton residents were furious. A couple of townships destroyed their ballots, refusing to make a return. But when the “official” count of the April 4 vote was totaled, the results were overwhelming: 1,363 “yes” voters favored moving the county seat to Cadillac, while 309 voted “no.”

In the early dawn following the election, a train left Cadillac with the sheriff and twenty “specially deputized” men and headed to Manton to collect the county property. Legend has it that the train backed quietly into a sleeping Manton, coming to a halt in front of the courthouse. Within a half hour, most of the county records and much of the furniture was aboard the train. As the Cadillac faction attempted to remove the first of three safes from the courthouse, however, Manton residents awoke…

Read on at Seeking Michigan for the contested conclusion and more photos from Wexford County.

More history on Michigan in Pictures.

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