Marquette’s Harbor Ridge – the Pickands Home 455 E. Ridge

If you’ve seen my video for my book My Marquette, you may recognize this house as the cover image for the video. You can watch the video at my website at: www.MarquetteFiction.com

Following is the fascinating history of one of Marquette’s most beautiful and historic homes, as written in my book My Marquette:

455 E. Ridge St. Marquette Harbor Ridge

Harbor Ridge - 455 E. Ridge Street

Known today as Harbor Ridge, this home was built in 1881 by James Pickands, a colonel during the Civil War who had become the head of a large ore and shipping firm on the Great Lakes and Marquette’s fourth mayor in 1876. Pickands was married to Caroline Martha Outhwaite, daughter of John Outhwaite, a director of the Cleveland Iron Mining Company, who spent his summers in Marquette. Outhwaite’s other daughter, Mary (Caroline’s half-sister), married Jay Morse, who had been an agent for the Cleveland Iron Mining Company. Morse and Pickands as brother-in-laws would be good friends all their lives.

John Outhwaite was one of the first residents in Marquette, actually arriving the year before the town was founded. After sleeping his first night on the sand along the lakeshore, the next day he went with his Indian guides to prospect for iron ore. He located the claims for what would become the Cleveland Iron Mining Company. Although other investors such as Dr. Morgan Hewitt and Samuel Mather played more public roles, John Outhwaite was the largest investor in the company when it was incorporated in 1850.

Outhwaite’s many other business interests included retail and wholesale groceries, provisioning, lamp (lard) oil manufacturing, investment in Cleveland’s first iron mill (which was supplied with ore by Cleveland Iron Mining’s mines), brewing, and land development. (His son John Peet Outhwaite of Ishpeming would follow his father’s lead in the grocery and provisioning business). Outhwaite backed his two sons-in-law and Colonel Pickand’s brother Henry in iron production ventures such as the Bay Furnace as well as several of his nephews in the Blackwell family. While John Outhwaite is predominantly credited with being a Cleveland resident, he was actively involved in the Marquette area and according to his descendant, James Pickands Cass, may well be counted as Marquette’s first millionaire.

Colonel Pickands did well for himself with help from his father-in-law. This beautiful Victorian home he built would contain seven fireplaces, beautiful doors of cherry and walnut, and eighteen rooms, but it would not be home to the Pickands for long. Within a week of moving into the home, Mrs. Pickands died. Rumor said the family had moved into the house before the plaster was dry, which resulted in Mrs. Pickands coming down with pneumonia. Unable to live in the home where his wife had died, Pickands sold the house to Henry C. Thurber, and moved with his children to Cleveland. Despite the move, the Pickands family would remain connected to their former Marquette neighbors. Colonel Pickands’ son Henry C. Pickands, would later marry Jennie Call, daughter of Charles and Bessie Call of Marquette (see 450 E. Ridge). In addition, Colonel Pickands’ sister Anna married William Goodwin and in turn the Goodwin’s daughter Helen married Alfred Maynard, son of Matthew H. Maynard (see 350 E. Ridge). Another of his sisters, Caroline, operated an early school in Marquette which became the inspiration for Carroll Watson Rankin’s novel Stump Village (1935).

Colonel Pickands remarried to Seville Hanna, whose brother, Cleveland industrialist Mark Hanna, would be President McKinley’s 1896 campaign manager. After Colonel Pickands died in 1896, his brother-in-law Jay Morse married his widow Seville. Pickands, who had named one of his sons for Jay Morse, probably would have given them his blessing. We can only speculate on what a friendship must have existed between these brother-in-laws. When Morse died in 1906, M.H. Maynard of Marquette said of him, “Jay C. Morse was the most upright and honest man I ever knew. He was thoroughly straight and I don’t believe he ever told a lie in his life. His word was always as good as his bond, and he was well liked by all with whom he came in contact.”

Henry C. Thurber, this home’s second owner, was the co-owner of the Hebard-Thurber Lumber Company. As Marquette’s tenth mayor, he would also help Peter White raise money to build the road to Presque Isle. Thurber did not live in the house for long before selling it to Frank Bennett Spear, Marquette’s ninth mayor.

Frank Spear was married to Sara Kennedy, which linked him to most of the Ridge Street families by marriage. Spear had come to Marquette in 1864. He founded F. B. Spear & Co., later known as Spear & Sons; the dock he built in the harbor early on was the only one to survive the 1868 fire. Spear began his company by dealing in wholesale and retail grain and feed, and in time, the company would also handle coal, wood, lime, brick, cement, fuel oil, sand, gravel, lumber, and other building materials. After Frank Spear’s death in 1924, his sons and grandchildren would carry on the business until the company closed its doors in 1993. I remember going to the Spears building on West Washington Street many times in the 1970s and 1980s with my grandfather, Lester White, so he could pick up wood to do his carpentry work.

Spear’s son, Frank B. Spear II, inherited the home. His wife, Rachel, was a huge collector of bells and her collection was featured in numerous collector magazines. The collection included more than 600 bells from forty countries, one of Bishop Baraga’s altar bells from the Indian Mission on Keweenaw Bay, a silver bell from a lady’s garter, a Chinese costume bell, and the bell to Engine 26 from the Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad. Today, the famous Rachel Spear bell collection can be seen on display at the Peter White Public Library.

As for Harbor Ridge, in the late twentieth century, it would belong to another Marquette Mayor, William Birch and his wife Sally. The Birchs became the saviors of Dandelion Cottage when, rather than allow it to be torn down, they moved it to their backyard where it became 440 E. Arch Street.

Discover more Marquette history in My Marquette, available at: www.MarquetteFiction.com

Explore posts in the same categories: Marquette History, Marquette's Historical Homes, Upper Michigan History

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17 Comments on “Marquette’s Harbor Ridge – the Pickands Home 455 E. Ridge”

  1. Elly De Ford (Spear) Says:

    Frank Spear was my great grandfather. My dad was William T Spear son of George Spear. George & Phillip were the son’s of Frank Spear. I would love to see more pictures and stories of my family history.


    • Hi Elly,
      Thank you for reading and for the comment. The Spears are certainly an integral part of Marquette’s history. I don’t have any photos of the family but I’m sure I can include mention of them in some future posts. I remember as a boy in the 1970s going with my grandpa, Lester White, to buy wood I believe from Spear and Sons when it was on Washington St by then. Best wishes.

  2. Crystal maynard Says:

    My husbands grandfather was philip maynard curious to know if theres any relations


  3. Greetings from Boston. I am writing our family history, and am confused by the Pickands Mather Coal Dock (a picture exists of two cranes unloading coal from a ship) where my grandfather Charles Wickstrom worked and died in an accident. Then there is the Spears Coal co, likely at the same dock. Then there is the Fish Pier, same thing maybe. From the veranda of Elizabeth’s Chophouse (yum yum) you can see Ore Dock #6, to the left a set of pilings, then to the left another set of pilings which I believe was the site of all three named enterprises. Please relieve my confusion.


    • Hi Carl,
      Thanks for the comment. I am afraid there were so many docks and at different times that I’m no expert on them, but I would guess the Pickands Mather was separate from the Spear and other docks. Your best bet would be to contact the Marquette Regional History Center. I’m sure they have maps of the docks from different time periods to help you pinpoint which was which, especially if you have a specific year or time period you’re interested in. You can contact them through their website at http://www.MarquetteHistory.org Good luck!


      • Hi again. I had good luck by putting my questions to the site: “You know you are from Marquette if…”. I had the help of 3,300 people who tune in every day to talk about Marquette. We soon narrowed down the possibility to a good answer, and I sent our answer to the Marquette Regional History Center. They are still thinking about it. I said this is the result of Cloud History Research, the Next Big Thing in historical studies. They’re still thinking about that one too. The Cloud thinks very highly of you and all your works.


      • Thanks for the update, Carl. I will have to check out that site. I didn’t know about it. Getting a cloud consensus never hurts certainly.

  4. JP Cass Says:

    First, I’d like to thank Tyler Tichelaar for doing a comprehensive – and accurate – history of the house, and the histories and connections of its various families.

    To further exemplify the intertwining of families in Marquette, and on Ridge St. in particular, I should point out that when Col. Pickands’ son Henry S. Pickands later married Jennie Call, daughter of Charles and Bessie Call (450 E. Ridge), as cited, his father-in-law was a nephew of Peter White (460 E. Ridge) and his mother-in-law nee Elizabeth Kennedy (related to the Spears, the later owners of the Pickands house).

    – James Pickands Cass, Denver, Colorado


    • Thanks for the comment, James. Yes, Charles Call was Peter White’s nephew, and the four Kennedy sisters all married men and lived on Ridge St. It is a fascinating intertwining of old Marquette families. I’m glad to hear you approve of what I wrote. Best wishes!

      Tyler

  5. JP Cass Says:

    Tyler, I’m interested that you knew about the Peter White connection, as I only heard rumors of it in recent years from family members, and had to do quite a bit of digging to confirm it.

    I’ve seen the Call House across the street described as later being used by George Shiras, Jr. as a summer home, and family lore says that Jeannie provided companionship for George after her sister died and left him a widower (and her husband Charles moved away), so I am guessing that he stayed in her home during the summer. There is also a lovely vignette, that he liked to sit on the porch, and wouldn’t be inconvenienced to get up when the newfangled telephone rang.

    As for what verbal history may get wrong, I think I’ve seen evidence that Martha Pickands (known as Carrie to the Outhwaites) died a bit longer after the house was finished, and that the family remained in the house for a time beyond that It made business sense, if nothing else, for Col. Pickands to move to Cleveland where he and his partners (brother-in-law Jay Morse, and Samuel Mather from the Cleveland Iron Mining Company) founded Pickands, Mather & Co. in 1883, after Cleveland Iron Mining was reorganized in part to buyout the ownership interest of father-in-law John Outhwaite (Jr). Col. Pickands’ original venture in Marquette was James Pickands & Co, hardware merchants, and their stone warehouse remains.


  6. Hi JP, I can’t remember how I figured that connection out but somehow I figured out Charles Call came from Green Bay and Peter White’s sister Mary lived in Green Bay and was his mother, and I put the connections together. The people at the historical museum were surprised by that too. I had heard that the Shirases lived there later. Thanks again for all the information.

  7. Craig Bobby Says:

    I am an architectural historian in Cleveland, Ohio. This house was designed by a Cleveland architectural firm, Coburn & Barnum.


    • Hi Craig,
      Thank you for the information. I did not know that but it doesn’t at all surprise me given the Pickands family’s Cleveland connections. Do you know if Coburn & Barnum designed any other homes in Marquette? Many of the other prominent Marquette families had Cleveland connections, including the Mathers.
      Thanks for reading my blog.
      Tyler Tichelaar


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