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:
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.
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