This article presents the life of Henry Bemish, who significantly impacted Richland Township and Hemlock City after settling there in 1878 and operating its sole hotel. Born in 1830 in Rochester, New York, Bemish’s life journey from New York to Michigan embodies the pioneering spirit of the era. The narrative extends to his family’s involvement in the community, particularly through commercial hunting, as highlighted in excerpts from “Recollections of My Fifty Years Hunting And Fishing.” This biography not only chronicles Bemish’s personal and business achievements but also illustrates the vibrant hunting culture of the time and its contribution to the local economy.
by Lorenz H. Loesel
“Henry Bemish was born at Rochester, New York, in 1830; he is a son of Thomas and Elizabeth Bemish, natives of Ireland who came to Rochester about 1819 and went into the grocery business. His mother died here in 1834, and his father came to Michigan in 1838 and settled where East Saginaw now stands. The subject of this sketch came to Michigan in 1838 and settled at Saginaw with his father. In 1855, he settled in Thomastown, and there followed farming and lumbering, being thirteen years with one firm. He came to Richland in 1878 and bought the hotel which he now occupies. He was married in Saginaw City, November 27, 1853, to Delia Irish, a native of Oakland County. They had five children in all, four of whom are living: Norman T., who married Nellie Lewis, and resides at Hemlock; William F., Henry, Edward, and Edwin. While in Thomastown, he was commissioner and constable for three years. Mr. Bemish is an old settler and a prominent man keeping the only hotel in Hemlock City, situated on the business street, and forms a prominent feature of the city.” This biography contains some important items which are of interest. The above-named Miss Nellie Lewis was one of the first teachers in the Hemlock School. The son of Henry Bemish, Edwin, operated an eating and boarding establishment at the corner where the present Standard Gas Station is located. Later, this building was bought by the late John Rick who had it rebuilt into a home. This house is still occupied and is located north of the Hohman Garage.
According to the late Mr. Earl, I learned that this Edward Bemish would join the Pettit brothers, and these three men were classed as commercial hunters. They would shoot quail and partridge and sell them at the Newrick Store. Mr. Earl said that these birds were packed in ice and then shipped via train to the larger cities in the State. This shipment is substantiated by the following letter which is taken from Recollections of My Fifty Years Hunting And Fishing: “Dear Mr. Mershon: In looking over some of my old records and refreshing my memory, I can give you some information regarding the market hunters of the village of Hemlock, during the seasons when partridge were most plentiful.
“There were five of us – Edward and Hank Bemish, George Wilkins, my brother Rufus Petit, and myself. L. Thomas and Bro., storekeepers of Hemlock, bought all the birds the five of us killed for at least two or three seasons. One season in particular I remember Thomas Brothers shipped over 4,000 birds, mostly killed by us five hunters.
“The season of 1891, my brother and myself started out on the morning of September 1st, that being the first day of the open season. We made our favorite trip that we used to call ‘going around the world,’ being from Hemlock to Merrill, Merrill to Fremont, Fremont to Hemlock, this being a trip of twenty miles by section line. That day I killed forty birds, all partridge, and I carried them all in my hunting coat, this coat made to order with double game pockets clear around. I started out with seventy-five shells and a big lunch – some load to start with. That day I should think we put up about two thousand birds. We never followed them as we could find plenty on our regular course.
“The loungers at the store where we dumped our birds would make bets as to who would kill the most birds and if any one of the five of us killed less than twenty-five, he would not show up at the store that night but sneak them in the next morning … Most sincerely, C. E. Pettit”.
This quoted letter gives us an excellent picture of the commercial hunters and their activities in and around our community. In addition, we can see that Richland Township and its neighboring townships afforded excellent hunting grounds and, according to other accounts, teemed with grouse, quail, partridge, wild turkey, woodcock, passenger pigeons, and much other game.
- History of Saginaw County, Michigan, 1881,
- Recollections of My Fifty Years Hunting and Fishing, William B. Mershon.