James Ludington

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James Ludington
James Ludington c 1880.jpg
Born (1827-04-18)April 18, 1827
Carmel, Putnam County, New York
Died April 1, 1891(1891-04-01) (aged 63)
Resting place Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Residence Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Nationality American
Occupation Businessman, entrepreneur
Employer Self-employed
Known for Developing Ludington, Michigan
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Never married
Parent(s) Lewis Ludington, father
James Ludington signature.svg

James Ludington (April 18, 1827 – April 1, 1891) was an American entrepreneur, businessman, lumber baron, and real estate developer.[1][2] The town of Ludington, Michigan, bears his name, however he never lived there.


James was born in Carmel, New York on April 18, 1827.[3] In 1843, the Ludington family moved from New York to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when James was sixteen. James and his father, Lewis Ludington, founded Columbus, Wisconsin in 1845.[1][3] In 1849, Utah Territorial Governor Brigham Young wrote to Ludington, soliciting his help in the construction of a paper mill in the Salt Lake Valley. Ludington planned to travel west to superintend the mill's construction, but the deal was never completed.[4]

On October 11, 1854, Ludington loaned funds to George W. Ford for a sawmill operation in what was then known as the village of Pere Marquette in the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Ford defaulted on the loan and became insolvent in 1859. Ludington then took over the operations of this sawmill.[1][2][5] The post office for the village was established in 1864 in Ludington's original store at this sawmill.[2][5] A boarding house called the Filer House was constructed in 1866 to house the employees of Ludington's sawmill.[1][2]

In 1854, Ludington filed for the purchase of unsold school land, from the state of Wisconsin, that was believed to contain some 70,000 acres (28,000 hectares). The sale was challenged and ultimately cancelled when the parcel was identified as containing over 200,000 acres (81,000 hectares). The purchase was re-filed after a further effort to specify which parcels were included. In 1855, the arrangements behind Ludington's purchase were investigated, by James Halpin and Dr. Hunt, as to the amount of funds and whether they were properly appropriated. In 1856, Ludington was implicated in a bribery and fraud scheme surrounding the sale. He was cleared of wrongdoing after a lengthy legislative investigation and public testimony.[6][7]

Ludington platted the village of Pere Marquette in 1867. In the same year, Ludington built a large commercial building, called The Big Store, that sold a variety of goods. In 1867, Ludington founded the first newspaper in the village, the Mason County Record.[1][2][5]

The sawmill that Ludington acquired had developed into an independent entity, called the Pere Marquette Lumber Company, which operated and managed the sawmill and The Big Store. On July 24, 1869, Ludington sold his interests to the company for half a million dollars—making him a very wealthy person. Ludington used a portion of this money to develop the village. On March 22, 1873, the city of Ludington was chartered.[1][2][8] The streets of Ludington Avenue and James Street are named after him. The streets Lewis, William, Robert, Charles, Harrison, Emily, Lavina, and Delia are all named after his family members.[2]

Ludington lived in the state of New York as a boy and in the state of Wisconsin as an adult.[1][3] He never lived in Ludington, Michigan—the town that bears his name.[9][10] He died on April 1, 1891, in his residence at Plankinton House Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[8]


At one time or another, Ludington held the following positions:[8]


Lewis Ludington, father to James

James was the sixth child of Lewis Ludington.[3] Lewis was the son of Colonel Henry Ludington,[11] and a descendant of William Ludington, who had settled in Charleston.[12] Henry married his cousin Abigail. Their children were Sybil (b. April 5, 1761); Rebecca (b. January 24, 1763); Mary (b. July 31, 1765); Archibald (b. July 5, 1767; Henry (b. March 28, 1769); Derick (b. February 17, 1771); Tertullus (b. April 19, 1773); Abigail (b. February 26, 1776); Anne (b. March 14, 1778); Frederick (b. June 10, 1782}; Sophia (b. May 16, 1784); Lewis (b. June 25, 1786).[13] These Ludingtons are descended from Robert Ludington, a sixteenth century Levantine trade merchant from Worcester, England.[14]

William Luddington (b. 1608), immigrated from England in 1632 and settled in Massachusetts with his wife Ellen (b. 1617). Records show they lived in Charleston, a neighborhood of Boston, in the 1640s.[15] Harrison Ludington, James' cousin and twelfth governor of Wisconsin (1876-78), was born in Kent, New York, July 31, 1812. He was the son of Frederick and Susannah (née Griifeth) Ludington and a grandson of Henry Ludington. Harrison went to public schools and after being employed as a clerk for a short time in his home town, went to Milwaukee in 1838, and engaged in general merchandising there. Four years later he became associated with his brothers, Nelson and James, that were already in the city.[12]

Ron Ludington, the self-appointed family genealogist, wrote a 2009 Ludington Daily News article explaining that there was a Ludington family get-together of some 50 to 70 members every 3 years in Ludington, Michigan.[16] The Ludington name has various spellings of which some others are Luddington, Ludinton, and Ludenton. In the 2009 newspaper article, Ron says that members of the English branch of Luddingtons spell the name with two d's. The name was apparently changed to Ludington when Henry Ludington of the American Revolution married his first cousin and had it changed to avoid confusion in the family. He points out that the family members come from all parts of the United States and Canada, as well as from England, for the family reunion. Their relationship to each other has been confirmed by DNA testing. There is a complete genealogical history of the Ludingtons in a memoir of Henry Ludington, which is available on Google Books. It was originally printed by his grandchildren L.E. Ludington and C.H. Ludington in 1907.[17]

A past prominent family member is Sybil Ludington, an American Revolutionary War heroine that rode her horse at night to alert the American forces of an eminent attack by the British.[18] Sybil was the aunt of James Ludington. Her forty-mile ride was much like that of Paul Revere. Poet Berton Braley wrote a poem about the event.[19]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Mason County 1980, p. 303
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Mason County 1980, p. 11
  3. ^ a b c d Johnson 1907, p. 227
  4. ^ Ludington to Young, 1850 Jan 7, Feb 22, Mar 20. Brigham Young Papers. Church History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah
  5. ^ a b c Cabot 2005, p. 14
  6. ^ Joint Committee 1856, pp. 26–63
  7. ^ Tuttle 1875, pp. 293–296
  8. ^ a b c Michigan Sesquicentennial (April 18, 1987). "Focus on our history". The Ludinton Daily News. Retrieved April 1, 2017 – via Google News. 
  9. ^ Mason County 1980, p. 303
  10. ^ Ludington, Ron (Feb 8, 2009). "Are you a Ludington or Luddington by birth or marriage?". Ludington - Luddington. Archived from the original on March 22, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  11. ^ Johnson 1907, p. 224
  12. ^ a b White 1904, p. 78.
  13. ^ Johnson 1907, p. 217
  14. ^ Johnson 1907, p. 3
  15. ^ Johnson 1907, p. 8
  16. ^ Ludington, Ron (August 15, 2009). "Ludington Family Reunion Again". Ludington Daily News. p. Front page. 
  17. ^ Johnson 1907, pp. vi–ix
  18. ^ Hotchkiss 1894, p. 291
  19. ^ Stevens, Maryanne (April 23, 1975). "Ludington History Lives in Oar Park". News Journal. Chicago, Illinois – via Newspapers.com open access publication – free to read.