Philetus S. Church House

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Philetus S. Church House
Philetus S. Church House is located in Michigan
Philetus S. Church House
Location North Shore Rd., Sugar Island, Michigan
Coordinates 46°31′16″N 84°7′21″W / 46.52111°N 84.12250°W / 46.52111; -84.12250Coordinates: 46°31′16″N 84°7′21″W / 46.52111°N 84.12250°W / 46.52111; -84.12250
Area 2 acres (0.81 ha)
Built 1862
Built by J. Wells Church
Architectural style Greek Revival
NRHP Reference # 82000495[1]
Added to NRHP November 24, 1982

The Philetus S. Church House is a private house located on North Shore Road, 1 mile (1.6 km) southeast of Payment Settlement on Sugar Island, Michigan. The building is the last structure from Church's Landing, a mid-19th century trading post and steamboat stop. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.[1]

Philetus Swift Church[edit]

Philetus Swift Church was born in 1812 in Riga, New York, the son of Jesse and Margery Munsen Church.[2] He was named for Philetus Swift, whom his father had faought under in the War of 1812.[2] He attended local schools and spent some time in an academy in Palmyra, New York. In 1831, Church hired on as a store clerk in Byron, New York, and in 1835 moved to Oakfield, New York to start his own business. In 1837, he married Elizabeth Duncan Wells, a granddaughter of Samuel Taggart.[2] The couple had three sons, one of whome died in infancy.[2] The other two were Jesse Wells Church and Philetus Church Jr.[3]

Church remained in Oakfield and the nearby Caryville until 1841; during this time he over-extended himself in supporting the founding of a local school and went bankrupt.[2] In 1841 he moved to Detroit and began clerking at a store there. In 1845, Church travelled north intending to search for copper, but instead became engaged in business in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.[2][4]

History of Church's Landing[edit]

In 1846, Philetus and Elizabeth Church and their sons Jesse Wells and Philetus Jr. moved to Sugar Island and founded the settlement of Church's Landing at this site.[3] There they built a trading post and house[5] and began trading with the Indians living there.[2] As his business increased, Church increased the size of his facilities.[2] Church's landing eventually contained two docks, a sawmill, drydock, and a small shipyard.[6]

Church's Landing was a natural stopping point for ships, so Church began supplying passing steamships with wood for their boilers.[2] He also dealt in furs, maple syrup, vegetables, ice, milk, and soap.[6] Church erected a sawill and shingle-mill,[2] and sold shingles, fence posts, pilings, and telegraph poles in addition to steamboat wood.[6] The family also began a shipbuilding business in about 1853.[4] The businesses at Church's Landing eventually employed up to 35 people, and by 1861 was doing $17,000 to $27,000 worth of business annually.[6] Additional settlers joined Church to live at the location.[6]

In 1850, Juliette Augusta Magill Kinzie of Chicago was on a pleasure cruise and stopped at Church's Landing to take on wood.[2] The Churches provided her with some refreshments, including raspberry jam; Kinzie immediately took a liking to it and purchased some.[2] Back in Chicago, she used it in entertaining friends, leading to a demand for Church's raspberry jam.[2] The next year, Church began making raspberry jam for market, a business that by 1878 had increased such that he was manufacturing six to twelve tons of jam yearly, up to the level that the Sugar Island crop could support.[2] A contemporaneous account also notes that the Church family was "noted for the making of raspberry jam, which is sold in large quantities, and shipped to Eastern and Southern markets."[5]

In 1862, Jesse Wells Church constructed a house for his father, mother, and brother, using materials from the family sawmill.[3] In addition to Juliette Kinzie, many other celebrities stopped by Church's Landing while their ships were taking on wood, and while there visited the Churches.[2] These include Horace Greeley, Charles Sumner, John McLean, and Mary Todd Lincoln.[2]

In 1868, Jesse Wells Church, then a medical doctor, moved to Traverse City, Michigan and then to Harbor Island (near Drummond Island) with his wife and children.[7] There he continued the family shipbuilding business, building craft until at least 1910.[7] Elizabeth Church died in 1876,[2] and Philetus Church Sr. decided to retired in that same year.[3] Philetus Church died on July 22, 1883.[6] With the loss of the trading post, Church's Landing faded as a settlement.[3] This house is the only structure left marking its location.[3]

Philetus S. Church house description[edit]

The Philetus S. Church house is a Greek Revival structure, one of the few in Chippewa County.[3]


  1. ^ a b Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q F. A. Barnard (1878), American biographical history of eminent and self-made men: Michigan volume, Parts 7-9, Western biographical publishing co., pp. 98–100 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Church, Philetus S., House". Michigan State Housing Development Authority: Historic Sites Online. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Jesse Wells Church Collection - GLMS 10". Bowling Green State University. Retrieved April 27, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b John Disturnell, ed. (1863), The Great Lakes, or inland seas of America: embracing a full description of lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario, C. Scribner, p. 94 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Joseph Bayliss; Estelle McLeod Bayliss (1955), River of destiny: the Saint Marys, Wayne Univ. Press, pp. 164–165 
  7. ^ a b Alvah Littlefield Sawyer (1911), A history of the northern peninsula of Michigan and its people: its mining, lumber and agricultural industries, The Lewis Publishing Company, pp. 1156–1158