Resseguie School served Custer Township for over 100 years.

January 16, 2020

Resseguie School served Custer Township for over 100 years.

History: The consolidation of Mason County’s school districts.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Editor’s Note: MC History Spotlight is a regular history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care.

Prologue: This is a continuation of MCP’s series on the histories of Mason County’s public schools.

Custer Township School District No. 2, Resseguie.

Custer Township was home to a public funded Native American school. In the mid-1800s, the federal government designated a reservation in the area now known as Custer and Eden townships in Mason County and Crystal and Elbridge townships in Oceana County. The approximately 1,700 Indians were relocated from the Grand River watershed area as the City of Grand Rapids, and other settlements west became populated by non-native settlers. Between 1857 and 1872, the U.S. government made payments to the Indians ranging from $13 to $75 annually.

A view of the building in 2020.

The Indians were brought to the area via boat from Grand Haven to Pentwater (ironically, one of the boats, a steamer, was called “The Ottawa”). A school was established in a log building in 1855, which was replaced by a frame building in 1859 at the modern intersection of Custer and Wilson roads.

The school board consisted of three men, all Native Americans: “Good John” was moderator (See MCP story on Good John), John Smith, director, Joseph Donegan, assessor.

Good John was actually a native to the Pere Marquette River basin. He was born in an Ottawa village located on modern Buttersville Peninsula and made his way east as homesteaders settled in the western side of the county. John Smith, who was a graduate of Victoria College in Ontario, was also the school’s teacher.

By an act of Congress, whites were allowed to settle in the reservation areas beginning in 1874. Many of the Indians homesteaded their lands and eventually sold them (many of them are now buried in Custer Riverside Cemetery). Dora Hull has the distinction of being the first non-native teacher.

By 1877 the school was no longer operated by natives. Its name became Custer Township School District No. 2, Resseguie.

The name of the school was named after the Resseguie family, who lived at the intersection of Wilson and Custer roads, known as Canada Corners because of the Canadian immigrants who lived in the area. Timothy Resseguie (1834-1903) arrived in Mason County with his family in 1878. He was born in Ontario, Canada in 1834 and married Lois Eastman in 1856. The Resseguies emigrated from Ontario to Shiawasee County in Michigan in 1866. They eventually settled in Mason County’s Custer Township with their two sons, Charles and William and started a farm. In addition to their two sons, they also took care of Bertha McKenzie, an orphaned girl.

The descendants of Timothy and Lois eventually left Mason County, settling in Grand Rapids and on the east side of the state. According to the 1980 Mason County history book, published by the Mason County Historical Society, some of the family members are buried at Custer Riverside Cemetery. They are not related to the Resseguie family from Ludington, of which Resseguie Street is named after.

Other early non-native families to send children to the school included Bryant, Westle, and Allison. The Allison family continues to reside at Canada Corners.

In 1911, the wood building was replaced by a cement block structure on the northeast corner of Custer and Wilson roads. That structure, though only a shell, still stands.

In 1956, the school became part of Mason County Eastern school district and was used to house 36 kindergarten through fifth grade students on the south portion of the district, taught by Agnes Buffenbarger (kindergarten through fifth grades for the northern portion of the district were taught in Fountain). At that time, it was likely the oldest operating one-room schools in the county. The building closed for good when the new elementary in Custer village was completed in 1958.

In 1966, the district formally consolidated with Eastern.

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