VIDEO: Winter at Chinnery Rollway

March 3, 2023

Chinnery Rollway

VIDEO: Winter at Chinnery Rollway

Around the County is a presentation of Preferred Credit Union,, located locally at 266 N. Jebavy Dr., Ludington.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: The following contains a little history about the Chinnery Rollway and the families who have been stewards of that now-historical landmark. This narrative doesn’t do justice to the rich history of those families and their impact on the heritage and development of Amber Township. Sometime in the future I plan on exploring that topic at greater depth. 

AMBER TOWNSHIP — Mason County’s first major industry was lumber. The Pere Marquette River served as a major conduit to transport logs from the forests west to the lumber yards on the shores of Pere Marquette Lake. Over the winter, lumberjacks would stack the lumber along rollways, on high banks of the river, in preparation for the spring drive down the river to the lake. 

Prominently still in existence is the Chinnery Rollway, located directly south of the intersection of Conrad and Gordon roads on property now owned by the Conrad family (and now farmed by the Conrads for six generations). The banks of the rollway were restored a few years ago, in part, through grants obtained by the Mason-Lake Conservation District. 

Eli and Mary Chinnery were the first to homestead the property that included the rollway. Eli Chinnery (1845-1914) was born in Otley Parish, Suffolk County, England on June 9, 1833, the son of James and Lucy Lambert. He immigrated to Canada in 1848 at the age of 14. In 1852, he married Mary Anne Gerrens Eplett (1837-1904). Mary was born in Devonshire, England. They moved to Mason County in the early 1860s and homesteaded the property in what would become Amber Township in 1867. 

According to the 1904 Mason County Plat Book, Eli and Mary Chinnery owned 40 acres of land on the northeast corner of what is now Conrad and Amber roads (most rural roads in Mason County did not receive official names until 1947), along with another 80 acres to the north, which would now be between Amber and Gordon roads. E. Chinnery & Co. owned the additional 40 acres to the east of the Chinnery’s property on the northwest corner of Conrad and Gordon roads. The company also owned 216 acres directly to the south which bordered Conrad Road to the north and the river to the south and southeast. 

To the west of the Chinnery property on the south side of modern-day Conrad Road, were homesteaders John (1821-1911) and Christina (1839-1911) Conrad, whose property extended from the Chinnery’s western boundary west to the intersection of modern Conrad and Stiles roads. South of the Conrad property was land owned by brothers William Pittard (1851-1932) and Samuel Pittard (1846-1931). Beatrice Pittard (1874-1962), daughter of Samuel and Maud Pittard, married George Conrad (1869-1948), son of John and Christina Conrad, joining those two families. 

The 1914 Mason County Plat Book shows the riverfront property owned by John Conrad, Jr.’s Rural Glen Farm. The Eli Chinnery estate continued to own the property at Conrad and Amber and E. Chinnery & Co. continued to own the property at Conrad and Gordon. Louis and Bert Chinnery (sons of Eli and Mary) owning the northern 80 acres.

Eli Chinnery died at the age of 81 on Oct. 7, 1914. Mary died at the age of 67 on Oct. 22, 1904. 

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