Among the pioneer lumbermen who made a name and won lasting fame for the lumber industry of Michigan, Lewis Penoyer stands out prominently and will long be remembered. He was for many years a resident of Saginaw county, locating there when a young man of but twenty years of age and closing a well rounded and industrious career February 1, 1897, at the age of sixty-nine years. He was one of the foremost of the well known pioneers who hewed a fortune from the "forest primeval" of pines in the Saginaw lumbering district.
Lewis Penoyer was born at Manlius, New York, March 3, 1828, being the son of David Penoyer, one of the pioneers of Michigan. In 1834, at a time when the western country, and particularly Michigan, was attracting the attention of the people of the eastern states, Mr. Penoyer moved his family to Michigan and located on a farm on Flint river near Flushing, Genesee county. When Lewis was sixteen years old his father died and life took on a serious phase as far as he was personally concerned. He worked on a farm and for one year was employed by the late Governor Bingham.
When he was twenty years old he went to Saginaw, where he found employment in the Emerson saw mill and on the river. He was an observing man, and turned every experience to good account. After some years' employment, by saving his earnings and laboring with untiring industry, he succeeded in accumulating a little money. His great ability and capacity were so deeply impressed upon the minds of those with whom he came in contact, that in the early '50's he was given charge of the lumbering business of Frost & Bradley, at St. Charles, Saginaw county, a small hamlet on Bad river. In 1862 he moved his family to St. Charles, at which point he was engaged for many years in the manufacture of lumber.
Mr. Penoyer was in several respects in advance of the times in which he lived. He was the first lumberman to foresee the advantages of handling and distributing lumber by rail, although for years the railroad companies doing business in the Saginaw valley could not be made to see the advantages to be gained in freighting lumber by fixing rates on a basis that would enable it to be handled in that way. Mr. Penoyer, however, sold a good deal of his lumber in markets that were more conveniently reached by the railroads than by lake or by lake and rail, and this fact, together with the faculty which he had by nature and by means of which he was able to see farther into the future than the majority of men, may have been responsible for his advocating rail shipments. His mill manufactured 7,000,000 to 12,000,000 feet annually and its capacity was increased as the developments of the industry progressed. Subsequent to his residence in St. Charles, he moved to Saginaw.
About 1880 a number of Saginaw lumbermen invested largely in timber land in Louisiana, in Calcasieu parish, forming the Bradley-Ramsay Lumber Company and erecting a large lumber manufacturing plant at Lake Charles. The active management of the property was intrusted to young men, but back of them were such sturdy and sagacious businessmen of long experience and recognized financial ability as Lewis Penoyer and Nathan B. Bradley. Mr. Penoyer was president of this company and a heavy stockholder.
The personal character of Lewis Penoyer was that of a man who occupied the highest plane of integrity and honor. He was honest to a degree vastly beyond that ordinary commercial honesty that every businessman must have, and during the sixty- nine years of his active and useful life he enjoyed the dignity and importance that moral worth always brings. In disposition he was a quiet man. However, the violent is not necessarily the strong, and restraint is but the tacit acknowledgment of reserve power. He possessed a fund of humor that delighted his friends. He kept good horses, for which he had a marked fondness. He found great enjoyment in witnessing tests of equine speed and was an interested though unassuming spectator at the annual races in Saginaw. His social side was one of the pleasantest, although never obtrusive. Those who knew him loved him for his many virtues and recognized the value of his friendship and felt the purity of his character. Few citizens in the Saginaw valley possessed a larger circle of friends and none was more thoroughly respected or more sincerely mourned when gone.
In 1857 Mr. Penoyer was united in marriage to Miss Emeline Wisner, and was the father of two sons, Hiram S. and Chauncey W., and two daughters, Mrs. W. E. Ramsay and Mrs. S. S. Roby. The domestic life of Mr. Penoyer was a peaceful and happy one. He was ever a most affectionate husband and father and his home circle was one from which emanated genuine and charming hospitality to all who were fortunate enough to come within its sphere.
As a man of business and of family, as a neighbor and as a useful citizen, Lewis Penoyer adorned these respective relations, and his life of industry, strict integrity and usefulness is one to which those who came after him can point with just pride. When he laid down the burdens of living and, wrapping the mantle of an honorable career around him, passed to eternal sleep, it was well with him. He had so lived that, while his loss was regarded by hundreds of his fellow citizensas a personal bereavement, they realized the fullness and beauty of his life. He had earned the repose which came to him at last.