A Successful Porter and a Successful East Jordan
William Pitt Porter came to Leelanau County with his father in 1855, when he was just two years old. His father worked with Indians as a missionary and also worked in the Indian school that was established in the area. W.P. attended the Indian school his father worked at, and he was determined to attend college; however, his parents decided to move back to Pennsylvania, leaving him responsible to look after his three younger siblings. Although he never reached his goals of receiving higher education, W.P. Porter became a successful businessman and helped East Jordan become a successful town.
Soon after his parents moved back to Pennsylvania, Porter became interested in the abundant lumber opportunities the north offered, so he moved to East Jordan, where he became a partner of a sawmill with his uncle, Joseph Glenn. At the time of Porter’s arrival, the mill employed 12 men and had a capacity of 25,000 feet of lumber – after several years under Porter’s management, these numbers grew substantially. Later on, Glenn sold his interest in the mill to Porter. Porter then bought another mill in East Jordan, known as the Red Mill, and entered into a partnership with Ames & Frost in Chicago.These events all contributed to the growth of the little lumber town of East Jordan. William Porter was the President of the newly named East Jordan Lumber Company. The company grew to employ 500 people and become the largest employer in the region. During the lumber boom, the company took in over $1 million a year. Finally, in 1901, the East Jordan Lumber Company became the controlling company of the East Jordan & Southern Railroad, which covered 55 miles, and helped expand business. Below, on the left, is a picture of the railroad station in the early 1900’s. On the right is a picture of the building that still stands today.
Porter soon became the president of another newly formed industry in 1903. This was the Pine Lake Flooring Company. The business employed 75 men, creating even more jobs for East Jordan citizens and expanding the town. The flooring company proved to be very successful, having customers as far away as across the Atlantic Ocean. The finest maple in the world was right there in East Jordan, Michigan. While traveling back to his hometown of London, W.E. Malpass, co-founder of the East Jordan Iron Works and friend of Porter, secured a market for the maple floors produced by the flooring company. The maple floors were shipped to London until they ran out of local trees to make the floors with. When this happened, they used maples from the Upper Peninsula for the floors, but they did not meet the standards of the customers in London, so the deal was off.
Not only did Porter provide business opportunities to the town, but he contributed his time as village president, sat on the school board, and was president or director of the State Bank during his later life. As a member of the Presbyterian Church, he taught Sunday school and sang in the choir. He was a giving man: he created a scholarship at the East Jordan High School, financed the work of a missionary in Brazil, and supported a summer program with his church that brought famous ministers from across the country to East Jordan’s church. When he was older and began to lose his hearing, he had an acoustic system installed in his church so that he and others with the same problem could still attend and enjoy the service. Porter died in 1939, known as a successful businessman and a caring person. Porter really helped shape East Jordan into a successful town. He is given, as deserved, credit for a great portion of the success had by the town of East Jordan.