This historical feature, originally printed in the Oct. 24, 1979 edition of The Tawas Herald, outlines the history of former county Clerk John A. Mark, who was elected to office in 1898. Mark served in the role, and in many other roles in Iosco County, for 18 years despite not having a full set of fingers on his right hand due to a logging accident. In an area where public servants were expected to have exemplary handwriting skills, in the days before typewriters and computers, Mark overcame this disability. He learned how to write well with his injured hand, and then learned how to write with his left hand. Read about Mark and the 1898 Iosco County Republican Convention in this feature.
TAWAS CITY – Before the days of nominating petitions and local primary elections, candidates for county offices were nominated at political conventions held by the two major parties. Although it could be argued that this system of selecting candidates often resulted in “power moves” by a few influential citizens, county conventions provided politicians with heated fights, much to the amusement of local editors and the general public.
The Iosco County Republican Convention held Oct. 4, 1898, was forever after known as the “Loud Convention,” members of that prominent AuSable family of lumbermen having the influence necessary to cause delegates from the northeastern section of the county to unite in support of a candidate favored by the Louds.
This story will later show, however, that uniting delegates behind a single candidate was not for the purpose of self interests or gain by one faction or area of the county as it resulted in the election of a person who was truly worthy of public trust.
AuSable City with its threeward system usually dominated such political conventions as it sent more delegates than township units. But, political differences between major lumbering factions at AuSable often meant that its population “hammer” was lost when delegates could not unite behind a single candidate.
By 1898, the former political influence wielded by a number of different firms had been funneled into one single company owned by the Loud family, the major employer of mill hands in the waning days of the white pine era. As the number of firms dwindled due to the scarcity of timber, the population and influence of AuSable on county politics also was eroded.
The Republican county convention of 1898 – held at the height of national excitement over the Spanish – American War was an all day affair, with delegates meeting at the county courthouse in the morning and afternoon for routine business and actual nominations being made after dinner.
Two candidates, John A. Mark and C. A. Jaharus, emerged victorious after what The Tawas Herald, owned by a Democrat, described as a “battle royal.” Jaharus, who previously had been a Democrat, was nominated as the Republican candidate for prosecuting attorney, defeating A. E. Sharpe and C. S. Pierce. Political affiliations were thrown to the wind as Sharpe then accepted the Democratic nomination for prosecuting attorney.
Peter E. Shien, who had been nominated by Republicans two years earlier during the “Pack Convention,” when employees of Pack-Woods Lumber Company united Oscoda and AuSable delegates on one candidate for sheriff, was renominated by acclamation. Robert E. Richards, too, was renominated without opposition for county treasurer. The nomination for county clerk proved to hold the most interest for the hats of five aspiring candidates were thrown into the political ring, with major support of the county centered on three candidates, Mark of AuSable, Frank F. Taylor and Thomas Galbraith of Tawas City. The other two candidates were William H. Warren of East Tawas and August Karus.
Mark, a long-time employee of the H. N. Loud Sons’ Lumber Company, was one of the most popular residents of AuSable and a member of the city council.
He had been an employee in the Loud sawmill and lost the fingers on his right hand when it came in contact with a circular saw. There was no such thing as disability insurance or workmen’s compensation in those days, but the paternalistic instinct of the Louds towards employees saw the transfer of Mark to the commercial steamship dock and later to the company office.
The loss of fingers on his “writing hand” proved to be no real obstacle to Mark, who learned to hold a pencil or pen with the stumps remaining on his right hand, enabling him to work on company books; through constant practice, he became ambidextrous and he could write equally well with either hand.
Because of his successful fight to overcome a handicap, fellow citizens of AuSable termed Mark “the noblest Roman of them all.” F. F . Taylor, his major competition for the nomination, had been a businessman in both Tawases and was equally popular among his fellow residents.
A total or 24 votes was needed to nominate a candidate at the convention and, on the first ballot, Mark had 17 votes, Taylor had 15, Galbraith garnered eight, Warren had five and Karus tallied one vote. Balloting continued well into the early hours of the next morning and it was not until the 42nd call by the chairman that
Mark received the required number of votes on an “informal” ballot. During recesses between voting, much political “horse trading” had taken place between delegates, which must have conjured much, discussion in the smoke-filled caucus rooms. Being a Democrat Editor Len J. Patterson of the Herald was not privy to the innermost workings of the convention process. His report indicated that Mark’s nomination was not assured by the “informal” ballot.
A motion was then made to proceed to a “formal” ballot, which resulted in Mark receiving 23, Taylor had 20 and there were two scattered votes. Two more ballots were then taken, each of which were “stuffed.”
The 46th ballot nominated Mark, he receiving 25 votes to 21 for Taylor, reported the Herald. Patterson was excluded from the Republican convention for good reason, he having been nominated a week earlier as the Democratic candidate for county clerk. Although lacking proper credentials to attend the Republican convention, his report on that convention coincides with a report in the Iosco County Gazette, which was of Republican persuasion.
The ensuing political battle locally may have been overshadowed by a short and sweet campaign ending on Nov. 8, 1898, with Republicans victorious throughout the state. Herald Editor Patterson called Hazen S. Pingree, Republican governor, a demagogue “and we predict they will see their error before two years roll by.” He also had a few choice words for Tenth District Congressman, “who will misrepresent the Tenth District for another two years.”
Major interest in the campaign was for county clerk, Mark winning over Patterson by 120 votes. The editor made no comment about his loss to Mark and the two men became long and fast friends. The race for county clerk found Patterson holding majorities in eight units and the two men were tied in one township, but Mark held substantial mar gins at AuSable and Oscoda to win easily.
Mark moved his large family to Tawas City that fall, and he served as the county clerk for 18 years, retiring in 1916, shortly after the editor retired to become Tawas City postmaster.
The new county clerk was as popular in Tawas City as he had been in his former home at AuSable. He later served in many offices of public trust, including that of Tawas City treasurer, as a member of the Iosco County Road Commission, a member of the poor commission and a member of the Tawas City Board of Education. He served many years as secretary of the Tawas City Masonic Lodge.
Mark’s lifelong hobby of horticulture and gardening proved to be the delight of his neighbors and friends, the flowers from his garden providing endless hours of enjoyment to residents and friends. He always provided a large bouquet of flowers from his garden to decorate the newspaper office.
A resident of Iosco County for 54 years, Mark died March 29, 1940, at the age of 83 years. The beautiful handwriting of this remarkable man contained in record books in the county clerk’s office bears witness to a person who overcame a serious physical handicap to forge a new role in life, when personal qualities and penmanship were a prerequisite to holding public office.