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[ No. 25. ]

COMMUNICATION frem the Executive in relation to Depredations

upon State Lands.

January 31, 1857.

To the Legislature:

I have received a communication from the Commissioner of the State Land Office, which is herewith transmitted, in relation to extensive depredations upon the State lands, to which I have thought proper to call your special attention.

The trespasses are deliberately and systematically perpetrated, chiefly upon lands remote from settlement, and by a class of men who have no permanent residence in the State.

On this account it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, under the existing laws to detect and punish them.

I recommend, therefore, the passage of some more effective law to enable the proper authorities to bring to retributive justice these marauders upon the public lands.


STATE LAND OFFICE, Lansing, January 28, 1857. (


Governor of the State of Michigan:

SIR:-Learning that trespasses upon the State lands in the Upper Peninsula had for some time past been committed, to a large extent, as soon as it came to my knowledge, by the advice and recommendation of the Attorney General, I appointed a competent special agent to make a thorough examination of these lands, furnishing him with plats for the same, for the purpose, if possible, of bringing the guilty depredators to justice, and also of making a detailed report of his discoveries and his doings to this Department, that I might, should the information thus obtained seem to call for it, report the same to your Excellency, with a view, should the interests of the State in your opinion demand it, of securing if possible the passage of some more stringent law than is now upon our statute book, by which all such depredators upon our State lands might with greater facility be brought to a more summary and adequate punishment.

The agent with whom I had entrusted this business has accordingly this day reported to me that he has for some time past, with all the aid furnished him by the present law, faithfully attempted, but in vain, to accomplish the objects of his mission. The substance of his report is, that extensive depredations have for some time past been committed and are still being committed upon the valuable pine lands there belonging to the State, mostly in the counties of Delta, Marquette and Schoolcraft, on the Esconoba, Ford and Menomonee rivers, by large numbers of irresponsible men, employed by large non-resident lumber dealers and owners of saw-mills erected near the mouths of these rivers, first securing tracts of lands in the immediate vicinity of these mills, for the purpose of more effectually keeping all other timber thieves off from the State lands on these rivers, that they might themselves thus unmolested enjoy the exclusive monopoly of wholesale timber stealing from these valuable State lands.

My agent reports that while the numerous active depredators upon these lands bid defiance to law, their still more guilty employers, when danger threatens them, readily make their escape into Wisconsin or Illinois, the place of their residence.

The entire impracticability, as reported to me from a reliable source, of bringing such depredators to justice, and of inflicting upon them anything like adequate punishment under the present trespass law, induces me to make this special communication to your Excellency for your consideration.

My agent reports, also, that from the best information he could obtain, pine logs will be cut on the State lands there this winter, ready to be floated down the rivers to those mills at their mouths, in the Spring, to the amount, when sawed into lumber, of $100,000. From all past experience of this Department, its endeavors under the present trespass law, whether by a traveling or local agency, to protect the interests of the State against trespassers upon the State lands, has resulted in more or less loss to the State, either from the payment of agents or the loss of stolen timber that could not be recovered, nor its value from irresponsible trespassers. I would respectfully submit to your Excellency, whether the burden of this Department is not too great, under the present trespass law, that it should be held responsible to carefully guard from depredations all the timber upon all of our extensive tracts of State lands, both in the Upper and Lower Peninsula, from stealthy and combined depredators, and to do this without ever incurring a balance of expense against the State.

I have conferred with a number of the members of the present Legislature, who are well acquainted with the extensive depredations which have in past years been committed, and which are still continued upon the State Lands in the Upper Peninsula, and they more than confirm all the statements just reported to me by the special agent from this department, and give as their opinion that an effectual stop can never be put to these depredations there, short of a most stringent penal law against trespassers upon the State lands, with ample provisions for its prompt and energetic execution. They fully agree that if stealing valuable timber from the State lands was made a State Prison offence for a term of years, the same as for stealing the same amount of any other property, wealthy non-resident wholesale timber thieves, residing in some of our neighboring States, who are now employing their hundreds of men to steal the most valuable pine timber from our lands, would soon be compelled either to purchase these lands from the State

At present these outlaws find it cheaper to steal timber, than to purchase the State lands upon which it grows. Should your Excellency deem this matter of sufficient importance to make it a subject of a special message to the Legislature now in session, the Attorney General has suggested some important amendments of our Trespass laws, which I doubt not the wisdom of the Legislature would promptly adopt, to take effect immediately, that efficient proceedings might be had without delay, to secure the immense quantity of pine logs reported to be in readiness to be conveyed beyond our reach as soon as the rivers open in the spring. The names of the honorable members of the Legislature alluded to, and also that of the special agent, for prudential considerations on their part, I am not here at liberty to publish, but they have all signified their readiness to discharge their duty to the State, by furnishing the proper committee of the Legislature such information as may be in their possession.

All of which I have the honor respectfully to submit.

Your obd't serv't,


Commissioner of the State Land Office.

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