When Ezra Rust was five years old, his family moved from Wells, Vermont, to Newport (now Marine City), Michigan, where his father was a farmer. He attended school when he could and at age thirteen, started to work for his older brother, Amasa, who owned a saw mill.
While working at the mill, he spent the time "jacking logs", which consisted of raising the logs by steam power from the river boom and sending them to the sawing table in the mill.
In 1849, he left the mill and began a six year career on various steamboats. He worked as second engineer and worked his way up to chief engineer. The ship, Pacific, went from Chicago, Milwaukee and New Buffalo, Michigan. The ship connectedwith the Michigan Central Railroad which was just completed, crossing the state to Detroit. At the time, Chicago was a town of 20,000 and Milwaukee had one thousand more!
Ezra continued as an engineer and became chief engineer on the E. K. Collins, which ran between
He started out "jacking logs" but rose to become a very successfull businessman.
Cleveland and Sault Sainte Marie. In October of 1854, the steamer caught fire at the mouth of the Detroit River, ending Ezras steamboat days.
He returned to Newport and went to work running a sawmill for his brothers. His pay was $1.50 per thousand feet. For three years, he continued at the mill until the stock was depleted and his health began to fail. In hopes of regaining his heath, Ezra went to Cuba where he was the an engineer at a large sugar plantation.
In the years he worked on the steamboats, he frequently sent home money for his brothers to invest in timber land. The Rust brothers bought property along the Tittabawassee, Grand and Muskegon Rivers, which became the foundation of their fortunes. Since the trees along the Saint Clair River were gone, the brothers began lumbering on the Pine River in Gratiot County. The Pine is a tributary of the Tittabawassee River. There they operated a sawmill at Salina. Ezra joined them there in 1859 and formed a partnership with James Hay which continued until Mr. Hays death in 1881. This company was very successful and when the salt mining was started in the Saginaw Valley, the men expanded with a salt works in 1862.
By 1865, Ezra had a large and profitable sawmill at Zilwaukee. In addition, there was a successful salt works. Soon Ezra formed partnerships to buy timber lands in Michigan and other nearby states, as well as the Pacific coast. The lands in Minnesota were in the Mesaba iron ore range, which made them doubly valuable.
Ezra married Emma Mather in 1856. The Rusts had two daughters, both of whom died in infancy. After Mrs. Rusts death in 1913, Ezra adopted a daughter, Maxine and the next year married Estelle Strutz from Ann Arbor.
Ezra was a prominent citizen of Saginaw and gave freely of his time to civic organizations. In addition, the most well known gift to the city, Rust Park, continues to be a valuable part of the main part of town.
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Photo courtesy of Michigan Historical Center Museum.