The first white settlers in Oceana County came during the early 1840s and were lumbermen, among them Charles Mears. Mears (1814–1896) built lumber mills along the county's Lake Michigan shoreline, platted towns, began commercial enterprises, and established farms to supply the workers at his mills. During the 1880s Mears was also instrumental in establishing a brickyard in Claybanks Township, where large deposits of yellow clay were found. In 1884 F. O. Gardner purchased the operation and renamed it the Pentwater Brick Company. Many local buildings were built with this yellowish-white brick. With the end of lumbering, the economy of the county fell sharply. An agricultural boom begun prior to World War I was cut short by the postwar agricultural depression. Since then, fruit farming and tourism have become the bulwarks of the county's economy.
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