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History of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) online

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for a period of eight years. Perhaps no one thing better indicates the
standing of Homer, village and township, in the county than tins list
of men chosen from her people to serve the county and state in re-
sponsible positions.

Homer B.\nks

The first bank of Homer, which also bears the distinction of being the
first bank of its kind in the state of Michigan, was known as the Farmer's
Bank of Homer, incorporated August 19, 1837. Its president was Milton
Barney, and cashier Asahel Finch, Jr., with ]\Iilton Barney. Hiram
Smith, N. D. Skeels, Henry Cook, Arza Lewis, Leonard Stowe, Walter
Wright, and John Burt as directors. It was what was known in those
days as a "Wild Cat" bank, pure and simple, but did a flourishing busi-
ness during its three short years of life. Mr. Andrew Dorsey, an old
time resident of Homer, has in his possession several pieces of the "cur-
rency" floated by the institution during the time it did business. The
bank first commenced operations in the rear of Milton Barney's store,
but later erected a brick building on the site now occupied by the Calhoun
State Bank.

The next bank to be started in Homer, of which we have any record,
was that of Thomas Lyon, opened in March 1870 and known for many
years as the "Exchange Bank," later as Thomas Lyon & Co. In 1891,
Mr. Lyon organized and incorporated the First State Bank of Homer
with a capital stock of $25,000, later increased to $35,000. he being its
president. E. P. Allen, Earl J. Fellows, and W. I\I. Kellogg acting as



192 HISTORY OF CALIIOUX COUNTY

cashiers at different periods. In 1896 the First State Bank absorbed the
Farmer's State Bank, and in 1897 it was dissolved and succeeded by the
Homer Banking Co., with Thomas Lyon, Lottie L. Lyon and J. W.
Breakey as co-partners. This institution was later absorbed by the
Calhoun State Bank, Mr. Lyon having died in April, 1898. In speaking
of Mr. Lyon and his banking enterprises one speaks largely of both the
banking history and the progress of the town during the twenty-eight
years of his life there. Naturally a progressive, and optimistic as to the
future of his adopted home he threw himself into the task of building
up his own business and that of the town, and many of Homer's finest
buildings are the direct result of his handiwork and foresight.

In 1875, Albert V. Parks and Wells Pratt .started a private bank
known as Parks & Pratt and did a flourishing business for a number of
years, finally closing their doors in the summer of 1888.

The firm of Andrus & Webster opened a banking office in May, 1887.
the firm being composed of Albert Andrus and William J. Webster. In
1892 they incorporated as the Farmer's State Bank with .$15,000 capital,
Geo. W. Aldrich, president, Albert Andrus, vice-president, and W. J.
Webster, cashier, and were absorbed by the First State Bank in August,
1896. Again in December, 1896, the same parties started another private
bank under the firm name of Webster & Andrus, and conducted a very
successful business until March 1. 1911, when they sold out to the
Homer State Bank. The latter bank, capitalized at $20,000.00 with Fred
S. Cortright as president, Geo. D. Cleveland, vice-president, and Frank
J. Dibble, cashier, continued to do business at the same stand until ab-
sorbed by the Calhoun State Bank. July 29, 1912.

The latest and only liaiikiiifi' institution in Homer at the present time
was originally startetl ;is ;i priv;itc bank in the old Raby building at the
west end. Dr. E. M. Nix. a proniinciit physician, and vice-president of
the Boies State Savings Bank, of Hudson, Jliohigan, with his son-in-law.
Earl J. Fellows, opened up for business on ihireh 28, 1898, under the
firm name of Nix & Fellows, E. J. Fellows acting as manager. Dr. Nix
died in the fall of 1901. and Mr. Fellows organized and incorporated the
Calhoun State Bank in Februaiy. 1902. taking over the business of the
old firm. The bank was capitalized at $20,000 with E. J. Fellows, presi-
dent, William A. Lane, vice-president. Marcia J. Nix, ]Mabelle C. Fellows
and Rollo E. Goodrich as directors and stockholders. R. D. Gardner
acting as cashier. Both institutions have met with signal success and have
enjoyed to the fullest extent the confidence of the people of the com-
munity, and the Calhoun State Bank bears the distinction of having
absorbed both its original competitors. At the present time the capital
stock is $30,000 with surplus of $6,000 and resources of over $375,000.00.
Officers and directors are E. J. Fellows, president; John C. Snyder,
vice-president; R. D. Gardner, cashier; John Hoffman, R. E. Goodrich,
C. R. Church, and A. E. Hunter. Elbert L. Andrews is assistant cashier.

Lee Township

In the north tier of townships and lying between Clarence and Convis,
is located the township of Lee. Originally nearly one-half of the township



HISTORY OP CALHOUN COUNTY 193

was taken up by the "Tamarac Swamp," which ran through its centre.
Much of this swamp has been drained and is now under cultivation, the
drained part constituting some of the best land in the county. The town-
ship, aside from the swainp was originallj', heavily timbered with oak,
beach, maple, ash, whitewood and basswood. Much of it was tine saw
timber, but the difiii-ulty of transportation caused some of the best timber
iu the county to be cut and burned in log heaps that the land might be
cleared and cultivated.

There are several small streams in the to\^'nship. Of these. Big creek
takes its rise near the centre and flows northeast into Eaton county ;
Indian creek crosses the northwest corner. A southern branch of this
stream rises in School lake and Lake of the Woods, which together with
Purdy lake are situated in the western part of the township.

No railroad touches the township at any point. Geuei-ally speaking,
the public highways are in good condition and afford aveniies over which
the abundant products of the farms are transported to the markets.

The earliest comers into Lee township were Amos Hadden and
Nicholas Stanley. In the spring of 1835 they entered and occupied a part
of section 36 in the southeast part of the town. Two unusual tragedies
befell the Stanley family. One of these is perhaps the most pathetic
incident in the history of the eountv.

One evening in the fall of 1837, hearing the tinkling of a cow bell a
short distance from his home, Mr. Stanley sent his six year old son to
drive in the cows. In tlie gloom of the evening the cows came walking
leisurely up to the house but no child with them. The deepening shadows
already enveloped the woods. Repeated calls brought no reply from the
child and a hurried and frantic search by members of the household was
unrewarded. For three days all the settlers in that immediate section
searched the woods, covering an area of ten miles, but no trace of the lost
child was found. At last, but a half mile from the home he had left
buoyant with pride at the manly errand he was sent to do, the little
fellow was found in a sitting posture at the foot of a tree cold in death.
Alone in the forest he had perished with cold and hunger and fright.
The services attending his burial were the first of a religious nature held
in the township of Lee. The Rev. Mr. Hobart, of Marshall officiated. For
many years in all that region the cry of the children was hushed by the
recital of the story of the lost child.

In January. 1838, a second tragedy occurred in the Stanley home
when the father of the lost child was killed by the caving in of a" well.

In 1836, Abram Hadden, a brother of Amos, settled in the to^^^lship.
In 1839, Benjamin Thomas located in the north central part of the
to^^Tiship. B. S. Ward, D. P. Wood. Joseph Gardinier, Stephen Aldrich,
F. Garfield, John Weaver, T. S. Havens, Charles R. Thomas, Jesse Ackley
were among the early comers and helped to make possible the Lee town-
ship of today.

In 1836, a saw mill was built on Indian Creek by Sidney S. Aleott,
who had located much of sections 6 and 7. The mill was operated for
a number of years. Later it burned and was never rebuilt. It was tlie
only water power mill ever operated in the tOAvnship.

In 1844, the ''Dover Company" was formed by G. W. Pwycr and



194 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

others. This compauy purchased a large tract of timber in the vicinity
of what is now the village of Partello. The company began the erection
of a mill and some time after their failure to complete it the property
was bought by J. R. Partello, who put up a saw mill in place of the
one begun but which had fallen into decay. Within a year or two after
completion, the mill was destroyed by fire. A like fate awaited its suc-
cessor and no other was built. In 1856, a mill was erected at Lee
Centre by Messi-s. Fisher and Bean. It was operated by a Mr. Greenough
in the manufacture of lumber and stoves. This mill burned in 1862
and was rebuilt as a stove mill only.

Scarcely had pioneers of Lee got their own cabin homes under roof
before they began preparation for the education of their children. The
first school house in Lee township was built in 1839 on land o^^^led by
Amos Hadden and situated in the southeast corner of the township.
The fii-st school in the northern part of the township was opened in 1845.
Miss Sophia Stowell, who subsequently became the wife of Henry Crit-
tenden of Albion, and who for many years was one of the elect ladies of
that city, was the first teacher. With the increase of population and
wealth, the school advantages of the town have improved and the children
of the township, though there is no populous centre, do not have to go
away from home to get the rudiments of an education.

In 1845, a Sunday school was organized in a school house on section 9.
Two years later there was formed at Lee Centre a cla.ss of six members
which was the nucleus of the church which has ever since existed there,
and soon after a house of worship was built.

At Partello a well sustained church exists. At Rice Creek church
facilities are afforded to all in that section who wish to attend.

Lee township was organized in 1840 and the first annual town meeting
in the township was held at the home of F. Garfield, on the 6th day of
April of that year. Mr. Garfield was chosen chairman and Sidney S.
Alcott, clerk for the day. The following named officers were then duly
elected: Supervisor, John Weaver; Town Clerk, F. Garfield; Treas-
urer, Jesse Ackley ; Collector, Benjamin Thomas ; Assessors, F. Garfield,
Amos Hadden, Stephen Aldrich; Justices, F. Garfield, T. S. S. Holmes,
Amos Hadden, Charles R. Thomas; Overseers of Highways, Amos Had-
den, Charles Thomas, F. Garfield, Jesse Ackley, Oliver Thomas; School
Inspectors, Amos Hadden, Stephen Aldricli, Benjamin Thomas; Poor
Masters, John Ackley, William Garfield; Constables, John Clough, E.
Aldrich.

LeRoy Township

It is claimed by some that this township was called LeRoy at the
suggestion of David C. Fish, formerly of a town of that name in New
York. Another historical claim is that to Mr. and Mrs. David C. Fish
was born August 26, 1836, a son whom they called LeRoy, and was
thought to be the first child born in the township, and in recognition of
that event the proud mother suggested to Silas Kelsey, who had done
much to get the township set off and organized, that the name of her
first born son be the name given the township, which was accordingly
done. But when the name LeRoy was recorded and published and the



HISTORY OP CALHOUN COUNTY 195

reason for its selection given and the date of the birth of LeRoy Fish
given, along came the parents of Charles E. Baker, residents of the same
township, and claimed that their son was born two months and nine days
before baby Fish; and before either of these boys, the ancient chrono-
logists sav Esther A., daughter of Mr. and Mi-s. Martin Cole, was born,
May 1. 1836.

Whatever is the e.\aet truth as to name and the reason given for
choosing it, certain it is that the township called LeRoy was first
known only by the surveyors' description as town 3, south, range 4,
west, and that for several years it belonged to a confederation of which
Athens, Burlington and Newton were co-members, and that not until by
an act of the legislature of 1837-38 was it organized and named as above
stated.

There is said to be an unusual diversity of soil in this township. On
the west bordering on Kalamazoo county, there were beautiful burr oak
plains and again some heavily timbered lands. The soil in this section
was of the best. When the first settlers came, they found a large marsh
extending through the central part of .the township, running from the
south in a northwesterly direction. Much of the low ground having
been drained is now rated among the best land. This swamp or marsh
divided the town into two sections, so that almost from the beginning
it has been known as East and West LeRoy. There are but three
small lakes and no streams of an.y consequence in the township.

The first settler in the township was William Bishop, who located on
section 6 in the northwest corner. David C. Fish made a permanent set-
tlement on section 1, in 1836. In this same year came Heman Baker,
who located on section 7 ; Timothy Kelsey, Jonathan Sprague, wife, six
sons and two daughters, settled on section 2. In 1837 among others who
came were Dudley X. Bushnell, wife and two .sons, accompanied by Silas
Kelsey. John H. Bushnell, T. B. Bamum. John E. Mulholland, Isaac
Hiscock, Polydore Hudson, who had been living for some years in Battle
Creek, and Harlow Burdick all came into LeRoy some time during the
year 1837.

Silas Kelsey is said to have erected in 1837 the first frame house in
the town and in 1850 Chester Cole built the first brick house. The first
school in the town was taught by iliss Hannah Sprague, daughter of
Jonathan Sprague, in 1837, in district No. 1. The first saw mill was built
on Pine Creek, by Jeremiah Drake and John Coats, in 1837. Truman
S. Cole built a steam saw mill in 1847. This mill was destroyed by
fire in 1856 and was never rebuilt. In the last named year a second
steam saw mill was built by Andrew J. Quick at Quick's Corners. The
first postoffice in the township was established in 1851 and Truman S.
Cole was the first postmaster. Later an office was established in East
LeRoy. but since the establishment of the rural free delivery, there has
been no postoffice in the township. The first burying ground in West
LeRoy was laid out in 1840 on land donated by Silas Kelsey. The first
burying ground in East LpRoy was laid out in 1839-40 and was donated
by Joshua Robinson. What is said to have been the first death in the
township was a tragedy. In the spring of 1838 the clothes of Miss
Harriet Kelsey, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Kel.sey, accidently



196 HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY

caught fire and before assistance could be rendered she was fatally
burned, death resulting in a short time. The fatality cast a gloom
over the settlements all about.

The people who first settled in LeRoy township did not leave their
religion behind them when they came to Michigan. As early as March
14, 1837, a Presbyterian church was organized, the meeting for that pur-
pose being held in Climax. At a meeting held Januai-y 25, 1840, it
was voted unanimouslj' to change the name of the church from the First
Presbyterian Church of Climax to the First Presbyterian Church of
LeRoy. The ecclesiastical relation Mas changed from the Kalamazoo to
the Marshall Presbytery. In March, 1846, by mutual consent of the
official members, it was changed to the Congregational Church of LeRoy.
This was under the pastorate of the Rev. Asa Bushnell. Many of the
foremost citizens of the town have been enrolled as members of this
church, among them may be mentioned Jonathan Sprague, Heman Baker,
Silas Kelsey, William A. Sawyer, John H. Bushnell, Dudley N. Bush-
nell, F. E. Bush, H. P. Nichols and S. 0. Bush, and their influence for
good is still felt in the town.

Here as elsewhere in Calhoun county, and in Michigan generally, the
Methodists Avere early on the ground. A class was formed in 1837 and
regular sen-ices were held when there were not more than sixtj' white
people living in the township. In 1856 a circuit was created in LeRoy
and preaching was sustained at East, West and South LeRoy. Houses
of worship, which are a credit to the town and its people, have been
built at West LeRoy and East LeRoy. Among the people of LeRoy who
have been identified with the ilethodist Episcopal church may be men-
tioned Ammou Mills, Thomas Sprague, Lyman R. Hall, Benjamin F.
Morgan, R. Stanton, il. Canright and Joseph M. Fish in the east part of
the town in the west part ili's. Caroline McNary, Francis Clark,
Benjamin Griswold, Ammon Mills, Jr., Daniel Reasoner, Charles N.
Farmer, D. W. Lay, L. Cole and S. N. Hyde. Sabbath schools have al-
most from the beginning been maintained at each and all the churches
named. In the moral and religious character of its people, LeRoy has
always ranked among the foremost in the county.

In the days when to be called a "Black Abolitionist" was as hateful
an epithet as could be hurled at one, there were those in LeRoy township
who counted it an honor to be openly known as anti-slavery men. As
early as 1840, Caleb Smith, J. H. Bushnell and Silas Kelsey stood up
and" were counted, by their votes, as the avowed friends of the slaves
and the enemies of slavery. On the 4th of July, 1842, there was held
in a grove on the farm of Silas Kelsey, a gathering of people from all
over the county, and for many years was spoken of far and near as the
"big meeting," which was addressed by Dr. Bennett, an eloquent anti-
■ slavery orator. The sentiments proclaimed certainly gripped the com-
munity, for it will be an everlasting distinction for the township of
LeRoy that it was the first in the United States to give a majority in
favor" of the abolition of slavery. When the war, that was waged for
the preservation of the Union, but resulted also in the destruction of
slavery, broke out, LeRoj''s sons were true to their fathers and struggled



HISTORY OF CALHOUN COUNTY 197

on the battlefield for the triumph of the seutiments that iu (■hikllmod
they had first enunciated at the fireside.

JMabengo Township

JMarengo shares with ^Marshall the distinction of being the oldest
settled community in the county. On the 16th day of June, 1831, four
entries of land M'ere made in the township by the following persons, viz :
Seelej- Neal, Asahel Warner, Elijah Crane and A. Drestin. Colonel
John Ainsley and Erastus Kimball on the -Ith of July. Joseph Ames,
Thomas Chisholm, Alfred D. Wright, Elijah A. Bigelow, Nathan Pierce
and Francis Phillip, all in the year of 1831. Several in this list came
into local prominence. Nathan Pierce served in both the house and
senate of the Michigan legislature. Seeley Neal "was one of the com-
missioners appointed to locate and surve.y the Territorial road. Alfred
Killam and ^Melaucthon J. Bagg came iu May, 1832. Loren Maynard
came in 1833 and put up a commodious log house on Section 23, and for
nearly a dozen years kept tavern ; his place being noted for hospitality.
Maynard had a strong bend toward public life, serving at different times
as postmaster, supervisor, sheriff and state senator. Dr. R. B. Porter,
a graduate of Castleton College, Vermont, who came into the township
in 1836, was the pioneer physician. Dr. Porter had an extensive prac-
tice. His professional services were called for not only in Marengo, but
in Sheridan, Eckford, Clarence and Albion. He was the father of
William H. Porter, the present probate judge of the county. Judge
Porter was the first uative ilareugoite to graduate from college.

Several of the men above named were iu consultation, about the time
the township was organized, as to what name should be given. The choice
seemed to lay between ilarengo and St. Cloud, with final selection of the
former name. Originally the township embraced what now constitutes
the townships of ilarengo, Sheridan, Clarence and Lee. This was in
accordance with the action of the Territorial council of 183-i. By the
surveyors' notes Marengo was known as township 2 South, Range 5
West and by action of the state legislature of 1836-7 the four
townships above named were all organized as independent units. Excel
lent soil characterizes the land as a whole. The surface is rolling. The
Kalamazoo river flows from east to west through the southern half,
while Rice creek comes down into the township from the northeast as
if to enter the Kalamazoo, but takes a sudden turn and flows to the south
west, later forming a junction with the Kalamazoo at Marshall.

Seeley Neal, whose family consisted of himself, wife and ten children
built the first white man's house in the township. It was a log structure
located on section 27 and on the south side of the Territorial road. It
was nearly on the spot where later Colonel John Ainsley built his home,
which is well remembered by many of the older settlers. The excellent
water power in the township was early taken advantage of. In 1835
George Ketchum built a saw mill on Rice creek. A flouring and grist
mill was built on the Kalamazoo river near ^Marengo village iu 1839.
While that mill was destroyed by fire, another was built, and grists
now are ground at the ]\Iarengo mill as in the early days. :\Iareug(i had



198 HISTORY OP CALHOUN COUNTY

its boom in 1836-37. A plot was made and recorded, many buildings
some public and others private, were put up. The speculator got in his
work here, and when the financial collapse came, Jlarengo's ambitious
outlook for the future went with it. In the year 1834, George W. Patti-
son began teaming between Detroit and Alarshall, and for a number of
years he was the main dependence of the community, both as to freight
and passengers.

George W. Drj^er, with his family, arrived in the fall of 1833 and was
the first justice of the peace in the village being appointed in 1835 by
Stevens T. Mason, who was then acting governor. Messrs. Pattison and
Dryer brought in the first stock of dry goods and groceries in 1834, which
they sold in a short time to Harris and Austin. Pattison and Dryer then
engaged in the stock business, buying considerable numbers of cattle
both in Illinois and ftidiana and bringing them to Jlichigan, where they
found a ready market among the large numbers of new comers from the
East. The township was long known for its fine quality of blooded
sheep, and it is still one of the best stock townships in the county.

The first school in Marengo opened in the year 1833, in the house
of Amos Kimball. In 1834, S. Powers taught in a house erected on the
land of Thomas Chisholm. The first school house in ^Marengo village
was put up in 1836, on the site of the present brick structure, and Miss
Sarah Dennis was the teacher.

The fii*st religious services held in Marengo were conducted by the
Rev. Randall Hobart, of Marshall, who, as a local preacher in the Metho-
dist Episcopal church performed a great deal of gratuitous service of a
religious character in an early day among the people of the county. In
1853 there was built in Marengo village a Union church, a frame struc-
ture, forty by fifty feet in size. The leading contributors to the build-
ing fund of this church were : John Evans, S. G. Pattison, G. W. Dryer,
R. B. Porter, Milo Soule, Alden Boughton, Augustus Lusk, Loren May-
nard, Jacob Gardinier, Joseph Otis, O. D. Rogers, William Hewitt and
William Hoskins. The donors are all gone, but the building, which their
generosity made possible, still stands. It has been kept in good repair,
and promises for many years to come to serve the people of ^larengo
as a place of public worship, to hold Sunday school, and from which to
bury their dead. ]\Ien, who do these things for those who come after
them, are worthy of remembrance. In 1842 a Methodist Protestant
church was formed at Rice creek, near where the four townships of Ma-
rengo, Sheridan. Clarence and Lee corner. A house of worship was built
in 1853 and for sixty years it has furnished a meeting place for those
living in that section, who are religiously inclined.

A postofifice was established in the winter of 1831-32, Seeley Neal
being the first postmaster. The mail was frequently brought by the Rev.
Elijah H. Pilcher, a well known pioneer preacher in the Methodist Epis-
copal church. It was carried by him without compensation and simply
as an accommodation. Sometimes it was brought by travelers, who are
journeying westward through the place. The office being located on the
Territorial road, made it very convenient for the volunteer carriers to



Online LibraryWashington GardnerHistory of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) → online text (page 26 of 74)