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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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children slept in or under the wagon while the logs were being cut
and built into a cabin. Shingles were rived from blocks or bolts of
wood and laid in place for a roof without nails, held down by the
weight of poles laid transversely to the pitch of the roof. A fireplace
that occupied the larger part of one end of the cabin was built up of
mortar and stone with the flue constructed of sticks made into a sort
of crib or stack laid up in mortar and plastered on the inside to protect
from fire. The fireplace served for heating the house and cooking the



lllSTOliV OK CALIlorN COINTV 17

food. A craiic lasleiU'd at one side of tlir lircplace swuiij; foi-\vard to
receive its Ijiirdcn of pots ami kettles and llieii back over the l)la/.iiijj
fire that the contents might be boiled. Spiders and skillets were placed
on the hearth in front where they were heated by means of coals drawn
from the tire. No more delicious bread was ever eaten than that baked
in the skillet with its close fitting cover j)rotecting the contents within
while the live coals were drawn beneath and piled on to]>. Potatoes
were baked by covering them with ashes and piling on these the hot
eoals. To get the delicious flavor of the tubers, no better way of cooking
them has ever been devised. Salt pork was the staple meat for which
fish and game were occasionally substituted. A floor for the cabin
home often awaited the erection of a mill, the cutting and hauling of
logs and their conversion into boards. This, .sometinu's i'e(|uired months
of time and in the meanwhile the family lived ;ind ate and slept on tiio
ground fioor.

While without stalwart anus wciv felling the 1rces, cutting and
rolling the logs into hcajts and jiiling the brush for burning pi-e])aratory
to jilowing and seeding, within loving hands were rocking the cratUe
and getting the meals for hungry and happy husband and children who
with each setting sun saw the pioneer's amliition for a home more nearly
realized.

The clothing, both for adults and eliildivn. was made at hoinc and
from the plainest material. For outer garments Kentucky jeans met
the requirements of the men and calico of the women. Children went
bare-footed from the time frost left in the spring until it came again in
the fall.

flails were both infrequent and irregular, while it cost twenty-five
cents in postage to carry a letter from ;\Iicliigau to New England. There
were no daily papers. The weeklies were small in size, unattractive in
make up and meager in contents. The schools, supported by rate bills,
were of short duration, usually three months in a year, and primitive in
every way. Reading, writing, grammar and arithmetic w'ere looked
upon as the essentials, more than these as superfluous. In winter,
spelling and singing schools were conuuon sources of conuuunity profit
and amusement, Quiltings for the women, husking bees and raisings
for the men and dancing parties for both sexes were utilized for i-ecrea-
tion and social develojiment.

Churches were few and far l)et\\een. The log school liou.se .served
as a place for both intellectual and religious instruction. The circuit
rider usually made the rounds of his preatdiing places once in four
weeks and then only for a single service. To the appointed place of
worship, people would come up in every direction from out of the
woods, some on foot, some on horseback and some in wagons or carts
drawn by oxen.

The young people courted, loved, married and were given in mar-
riage. Almost every wife became the mother of children. Domestic
scandals were very rare. Divorces were practically unknown. Health,
happiness and a reasonable degree of prosperit.v attended the pioneers
who felled the forests, cleared and fenced the fields, planted the orchards
and vineyards, constructed the highways and bi-idges, built the homes



18 HISTORY OP CALHOUN COUNTY

and schools and churches and in these laid the foundations of the civil-
ization which the later generations have inherited.

Calhoun and Calhoun County

Anticipating the early completion of the public surveys of the south-
western part of the State and the final extinguishment of the Indian
claims to some portions of the unsurveyed lands, the Legislative Council
of 1829 set off twelve counties, which included all the land west of the
principal meridian and south of the fifth township north of the base
line.

The names given to most of these counties clearly indicate flie ruling
party at the time, both at Washington and in Michigan. One was called
Jackson after the then President of the United States; another Calhoun
after the Vice President ; Van Buren was named after Jackson 's Secre-
tary of State ; Ingham was named for the then Secretary of the Treas-
ury ; Eaton, for the Secretary of War ; Branch, for the Secretary of the
Navy; Barry, for the Postmaster General; Berrien, for the Attorney
General and Cass, for the then Governor, but, who in 1831 became
Secretary of War under Jackson.

All of these men, sc closely identified with Jackson and his ad-
ministration, filled to a greater or lesser degree the public eye during
the first half of the nineteenth century. Except Jackson only, no one
was so long conspicuous and no one exercised so great an influence upon
the republic as John Caldwell Calhoun, South Carolina's most eminent
son, after whom Calhoiui County was named. The son of an Irish im-
migrant, whose mother, ilary Caldwell, was the daughter of a Pres-
byterian clergyman also from Ireland, the future statesman, was born
in South Carolina in 1782, the same year as Webster and Cass, two of
his distinguished contemporaries. Calhoun graduated with honor from
Yale in 1804 and after three years devoted to the study of the law,
was admitted to the bar of his native State. Soon after his admission
he was elected a member of the South Carolina legislature ; at 29 years
of age he became a member of Congress ; at 35, Secretary of War under
President Monroe ; at 42, Vice President during John Quincy Adams '
administration and held the same office during the first four years of
Jackson's. He was for a short time Secretary of State under Ty-
ler. At 51 he entered the Senate, the arena on which he won his
most enduring fame. His name will be forever linked with those of
Webster and Clay as one of the "Great Triumvirate."

Calhoun was the leader, if not the originator, of the nullification
school of statesmen. He was the most conspicuous advocate of his
time, of the proposition that the Constitution of the United States was
a compact, an agreement and that secession is a constitutional right
inherent in the states. Of a very high order of intellect, of great purity
of character and from his standpoint of view, an ardent patriot, many
still believe that he exercised a baneful influence upon the Republic.

On the 29th day of October, 1829, the Legislative Council of the Ter-
ritory of Michigan enacted that so much of the country as lies south of
the base line and north of the line between townships four and five.



HISTORY OK CALIIOIX COrXTY 10

south ot'tlio liasc liiir ami west iiT (lie line bctwi'uii raiiijcs tlirci' ami lour,
west of the iiu'ridiaii ami uast of the liuc hctwet'U raiiK''^ cijilit ami nine
west, 1)6 and tlie same is hereby set off inio a sei)(>ratc iMuiuty ami the
name thereof shall he Calhoun.

Settlers soon followed the setting apart of the county. Onee the
white man having looked upon the beautiful ""oak oi)enings," the
fertile soil, the clear running streams with their natural water power
sites, the numerous erystal water lakes already alive with fish, and the
magnificent forests abounding with game, he not only coveted for him-
self a part of this inheritance but everywhere he went he advertised its
beauty and its advantages.

The first white man to settle, permanently, in Calhoun County was
Sidney Ketchum. lie came from Clinton County, New York, in August,

1830, and located land at the "forks" of the Kalamazoo River, now
the site of the City of Albion, and also at the .iunction of Rice Creek
with the Kalamazoo, at what is now the City of ^larshall. At that time
the United States Land Office for this section was at Monroe and there
in the month of October, 1830, Noble ]\IeKinstrj' and Ephraim Hanson
entered lands covering respectively the water power at Jlarshall and
Albion. Mr. Ketchum subsequently bought the land at both locations.
These were the only entries made in Calhoun County in 1830. In the
early days a good dam site was regarded as exceedingly important, for
by it power could be conserved that would grind the corn into meal
or the wheat into flour or saw the logs into boards. The first two would
feed and the last house and shelter the pioneer and his family, hence
dam sites were everywhere sought and seized upon by the early comers.

The year 1831 found the entries in Calhoun County increased fifty-
fold over the preeeeding. Among the new comers vv'ere George Ketchum,
Lucious Lyon, Isaac N. Hurd, H. II. Comstock, John Bertram, A. L.
Hayes, Rev. John D. Pierce, Rev. Hobart Randall, Isaac E. Crai"y and
H. P. Wisner, who located laud in or near what is now the city of
Marshall. It is worthy of note that in this little group of immigrants
standing on the verge of civilization were a future United States Senator,
a member of Congress and a State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Jonathan Wood entered the 160 acres which became the original village
site on which the county seat was subsequently located. In tlie same
year, Sands McCamley, George Redfield, John J. and Daniel G. Gurnsey
settled in or very near what is now Battle Creek. Goguac prairie was
a strong competitor with ilarshall and Battle Creek for settlei-s, for in

1831, David, Jonathan and Isaac Thomas and Isaiah Goddard located
in that promising section. In 1832, Samuel Convis, Moses Hall with
others found their way to Battle Creek. A little later came Ezra Con-
vis, Polydore Hudson, who became Battle Creek's first Postmaster. p]ach
succeding year there were additions to the little settlements at Marshall
and Battle Creek.

Alliion shares with ilarshall the distinction of having one of the
two first land entries made in Calhoun County. Both entries were made
October 16, 1830. In 1831. Darius Pierce entered a quarter section on
which the main part of Albion now stands. Sidney Ketchum 's holdings
in Sheridan township, now a part nf Albion Cit\-. with tho.se of Pierce



20 HISTORY OF CALIIOUX COUNTY

and Harrison were bought by Tenney Peabody of the State of New York.
In the early spring of 1832, Peabody arrived with his family, accom-
panied by Charles Blanchard.

While the pioneers were coming in considerable numbers to ilarshall,
Battle Creek and Albion, other parts of the county were by no means
passed by. In 1832, Henry and Richard McMurtrie, Powell Grover and
William Wintersteen, all from Pennsylvania, settled within the limits
of the present township of Homer. In the same year last named, Henry
Cook located on what is now known as Cook's Plains, northwest of Ho-
mer Village but in the present township of Eckford. The same year
also, Anthony Doolittle, coming direct from Ohio, though originally from
the State of New York, settled in what is now the township of Claren-
don. In 1832, there came to Homer, Milton Barney, a most enter-
prising and useful citizen. He entered a large tract of land on a part
of which the beautiful Village of Homer now stands and which also enj-
braced the valuable water-power still in use, on which he built a saw
luill and a grist mill ; he built the first store building and ran the first
store; put up and ran the first hotel and served as the lirst Justice of
the Peace. The settlement for which he had done so much was originally
called Barneyville. Timothy Hamilton, Henry Stanchell, Richard Nor-
ris, Frederich R. Hatch, Samuel W. Hamilton, James Parsons, Chauncey
Lewis, Cornelius Fish, and others made their way to Homer and
vicinity and that section of the County improved rapidlj'.

The southwestern part of the County received its first influx of pio-
neers in 1S31. It was in this year that xVlfred Holcum, Benjamin F.
Ferris, Warren Nichols, and his brothers Ambrose and Oi'thorial, Asahel
Stone and Isaac Crassett settled in the township first called Berlin, now
Athens. At that time it embraced the present townships of Athens,
Burlington and LeRoy. Others soon followed and shared with these
hardy pioneers the privilege of building up what is today one of the
finest sections of Calhoun County.

Marengo township enjoys, with others above named, the distinction
of being among the first settled. Seeley Neal, whose land entry dates
June 16, 1831, built the first log house put up in the township. It was
located on the south side of the territorial road on Section 37. Col. John
Ainsley, Erastus Kimball, Joseph Ames, Thomas Chisholm, Alfred D.
Wright, Elijah A. Bigelow, and Nathan Pierce all came the same year.
The fine water-power at Marengo was utilized in running a saw mill as
early as 1835. . A grist mill was put in commission in 1839. The timber
being gone, there was no longer use for a saw mill, but the grist mill,
though not the original, is still grinding wheat and corn for the customer
who waits for his grist as in the early days. In 1831, Reuben Abbott,
from Erie, New York, became the first white settler in the township of
Sheridan. He was soon followed by Orris Clapp, Chandler Church and
M. J. Lathrop. The first land entered in what is now Eckford Town-
ship was by Osheo Wilder in the winter of 1831. Mr. Wilder, who was
a native of IMassachusetts, came direct from Rochester, New York, with
his family in 1832. In Lower Eckford a dam was constructed across
Wilder Creek — named in honor of the first settler — and a saw mill was
built, which served the people of that section for many .years.



llISTOIx'Y OF CAIJIOIX COINTY 21

The first settler in Fre.loiii;i tdwiiship wms Tlidiiias I'.iirhiiKl. Mr.
Burlaud was born and reareii in Yorkshire. Knirhind. and in ISlil ciinie
from there with several other families and settletl a year latei- in the
township above named. John Huston. Sr., who eanie with his family
from New Hampshire in 1833, was the second settler in Fredonia. lie
was followed by Ezekial Blue from the State of New York.

Similar eonditions prevailed in several other townships. From ls:{(),
when Sidney Ketehum first eame. to 1835, large ninnbers of ])ioneei-s
eame into the county and located lands and built homes, scattering it
is true, in nearly every section of the county. Lands were cleared,
homes were built, fields were fenced, crops wei-e raised, orchards were
set, mills were put in, roads were surveyed and the first rough work
done to make them passable. An industrious, contented and happy
people saw with pride and satisfaction the inci'easing results of their
toil and sacrifice.

Import.wt Year for tiik Cm ntv and IIausiiai.l

The first settlement of the whites in Calhoun County was made at
what is now the city of ^Marshall, in the spring of 1831. On the 2!)tli
of August of the same year, the village plot of ilarshall was received for
record in the Register's office in Kalamazoo and on October 17, 1831,
l)y proclamation of Governor I'oilei' ;ittested by Stevens T. Mason,
Secretary. ^Marshall was officially (Icclarcd to be the County Seat of
Calhoun County.

The exact location was at a point in the line deviding sections twen-
ty-five and twenty-six in township two South, range six West, on or very
near the centre of the west half of the northwest quarter of Section
twenty-five, and the east half of the northeast quarter of Section twenty-
six, being northeast distant about three miles from the guographical
centre of the County. Streets and alleys were dedicated for public use ;
a s(|uare for the Court House : a lot for a jail ; another for a seminary
and four church lots, one of which was for the Presbyterian, one for the
Fpiscopal, one for the ilethodist Episcopal and one for the Baptist, were
designated and set apart for the purposes named.

Rapid Growth of County and Coitnty Seat

The County of Calhoun, according to the United States survey, em-
braces twenty townships; each township, thirty-six sections and each
section, six hundred and forty acres of land, consequently there are
460,800 acres in the county. Of all this acreage there remained unsold
on July 1, 1837, less than seven years after the first entry was made
and but six years from the coming of the first permanent settlers,
44.(10(1 /icres. In the meantime, the town.shii)s of ^Marshall, Milton, now
Battle Creek. Convis. .Marengo. Sheridan. Albion, Homer, Eckford, Te-
konsha, Athens and Burlington had been organized. A number of
villages, notably Battle Creek. Homer. Albion and ^Marengo, were giving
promise of a future. A dozen flouring mills were in operation or being
built, and twenty-one saw mills compli'tcd oi- in pi-or-es.s of constru



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 5 of 74)