THE SETTLEMENT—THE PIONEER COLONY.
After the surveys of public land had been extended as far north as Grand River, reports of an enticing nature as to the inducements for settlement in this region began to reach the eastern people, probably from some of the surveyors and their assistants, and from now and then an explorer who ventured into the wilderness; though of the later there is very little record. Then followed the land-lookers who had already traversed the more southerly portions of the Territory, where many settlements were established between the years 1828 and 1832. And speculators as well as pioneer settlers were searching further north for "fresher fields and pastures new."
In the fall of 1832 Samuel Dexter, of Herkimer county, N.Y., came to Grand River and selected the spot where now is Ionia, and entered there a quarter section of land. He also entered four eighties—a tract two miles long and eighty rods wide—close by to where now is the very heart of this city of Grand Rapids, along the east side of the Division street line, from Wealthy avenue to Leonard street. He then went back to Herkimer county and set about organizing a colony of emigrants. In the spring of 1833 they started. They were: Samuel Dexter, Erastus Yeomans, Oliver Arnold, Joel Guild, Edward Guild and Darius Winsor, with their wives and children; and Dr. William B. Lincoln, Patrick M. Fox, Winsor Dexter, Warner Dexter and Abram Decker, single men. Among the papers of Mr. Yeomans, after his death, was found, written in ink and very much faded, the following:
Memorandum of Journey to Michigan.—Left German Flats April 25, 1883. Buffalo, May 7. Landed at Detroit May 10. Left Detroit May 12; Pontiac, 14th; Fuller's in Oakland county, 15th; Gage's, 16th; in the woods, 17th; at Saline, 18th and 19th; camped out from 20th to 28th.
It was written on a leaf of a small account book, and with a short hymn of "Gratitude to God on arriving at Ionia," the first stanza reading:
We'll praise Thy name, O, God of Grace,
For all Thy mercies;
We're been preserved to reach this place,
And find a pleasant home
That was a long and tedious expedition; but those who were of it soon forgot its few hardships and through life remembered and love to recount its many exciting incidents and pleasures. Cutting their way through the previously untrodden wilderness, and camping at night in the woods, wherever darkness stopped them, was no frolic in the ordinary sense; but they were vigorous and healthy and companionable, and the adventure was novel and exhilarating. There were brush to be cut through, swamps and jungles to pass around, streams to be crossed, and many a hard life for the men of the party; while the women aided with as much good will in preparing their frugal lunches and their resting places, and the children were in the very spirit of play. Only one seriously sad incident occurred—the death of a child of Mr. Dexter, by scarlet fever. But the entire narrative may perhaps best be told by one of the pioneer party. Mrs. Harriet Burton, a daughter of Joel Guild, who was one of that colony and is yet alive (July, 1889), at the age of 76 years, familiarly called "Aunt Hattie," relates the following story of that journey and its incidents:
Aunt Hattie's Story
We (Joel and Edward Guild, and their families), started from Paris, Oneida county, N.Y., taking goods and teams. At the Erie Canal we went aboard a boat purchased by Samuel Dexter for the party. In all there were sixty-three of the company. We had our horses to draw the boat, and the boys to drive. At Buffalo the boat was sold, and we shipped our goods and took passage on the steam Superior for Detroit, where we selected only such goods as we could carry overland, and left the rest to be sent around to the mouth of Grand River. We stopped in Detroit two or three days, buying oxen and cows, and laying in supplies. Every family had a wagon. From there we went to Pontiac, where we staid two nights in a tavern. The third day we went about ten miles and camped near a tavern, where the women and children found shelter, and the rest slept in tents. The next day we left the roads and went into the wilderness, with no guide except a compass and a knowledge of the general direction to be taken. That night, I think, we reached the cabin of Mr. Gage, twenty mile from any other white man's habitation. As many as the small house would accommodate slept in it; the others camped. All were quite weary. Mr. Winsor, who was lame, Mrs. Winsor, with her sick girl, Rosalind, and the small children, rode. The rest of us walked, and it was hard walking. After leaving there, all had to camp out. Each family had a tent; the six tents were pitched together as one long tent, and every night twenty-three beds were made upon the ground. At Pontiac Mrs. Dexter's youngest child, a boy, became sick with scarlet fever, and seemed to grow worse every day. But we could not stop, for our progress was slow and our supplies running short, so we traveled on to the Shiawassee, where he procured a guide. It was raining when we reached the Looking-glass River, and that night the little boy was so sick that his mother and Mrs. Yeomans, whose babe was but four weeks old when we started, and myself, sat up all night, holding umbrellas over the two little ones, and nursing them. It was late when we started the next day, and we went only about four miles before reaching heavy timbered land. Thus far we had been traveling through burr oak openings. That night the boy grew worse, and his mother and I sat up nearly all night with him.
DEATH IN THE WOODS.
Our provisions were nearly gone, and we could not stop, but about noon Mrs. Dexter called a halt, noticing a change in the boy. Dr. Lincoln gave him some medicine, but in a few minutes the little sufferer was dead. We could not tarry, but went sadly on carrying his body, and camped early; when my mother furnished a small trunk that had been used for carrying food and dishes, which served as a coffin, and by Muskrat Creek, as the sun was going down, the little one was buried. A large sum by the grave was marked, and logs were put over the mound and fastened there, to protect it from wolves that were then plenty in that vicinity. The only service over the little grave was a prayer by Mr. Dexter. The mother seemed broken-hearted, and we were are all grieved, but could not tarry there.
AT GRAND RIVER.
We had reached a point where we had to use meal that father brought at Pontiac for the horses, letting the latter pick their living as best they could from grass and twigs by the way. Each family had cows—in all fifteen or twenty. We made log-heap fires, filled a large brass kettle with water, placed it over the fire, stirred in meal and made hasty-pudding, which, with milk from the cows, was our only food. After reaching the timber land, we girls had to rise very early and get breakfast for the young men, who would then start ahead to cut out the road, and only came in when it was time to camp at night. At the end of sixteen days we reached Grand River at Lyons, where father and his family made a brief stop, while the rest proceeded at once to Ionia.
ON TO THE RAPIDS.
In a few days father and Mr. Dexter started from Ionia, on horseback, by way of the Rapids of Grand River, for the land office at White Pigeon. On reaching the Rapids they men Uncle Louis Campau, who wanted them to settle here, the lands having come into the market the year before. He had taken some land, and aws platting it into lots; he did not "talk Yankee" very well, he said, and he wanted a settlement of Yankees here. So father went and took up the forty that is now the "Kendall addition," and also took up some pine land a little south east of here. When he came back from the land office, he bought, for $25, a village lot of Mr. Campau. Uncle Louis, and for some of his French help, went to Ionia for us with bateaux. All our family came down. At the mouth of Flat River we came ashore. Daniel Marsac was there, in a log shanty. There was no clearing. Many Indians were about. We next landed at Rix Robinson's. Found Indians there also. Soon after, some Indians met us, and Uncle Louis talked with them in their own language. He said they informed him that a Catholic priest, Mr. Baraga, had just arrived. We reached the Rapids and landed that evening on the east side by the foot of Huron street, near where the Butterworth & Lowe iron works are. Two log houses and a shop were there. All about were woods, mostly. We were received with a warm welcome by that good woman, Mrs. Louis Campau, who did her utmost to make us comfortable. This was Sunday, June 23, 1833—the day I was twenty years old. We staid there a few days; then removed to Mr. Campau's fur-packing house and store, where we lived till about the first of September, when we removed into the new house that my father built.
THE PIONEER DWELLING HOUSE.
The family of Joel Guild then consisted of himself and his wife, six daughters (the eldest 20 and the youngest three years of age) and a son (Consider Guild, then 18 years old). Harriet was the eldest daughter. They came from West Winfield, Herkimer county, N.Y., to Paris, Oneida county, and then here. The lot which Mr. Guild purchased was on the east side of Monroe at its junction with Pearl street, and at the base of "Prospect Hill." There he immediately set about building a house, which he so far completed as to be able to move into it in ten weeks. It was the first frame-house built in Grand Rapids, and the lumber for it was procured at the Indian saw mill which had been built for the Slater mission. That pioneer dwelling was an unpretentious "story-and-a-half" structure, about 16 by 26 feet on the ground; had two windows in the lower and one in the upper (or gable) west front, and two windows, with a door between, in each side, north and south. The site is now occupied by the National City Bank. At the river's edge, about 150 feet directly west of it, was a fine spring, over which Mr. Campau had a "milk-house;" and further south, about half way to where now is the Eagle Hotel, was the storehouse for furns and Indian goods belonging to his trading station, of which Mrs. Burton speaks, in which the family lived while building their new dwelling. Midway between their lodging house and the spring just mentioned was done the cooking and other domestic work, by an outdoor fire; an oak log being used for a backing to this primitive, wide-open and roomy fireplace, with its wood crane and pothooks and hangers, and a large tin baker in the foreground. Many barrels of flour, with meats and other accompaniments in proportion, were there prepared for the table. A few loose boards and some green boughs constituted the roof of this temporary kitchen.
Meantime there were numerous comers and goers, for the fame of Grand Rapids and this valley as beginning to be noised abroad, bringing hither not a few land seekers and explorers. And thus it happened that very quickly, notwithstanding the meager accommodations, the Guild premises became a sort of boarding house or tavern, even before the new structure was covered.
THE HILL THAT IS GONE.
Prospect Hill—perhaps it should be noted here—was a prominent and striking figure where now is the very center of our proud and ambitious city. Its southern or southwestern extremity was a bold bluff rising from where Monroe street, below Ottawa, now is, its summit being some sixty feet above the river level. The west side of this hill was also a steep declivity, reaching from Monroe street northward to some distance beyond Lyon street, the turn or angle at Monroe street being abrupt; and the western base, from the rear of the Guild house before described, ran across the ground where Powers' Opera House stands, thence to the Kent street corner and beyond. It was a hill of compact gravel and clay, the clay preponderating, tough and nearly as hard as rock. From the country southwest came in the main Indian trail to the end of that hill and down by its southerly base, winding close under it at the southwestern point of the bluff, and thence passing to the log trading houses. Mr. Campau, in his first platting for the future city, insisted on laying the main street on that trail; which thus became Monroe street. Prospect Hill is gone. Except a section of its slope east of Ottawa and south of Pearl street, Daniel H. Waters is removing the last part of it, a portion of the higher and heavier part, west of Ottawa, between Lyon and Pearl, while this history writing is in progress. In the village days, and even for some years after the donning of city habiliments, the Lyon and Pearl street precipices facing the river were favorite coasting places in the winter season for the boys with their little sleds.
THE FIRST HALF YEAR.
In a letter written just six months after the day of the arrival of their family, Joel Guild and wife described to her brother, Jesse Vaughan, and wife, living in New York State, the experiences of their first half-year in Grand Rapids. The letter is still in existence, a large sheet of foolscap written full, yellow with age, without envelope, and bearing the 25 cent postmark of those days. It reads as follows:
Joel Guild's Letter
Grand Rapids, December the 23d, 1833
Most Respected Brother and Sister: We embrace this opportunity to indite a few lines for your perusal, hoping these few lines may find you and yours enjoying the blessings of health, peace and prosperity. After saying to you that we have no reasonable excuse for not writing before now, and promising to do better for the future, we shall commence by giving you a short account of our journey to this place.
After we left Buffalo we had a comfortable passage to Detroit, at which place we landed in safety in three days. We staid at Detroit two days to refresh ourselves, also to purchase teams and wagons and cows. After we had supplied ourselves with such necessaries as we thought proper, we started for Grand River, a distance of 180 miles—sixty-three in number, men women and children—all in good health and in good spirits. We had a good road thirty-five miles. We then left the road, hired a pilot, and proceeded on an Indian trail, winding our way through a wilderness of about 150 miles inhabited only by wild beasts and Indians. Our progress was slow, as we passed through many forests of heavy timbered land as I ever saw.
Our women and children underwent considerable fatigue, as they traveled most part of the way on foot, and sleeping on the ground at night, and almost suffering in some instances for water, as it was very scarce some part of the way. But we all enjoyed good health, and kept up good spirits. I heard no one of the number complain of being homesick. We had the misfortune to have the canker rash amongst the children when we were in the wilderness, and to add to our sorrow we buried one of a Mr. Dexter's little ones, about two years old, in a wilderness about forty miles from inhabitants. By the help of a skillful physician that was with us, the rest of our children were soon restored to health. We had provisions a plenty, and a good pilot, and in sixteen days from Detroit we landed on grand River. The land here in this country generally appears to be of the first quality. Our water is good as I ever saw in any country, and plenty of it. People are flocking in from all parts. The country is settling very fast with respectable inhabitants.
You will naturally expect me to say something of the situation of myself and family: therefore I shall commence by saying that myself and family are all enjoying good health, and have enjoyed as good health since I saw you as we ever did for the same length of time. As it respects my situation, I am alone as it respects the inhabitants who came to this country with me—we are separated. The all settled in one neighborhood, near the junction of the Maple River with the Grand River. We stopped there about two weeks, and we all lived in Indian wigwams. After looking about for a home, I thought best to move about fifty miles down Grand River to a place called Grand River Falls. I landed here on the thirteenth day of June—no one here then that could speak English excepting a French trader by the name of Campau. I bought 120 acres of first rate land near this place, and since I bought I have had the satisfaction of going with the Commissioners and sticking the stake for the Court House in our county within twenty-five rods of my land.
There is now a village laid out here and recorded, and the lots are selling fast, from twenty-five and two hundred dollars each. I own two village lots. I bought the first lots that were sold, and have built a framed house, the first that was ever built within one hundred miles of this place, and I am under the necessity of keeping tavern as my house was built first. I moved into it the last day of August, and from that time to this my house has been full by day and by night. Some of the time we have had twenty in the family. Our women have a plenty, are able and willing to work. Abby says must write to you that she baked nine barrels of flour by the side of a white oak log after we came here before we moved into our house. Our girls have as much sewing as they can do. We are all perfectly contented, and I think we are doing tolerably well.
Our river is eighty-five rods wide at this place, and the greatest water privilege there is in the Territory; here is twenty-five feet fall in one mile of the river at this place. We expect mills built here another season. I have a full set of mill irons stored in my cellar for that purpose. We have plenty of provisions here, although they came as yet by water from Detroit. Here is plenty of fish and plenty of game, and the greatest country for honey that I ever saw. * * *
N.B.—Direct your letters to Grand Rapids, county of Kent, Michigan. We have a post office here by the name of Grand Rapids.
To Jesse Vaughan, Sarah Vaughan
Joel Guild, Abby Guild
THAT FAMILY GROUP.
The fact that they were the first of the pioneers of the permanent settlement of Grand Rapids by the white people, entitles the Guild family to some prominence in a history of this place. Louis and Toussaint Campau were here before, as traders with the Indians, and then determined to remain here, and were joined by their brothers and the Godfroys soon afterward. The Slater family were on mission ground, on the west side of the river, in what was then Indian territory, but soon moved away. The coming of the Guild family, therefore, marks the date of the beginning of permanent settlement. Of Joel Guild's family there were nine—himself and wife, Harriet, Consider, Emily O., Mary L., Olive, Elvira E. and Lucy E., in the order here named. Of the children, at this date (1889), only the oldest, Mrs. Harriet Burton, is living. Consider lived in or near town until about 1858, when he moved to Georgetown, Ottawa county, where he died in 1883. He married Phebe Leaviit, who died in 1853. He again married Mrs. Theresa McCabe, nee Campau, who survives him. Emily O. became the wife of Leonard G. Baxter. Mary L. married Robert Barr. Olive married Frederick A. Marsh, and, after his death, Guy S. Walden. Elvira E. became the wife of Albert Baxter. Lucy E. became the wife of D. S. T. Weller. Edward Guild came down from Ionia in the spring of 1834, and soon after came another brother, Daniel Guild, and the three, with their relatives by kinship and marriage, constituted a circle of three or four score persons; no inconsiderable share of the little settlement in its beginning. Joel Guild was then a man in the full vigor of middle life, not large, but compact and muscular in build, and of extraordinary exuberance of spirits. He met with an accident—fracture or dislocation of the hip—eighteen months after he came, which caused a limp in his gait; but nothing could damp his jovial good nature, nor his disposition to keep all who were about him in good humor. For more than a quarter of a century it was custom of that family to meet several times a year at the home of some of their number, and have, as they were wont to say, " a jolly good visit," always freely inviting their neighbors, filling the houses to their full capacity, and there are many still living who remember those reunions as among the most pleasurable of their pioneer experience. Joel Guild had little faculty to accumulate property, or he might have grown rich. He was a stirring, bustling, busy man, but always seemed more to enjoy the spending of money for the entertainment of his family and friends, than its hoarding, or any purely selfish use. He was inquisitive, and better than a pocket almanac for consultation as to the names and whereabouts of the people of this valley, for many years. He seldom met a new comer without learning quickly all about him. An instance: One cold day a stranger hitched his horse at the gate, and came to the door, while the family were at dinner. Mr. Guild pressingly invited him in. No, he could not stop; he wished only to learn where a certain man lived, and the way thither. He was informed, the object of his inquiry being a new settler some ten miles south. This in less than two minutes; but in two minutes more, by a fusilade of adroit questioning, Mr. Guild had learned the man's name, where he came from, where he was going and what he intended to do. The gentleman showed no sign of annoyance, answered pleasantly and briefly, mounted his his horse and rode off. As Mr. Guild closed the door, much to the relief of the inmates who had been shivering in th keen wind while he stood there, a guest who had the misfortune to stammer, accosted him with: "Uncle J-j-j-oel, w-w-why d-d-didn't you ask him out of his b-b-breeches?" Joel Guild was chosen Assessor at the first town election here, and was the first Supervisor of the town of Paris, where he lived many years, and finally moved back to the city, which was his home when he died, May 26, 1856, aged 68 years. Abby, his first wife, died in 1844.
HOSTS AND HELPERS.
The Campaus, Louis and Toussaint, who were trading with the Indians, but became permanent settlers when the Guilds and others of 1833 came in, and Antoine and George who soon joined them, might be termed the hosts and helpers of the pioneers. Louis, especially, not only gave the colonists a cordial reception, but was energetic and generous, even beyond his pecuniary means, to aid them in getting a good start, and in the founding of the new community. The Campaus were men of fine presence, courteous, gentlemanly, warm-hearted and liberal, Louis enthusiastically so, and his wife in her house was always a hearty and genial welcome for all the new comers. He rarely stopped to count the cost of favors to friends, and the most of the profits of the fine property in the heart of the town, which was originally his, went ultimately to the use of other and craftier people. His brothers were less demonstrative, but all won genuine respect and admiration, and as among the founders of our now bustling and wealthy city, are well worthy of memory and veneration. The widow of Toussaint Campau, whose maiden name was Emily Marsac, is still living. The Lincolns, Burtons, Turners, Joneses, Winsors, Gordons and others—families that came in the same year, or quickly after—were also the aids and co-workers in the planting and stimulating the pioneer settlement that was destined to grown and become the second town in importance of our beautiful Peninsula and now proud State of Michigan. Those early settlers all deserve the honored place in memory and in veneration which history accords them. It was theirs to begin the carving of the wilderness into civilized homes; to labor with small means and rigid frugality, but with strong arms and heroic hearts; to struggle with poverty and privation and not infrequently with misfortunes; to drive out wild beasts, to supplant savage, and to subdue and tame and cultivate the land, for the founding of the enlightened society and community, whose golden benefits and luxuries we now enjoy.
THE PIONEER CLUSTER.
Though there were many comers and goers that year—land-lookers, explorers and visitors, and a considerable number who then or soon after took lands and made homes near by, east, south and west—very few in 1833 became permanent settlers in Grand Rapids. In family account books of that period, still preserved, and other contemporary writings, appear the names of Barney Burton, Josiah Burton, Eliphalet H. Turner, William R. Godwin, Gideon H. Gordon, James Gordon, Warner Dexter, Luther Lincoln, Ira Jones, Nathaniel P. Roberts, Sylvester Sibley, Myron Roys, Jospeh B. Copeland, Henry West, Andrew D. W. Stout, James Archibald, and Jonathan F. Chubb. The latter came with his family in November, and brought with him a small stock of goods. Lincoln had been here the previous year and located land at Grandville, and Stephen Tucker and Daniel Tucker settled in that township. A daughter of Mr. Lincoln, Keziah, then a small girl, is now living in the city—Mrs. Benjamin Livingston—and leads all others in length of continuous residence here.
Among the settlers of 1834, here and in the immediate vicinity, are mentioned Richard Godfroy, who had previously been an Indian agent or trader at Saline, near the headwaters of Grand River, Antoine Campau, Daniel D. Whiteman, Andrew Robbins, Daniel North, Robert M. Barr, Joseph S. Potter, Ezekiel W. Davis, Julius C. Abel, Ephraim P. Walker, William McCausland, Louis Moran, Robert Howlett, Aaron Sibley, Willard Sibley, Alvin H. Wansey, Jared Wansey, James Watson, Lewis Reed, Porter Reed, Ezra Reed, Joel Sliter, James Sliter, Horace Gray, Hiram Hinsdill, Lyman Gray, William R. Barnard, Abram S. Wadsworth, Edward Guild, Martin Ryerson, Darius Winsor, Cyrus Jones.
In 1835—James Clark, Lucius Lyon, Jefferson Morrison, John Almy, William Hinsdill, Dwight Lyman, James Lyman, William H. Godfroy, Joseph Marion, N. O. Sargeant, Dr. Stephen A. Wilson, Dr. Charles Shepard, David S. Leavitt, Demetrius Turner, Rev. Andreas Viszoczky, Justus C. Rogers, Edward Feakins, Abraham Laraway, Amos Hosford Smith, Leonard G. Baxter, Alanson Cramton, Charles G. Mason.
In 1836—Samuel Howland, William G. Henry, Myron Hinsdill, Maxime Ringuette, John Ringuette, Samuel F. Perkins, Daniel W. Evans, Lovell Moore, Sylvester Granger, Isaac Tuner, Charles H. Taylor, David Burnett, Howard Jennings, Simeon S. Stewart, Henry C. Smith, Kendall Woodward, James Short, James Scribner, Thomas Sargeant, Hezekiah Green, George Martin, Charles I. Walker, Abel Page, William A. Richmond, Loren M. Page, John Ball, James McCrath, John McCrath, William McCrath, John Pannell, Harry Eaton, J. Mortimer Smith, George M. Mills, Warren P. Mills, H. R. Osborn, George A. Robinson, William Haldane, Robert Hilton, George C. Nelson, James M. Nelson, Charles P. Calkins, John W. Peirce, George Coggeshall, Samuel L. Fuller, Solomon Withey, Billius Stocking.
In 1837—Josiah L. Wheeler, Jacob Barns, John T. Holmes, Canton Smith, William Morman, Harry Dean, Samuel F. Butler, Luman R. Atwater, John Friend, Truman Kellogg, Truman H. Lyon, Noble H. Finney, Leonard Covell, Joseph J. Baxter, William I. Blakely, James A. Rumsey, Henry Stone, Edmund B. Bostwick, Harry H. Ives, John Kirkland, Aaron Dikeman, William C. Davidson, Hezekiah Green, George Young, Eli Johnson, Archiband Salmon, Edward S. Marsh, Gouverneur B. Rathbun.
This is by no means a complete list, nor could such a list now be made, but it comprises a larger portion of the well remembered pioneers of the first four years. They did not all become residents of this town—most of them settled here, and the others within a few miles of this point.
SOME OF THE CALLERS.
In 1834, or thereabout, came one Silas W. Titus, as an agent of President Andrew Jackson, on business pertaining to the negotiations for the Indian treaty of 1835, for the cession to the Government of lands north of Grand River. He conferred, while here, with Rix Robinson, Louis Campau, Leonard Slater, and other Indian agents and parties interested in the missions, and induced the delegation to go to Washington to sell all the lands here and northward, from Grand Haven to Maple River. Mex-ci-ne-ne (sometimes spelled Miccissininni, but Andrew J. Blackbird says Mex-ci-ne-ne should be the correct spelling according to the Indian pronunciation), and other Indian chiefs went with that delegation, whose journey resulted in the consummation of the treaty. Titus came in on horseback and alone from Kalamazoo, bringing a bag of oats from Gull Prairie to Oakville (the Oakes settlement at Grandville), in a day, supposed to be a pretty good day's ride a new country, without the oats. During the War of the Rebellion he became Colonel of the 122d New York Volunteers, and afterward lived at Syracuse.
In 1834, among the transient visitors or explorers here, were two men from Washington county, Vermont, named Abel Drew and Wait Farr. They caught the emigration fever then prevalent at the East, and started to see for themselves the new paradise which they heard was to be found in the Valley of the Grand River. They were bachelor farmers, and not at all enthusiastic. They went back and reported that they had spend a few weeks at the Rapids, in a little settlement of a dozen families, "a hundred miles from nowhere, and at a little tavern about big enough for a cheese house, where there were five or six of the prettiest little girls west of Montpelier." They said the "land was middlin' good, but the people wouldn't have a market half as good as Boston in a hundred years." So they settled down and worked hard and died contented at the Green Mountain home of their boyhood.
From the beginning of 1836, the growth of the town by immigration was rapid; but there is no record of an accurate census prior to 1845, when the total population of town and village was reported to be 1,510. Enthusiastic advertisers of the place boasted of a population of 1,000 or more in 1837, which undoubtedly was a very great exaggeration. In the early part of 1838 it was estimated that there were about 1,200 persons in the county, including nearly 800 Indians. But the growth of the first four years was flattering, and the people indulged in great expectations, for which, indeed, they had good reason, but in which they were measurably disappointed. The speculative fever which became general in 1836, gave a great impetus to prices, not only of real estate but of all commodities, and the reaction which came in1837 was inevitable. Splendid village, and cities also, suddenly came into view—on paper—and plats and lots were sold at fabulous prices. Grand Rapids caught the fever. Village lots here rose quickly from $25 to $300, and from that still upward, for choice locations, till speculations ran wild in the haste to grow rich. But the revulsion came, not only in property but in currency, and knocked the foundation from many an air castle. Visionary banking schemes, which had been thickly planted all over the State, went with the rest. Nearly all went largely in debt, and many soon had cause to bemoan their disastrous investments and speculative ventures.
As an illustration of the change wrought by the financial-crash, it is related that Jefferson Morrison, in 1836, built what was for those times a fine residence, just south of Monroe and west of Ionia street, cost not mentioned, beyond the fact that it ran him in debt about $5,000. Being pecuniarily embarrassed, when the pinch came, he traded it for four parcels of real estate at $1,500 each, the value of which soon dropped nearly to a tenth part of their cost to him. Antoine Campau used to relate an anecdote as to part of his own experience in the inflation, and the bursting on the bubble. He brought a tract near the mouth of Grand River for $100. Soon came an offer of $300, which he refused. Then $500, $800, and so on up. Said he, "I thought if it was worth so much to them, it was worth so much to me. But finally I offered to sell. Then the value dropped, and every offer was lower than before. Finally I offered $300, and thought I would go down and see the place. When I got there, I couldn't see it. I asked everybody where it was, and hired a friend to look it up. I could not find it, he could not find it, nobody could find it—it was under more as twenty feet of water." The land was described by metes and bounds, beginning a certain specified distance west of the lighthouse, which located it well out in the lake. He lost his faith in land dealers, and entered no more such speculations.
EARLY MARRIAGES AND BIRTHS.
The first marriage in Grand Rapids, of white people, was that of Barney Burton and Harriet Guild. She was a lass just twenty years old on the day of her arrival here, and he was a young man who had come into the town of Paris and taken up land and was preparing himself a farm. The wedding was quiet one, at her home. They were married April 13, 1834, and immediately began housekeeping at the place he had provided. The second marriage is believed to be that of Toussaint Campau and Emily Marsac, November 27, 1834. To this wedding nearly everybody in the settlement was invited, the ceremony taking place at the Catholic Chapel on the west side, after which there was feasting and dancing under the purveyance of Louis Campau. The next marriage of record in the township appears to have been that of Asa Fuller and Susan Dwinnell, for which license was issued March 13, 1835, by the Town Clerk of Kent (since Grand Rapids).
The earliest births of white persons here were those of three children of the Missionary Leonard Slater, as elsewhere related in this work. But the Slater family were here on a special mission and in a few years moved away with the Indians attached to their charge. There have been several contestants for the honor of being considered the first-born of the permanent white settlers here. The preponderance of testimony concerning the early births seem to settle down to about these conclusions: Eugene Winsor was the first-born among the pioneer colonists of this valley, the date being October 14, 1833, at Ionia. At Grand Rapids the first birth was that of Therese Carmell, daughter of Antoine and Therese Carmell, June 21, 1834. Mr. Carmell was a blacksmith who came here in May, 1833, and worked in Louis Campau's log shop. He afterward built and lived in a small log house, where this daughter was born, near the Eagle Hotel. His widow, 76 years of age, is now Mrs. Therese Girrard, residing near Ludington. Next in order is Lewis Burton, son of Josiah and Elizabeth Burton, who was born October 5, 1834, in a little log house on the east side of Division street, a few rods south of Blakely avenue. Lewis is now a farmer near Ada village. Helen Reed (Mrs. Outhwaite of Muskegon), daughter of Ezra reed, was born March 25, 1835, at the bank of Reeds Lake, where now is the terminus of Reeds Lake Street Railway, in a small log house. A daughter of Richard Godfroy (afterward Mrs. S. J. Sarsfield of Muskegon), was born March 31, 1835, in a house which stood where now is the Grand Rapids National Bank, at the corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets. Henry Genia, now living at Mackinaw City, was born March 28, 1836, near the Catholic Church at the Indian village. Further than this it would be useless to attempt to particularize in regard to early births.
The first funeral of a white man was that of George Sizer, in the summer of 1835. He was shot by an Indian who mistook him for a deer, while watching a deer-lick, in the twilight or after dark.
Transcriber: Jennifer Godwin
Created: 11 October 2003