Chapter IX: 

The Village of Grand Rapids, 1838 - 1849

The Village of Grand Rapids was incorporated by legislative act April 5, 1838. It included the territory on the east side of Grand River bounded by a line beginning in Fulton street at the river; thence east to the southeast corner of Hatch’s addition; north to the line of Hastings street; west to the west line of Canal street; south along the west line of Canal street to a point where said line struck the river, which at that time was by the foot of Pearl street; thence down the shore of the river to the place of beginning. By an amendment to the village charger, January 16, 1843, the west line of Hatch’s addition was substituted for the east line, thus by so much narrowing the village area. Hatch’s addition was where since is Kendall’s addition. Another amendment, March 23, 1848, enlarged the limits, making the boundary begin on the east bank of Grand River between Sections 25 and 36 of Town 7 North, Range 12 West; thence east on the section line, where now is Wealthy avenue, to the middle of the southern boundary of the west half of the southeast quarter of Section 30 in Town 7 North, of Range 11 West; thence north to Coldbrook; thence along the north bank of Coldbrook to the river; thence along the east bank of the river at low water mark to the place of beginning. A third amendment, March 31, 1849, vacated all that part of the village lying east of the Bostwick addition and south of Fulton street, and also all east of the Dexter Fraction. Thus it stood till the change from village to city was made in 1850.

The hamlet for three or four years after first settlement in 1833 grew rapidly. From 1837 to 1850 the progress was comparatively slower, but for most of the time it was constant. Various branches of manufacturing were started, in a moderate way, moving forward barely fast enough to meet the simplest wants of the not very large nor wealthy population in Grand Rapids and the towns about, and up and down the Grand River Valley,
The incorporation of the village gave it a civil as well as municipal autonomy, though the regular township machinery and jurisdiction for other than the special village requirements continued. The story of the village covers a period of twelve years, during which there was steady, though not very rapid, growth in population, in general progress and improvement and wealth. Its organization was just at the time when the financial revulsion from a speculative period left the community comparatively poor and disheartened. They were out of cash and almost out of credit. And a great flood in that spring of 1838, just previous to the organization under the village charter, had seriously added to the general embarrassment. Of the situation at that time Frank Little, of Kalamazoo, writes:

"Our family – father, mother, sister, a younger brother and myself – were residents of Grand Rapids in the summer of 1838. My first person acquaintance with the place dated from the first of March, 1838. I was then an inexperienced lad of fourteen and a half years. I was impressed with the magnitude and grandeur of the river, particularly the falls or rapids. The village swarmed with Indians who were spearing sturgeon in the river. We arrived just as a notable ice gorge – memorable in history, that commenced at the lower island and backing up rapidly, had submerged the whole town seemingly, save the elevation known as Prospect Hill – had broken through and the flow of water subsided. All that portion then known as Kent was literally jammed and crammed full of immense icebergs. Judge Almy’s house on the river bank, a short distance above the present site of Sweet’s Hotel, was nearly all under water.
My uncle, Lovell Moore, and family then occupied the Mission house on the west side, and it was a number of days before we could safely cross the river to visit them. Mr. Cramton took us over in a canoe, although the mountains of ice made it very difficult to get access to the channel. I spent the night in the chamber of the Mission house, but slept little, from the novelty of the situation, the moaning of the wind through some pine trees, and the incessant, impressive roar of the rapids.

The Stevens T. Mason, a steamboat that had been running on the river the previous summer, was jammed from its moorings by the ice and flood and drive inland up the valley of a small creek to a point well toward Dr. Platt’s early residence, corner of Fulton and Division streets. The waters subsiding left the boar stranded high and dry, a long distance from the river. Capt. Short, and his son-in-law Jennings, in the spring of 1838, spent a number of weeks getting the boat back again into the river, a work that I viewed with much interest and curiosity, at short intervals, until it was accomplished.

There was great scarcity of forage – no straw, no tame hay, and very little of wild or "Catholic hay," so-called, which was mainly composed of rushes, flags, cat-tails and weeds. We had six head of cattle, oxen and cows, to subsist, and we made long journey in various directions in search of this wild fodder, which we could only get in small quantities at any one place, paying for the same at the rate of $30 and $35 per ton – guess weight.

When we arrived in Grand Rapids in March, the "wild-cat" banks, as they were known, were just tottering to their fall – the air was rife with rumors of this one and that one that was reported to have closed its doors – "busted" – and the panic-stricken people were filled with dire forebodings and alarm. Each one examined his bills at night, and trembled in view of the uncertainties of the morrow; for the issues of a night, who could foretell? In a very remarkable way the Grand River Valley had been sown with a particular variety of this worthless trash known as "Lapeer money," "thick as leaves in Vallambrosa". Some prominent citizens were criminally prosecuted for undue officiousness in "floating" Lapeer money; but in the general and immediate land-slide that submerged all the wild-cat banks, it seemed invidious to make any distinctions, and general anathemas were hurled at all the bank swindlers, without reference to character or degree of guilt.

In June, 1838, was a grand Indian payment at Grand Rapids – the Government annuity. It was estimated that 10,000 Indians were encamped in the village. The leading French traders with the Indians – Messrs. Louis, Antoine and Toussaint Campau, and the Godfroys – garnered a rich harvest of silver half dollars, until their measures were full to overflowing.

I well remember an became quite attached to Aaron B. Turner and Jacob Barns, who, I think, worked as apprentices or in some capacity in the old Grand River Times printing office, up Canal Street.

I think the Lucius Lyon salt well, at the foot of the foundations of "the big mill" in Kent, had been bored to the depth of 300 feet or more, as early as 1838. I am quite confident that I then saw the brackish water running to waste in the river. (This is probably a mistake as to time. Lucius Lyon’s contract for the boring was made late in 1839, and the overflow from the tubing was obtained August 21, 1841. –Editor)

During the stringency, and for want of any good circulating currency, in 1838, not only some of the merchants but the village resorted to the expedient of issuing notes in the similitude of bank bills – promises to pay, or shinplasters, as they were called in popular speech. Several hundred dollars for small change, and in one and two dollar bills, were thus put in circulation, and for some years were found a great convenience. Eventually they were all, or nearly all, redeemed, with very little if any loss to those who were constrained to use them.
Few streets in town, during the village days, were worked enough to make passable road-beds in all weathers. Those in springy and swampy ground had ditches made at the sides, with here and there little plank bridges over the brooks. Canal street was a miry morass all the way from Pearl street to Coldbrook, and Division street, in wet weather, was a slough of mud south to the village line, and the road likewise for a mile beyond. Monroe street was at times a bed of heavy clay mortar.

The financial tightness continued, and was rather increased in 1841 by the failure of the Bank of Michigan. In August the first salt well, above Bridge street on the east bank of the river, was tubed, and the water thus procured was of such strength as to inspire hope of great profits from the manufacture of salt. The first notable burglary in Grand Rapids occurred in the night of November 12, 1841, when the safe of Amos Roberts was robbed of $500 in specie and about $125 in bank bills. For wolf bounties $96 were paid from the county treasury in that year. In December a mill was completed by Granger & Ball at Plaster Creek, and the manufacture of land plaster was begun. John Ball, in that year, wrote to a New England newspaper that in all his travels he had not found another country combining so many advantages as this about Grand Rapids, "not even the celebrated Oregon".
An auspicious event of the beginning of the year 1842 was the dedication, January 2, of the Congregational Church at the corner of Monroe and Division streets, which was originally built for the Roman Catholics. In March, 1842, a local writer took a view of the village and reported as follow:

"Within the short space of six years as many thousand inhabitants have taken up their residence in the Grand River country. About one thousand are contained in the village of Grand Rapids. It contains at this time eight dry goods stores, one hardware, one drug and medicine, and one book store; four tailor, four blacksmith, three shoemaker, two carriage making, one chair and two cabinet shops; three public inns, two churches, a court house, two flouring mills, one saw mill, one tannery, one brewery, one pail factory, and one printing office; two physicians, six ministers of the gospel, and (we blush to mention it) only nine lawyers. Besides the above, there are two churches building, the salt works nearly completed, a plaster mill and some half dozen saw mills just about the village."

In that spring of 1842, a "Washingtonian" (temperance) society of fifty or more members was organized. About the first of May salt manufacture was begun at the Lucius Lyon Works, and the event was celebrated May 17 by a public dinner at the Grand River Exchange hotel. In the same month the corner-stone was laid of the Reformed Dutch church, corner of Bridge and Ottawa Streets. The building was never finished, but was used for worship and for school purposes many years. Early in July the canal on the east side of the rapids was finished, and the water let into the basin. In August a bell weighing about 1,000 pounds arrived for the Congregational church. It was the first bell of the village, of much size, and its ringing was hailed as a sign of progress. An immigration society was organized in August, of which John Ball was appointed agent. The arrival of goods shipped from New York, by some of the village merchants, in the short time of two weeks, by lake and river route, and at a freight rate of eighty cents per hundred pounds, was a subject of congratulation. There was a foot bridge across the river rapids in that summer. In the fall a stage line of Pontiac was established.
The winter of 1842-43 has ever since been characterized as "the hard winter". Snow fell to a great depth in November and December. There appears to have been a premonition of this, for in November an editorial item in the Enquirer newspaper announced: "The squirrels, it is said, are pushing south in large numbers. Those wise in such matters say that this betokens a severe winter." On March 29, 1843, the statement was published that for more than four months the weather had been cold and freezing, with snow from two to four feet deep. It did not abate until April. Large numbers o cattle perished from starvation and in the village and adjoining townships the few saved were kept alive by browsing, for which purpose many acres of timber were cut. Orrin B. Gilbert, in this county, lost his way and perished in the snow, near the south line of Oakland township, about the 24th of March. In May occurred the first murder trial of this vicinage, that of one E. M. Miller, charged with the murder, near Muskegon, in December previous, of an Indian squaw, which caused considerable local excitement. The report of it in the only newspaper then printed here, gives very little light as to the facts developed. Miller was convicted, and later in the season sentenced to be hung, and preparations for the execution were made on February, 1844, by Sheriff Solomon Withey. An act of the Legislature abolishing the death penalty intervened just in time to save the prisoner from the scaffold. A sentence of imprisonment for life was substituted. Several years later he was pardoned, new disclosures indicating that he was not guilty of the crime charged. There was a rapid increase of the population this year from the influx of new settlers. Stephen Hinsdill started a woolen factory.

This place was not quite out of the woods in 1844, as is indicated by the fact that the public accounts showed $208 paid in bounties for killing twenty-six wolves within the county during the previous year. The Legislature appropriated six thousand acres of land for the building of "a free bridge across Grand River at Grand Rapids". A company for the work had been previously incorporated. Thomas D. Gilbert reported forty-eight arrivals and forty-six departures of vessels at the mouth of Grand River in March and April, 1844, an encouraging indication of the growth of trade at the time. On the 12th of July occurred the first very serious fire in the village – the burning of the court house and jail. This started a movement for better protection against fire. A new court house, a small one, costing only $300, was built soon afterward.

The burning of the little dwelling of Mrs. Twamley, a widow with three little children, and all their household effects, was the chief exciting event of January, 1845, in this village. The winter, as to storms and temperature, was comparatively mild, and navigation opened early. A new steamboat was built at the foot of Canal street, by Captain Jasper Parish – the Empire. The engine for that boat was the first of the kind constructed here. It was made at the shop of Henry G. Stone & Company; the patterns by Andrew Ferguson. It was of seventy-five horse power. A pamphlet issued in the spring of 1845 contained the following brief business inventory of Grand Rapids:

Fifteen stores, three flour mills, two saw mills, two furnaces and machine shops, two pail factories, two tanneries, one woolen factory, one sash factory, salt works, plaster mill, two hatters, three shoe shops, three tailors, one tin and copper smith, one saddler, several blacksmiths, three public houses, two printing offices, four churches, one incorporated academy, and three physicians.

April 21 the Enquirer announced the appearance of the first dray, as follows: "Let it be chronicled for the annalist; the month of April, 1845, saw the first truck at Grand Rapids. Mr. David Kent is the enterprising owner and driver." Two steamboats were running between this village and Grand Haven. An ox weighing 1,700 pounds on foot was brought in from Barry county and slaughtered, whereupon the people feasted. A railroad meeting was held June 25, at which it was resolved to petition for a charter for a railroad from Battle Creek to Grand Rapids. The completion of the stone work for the first bridge across the river – at Bridge street – was the occasion of a lively celebration, August 9. The capstone was laid on the western pier, with Masonic ceremonies. The bridge was completed that season. The following further description of the appearance of and signs of progress in the village of Grand Rapids at this period is given by Frank Little, of Kalamazoo:

My second residence in Grand Rapids dates from December, 1844, with an engagement as clerk in the store of J. Morrison, in January, 1845, which was situated at the foot of Monroe street, next door north of Col. Amos Roberts’ stone building in the row fronting east, up Monroe street. I had grown some, but Grand Rapids had grown more, and had become a thriving, prosperous town. True, the country generally had but partially recovered from the terrible scourge of bankruptcy and financial "blue ruin" that had swept the land as with besom of destruction. But the people were beginning to take heart, to crawl out from under cover, and business was reviving. I remember that the principal currency of Grand Rapids at that time was Smith’s of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marine and Fire Insurance notes, and the bills of the several branches of the State bank of Indiana. I do not think the notes of a single Michigan bank were current at par at that time. A large colony of Hollanders from the old country soon settled at Black Lake, Zeeland and Holland, on the east shore of Lake Michigan. These emigrants brought more or less gold with them – ten guilder pieces, valued at $4 each. Much of this Dutch gold found its way up to Grand Rapids, and with the silver coin disbursed by the Government to the Indians, furnished a most valuable stable currency, and materially advance the material wealth and business prosperity of the town.

The frontage of the Roberts and Morrison stores in 1845, was literally the cul de sac of Monroe street. The right-angled narrow exit between "Tanner Taylor’s" store on the south, and the Mills store on the north, into Canal street, was scarcely discernible; and particularly so by the runaway teams from up Monroe street, which were never able to double the "narrows", but almost invariably were corralled, massed in a heap and laid out, hors de combat, in front of our store. Especially was this the case in winter, when icy. If two horses with sleigh were thus running, one or both of them would slip down opposite Faneuil Hall or the Rathbun, and momentum would bring the whole outfit, horses, harness, sleigh, robes, straw, jugs, et cetera, in a most confusing heap up against and onto our platform. Seldom were the horses seriously maimed or injured, although these runaways were of almost daily occurrence.

In the late fall and early spring Monroe street, from Division to Canal street, became literally a river of mud. This mud was frequently from six to eight inches deep the whole width of the street, and thick like hasty pudding. From the summit at Luce’s Block the descent was much more rapids than now, and in the early morning could be seen unmistakable evidences that, during the night, the whole viscous mass of mud to the depth indicated, had, like an immense Swiss glacier, moved bodily down the hill ten, fifteen or twenty feet.

The people of Grand Rapids were noted for hospitality, and a cordial, hearty welcome of all strangers and new comers. There was nothing cold, chilling or forbidding in society, no aristocracy of blood or condition – no exclusiveness. All sorts and conditions were recognized, and accorded standing room. I bear cheerful testimony in my own experience, to the warm-hearted friendliness, and generous, kindly interest taken in my welfare, and the volunteer disinterested proffers of aid by many, many well remembered friends.

In the early months of 1846 concerts by a newly organized brass band, conducted by Prof. Marston, were among the leading amusements, and lyceum discussions were prominent as intellectual feasts. Mild weather with muddy streets prevailed, with the ice brokon (sic) in the river in February, and navigation opened March 11. An unusually rapid falling of the river, after it had been swollen by rains, was noticed this season. As an explanation, it was said that there was a lower stage of water in the lakes, producing a stronger current out of the rivers. On June 24 John Post, a painter, was killed by falling from the top of the Congregational church belfry with the iron cross which he was engaged in removing. A daily mail from Battle Creek, established in August, marked a new era in postal facilities.

Toward spring in 1847 there was a little excitement over the purchase of lands in Ottawa county for a colony from the Netherlands, and the expectation that a considerable number of those Hollanders would eventually settle in this village. Lansing was selected as the location for the State Capital, in February; and a legislative grant for the construction of a canal around the rapids, further raised the hopes and stimulated the enterprise of the villagers. The long-headed ones saw in it a source of profit; not so much from the use of the canal as a transfer station in navigation as from the increased value of the water power to result from the improvement. March 24 an "Irish Relief Meeting" was held, the first of the kind here. "Liberal subscriptions" were made, but their exact measure does not appear of record. Up to this season it had been the custom of boats plying between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven to land almost anywhere along the route, where a handkerchief or a hat was waved as a signal. This spring the announcement was made that they would stop only where sufficient docks were provided. A delegation of thirty-six persons from this village attended the River and Harbor Convention held at Chicago, July 5, 1847. The laying of the corner stone of St. Mark’s Church (Episcopal) took place on the 9th of June, and the church was consecrated November 18, Bishop McCoskry officiating.

In 1848 the electors voted in May on the question of license or no license for the sale of ardent spirits. The vote stood: For license 80, against 11. There were a few cases of cholera in July. In September a bell ringer was engaged, to ring the Congregational church bell, morning, noon and night, at a salary of $50 a year. October 27, the agricultural society of the town of Walker held a fair at the west end of the bridge. It was the beginning of that class of exhibitions here. The payment of the Indian annuity occurred on the 15th of November. About $20,000 in coin was disbursed, and as a large part of it went into the coffers of traders, it was hailed as an important help financially. A building was this year erected on West Bridge street for public uses, and was occupied for some years by Dr. Joseph Penney as a lecture room, and by others for kindred purposes and religious meetings. Agitation of the project of a plank road to Kalamazoo was begun in December.

The year 1849 opened with cold weather and good sleighing, which gave liveliness to the lumber business, and to general trade in the village. There was some scolding in the newspapers about the piles of wood brought in by farmers and placed in the streets or on sidewalks. Good beech and maple wood, four feet in length, was then worth from $1 to $1.50 per cord. The school house in District No. 1 was burned on the night of February 22. High water just after the middle of March stopped business at the mills for some days; flooded the lower part of the town as far back as where the Union railroad depot now is, and covered the islands in the river nearly out of sight. An amendatory act as passed by the Legislature concerning the construction of the canal and locks around the rapids, chiefly regulatory; as to the manner of settling accounts with James Davis, the contractor, and authorizing the construction of a dam across the river. The corner-stone of the Roman Catholic church, built on Monroe street of the river limestone, was laid June 10. The walls were completed in August. It was roofed in October, and consecrated in the following year. There were several fatal cases of cholera at and near Grandville in that season, but this village escaped the scourge. Work on the canal (east side) was resumed in July, and prosecuted vigorously. The water was turned away from the east channel of the river by a temporary dam, and excavations were begun for locks from the basin into the slack water below. The files of "Dutch buggies", as the wheelbarrows were called, attracted much attention. The east half of the basin was cut off by an embankment through the center, and that part of it next Canal street made dry land, and turned over for building and business uses. The proposed locks were never constructed. The work was suspended shortly afterward, and the canal rested. There was much activity in building that season, business generally was brisk, and the people began to grow cheerful in the prospect of a realization of their early dreams as to the coming importance of Grand Rapids. The Union School building, constructed of limestone, where now stands the fine brick Central, east of Ransom street, was completed that fall. A three-story wood building on Canal street, a short distance above Lyon, was erected by Harry H. Ives and Benjamin Luce, the second story of which was used for a public hall, and the third story was occupied by the Sons of Temperance as a lodge room. There was a good stage of water in the river all summer, and freight and passenger traffic was lively. The bell in the Congregational meeting house became cracked in November, and there was sighing among those who had depended upon its ringing to know when dinner was ready. At the time of the Indian payment, October 22, it was remarked that the Indians were from year to year growing worse in condition, as regarded poverty, dissipation and general demoralization. From August 24 to December 22, there was no death of an inhabitant of the village. A notable incident of this year was the holding of the first agricultural fair of the County Society, on the Public Square.

January 14, 1850, occurred the burning of a building on Monroe street, just below the then new Catholic Church, used in part as a chapel and in part as the priest’s residence, by which two women – the mother and sister of the Rev. Mr. Kilroy – lost their lives. This was the Richard Godfroy house, built in 1835. The village had only a small hand engine, and two lines of men with pails were formed from that point to the river, and even ladies joined in the line, passing back the empty pails. The movement for a city charter culminated in a public meeting, February 18, at which a draft of the proposed charter was submitted and adopted, and Harvey P. Yale was delegated to proceed with it to Lansing and lay it before the Legislature, by which body the city was incorporated April 2, 1850. The first annual ball of the firemen, February 22, put a new link in the chain of social life, and was set down in newspaper chronicles as "a very brilliant affair". The dam across the river was an obstacle to the upward passage of fish, which they had never before met. Consequently there was in this spring an unprecedented catch upon the rapids, of sturgeon, pickerel, bass, suckers, and other members of the finny tribe, to the great sport and profit of fishermen, with spears and nets. The river boats started in the latter part of March, with lively traffic. A crevasse occurred in the embankment between the guard gates and the east end of the dam, on the river side of the canal, about 150 feet of which was carried away, March 23, shutting down the machinery of the mills till the breach could be repaired. Two or three companies of gold-seekers left Grand Rapids for California about this time, but their places were more than filled by incomers who became residents. On Monday, May 1, occurred the election, at the Bridge Street House, on the adoption of the city charter. The vote stood 252 for to 91 against, giving 161 majority for the charter. Under it the city was organized by the first election of municipal officers May 11, 1850, and the village of Grand Rapids became a thing of the past.


The charter of the village of Grand Rapids instituted a Board of seven Trustees, who were empowered to elect a President, and these to be "a body corporate and politic under the name of The President and Trustees of the Village of Grand Rapids; to have a common seal; empowered to purchase, hold, sell and convey real estate for village purposes, and given generally all such powers of control and management over streets, fire and police and municipal affairs as are usually exercised by similar corporations." The charter also contained clauses regulatory of the manner of proceeding in the taking of property for street uses and the levy and collection of taxes for village uses. The first village election was held at the court house, Monday, May 1, 1838, when the highest number of votes cast was 141, for Louis Campau for Trustee. The first meeting of the Board to organize was held at the office of Charles I. Walker, May 14, 1838, when Henry C. Smith was chosen President. Village by-laws were adopted May 21. Among their provisions were prohibitions of horse racing, of discharging fire arms, and of ball alleys or gaming houses within the village; also of liquor selling at retail except by licensed tavern keepers. The first set of village officers were elected at this Board meeting. In June ditches were authorized, to drain the marsh in the region of Fountain, Greenwich (now Ionia), Division and Lyon streets. Certain citizens were allowed to put a well at the Monroe street corner in Greenwich (Ionia) street, with a platform and pump. July 10, six acres of ground were purchased, on credit, of James Ballard, for a cemetery – price $300 – the beginning of the present Fulton Street Cemetery. An order was passed for the opening of Kent street to Monroe street – a proposed improvement that has never been consummated. In September the discovery was made that the village was bankrupt, having no funds, and corporation notes (one and two dollar bills) to the amount of $300 were issued. By resolution of the Board, these were made receivable for all taxes and dues to the corporation, and some of them remained in circulation eight or ten years.

In May, 1839, after the second election, a committee was appointed to settle with ex-Treasurer Charles I. Walker, and reported that there had been no receipts, no taxes having been levied. The only payments into the Treasury were by corporation notes, of which the Treasurer had charged himself with $202, and credited himself with certain payments amounting to $143.69, leaving a balance due from him, which the committee reported was more than covered by his private account against the corporation. They also reported claims against the village of $350.52, and $126 of corporation notes outstanding. On June 3, another report made it appear that the village was badly off financially, with bills against it aggregating $890.59. It was then "Resolved, that all that portion of the law passed by the former Board as to the issue of Shinplasters be and is hereby rescinded." What might be the effect of rescinding instead of repealing a law is a question which the lawyers of the Village Board appear not to have taken pains to consider. June 17 a tax levy of $500 was ordered, to defray current expenses. This appears to have been the beginning of village taxation; except a dog tax previously laid, and such taxes as were imposed for certain licenses. September 13, mention is made in the record of "the death of our Village Attorney, whose loss is to be regretted". That referred to Benjamin G. Bridge. George Martin was then appointed Attorney. The Board adjourned sine die, December 9 – no quorum present.

In 1840 there was an election, according to the record, at the "Grand Rapids Hotel", and in 1841 an election at the "Grand River Exchange". Further as to 1840 the record saith not; except that there were new officers chosen. The first Board meeting in 1841 was held at the Kent Book Store. In June, 1841, a tax roll of $172.38 was made for Division street, and a grade for Monroe street was fixed. In August the Board of Trustees directed the Village Marshal not to receive more than one-half of any tax in village duebills or orders; for the rest he must exact good current money. The Treasurer was instructed to pay out no moneys "until further directed by this Board". But in October he was authorized to pay certain claims in full, and on all other demands properly allowed to "pay 25 per cent till the money in the Treasury is exhausted."

The first entry of 1842 in the village record, is that of the charter election, May 2, when, besides those for the regular candidates, one vote each, for Trustee, was cast for "Patent Gates," "Old Melvin," "Salt Borer," and "Gov. Ray". As to these the Judges formally declared the election void, because "they were not freeholders within the corporation". The Board was a roving institution about that time. It met June 11 at Grand River Exchange, June 20 at Evans’ store, October 10 and November 15 at "the Book Store".

At the charter election in 1843 the highest vote for any Trustee was 44 for Daniel Ball. The Board met at "the Book Store", and voted to pay the Assessors $3 each, in full for making out rolls; Street Commissioner "such pay as the Board shall think reasonable, not to exceed $1 per day; the Marshal 2 per cent on collections, and for other services not to exceed $1 per day". In June George M. Mills was appointed by the Village Board an agent to sell "so many lots in the cemetery ground belonging to this corporation as shall be sufficient to pay up and liquidate all claims and judgments against said corporation". He was also authorized to takes notes of purchasers, payable twelve months from date.
There is no record of any election in 1844. Some amendments were made by the Board to the by-laws, and licenses were authorized: For retailing liquors, $20; for ball alley or gaming house, $25; for billiard table, $25; for hawkers or peddlers, $10.

In 1845 the election was held at the Mansion House – date not recorded. The highest vote was 145, for John Almy for Trustee. On the license question the vote stood; License 94; no license 40. July 3, 1845, the Board met at the office of Lucius Lyon. Canton Smith, Truman H. Lyon, and Charles Trompe, were licensed as tavern keepers. Lucius Lyon and Louis Campau were requested to have the "original patents: of the lands on which the village was situated recorded, at the expense of the corporation.
At the charter election in the spring of 1846 there was a turnabout on the license question, the vote standing: License, 44; no license, 97. In May the Board had a meeting at Peirce’s store, and chose S. L. Withey Corporation Attorney. In the fall they met at Dr. Shepard’s office. A contract was made with William Peaselee for a fire engine, price $325, corporation note running one year. Woodward & Burnett were engaged to build an engine house for $60. In February, 1847, the original note for $300 given for cemetery land was found to have grown, despite a $40 payment, to $375.35. It was ordered taken up and a new one given to John W. Squier & Co. March 13, 1847; corporation scrip taken up, amounting with interest to $155.97, was ordered burned. As to what became of the rest of the issue of village shinplasters the record is silent.
At the first meeting of the Board of Trustees after the election of 1847, a statement was submitted showing a balance of indebtedness of $298.79, to settle which a tax was recommended. Robert I. Shoemaker was chosen Village Sexton. Board meetings this year were held at the office of the Clerk, Samuel R. Sanford.

In January, 1848, petitions for a large amount of sidewalk making were sent to the Board – walks to be not less than three feet wide. The charter election of 1848 was held at the Rathbun House, and there was another complete turnover on the license question, the vote standing: License, 80; no license, 11. A tax of three mills on the dollar was ordered by the Village Board. Tavern licenses were fixed at $10; victualers and grocers, $20; merchant liquors sellers, in quantities not less than a pint, $10. Edward E. Sargeant was elected Village Attorney. In June the canal basin was ordered cleaned. Daniel C. Moor did it for $20. In July the fire-engine note given to Peaselee was taken up and a new one given. In September a bell-ringer – F. L. Walden – was hired to ring the Congregational Church bell three times a day for $0 a year. In October repair of Justice street, from Monroe street to Trompe’s tavern, was ordered. In December the Village Trustees concluded that they wanted some pay, and voted themselves 50 cents for each monthly sitting and the same for each special meeting – very modest in comparison with present salary rates.

In April, 1849, the sidewalk four feet wide on the south side of Monroe street, was ordered continued past the Congregational church to Fulton street, and thence to the east side of Abram W. Pike’s lot. Orders in favor of George Coggeshall for $50 were ordered drawn, in advance, for sidewalk construction. The Marshal was instructed to procure a suitable hook and ladder carriage, to cost not more than $25. Report was made by a committee to the Board that the Treasurer’s accounts were found correct, and that he had "in his hand the sum of ____ dollars". The charter election this spring was held May 7. On license the vote was a tie – 57 to 57. The new Board met at the store of Sinclair & King, and continued the previous schedule of licenses. On June 1 a sidewalk was ordered on the southeast side of Waterloo street, from Faneuil Hall to Ball & Williams’ storehouses. A petition asked that the stream entering Canal street just south of Backus Block, "which thereby creates a great nuisance", be directed into the gutter on Bronson street, so as to be conducted into the culvert on the north side of Franklin Block. The Street Commissioner was directed to inquire into the expediency of so doing. June 8, voted, "that licenses be issued to all applicants, and if it does not protect them, pay back the money". In July the Marshal was directed to procure and scatter through the village, 100 barrels of lime, in behalf of the public health. The Board voted to refund money advanced by certain persons to buy a fire engine. In December, resolved, "That we except (sic) the fire engine of Mr. Snooks, and give him the corporation’s note for $400, payable in one year, being the balance due." It was also resolved, "That we give to all persons that wish a corporation note, payable the first of September, 1850, for the amount advanced for the Snooks engine", and that "if the young men or boys will form a fire company, they may have the use of the Peaselee engine".

January 10, 1850, the Trustees appointed Charles H. Taylor, Julius C. Abel, Alfred D. Rathbone, George Martin and Edward E. Sargeant, a committee to draft a city charter – the city to include Sections 19 and 30 in Town Seven North, of Range 11 West, and Sections 24 and 25 in Town Seven North, of Range 12 West. January 23, $150 was appropriated to procure fire hooks, ladders and carriage, for a hook and ladder company. February 28 the Board by vote recommended the passage of the city charter. May 1, 1850, ends the village record with a statement of the vote of the electors adopting the city charter. The following is a list of the principal village officers from 1838 to 1849, inclusive:


Boards of Trustees –

1838 Henry C. Smith, President; Louis Campau, Richard Godfroy, William A. Richmond, Charles I. Walker, George Coggeshall, James Watson.

1839 George Coggeshall, President; Louis Campau, John Almy, Henry P. Bridge, Francis J. Higginson, William G. Henry, Henry C. Smith

1840 John Almy, President; Antoine Campau, Charles Shepard, James M. Nelson, Josiah L. Wheeler, Samuel F. Perkins, Israel V. Harris

1841 John Almy, President; James M. Nelson, William G. Henry, Antoine Campau, Harvey K. Rose, Charles I. Walker, Samuel F. Butler

1842 John Almy, President; Samuel F. Butler, William G. Henry, James M. Nelson, Harvey K. Rose, Antoine Campau, Charles I. Walker

1843 John Almy, President; Lucius Lyon, Daniel Ball, Charles H. Taylor, George Coggeshall, Julius C. Abel, George M. Mills

1844 The record contains no entry of any election this year, but at a Board meeting were present John Almy, President; Julius C. Abel, George M. Mills, Charles H. Taylor, George Coggeshall

1845 Trustees elected failed to qualify, and the Board of the previous year held over.

1846 William Peaselee, President; Harvey K. Rose, Charles Shepard, David Seymour, David Burnett, Zenas G. Winsor, James M. Nelson

1847 George Coggeshall, President; Amos Rathbone, George C. Evans, William H. McConnell, William H. Godfroy, Boardman Noble, Kendall Woodward

1848 Geo. Coggeshall, President; Joshua Boyer, Thompson Sinclair, William Peaselee, William H. Godfroy, George Kendall, Abram W. Pike

1849 George Coggeshall, President; Harry Eaton, Luther N. Harmon, Heman Leonard, Thompson Sinclair, Solomon O. Kingsbury, Julius C. Abel


John W. Peirce, 1838 - 1846

Samuel R. Sanford, 1847 – 1848

Solomon O. Kingsbury, 1849


        Charles I. Walker, 1838

        William G. Henry, 1839

        Antoine Campau, 1840 – 1841

        Samuel F. Butler, 1842

        William G. Henry, 1843

        Henry Seymour, 1846

        Amos Rathbone, 1847

        George Kendall, 1848

        Harry Eaton, 1849


        Gideon Surprenant, 1838 – 1839

        William O. Lyon, 1840

        William I. Blakely, 1841 – 1842

        Harry Dean, 1843

        George C. Evans, 1844

        Jacob W. Winsor, 1846

        Ira S. Hatch, 1847 – 1848

        Michael Connolly, 1849

Transcriber: Evelyn Sawyer
Created: 08 February 2002