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About the period when the names of Paul Revere, Lexington and Washington were echoed throughout the civilized world, and were mentioned in the councils of savage tribes, the American Fur Company, or at least a few men who were subsequently its principals, determined to push their posts farther west, and commissioned Madame La Framboise, a French lady, to locate a post, and establish their trade in the neighborhood of the Great Rapids of the Owoshtenong. The lady came, received permission from the council of the two tribes, and before the first echoes of the Revolution had died away in the colonies, she had succeeded in building the first trading hut and placing within it a full stock of Indian supplies. This hut was located on section 9, in the township of Lowell, about two miles west of the village. Although the American For Company constantly kept a supply of goods at this point, the Indians would often go to Detroit to trade, not so much, however, with a view to securing larger prices for their peltries, or to purchasing necessaries at a smaller cost, as to obtain a supply of "fire water," which could not be had at a nearer point. As the time for the "annual pow-wow" approached, a journey to Detroit was considered necessary, for the purpose of laying in a supply of rum for the occasion. Madame La Framboise remained at this post until superseded by Rix Robinson in 1821. She had been a successful agent for the company, but her advanced age and the growing interests of the fur trade demanded her removal. Remnants of the old storehouse in which she transacted business with the savages remained up to a short time ago. There was a part of the chimney standing as recently as the Centennial Year and marks of the excavations in which the canoes were hid may be seen near by. These are the oldest relics of pioneer life in Kent county.
It will surprise the reader to learn that a woman was the first pioneer of civilization who ever set foot upon the pleasant valley of Grand river; but such, indeed, is the truth. She was a lady of more than ordinary force of character, a shrewd trader and a bold adventurer. Her life at this outpost is filled with thrilling incidents, many of which are enlivened by a vein of romance.
Pierre Constant was the next pioneer, though his stay within the territory now known as Kent county was very limited. The fact of his coming here and partial settlement on the western line of the county, entitles him to a place among the pioneers. Hon. W. M. Ferry, writing of him, states:
"The first trader who located in what was Ottawa county�then embracing Muskegon county�was Pierre Constant, a Frenchman of the type of that advance guard of pioneers Marquette, LaSalle, Joliet and Tonti, who, 200 years before, invaded and brought to the world the great Northwest. He was of the chevalier order of men �brave, honorable and undaunted, amid all dangers. In 1810 he engaged with the British Fur Company, then having a depot at Mackinaw, as a trader; and with his supply of merchandise coasted along the shore of Lake Michigan, and established a trading post on Grand river, near what is now called Charleston, and another on the banks of Muskegon lake. He married an Indian woman of remarkable beauty and intelligence, by whom six children were born to him. Once a year, he with his family and the results of his venture in furs and peltries, coasted down Lakes Michigan and Huron to Penatauquashin, the Indian depot for Upper Canada."
Rix Robinson, the first American pioneer, arrived in the valley in 1821, as successor to Madame La Framboise, who retired that year from the service of the American Fur Company. Every chronicler of the valley bears testimony to the excellent character of this remarkable man. It is stated that he was the first white man who settled permanently within the boundaries of Kent, and as such must be considered the actual first resident. For a long time he was engaged in the fur trade with the Indians on the Grand river. Lone, he traversed the forests in the interests of the American Fur Company, surrounded with savages by nature, and sometimes by deed, but was unmolested by them. The spirit of the natives had already been somewhat subdued by the influence of Christianity, and devoted missionaries were then laboring among them. A tribe of these Indians remained near the town of Ada until 1860, when they sold their lands and removed to Pentwater. During the latter years of their residence on these lands, they cultivated the soil, and built respectable residences, had well-organized schools and comfortable churches. They were of the Roman Catholic faith.
The life of this pioneer was fraught with toil and peril and actual suffering. "It is pleasant," said an old resident, "to sit and listen while 'Uncle Rix' tells of the dark days in the history of his experience � I have often heard him repeat the story of the nights he spent in the woods alone, far from any house; of fording streams in winter; of encounters with wolves and other animals; of the poor log house with its chimney; of sickness and death in the family, with no attending physicians and so on through the long list. But I was not the only delighted one. What a change came over the countenance of the aired man as he recounted those scenes !"
On the organization of the township of Kent, Mr. Robinson was elected Supervisor, and for many years subsequently received many honors from the people, for whom, as it were he made a road into the beautiful wilderness. In September, 1821, he married a woman of the Mackinaw Indians named Miss-a-quot-o-quay, by whom he had one son, John R. Robinson, now residing in Isabella county, an Indian missionary. Miss-a-quot-o-quay died about 1848. Some time about 1850 "Uncle Rix married Sippi-quay, or River Woman, a grand-daughter of Laroche or Na-nom-madaw-ba, the head chief of the Grand River Indians at Battle Point, a firm friend of "Uncle Rix." It is related that this chief bestowed upon the trader the rich hunting ground known as the Big Bayou, advising the tribe at the same time not to interfere with it. This great old settler died about six years ago.
Louis Campau, the pioneer of the Saginaw, was also the first settler of Grand Rapids, and the third pioneer of Kent county. He was a member of the influential Campau family of Detroit, and was born at that post Aug. 11, 1791. At eight years of age he was taken by his uncle, Joseph Campau, who promised to rear the boy, and start him in business. For seven years his business was that of an underservant, going to school but little. The only school education he had simply enabled him to read the French language, and to write. His defective education he regretted; but in after life he made little effort to remedy it. As to scholarship he was simply an illiterate man. His active life was mostly spent as an Indian trader beyond the limits of civilization, or as a business man on the frontier. Until after the war of 1812, he stayed with his uncle, being promoted to be his right-hand man. He was one of the soldiers surrendered by Hull.
After the war he was hired by a company of Detroit merchants to dispose of the remnants of their goods to the Indians on the Saginaw river. This he successfully did. He soon commenced on his own account as a trader among the same Indians. There he stayed, with varying fortune. until the spring of 1827, when, at the request of the Indians, he came as their trader to the Grand River Valley. At times, while at Saginaw, the Government made use of him in dealing with the Indians and making treaties with them. In November, 1827, he came on with a supply of goods for the Indians, and four hired men, packing his goods on ponies. He was also engaged by a Mr. Brewster, of Detroit, to buy furs, in opposition to the American Fur Company. He fixed his first post at the mouth of Flat river, where the railroad depot now is; left two of his men there, and with the rest came to the Indian village, on the west side of the river. Spent the winter there profitably, trading. Before the close of the year 1827, he came with his family and a larger supply of goods; built three log cabins near the river, at the foot of Bronson street. With none around him but the Indians and those dependent on him, he remained until 1832, when the first emigrant,� Luther Lincoln, came in. In a short time after the arrival of Lincoln Rev. Frederick Baraga, afterward Bishop of Buffalo and professor of the Cree and Otchipwe languages, came. With this zealous missionary, Mr. Campau disagreed in all things temporal. Believing that a village or city would be at the place, he secured a piece of land, and platted it as a village � the so-called Campau plat." Soon the speculative fever found Mr. Campau a rich man, doing a great deal of business, building extensively, the president of a bank, etc. The collapse that followed found him struggling to save a little. His property went to assignees and eventually some small part of it was returned to him. Afterward, by doing a limited business, and by constantly selling his lots, he lived a life of gentlemanly independence until within a few years of his death, when his resources were failing he lived on the bounty of his friends, who were unwilling that he should feel poverty, which he never did.
He was twice married. His first wife died at Saginaw. His second, a lady of rare excellence, preceded him in death a few years, July 31, 1869, aged 62. From the time of the death of his wife, whose he fully appreciated, he was never himself again. He died April 13, 1871. He was a tall, fine-looking man; walking lame, from a serious injury received when a young man. He was very courteous and gentlemanly in his intercourse with others; an able counselor in matters of business, but himself unable to practice his own lessons. He was visionary, and an unwise of his own affairs. He was very benevolent, and the kindness of his heart caused him to possess many warm admirers, and was taken advantage of by the unprincipled. He cannot be said to have been a man of brilliant qualities, yet he secured in the community a respect and veneration which it is the fortune of few to attain. He was upright in his dealings, had finely strung feelings and a gentlemanly bearing, which encouraged good will and disarmed enmity. His name will be ever one of the household words at Grand Rapids. He died in 1871, full of years and honors, and rests in the Catholic cemetery by the side of her who was his soul-companion while living, and whose death cast so dark a shadow over the years survived.
Prof. Everett, whose name is associated with the valley of the Grand River for many years, knew Louis Campau and was solicitous enough about the future to pen the foregoing sketch. In compiling the history of Saginaw county, the writer of this history became acquainted with the character of that well-known Indian trader and pioneer of two cities so that he is enabled to bear testimony to the impartiality and comparative completeness of the biographical sketch just given.
Toussaint Campau settled with his senior brother in the winter of 1827 and continued to transact business for him for many years.
This small list includes the names of all the pioneers of Kent County. They claim the distinctive title on account of their early coming and their stay, and still more because of the services which they rendered the old settlers, the prime movers in the march of progress.
OTHER AMERICAN PIONEERS
Under this heading it is deemed proper to refer generally to the men who linked their fortunes with Kent County up to the beginning of 1838, when the Territory of Michigan was thoroughly established and recognized as a State of the Union. The old settlers of a county are entitled to honors of a very special character. It is true they had the pioneers to meet them and offer them information; but in all other respects they were men of great self-reliance strong in mind and body, ambitious to carve out for themselves happy homes, lovers of liberty and the Union, and therefore noble citizens. They came hither to carry out the designs of the great Economist and the midst of their wild surroundings looked forward to the period when the capital should be placed upon their honest labors.
In those early times, the style of living was quite primitive and somewhat different from that of the present. Their dwellings were mostly of the composite style of architecture, being made of such material as could be most easily obtained. They employed very little of the Corinthian style, but much of the Door-ic style. Their pillars were taken from God's first temples�the forests. They constructed their buildings so as to be adapted to a very economical system of self-ventilation and self-heating. Being rather a hearty sort of peoples they could tolerate the opening breezes and the sun's warm visitations. They were not of too delicate a mold to digest their own food instead of employing the contents of a drug store to carry on that necessary process; nor did they consider it disgraceful to gain their livelihood by personal industry and constant labor. At a picnic given by the old settlers in June 1881, Judge Parrish looked back to the past and in the retrospect drew attention to the pride characterizing the people of the present. Old names, celebrated in song and scripture, had given place to new ones, as delicate in signification as the owners of them are weak in physical qualities. Strange forms have been introduced, society has lost half its beauty with the loss of its primitive manners, challenge is marked everywhere, and nothing is the same as it was 50 years ago.
Very little do the young people of the present day know about the privations and the hardships through which the first settlers in this county were obliged to pass. The first settlers were obliged, sometimes, to go long journeys to get their grinding done. It was not very uncommon to go a distance of 50 miles to buy seed potatoes. They contrived, by various means, to pound and crush the grain for their food. It was not infrequently, though game was plenty, that they were out of meat when the preacher came to their houses; but it was not always gloomy and sad with them. There was much good feeling and sociability among them. Their loves and their hates were demonstrative; and the sparseness of the population and the consequent mutual dependence upon each others as well as in occupations as in their amusements, rendered them more helpful and more hearty in their reciprocal deeds of kindness and in their social intercourse. There were not a few even in this section of the county, whose hearts would not respond to the following, rather boisterous, but cheerful and expressive, language of the poet:
Oh! to roam, like the rivers, through empires of woods,It may be true that the feelings and sentiments expressed in the above lines are not the prevailing ones here at the present time � that they are fast fading from the hearts of the new population, and that their proper meridian is still moving west � ever west. Yet there are some among us whose hearts still respond to the echoes of the earlier and more demonstrative times of the past. Many of the early settlers still linger among us; and to them, and to those who have already passed away, the present generation owes an immense debt of gratitude; for bravely have they met the difficulties incidental to settling a new country; and broadly and well did they lay the foundations of future prosperity.
Where the king of the eagles in majesty broods;
Or, to ride the wild horse o'er the boundless domains
And to drag the wild buffalo down to the plain;
There to chase the fleet slag, and to track the huge bear,
And to face the lithe panther at bay in his lair,
Are a joy, alone, cheers the pioneer's breast;
For the only true hunting-ground lies in the West.
Ho! brothers, come hither and list to my story:
Merry and brief will the narrative be.
Here, like a monarch, I reign in my glory�
Where once frowned a forest, a garden is smiling;
The meadow and moorland are marshes no more;
And there curls the smoke of my cottage, beguiling
The children, who cluster like grapes, at the door.
Then enter, boys; cheerly, boys, enter and rest;
The land of the heart is the land of the West.
In the following brief references to the true old settlers of Kent, mention is merely made of their coming and their stay. In the pages devoted to biography, every effort has been made to deal fully with the personal history of the county; and if the worthy should escape notice, they must owe it to negligence on their part.
It is impossible to state precisely when Rev. Gabriel Richard first appeared among the Indians of the Grand River. It is presumed, however, with some authority, that his arrival occurred early in 1799. This celebrated missionary priest was born at Saintes, Charente Infr., France, Oct. 15, 1764 came to Baltimore in 1792, and arrived at Detroit in June, 1798. He inaugurated the first newspaper published in Michigan, Aug. 31, 1809, traversed the Lower and Upper Peninsulas, in 1823 was elected member of Congress from Michigan, took a noble part in everything affecting the interests of the State, and died full of years and honors Sept. 13, 1832.
It is not stated that Father De Jannay visited Grand river, but every circumstance points him out as the same priest who passed through the camp grounds in 1848.
Isaac McCoy, letter known as the Rev. Mr. McCoy, visited the Indian towns at the Rapids in 1823, and proposed to the Ottawas that in consideration of their surrender of one square mile of land the Government would furnish them with a teacher, an agricultural instructor and a blacksmith. McCoy, who was a resident of Fort Wayne, visited Gen. Cass at Detroit, June 28, 1822, for the purpose of securing the privileges of the Chicago Treaty. The Governor had already appointed a commissioner to make definite arrangements with the Indians for the sites of the missionary stations, and Grand Rapids had been designated as a suitable place for the Ottawa mission. Mr. McCoy made the journey to this place in company with a Frenchman, named Paget, in the following year. On their arrival they met with so many difficulties that they failed to accomplish their purpose. A council was held with the Ottawa chiefs, and Mr. McCoy addressed them throughout an interpreter, at considerable length, setting forth the plans of the government and the advantages which the Indians would derive from a cheerful acceptance of them. Kewakushquom, chief of the Ottawa village, replied in a brief speech, refusing to accept the conditions offered. He concluded his oration by stating that he was aware the Indian might soon give up his hunting grounds to the whites, who still continued to crowd the land like locusts but he was prepared to meet whatever trials God sent upon himself or his people. In the characteristic language of the nation he said: "Ga-apitchi-debweiendanibanig oma aking, nongom apitchi mino aiawag gijigong." Those that had a perfect faith on earth, are now exceedingly happy in Heaven. The mission of Mr. McCoy disorganized. This celebrated missionary wrote a grammar and dictionary of the Otchipwe language; was raised to the bishopric of Lake Superior, and subsequently Bishop of Buffalo. His travels led him to the Athabasca regions, and eastward still to the Hudson's Bay district, where he is remembered by the Indians and the Hudson's Bay Company's officers and men.
Baraga was a cousin of the emperor of Austria, one of the Rudolph Hapsburgs. T. B. Church visited him at Marquette a short time before his death. His sister, who held his estates in trust, and who died in 1878, sent remittance after remittance, to aid in carrying out the object of his missionary labors.
Joel Guild and his family, the first American settlers of Grand Rapids, accompanied the Dexter colony to Ionia in 1833. There meeting Louis Campau, the pioneer of Western Michigan, Mr. Guild accompanied him to his trading post at the Rapids, purchased from him a building lot, and erected the first frame dwelling house on the site of the present City National Bank. It is stated positively that this early settler arrived early in June, 1833, while others place the date of his Aug. 12, that year.
Jonathan F. Chubb brought his family to Wyoming township in 1833, and purchased land between the foot of the Rapids and Grandville. After a four years' pursuit of agriculture he disposed of his farms and inaugurated the agricultural business on Canal street in the village of Grand Rapids.
Ira Jones and Eliphalet Turner settled in the county in 1833 and were instrumental in building up its interests. These old settlers died in 1870, much regretted by a large circle of true friends.
Myron Royce, a settler of Wyoming in 1833, located on section 9. Mr. Royce still resides in that township, on the old homestead.
Henry West came West in 1833 and selected his lands on section 20 of the same township.
Luther Lincoln, one of the first to enter lands in this county at the White Pigeon Land Office, with Louis Campau, came in 1833, and located the lands on which the village of Grandville stands.
Hiram Jenison arrived in 1833, and settling lands near the Lincoln tract, made Grandville his home.
Joseph B. Copeland and William R. Godwin, old settlers of 1833, entered lands adjacent to the Lincoln and Jennison properties, and became permanent settlers.
Eliphalet Turner arrived at Grand Rapids Aug. 11, 1833, but did not settle on the land now occupied by the city. He was, however, among the very First settlers of Kent county.
Barney Burton, whose widow still resides here; located lands in Paris township in 1833.
Edward Guild, Joel Guild and Daniel Guild, all well known among the old settlers, made locations within the present boundaries, of Paris township in 1833.
James Vanderpool arrived in the township of Kent in 1833, and entered lands within the district now known as Paris township.
Jacob Winsor, son of Darius Winsor was born in Onondaga County, N. Y. June 11, 1816, came to Michigan in 1833 and settled at Grand Rapids. His death took place Dec. 22, 1874.
Martin Ryerson, born at Paterson, N. J. Jan. 6, 1818, came to Grand Rapids in 1834, and entered into the employ of Richard Godfroy. In May, 1836, he became a pioneer of Muskegon, at which place he continued to reside until 1851, when he moved to Chicago.
Col. Horace Gray, of Grosse Isle, who was a resident of this place from 1834 to 1838, visited Grand Rapids in August, 1881, to acquaint himself with the great changes which progress wrought as well as to visit the few survivors of the settlement of 1834.
James Clark, born at Rahway, N. J., Jan. 31, 1799 married Miss Catherine Powley, of New York, in January, 1821; immigrated in 1831, and settled in Superior township, Washetaw County, where he dwelt until February, 1834, the date of his settlement at Grand Rapids. His was the 14th white family to make Kent county a home. He was the pioneer of Plainfield township, where he died in 1867.
Hiram Jennison, born at Canton, St. Lawrence Co., N.Y., May 11, 1813, immigrated to Michigan in 1834, and settled at Grandville the same year.
Ezekiel Davis was the first settler of the township of Grand Rapids, having located on section 34 in 1834.
Lewis Reed, Ezra Reed, and Porter Reed were among the settlers of 1834.
David S. Leavitt and Robert M. Barr settled in Grand Rapids township in 1834. A brother of Robert M. Barr arrived here shortly after, and settled permanently in the county.
Among the settlers of 1834 were Roswell Britton, Abraham Bryant, J. McCarthy, Ephraim P. Walker, Julius C. Abel, all of whom settled at or near the village of Grandville; Robert Howlett, George Thompson and Alvah Wanzy settled in Wyoming the same year.
Rev. Andrew Vizoisky, successor to Rev. Frederick Baraga was one of the old settlers of 1835. He was born in Hungary, Austria in 1792; immigrated in 1830, and, after a tour through Europe and the Canadas, entered the United States in 1831, where he lost little time in registering his name on the roll of citizenship. From 1831 to the close of 1834 he was the successor of Pere Montcog in the mission of St. Clair, having received his appointment from the Bishop of Detroit. At the close of 1834 he was transferred to the mission of Grand Rapids, and for over 17 years was among the most energetic and esteemed citizens of the growing village. It has been truly said that the ministry of this priest in Kent and adjoining counties was marked by unsurpassed devotion and its most gratifying results. No road was rough enough and no weather inclement enough to keep him from the post of duty. To the poor he brought relief, to the sick consolation, and to the dying the absolvatory promises of his office. Under his administration a fine stone building was dedicated to Catholic worship in 1850. This building stood on Monroe street: he saw it filled with a large and happy congregation; witnessed the fulfillment of his hopes in this regard, and died full of honors, Jan. 9, 1852.
Lucius Lyon, one of the settlers of grand Rapids in 1835 was born at Shelburn, Vt., Feb. 26, 1800 and died at Detroit, Mich., Sept. 24, 1851. His father, Asa Lyon, of Shelburn, was esteemed a man of sound judgment. His mother was Sarah, daughter of Ambrose Atwater, of Wallingford, Conn. Some of his ancestors were among the original settlers of New Haven. Mr. Lyon, as a child and youths was educated the common schools of his native town; and he entered, when approaching his majority, upon the study of engineering and land-surveying in the office of John Johnson, of Burlington, Vt. At the age of 22 years, with a thorough knowledge of that business he went to Detroit; and his professional skill becoming known, he was soon afterward appointed by the United States Surveyor-General, one of his deputies for the district northwest of the Ohio. In this office, Mr. Lyon continued until 1832. While still engaged in its duties, he was informed that he had been elected a delegate from the then Territory of Michigan to the Congress of the United States. He accepted, and remained in Congress until the first convention was assembled to form a constitution, with which the State of Michigan applied for admission into the Union. Of that convention, Mr. Lyon was a members and his course was signalized by his influenced in procuring the adoption of those provisions respecting the common-school lands that made the fund accruing there from a sacred and permanent trust, by which the endowment has become so large and beneficial. The first Legislature which assembled in Michigan chose Mr. Lyon as a Senator in Congress �an honor due to his character and services in behalf of the new State, and to his general knowledge of the condition and necessities of the Northwest. Mr. Lyon continued in the Senate until 1839, when he withdrew to Grand Rapids, then a village of a few hundred inhabitants, where he owned a large amount of property. In 1842 he was nominated and elected by the Democrats of that district as their Representative in Congress. Upon the expiration of his term, he was appointed by President Polk to the office of Surveyor-General for the States of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. At his request, and as a condition of acceptance, the office was located at Detroit. He filled it until his death, which occurred Sept. 24, 1851. His experience as a surveyor in early life, and as a member of the Committee on Public Lands, in both Houses of Congress, qualified him for the discharge of his duties. Mr. Lyon was not a brilliant man, nor rapid in his mental action; but, by being patient, carefully observing, and deliberately considering all subjects which were submitted to him, he generally reached a correct conclusion, and was especially able to make practical applications of results. Thus, in his favorite line of study, natural and mechanical science, he became a proficient, and a peer of those who had enjoyed superior educational advantages. The extent of his knowledge and his capacity for action were sometimes obscured by his modesty. From the unpretentious and silent man, but a tithe of that influence and achievement was which he was found to have wielded and accomplished. He was amiable, benevolent and religious; and, in after life, found rest, satisfaction, comfort, and joy, often fervently acknowledged in that form of Christian faith taught by Swedenborg. From his first appearance in public life until his death, a consistent Democrat, he was unwavering in his political principles and associations. He never married; his housekeeping was superintended by a maiden sister, who yet survives him. In conclusion it may be said that to no other statesman whom Michigan has produced and sustained in office, does she owe more than to the citizen Lucius Lyon.
He and Charles H. Carroll, proprietors of the Kent plat, or rather the village of Kent, were among the first to attend the development of the mineral resources of this portion of the valley.
Believing that salt could be made here, and knowing that this section indicated, geologically, saline springs, he, in 1841, commenced sinking a well on the west bank of the canal, above the big mill, which, after many difficulties and embarrassments, became a supposed success, and the manufacture of salt was, in 1843-4 and 5, prosecuted with considerable spirit, by means of boiling and evaporation But it failed to be profitable, owing to the difficulties in keeping out fresh water which diluted the brine. We believe Mr. Lyon expended upwards of $20,000 in this experiment, and his profits were nothing. Subsequently, in 1858 to 1864, Messrs. Ball & McKee, J. W. Winsor, W. T. Powers, C. W. Taylor, and the late James Scribner, with others, renewed the effort to make salt, and several wells were sunk, and several thousand barrels made, but East Saginaw had, in the meantime, found the "Seat of Empire," and, from superior and purer brine, soon demonstrated that she was master of the situation, and our people could not compete with her, and the works in this city gradually went the way of all unprofitable enterprises.
N. O. Sargeant, whose connection with Kent county, and particularly with Grand Rapids � dates back to 1835, arrived at the same time as and Lyon. He purchased an interest with the latter in the "Kent plat," and became one of the great improvers of the village. He, however, did not remain very long.
Leonard G. Baxter arrived in 1835 as an employee of Sargeant. Geo. Crampton was another of the workers who came that year, accompanied with an ax, a pick, a shovel, a stout heart and strong arms. This pioneer died in August, 1881 and was buried in this county. In 1835 a large number of immigrants settled in Wyoming, among whom were Charles H. Oaks, Joseph A. Brooks, Thomas H. Buxton, Manly Patchen, Ransom Sawyer, Richard Moore, Justus C. Rogers, Eli Yeomans and Erastus Yeomans.
John Almy better known as Judge Almy, a native of Rhode Island, arrived
in Grand Rapids in 1835, to take charge of the "Village of Kent," then
the sole property of Charles H. Carroll, of Groveland, N.Y. Referring to
this family, P. R. L. Pierce says:--
"Mr. Almy held many important places of trust, such as member of the Legislature, Judge of the County Court, Chief Clerk of the Surveyor-General's office, engineer of the Kalamazoo and other river improvements. He also held the office of City Engineer. The Judge was a splendid draftsman, and in water-color and India-ink drawings was not excelled. He was a scientific man of much learning and his general information was very great. He was very methodical and exact in his calculations and business. He had studied law and was admitted to practice, but the duties were not congenial to him, but he was thoroughly grounded in its principles and was a trusty counselor. He was a walking encyclopedia. Of splendid physical form, and a most benignant expression of countenance; he was a man of mark among his fellows, and a courteous, genial gentleman, and beloved of all, and his memory will be cherished by every pioneer of the Grand River Valley who survives him. The immediate relatives of Judge Almy who form a part of the "days of small beginnings" are Mr. P. R. L. Pierce, Mrs. F. M. Lester, Hon. T. B. Church and Alphonso Almy. His wife was a sister of P. R. L. and J. W. Pierce and Mrs. Lester. She died in November 1856 in Canandigua, New York.
Horace and Lyman Gray settled at Grand Rapids in 1835. Andrew Robbins arrived here the same year and made a permanent settlement. Edward Guild, James Lyman, A. Hosford Smith, Darius Winsor, Jefferson Morrison and William C. Godfroy were among the settlers in territorial days, having gone to Grand Rapids in 1835. Lyman and Morrison opened their general stores in the village that year.
Julius C. Abel, the first lawyer who settled in the village came in 1835, and entered on the practice of his profession at once.
Dr. Wilson, the first medical doctor of Kent county, came here in 1835, under the auspices of Louis Campau, who furnished him with the modus operandi of the profession. His practice commenced in August of the same year, when fever and ague offered sufficient subject on which to try his medical skill.
Dr. Charles Shepard may be considered a contemporary settler with Wilson. He arrived on the Thornapple Oct. 18, 1835; the day following vaccinated 120 Indians by order of Rix Robinson, then agent for the U. S. Government, and entered Grand Rapids Oct. 20, 1835, where he at once entered on the practice of his profession. His gray pony and himself were known throughout the county. Ever earnest in his duty, he won the esteem of all the people in this and adjoining counties.
Abram Laraway and Benjamin Clark settled in the town of Paris in 1835, having previously made a temporary settlement at Grand Rapids. Samuel Gross made an actual settlement in the township of Plainfield in 1835. He brought his family with him.
Antoine Campau, who was placed in charge of the old trading post at the village of Saginaw, and also of the small store which stood near the site of the Bancroft House of the present day, left the Saginaws in 1835 and settled at Grand Rapids. Mr. Little of Kalamazoo, in describing the funeral services of the deceased pioneer, says: "That chilly morning of the 4th day of November, 1874, witnessed a solemn and impressive scene. That score of grey-haired invited friends were standing in two lines extending from the sidewalk to the Catholic chapel which then stood opposite the present beautiful church of St. Andrew, with uncovered heads, while the casket containing the remains of Antoine Campau, their former friend and intimate associate, was born between their ranks and followed thence to the chapel, where the last sad rites were performed by several officiating priests.
The Robinson family, consisting of 44 persons, natives of New York State, immigrated to Michigan in 1830. The party sailed from Detroit, via Mackinaw, to Grand Haven. The settlements of this family extended from Lowell, on the eastern borders of Kent county, to Blendon, in Ottawa county.
Benjamin Sizer, a native of Vermont, arrived here in 1835, and without inquiry or guide proceeded to seek a location. Unfortunately, while wending his way along the old deer walk near Plaster creek, an Indian bullet pierced his heart. The savage watcher of the omonsom, or deer trail, rushed forward and was horrified to find that a white man was the victim of his deadly aim. Etageshkid, or gambler, as the involuntary slayer was called, rushed madly through the forest calling out, Gi-nibo! Gi-nibo! He is dead! He is dead!
John Ball, born at Hebron, N. H., Nov. 12, 1794, arrived at Grand Rapids, Oct. 14, 1836; what an important part has been taken by this old resident in building up the interests of the county is well known. He was the third representative of the district in the State Legislature, having been elected in 1838.
William A. Richmond, born at Aurora, on Cuyuga Lake, Jan. 28, 1808, came to Michigan in 1826, and ultimately settled at Grand Rapids in 1836. His death in the city of his adoption was recorded in 1870. Mr. Richmond was among the enterprising men of his day, and, like them, did much to raise this city to the proud position it now occupies.
Myron Hinsdill arrived in 1836, and the same year erected the National Hotel. His brothers, Stephen and Hiram, came the same year.
Hiram Osgood, Orrey Hill, Nathan White, Dwight Rankin, Jacob Rogers, Charles Wheeler, James Lockwood, Charles J. Rogers, Leonard Stoneburner, George Fetterman, entered their lands in the township of Wyoming in 1836.
Josiah Burton settled in the county in 1836.
Simeon Hunt visited the county in 1836, returned to his Eastern home and, re-immigrating, settled in the county in 1844.
Brig. Gen. Solomon Withey, father of Judge Withey, of the United States Court, born at St. Albans, Vt., April 1, 1820, settled at Grand Rapids in 1836. He was among the first officials of the county. A man of sterling honor, he won the esteem of all with whom he met.
John W. Pierce, born at Geneseo, N. Y., Dec. 4, 1814, died at Grand Rapids, Oct. 25, 1875. He came here in 1835, as a clerk in the employment of Charles H. Carroll, then owner of the Kent Plat. Lee pretty soon opened a book store, the first in the valley. This book store was at the northeast corner of Kent and Bronson streets where he remained in business until 1844, when he embarked in general trade on the corner of Canal and Erie streets. Here he erected the first brick store on Canal street. In 1871, his buildings on Canal street were destroyed by fire, entailing a loss of $30,000. The next day he said: "It is nothing but property. It has not put a weed on my hat." With characteristic energy and good nature, he set about the work that fire had made a necessity. In 1842, he married Sarah L., daughter of Col. Roberts. In his family, he was the honored and beloved husband and father. He was always ready to help the public; was one of those who were always on hand when it was proposed to do some good thing. He held several public offices, but never was in the habit of asking for them. When he arrived in the village of Grand Rapids, there were only 13 frame buildings erected.
George C. Nelson and James M. Nelson were among the settlers of 1836. Billins Stocking, Isaac Turner and A. B. Turner, whose names are perpetuated in the names of the streets on the west side of the river, came in 1836. The important part taken by these men in the progress of the city cannot be overestimated. In serving themselves, they served the neighborhood, and were the means of accomplishing much good.
Abel Page, born at Rindge, N.H., Jan. 30, 1785, came to Grand Rapids in 1836. His death took place in April, 1854.
John J. Watson, Hezekiah Green, Asa Pratt, Charles H. Taylor, Abram Randall, Samuel Howland, Jacob Barnes, William Morman, K. S. Pettibone, Wm. Haldane. J. M. Smith, George Yong, Warren P. Mills and E. W. Barnes were among the prominent settlers of 1836, each of them taking an active part in building up the interests of the city and county, as may be learned by a reference to other pages of this work.
David Burnett, an old settler of 1836, was born at South Hadley in 1808, arrived at Detroit in 1836, and walked from that village to Grand Rapids the same year. He stayed with the Smith brothers in Ada township during the winter of 1836-'7; built a log house in 1837, which was opened as a tavern the same year by John W. Fiske. In 1837 he moved to Grand Rapids, after which he engaged in the following named works: The first bridge across Grand river at Lyons, built for Lucius Lyon in 1837. Rebuilt the same in 1843, and received in part payment 2,000 acres of State improvement land. In 1838 and 1839, in company with Nathaniel Fiske and Jacob Rogers, of Milwaukee, he built six light-houses on Lake Michigan. In 1843, built for Scribner & Fuller the bridge at Grand Rapids. Rebuilt it in 1852; and again, after the burning, in 1858, built the bridge at Ionia, in 1847l the stone Union school-house, in 1849; the first dam in the city the same year; the bridge at Plainfield, in 1850; the dam at Newaygo in 1853; the dam at Roger's Ferry, on the Muskegon, in 1864, and the bridge at Bridgetown, in 1866; the bridges on 40 miles of the G. R. & I. R. R., in 1868; the bridge at Big Rapids in 1870; besides other dams and bridges. Five years later, after a life of almost uninterrupted activity, he passed to his reward June 22, 1875.
Loren M. Page, born at Concord, Vt., March 29, 1811, immigrated to Michigan in 1836, and settled at Grand Rapids, Sept. 7 of the same year. The fact that his family was represented in the war for the preservation of the Union by five sons, is itself sufficient to portray the honors which belong to this old settler.
Harry Eaton arrived at Grand Rapids in 1836, and four years later, in 1840, was elected Sheriff of his adopted county. His death was recorded in 1859.
George Martin settled in the county in 1836. Educated at college of Middlebury, Vt., he brought with him from his Eastern travels, a liberal, well-cultivated mind that fitted him for high positions which he subsequently held. This old resident of Grand Rapids was County Judge, Circuit Judge and ultimately the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan.
George Coggeshall, a native of Rhode Island, emigrated from Wilmington, N. C., with his family to Michigan in 1836, and made a settlement at Grand Rapids the same year.
I. Mortimer Smith, born at New Milford, Conn. came to Michigan in 1836, and settled at Grand Rapids the same year.
Warren P. Mills, born at Odgensburg, N.Y., March 15, 1812 came to Grand Rapids in 1836, and after a useful career of 32 years in Kent county, passed to his reward July, 1868.
Wm. M. Livingstone arrived at Grand Rapids March 1, 1836. He was born at Kingston, Canada West, in 1818, and the year following settled at Rochester, N.Y. Mr. Livingstone settled in Plainfield, March 2, 1836, when he located on section 20. In the fall of 1839, after the sale of the public lands, he sold his interest in the last location and purchased his present lands on section 23.
Geo. W. Dickinson, born in Hampshire county, Mass., Sept. 6, 1809, immigrated to Michigan in 1835, and in December of that year located 240 acres on section 21, Grand Rapids township. In the fall of 1836 he brought his family westward, and the year following entered on the life of a lumberman. He was the first American settler who made a thorough exploration of Flat river, and also the owner of the first raft ever brought down that stream.
Robert Hilton, President of the Old Settlers' Association, came to this county in 1836, and located lands on the north bank of the river, a few miles west of the Eagle Plaster Mills, in 1838. He was born at Mt. Vernon, Kennebec Co., Maine, Dec. 2, 1799. By special act of the State Legislature, his title to real estate in this county was confirmed in 1843.
Samuel White, a Canadian, with five sons, four daughters, and two sons-in-law, entered 600 acres of land in Walker township as early as 1836, settled there, and has it his home since that period.
Zelotes Bemis settled in Walker township in 1836, near the location selected by Robert Hilton. The land was formerly an Indian corn-field, and so productive that the owner was enabled to harvest the first wheat crop grown in the district.
Jesse Smith, another Canadian, with a large family located two miles west of the Bridge Street viaduct in 1836, near the location selected by the Edison family immediately after.
Toward the close of 1836 a number of Irish families, flying from oppression and evil laws, sought a home in Michigan. Among the number who settled in Kent county at that period were Patrick O'Brien, James Murray and Stephen O'Brien.
John Harrington, a native of Vermont, John Hogadone and Joseph Denton arrived in the county in 1836, but did not make a permanent settlement until 1837, when they entered lands in what is now known as Walker township.
Sylvester Hodges, the pioneer of Vergennes, came from New York State in 1836 and settled near the Flat river that year.
James S. Fox arrived at Detroit in 1836, and the same year located lands in the township of Vergennes, not far distant from the home of Sylvester Hodges.
Jean B. Nardin, a soldier under Napoleon I., came to Detroit in 1828, and ultimately settled in Walker township in 1836. His home was located near the site of the Eagle Plaster Mills.
Lewis Robinson, with his family, arrived and entering lands on the west bank of the Flat river, located in 1836 on the land on which the southern part of the village of Lowell now stands.
Rodney Robinson located temporarily at Lowell in 1836, and moved to Vergennes in 1837.
Philander Tracey, a native of New York, settled at Lowell with Lewis Robinson in 1836, and moved subsequently to Grand Rapids.
Luther Lincoln, noticed hitherto, settled on the east side of Flat river, on the University lands, in 1836, after which he moved to Montcalm county.
Jacob James and Miner Patterson arrived in the county in 1836 and located in Paris Township.
Orleans Spaulding and Philanzo Bowen immigrated to Michigan in 1836, and selecting the district now known as Paris, made their home there.
James McCrath, George Young and Simeon Stewart located near the rapids of Grand River in l836.
Sylvester Granger came with Robert Hilton in April, 1836. He studied law in the office of Julius C. Abel, and was admitted an attorney in May, 1843. He was in partnership with Mr. Hilton in the first building and furniture business done in the county.
Nathan, William and Jerry Boynton located farms on section 9, Byron township, in 1836.
Lewis Cook left New Jersey for New York early in 1833; remained there a short time, when, migrating, he located in Washtenaw county in 1834, and ultimately became the pioneer of Cascade township in 1836.
Edward Lennon, a native of Ireland, immigrating in 1836, settled in Cascade the same year, and continued to make it his home.
Hiram Lanaway, a brother-in-law of Lewis Cook, left New York in 1836,
with the intention of becoming a citizen of Grand Rapids; but, being discouraged,
returned to his native State. He ventured back in 1839, but was frozen
to death in January, 1841, leaving a widow and young family to battle with
and conquer the obstacles of early settlement.
Hiram Rhodes, born in Dutchess Co., N. Y., in 1804, came to Michigan in 1831, and settled in Ada township in 1837. His death occurred Oct. 22, 1856.
Canton Smith, born at Scituate. R. I., Oct. 26, 1822, arrived at Grand Rapids in 1837, and became one of the most favorably known hotel men in the State. After the death of Hiram Hinsdill in 1840 he purchased the National Hotel property.
John T. Holmes, elected Judge of the Superior Court in 1875 was born at Carlisle, Schoharie Co., N. Y., Dec. 11, 1815. In 1837 he came to Michigan, and Feb. 16, that year, he vent to Grand Rapids, where he spent one year as a clerk, before starting business for himself. For about three years he was in mercantile business, studying law as he had opportunity. He studied law in the office of Bridge & Calkins, and was admitted to the bar May 17, 1843. He soon secured a respectable practice, which resulted in a very extensive one, and which continued until his elevation to the Bench. Mr. Holmes has held the offices of Justice of the Peace, Prosecuting Attorney for Kent county for four years and, on the organization of the Superior Court, he was elected Judge.
John F. Godfroy, nephew of Richard Godfroy, was born at Detroit, July 4, 1824. In 1837, he settled at the village of Grand Rapids, entered mercantile, and continued one of the leading citizens until Jan. 25, 1876, when he died.
James Scribner, whose enterprise in connection with the salt manufacturing interest of Grand Rapids was noticed in other pages, came in 1837.
Israel V. Harris, Wm. A. Tryon, Henry Dean, C. P. Calkins and Col. Samuel F. Butler were all pioneers of 1837, well and favorably known throughout the settlement of the valley.
William I. Blakely, Vice-President of the Old Settlers' Association, settled at Grand Rapids in 1837. He was born in Otsego Co., N. Y.. June 29, 1810.
Luman R. Atwater, born at Burlington, Vt., June 23, 1810, immigrated to Georgia in 1833, and to Michigan in 1837. It is stated that he came to Grand Rapids in the year of his arrival in this State, but did not become a settler in Kent County until 1844.
Gains S. Deane, born at Burlington, Vt., left that State May 10, 1837, for Michigan, visited Grand Rapids, and, like L. R. Atwater, settled at Lyons where relatives of his wife had already located.
Aaron Dikeman settled here in 1837, and has since that period been closely identified with the business of the city. Though he is not a member of the Old Residents' Association, he was among the earliest promoters of the organization. He was the first jeweler and watchmaker who settled west of Ann Arbor.
Rev. James Ballard is said to have come to Grand Rapids in 1837; but records point out the year 1839 as the date of his coining. He was a native of Charlemont, Mass., and a graduate of Williams College, of that State. He was pastor of the Congregational Church of Grand Rapids for 10 years, and the untiring zeal and enterprise displayed by him during that time will always associate his memory with that society. His faithful and untiring efforts in behalf of his flock are clearly proved by the fact that he undertook and performed a journey of over 1,700 miles on foot and alone, through the Eastern States, to raise funds to purchase a building for the church. He has been Principal of the Grand Rapids Schools, State Agent of the Freedmen's Aid Society and a prominent, industrious worker in all causes tending to the public good.
Leonard Covell, Marshal of the Old Residents' Association, was born at Cabot, Caledonia Co., Vt., Feb. 17, 1816. Twenty-one years later, in 1837, he arrived at Grand Rapids, and since that time has continued to identify himself with its social and commercial progress. He has been interested in gravel-road construction and to him is due, in great measure, the fact that so many broad avenues lead to and from the city.
Col. Hathaway, James P. Scott, Lewis Moody, Chase Edgerly, Wm. Butts, Savoy R. Beals, Cyrus Jones, Horace Wilder, James McCray, Jotham Hall, Edward Feakin, and perhaps a few others, noticed in succeeding pages, settled in the county before the close of the year 1837.
John Wendell, owner of the lots where Luce's block now stands, carried on the mercantile business here for some time. He did not succeed, however, and the property was placed in the hands of John Ball, for Menton, of New York. He brought the first iron safe into the valley. The date of Wendell's coming cannot be ascertained. The fact that he had a store here from 1840 to 1846, only is certain.
George Miller, James Clark, Warner Dexter, and Thomas Fraint located in Plainfield township in 1837.
Lucas Robinson, Thompson L. Daniels, Wm. P. Perrin, Alex. Rogers, Emery Foster, and Jolin Brannagan, natives of New York, located in Vergennes in 1837.
Ira A. Danes, Matthew Patrick, Samuel P. Wolf, Charles Newton, William Van Deusen and Samuel Francisco, all immigrants from New York and Vermont, located on the northern bank of Grand river, from two to five miles west of the confluence of the Flat river, in 1837. Francisco made his first settlement in Ionia county in November, 1835.
Robert Thompson, John W. Fisk and Matthew Taylor entered their lands in Grand Rapids township in 1837.
Nicholas Carlton came to Michigan in 1837. Arriving at Detroit, he pushed forward into the interior without delay, and made a settlement near Grand river, in the township of Paris.
Alexander Clark located on section 8, Gaines township, in 1837.
Alexander L. Bouck and Andrew Bouck settled in Gaines in 1837.
Rensselaer Mesnard, Foster Kelly, Charles Kelly and Joseph Blair settled in the county in 1837.
John Harmon, Harmon Kellogg, and perhaps James B. Jewell, located homesteads in Byron township in 1837.
Andrew Watson and family settled in Cannon as early as 1837.
A. D. W. Stout and family immigrated in company with the Watson family, and selected a location in the town of Cannon.
Solomon Wayne emigrated from Wayne county, N. Y., with his family, in 1837, and located near Indian creek, in what is now known as the township of Alpine.
Jonathan Thomas immigrated with his family in 1837. He was a farmer at Ovid, N. Y. In 1836 he disposed of his interests there, entered a large tract of land in Bowne township, and settled here the following year.
Israel Graves and family, of Ovid, N. Y., settled in the county in May 1837.
Frederick Thompson, John Harris and William Wooley, with their wives and children, arrived in 1837, and settled in Bowne township.
Reuben H. Smith, Secretary of the Old Residents' Association was born at Hamilton, Madison Co., N.Y., Sept. 7, 1816. He came to Kent county in 1838, and has since that period identified himself with its advancement.
Solomon L. Withey, born at St. Albans, N. Y., is one of the old settlers, having arrived at Grand Rapids in 1838. In 1848 he was elected Probate Judge, in 1860 State Senator, and in 1863 was appointed Judge of the United States Court of this district.
Abram W. Pike born at Cincinnati, O., Oct. 5, 1814, came to Grand Rapids in 1838 as an employee of the Port Sheldon Company.
Jacob Barnes, born at Stowe, Vt. April 22, 1825, came to Grand Rapids with his father in 1836. He was connected with the Grand Rapids Enquirer until 1850, when he moved to Detroit and purchased an interest in the Free Press. In 1854 he disposed of his interest in that great journal, and returned to Grand Rapids, where he was connected with the Enquirer until 1856.
'Squire Barnes, the head of the Barnes family arrived here in 1831. He was one of the first justices of the peace here, and a most estimable citizen.
Dr. Arba Richards, born at Hartford, Windsor Co., Vt., March 30, 1803, settled in Vergennes, Kent Co., Mich., in 1838, and died at Lowell, Aug. 11, 1870.
Fred A. Marsh, of New York, married Miss Olive Guild, daughter of Joel Guild, in 1838, and settled one mile north of the present village of Cascade. This early settler was killed by a fall from his wagon in 1856. Mrs. Marsh resided on the old homestead until her death in 1867.
Bold adventurers preceded the Americans in the occupation of the aborigines' domain. The Frenchman and the much loved Wemitigoji-mekatewikwanie, or French missionary, dwelt among the savage bands in the first instance, and visited occasionally in the second. Each acted a part well and earnestly; nor should that heroic woman, Madame La Framboise, be forgotten. Under her civilizing influence barbarism lost half its malice, and through her was prepared to receive the American mechanics of republican States. What the Frenchman began was completed by the American pioneer. They entered the land unaccompanied by many of the articles of civilized life, yet they lived in perfect peace amid their uncouth and semi-barbaric surroundings, drew both health and happiness from the fertile soil, and lived to see one of the most prosperous divisions of the State offering greater benefits than even they conceived in their brightest dreams.