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History and Directory of Kent County, Michigan, Containing a History of Each Township and the City of Grand Rapids, Compiled and Published by Dillenback and Leavitt, County History, Directory and Map Publishers, Grand Rapids: Daily Eagle Steam Printing House, 1870.

Ada Township is centrally located in the county; being bounded on the north by Cannon, on the east by Vergennes, on the south by Cascade, and on the west by Grand Rapids. It was named -- it is said -- a highly respected lady by the name of Ada Smith, who then resided in the township.

Unfortunately the records of the township are not now in existence previously to the year 1835, which, however, must have been soon after the date of its organization.

The township of Ada originally embraced a large tract of country, including several of what are now the adjacent towns. It was of Ada as it then existed, that Rix Robinson, Esq., was elected the first supervisor. The first entry upon the records, under date of 1835, is to the effect that Norman Smith was elected supervisor by one majority, he receiving all thirty-two votes.

Supposing that he had but one competitor,--as he probably,--we estimate the whole number of votes sixty-three. Just think of it! It in extent of territory where there were at last election at least one thousand votes polled, thirty-five years ago they could muster but sixty-three. Picture in your mind the sights of a 'town meeting' during those times. Here they come, one by one, from the different points of the compass, hard-working, honest men. It is a gala day with them. They meet for perhaps the first time in months. They go early and stay late. They urge their brief political campaign in their homely way. They enjoy as well as perform their duty, and then part of the scenes of stern labor. Thus the times count themselves, each year bringing in an increase in numbers, until fourth and fifth sub-divisions count more votes than the original united one.

One of the most prominent of the early settlers was Rix Robinson, Esq., the first white man in the township, and one of the first in the country. For a long time he was engaged in the fur trade in the fur trade with the Indians on Grand River. Alone he traversed the forests, and 'paddled his own canoe' surrounded with savages by nature -- and sometimes by deed -- but he remained 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.

Mr. Robinson, or 'Uncle Rix', as he is familiarly called, during his sojourn and life among the Indians, became quite attached to them; so much so that he took one of their daughters as his partner for life, with whom he now lives. They have but one son, and he is well known throughout Grand River Valley as an energetic business man.

The life of the pioneer is fraught with toil, and peril, and actual suffering. It is pleasant for us to sit by the warm fire on a chilly night, and listened while the grandfather tells of the 'dark days', as he once called them, in the history of his experience. We have often heard him repeat the story of the nights 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 stick chimney; of sickness and death in the family, with no attending physicians, and so on through the long lists. But we are not the only delighted one. What a change came over the countenance of the aged man as he recounted those scenes! Ah! yes, he was 'dreaming a dream of the olden time'. All was not sorrow, hardship and suffering. It may have seemed to him at the time that it was nearly all 'rainy weather'; but as he now calls up their shadowy forms, he discovers that

Taking the year all around
There wasn't more night than day.
Then we have passed through the valley of youth and middle age, and have ascended the hill of years, as we look back into the valley through which we have come, shall discover many more scenes of real enjoyment than of discontent. So it is: whatever may be his experience, where he may be, in country, town or wilderness, with pure mind, and a laudable ambition, every individual has his share of the music of life.

The experience of the pioneers of Ada, was similar to that of other townships; they worked hard, endured much, and they enjoyed much. They lived a noble life, although it was a life perhaps few of us would choose. They lived a noble life, I say, and did good work. Every stroke of their pioneer axe sounded a note in the song of a 'thousand years'.

Among the early settlers of Ada in addition to the one we have already mentioned may be named Edward Robinson, who settled in 1830, Torrey Smith, A. H. Riggs and Edward Pettis in 1836-7, Peter McLean, R. G. Chaffee, Hezekiah Howell, E. McCormick, P. Fingleton, Gurden Chaple, John Findlay and J. S. Schenck, 1840 to 1845.

The principal


in the township are the Grand and Thornapple. Grand River crosses the township from the northwest to the southeast, and is navigable for small crafts. Before the completion of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad, steamboats passed up the river as far as Ionia.

Among them


Chase's is the only one worth of mention. It is located on sections two and eleven, and contains about one hundred and sixty acres.


is mostly oak.


being what is usually termed 'oak openings'. It is rolling, particularly on either side of Grand River, but becomes nearer level as it recedes from the river.


is rather sandy, being well adapted to fruit culture. It is well suited also to the production of the different kinds of grain.

The citizens of Kent County appreciated the value of good educational faculties. No township can be said to be an exception to this statement. The


of Ada are located and numbered as follows: School house No. 1 was erected in 1858, at a cost of $600, on section twenty-four. Material, wood. School house No. 2 is located on section twenty, value, $800. Material, wood. School house No. 3 was erected in 1859.  Material, wood. School house No. 4 (fractional Ada, Vergennes and Lowell,) was erected
in 1852, at an expense of $200. Material, wood. School house No. 4 was erected in 1867, at an expense of $800; located at section twenty-three. Material, wood. School house No. 6 was erected in 1854, at a cost of $450; on section twelve. Material, wood. School house No. 8 was erected in 1856, at an expense of 1856, at an expense of $800, on section five. School house No. 13 was erected in 1867 at an expense of $1,000, located on section ten. Material, wood.


was laid out into lots by Dalrymple & Dunn when the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad was built,--about the year 1858; and although one or more additional plats have been made its growth seems to be quite slow. It is located on sections thirty-three and thirty-four, near the confluence of the Thornapple and Grand Rivers, ten miles, via the railroad, from the city of Grand Rapids. It possesses a tolerably good water power, which, as yet, has been but slightly improved. Two good grist mills are situated on Thornapple River, and appear to be doing a good business. One of them is called the 'Ada Mills'. It was built in 1856, and cost about $15,000. The present proprietors are E. Bradfield & Sons. The other, called the 'Kent County Mill of Ada', was built in 1865, at an expense of about $15,000. It is situated at the mouth of the Thornapple River and is owned and operated by E. Averill & Co.

The Baptist Church, which, by the way, is the only church in the village, is a substantially built and well-furnished brick structure. The village also contains a good school-house, two hotels, three dry goods, one drug store, two grocery stores, besides various blacksmith, butcher, cooper and shoemaker.

Transcriber: JKG
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/directories/dillenback/ada.html 
Created: 10 May 1999[an error occurred while processing this directive]