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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.

Algoma lies north of Plainfield, and is bounded on the north by Solon, cast by Courtland, and west by Sparta.

It was first settled by Smith Lapham, from Washtenaw county, in 1843. He settled on the east side of Rouge River, in the southeast part of the township, where he now lives in the midst of the village of Rockford, (formerly called Laphamville.)

He was soon followed by Hunter Brothers and others, in this corner; but none went further north or west until 1845, when Joshua Briggs and family from Yates county, New York, went on the east line of section twenty-five. John Davis, and family, from Ingham County, went a mile farther north on the east line of section twenty-four, and Henry Helsel and Henry Shank and families, from Ohio, went up the right bank of the river and settled on section twenty-one. Mr. Helsel now has a fine farm of 280 acres, mostly improved; Mr. Briggs and his sons have nice farms where they first settled; and Mr. Davis now lives, on an enchanting spot, on the bank of a roaring brook, which leaps and tumbles over a dam close to his cabin door, tow miles west of his old home. Mr. Shank is not now a resident of the township.

Benj. Pettingill, and his son B. N. Pettingill, who came from Ingham county, and settled on the southeast corner of the township in 1845, are now living on a good farm on section twenty-six. The Longs and Turners who came in at an early day and settled in the vicinity, have good farms, with nice farm buildings, orchards &c.

Among other pioneers in this township we would mention the names of Henry Morningstar and sons, John Boyer, John Jacobs, Jacob Ipe and sons, John M. Smith, James Smith, James Barnes, Andrew House, Daniel Youngblood, James Mosher, and
Messrs. Emmons, Hull, Bowers and Christy, all within the first ten years. Mr. Emmons was the first settler on the west line, north of the river. Mr. Morningstar and sons were the first to penetrate the forest and settle on the now thickly settled line, one and one half miles east of, and parallel with the west township line. They were soon followed by John Dome and Daniel Youngblood.

They were then three and one-half miles from Mr. Helsel, who was their nearest neighbor.

This is now one of the finest farming regions of the township. The farm of Mr. John Hull being the largest one of the best. On the south line are some old, nice farms, among the largest of which are those of Messrs. Jewell and Bennett.

But we must return to the


of the township under the present name -- Algoma -- which was given in honor of a steamer of that name then plying on Grand River, between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven.

Algoma was previously attached to Plainfield. The first annual township meeting of Algoma was held in 1849, at which time the following were elected as the


Supervisor -- Smith Lapham; Clerk -- William Thornton; Treasurer -- Albert L. Pickett; Justices -- Morgan Allen, John H. Jacobs and John Hamilton.

The township meetings have generally been held at the school house, one mile south of the center, known as the Helsel school house, or more commonly as the Gougeburg school house. By a majority vote of the electors the place of meeting was changed in 1869, to Rockford village.


Supervisor -- H.N. Stinson; Clerk -- C.E. Blakely; Treasurer -- Richard Briggs; Justices -- Charles G. Hyde, Benj. W. Soule, William Powell, Oscar House.


Pine was the prevailing timber of this township, although very much mixed with beech, maple, oak, etc.

There are some small parcels of land timbered exclusively with beech and maple; but they are small parcels, and few in number; and are situated principally in the west and southwest part.

In the southeast part, near Rouge River, oak prevails; but there are only a few farms in the township which are entirely free from pine stumps. The northeastern part is still almost an unbroken pine forest, with but little other timber.

As may be inferred from the timber, there is a great variety of soil. We were told by one man that he could show as great a diversity of soil on twenty acres of his farm, as could be found in the State. There is scarcely any swampy land in the township.

The south part along the river is very much broken, some of the hills being very steep, and nearly a hundred feet above the level of the land along the streams. This chiefly a sandy or clay soil, intermixed with stone and gravel. In the remaining portions, those parts which are timbered with beech and maple are usually a fine, rich loam, and the parts which are exclusively timbered with pine are generally sandy.

We commenced our general description by describing the timber, as that has been more valued in the past  than has the soil; but as the timber is being rapidly taken off, more interest is now taken in the latter.

At first it was bought in large tracts by speculators, who generally hold it until the pine can be culled, and all of the best taken off; then it is sold out in smaller parcels to actual settlers. At one time, J. B. Chipman, of the State of New York, owned nearly a thousand acres of land, chiefly timbered with pine, in the northeast corner of the township. In 1854, his son, Walter Chipman, a lawyer by profession, came to look at the land, and becoming enamored of  backwoods life in Michigan settled here, where he still remains, a much esteemed citizen.

Some years previous to coming hither, Mr. Chipman, being obliged, by a decline in his health, to give up his profession, joined a regiment of soldiers just starting out for the our Western coast, and when he was discharged, remained as a pioneer in California. He was a member of the Convention which framed the Constitution of that State when it was admitted into the Union. Returning to New York, he spent some time with his friends, then went to Vermont, where he engaged in teaching for a year, and at last came here as before stated and became a pioneer in this township. I say pioneer, for although the south part had been settled eleven years, the north part was very new when he came. His brother J. B. Chipman, Jr., came on some years later.

Andrew House, who was one of the first settlers in Plainfield, as well as Algoma, owned, at one time, 700 acres of pine land, in the east part of the township.

John Almy, of Grand Rapids, also owned several hundred acres in the north and northwest. These were among the largest tracts, although there were others who owned parcels of considerable size.


Rouge River is the principal stream of Algoma. It flows in on section thirty from Sparta; thence southeast for a short distance; then northeast, and lastly south across nearly the whole width of the township, and out, on section thirty-six, into Plainfield. It is a good sized, rather swift-flowing stream, and furnishes plenty of power for the manufacturing now done, with much to spare. This stream is quite extensively used for running pine logs to the various mills below, on this and Grand River.

Cedar Creek comes from Solon, enters the northeast corner of Algoma, flows southwest, to the northeast corner of section sixteen, where it unites with a branch called Little Cedar, which also comes from the northeast, but farther to the south. From here it flows south, and enters Rouge River on section twenty-two. This stream furnishes good water power in two places, which are used. It might be used in various other places.

A spring creek, sometimes known as Wicked Creek, about five miles long, rises in the west part of Courtland, flows southeast, crossing sections thirteen and fourteen, and enters Rouge River on section twenty-three. This stream, through but a mere spring brook runs efficiently swift to furnish power for twelve mills, all of which are within four miles of its mouth; eight of them in this township, and four in Courtland.

A fine spring brook, two and one half miles in length, rises in the western part of Courtland, flows across the farm of E. H. Penfield on section twenty-five, and empties into Rouge River. This stream is remarkable for its nearly uniform size throughout the whole length, and during the whole year. This uniformity is caused by its being so short that it is hardly affected by heavy rains.

In the northwest part of this township, and on the adjoining sections in the southwest corner of Solon, and the northeast corner of Sparta, are a number of small lakes, among which are the following:

Camp Lake is a long, narrow lake, nearly one mile in length, situated in the west part of Algoma, on sections seven and eighteen. Its outlet is a small stream which flows northwest through sections twelve and one of Sparta, and enters Rouge River.

Long Lake is nearly as large, and lies in the southwesterly part of section thirty-one in Solon.

Round Lake is smaller, and lies on the line between Algoma and Solon. So also do the two Sand Lakes and Big Lake.

On and near the line of Algoma and Sparta are the two Indian Lakes and Squaw Lake. The outlet of these later lakes is a small stream, sometimes called Indian Creek, which flows across section one of Sparta, and enters Rouge River from the northeast.

These lakes abound in small fish, such as bass, perch, etc., and an effort is being made to propagate pickerel in some of them.

Marl or Bog-Lime has been found on the south side of Big Lake, on the south line of section thirty-two, of Solon, much of which has been burned and used for building purposes in the surrounding country.

The land in this vicinity is rolling and is said to be food for the production of fruit.


Rockford is a flourishing little town of over 500 inhabitants. It is situated on the Rouge River five miles from its mouth, and thirteen miles from Grand Rapids, on the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. It is in the extreme southeast corner of Algoma, on section thirty-six, and includes a small piece of section one of the township of Plainfield. The first settler her was Smith Lapham, previously mentioned as the first settler of the township. He came in the year 1843, constructed a dam across the river, and erected the building now used by Messmore & Watkins as a shingle mill. The mill on the west side of the stream, now used by the same firm, was erected the following year by Hunter Brothers.

In the year 1845 a Postoffice was established here, with S. Lapham as the first postmaster. The mail being carried by him from Plainfield, once a week, in his pockets, for want of a mailbag.

In the year 1848, White and Rathbun, of Grand Rapids, opened the first stock of store goods sold here. A grist mill was erected by Chase and Judson, in 1852, which contains three run of stone, and is now owned and operated by Messmore and Watkins.

The village was first platted in 1856, under the name of Laphamville, replatted in 1865, and the name changed to Rockford. It was regularly incorporated by an act of the Board of Supervisors, in June, of the year 1866. It now contains fifteen stores, one lively stable, two meat markets, three shoe shops, two brick yards, one foundry and two or three blacksmith and wagon shops, etc. Also a photograph gallery, a good supply of lawyers and doctors, and last, but not least, we noticed two or three good looking military establishments. There are two good frame hotels, one kept to H. N. Stinson, and the other by Smith Lapham; a steam stave factory, owned by Barker and Lyde, which cuts about three million staves and one million heading per year; a sash, blind and door factory, run by water power, and owned by McConnell and Addison, who do a good custom business and ship some work north; beside the grist mill and two saw mills of Messmore and Watkins, before mentioned and which seem to be doing a good business.

The Baptist Church is a good frame building, 24x69 feet in size. It was erected in 1858.

The Methodist Episcopal Church is also a frame building, 24x60 feet in size, and was erected in 1865.

The schools are on the graded system, consisting of three departments. This is the original district No. 1 of Algoma, and the frame building used for the school, years ago, still stands in the southern part of the village, on an elevation, near the rive. This building was about 20x35 feet in size, and when the village began to grow up, an addition, nearly the same size, was built on the rear. Subsequently the wood house was taken for a primary department, and now, these three failing to be sufficient to accommodate the rising generation, a fine, large brick school house 60x63 feet in size, is being erected at a cost of $20,000. This building is on the original site, which has received some additions and now includes nearly a whole block.

Burchville, situated near the center of section one, in the northeast corner of Algoma, is a thriving lumber station on the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, five and one-half miles from Rockford, and about eighteen from Grand Rapids.

It was platted in 1868, by John S. Weller, of Ann Arbor, and named in honor of his partner, Jefferson Burch, who came  here and built the first stream saw mill in 1866. That mill was totally destroyed by fire in 1867, and a new one erected by Mr. Burch on the same site. This mill is now operated by M. L. Whitney and has a capacity for cutting 15,000 feet of lumber and 15,000 shingles per day. It now cuts only about half that amount for want of logs.

In 1867, George R. Congdon & Co., erected a mill of about the same capacity, which was destroyed by fire in June 1870, with about $100,000 worth of lumber.

It was at that time owned by Isaac Newton & Co., of Grand Rapids, who are now erecting a new mill on the same ground. Newton & Co. have also a small, portable steam mill near by, which cuts 10,000 feet of lumber per day.

Campbell & Stanton have a portable steam shingle mill about one hundred rods west of the station, which cuts 15,000 shingles per day. This mill has been running since October 1868.

In 1868 a school district was organized here, and a school is kept in a board shanty, although money has once been raised and paid for building a school house. Finding that they were the victims of misplaced money as well as misplaced confidence, the people have voted $910, and let the job to another man, who is to put up a good frame house this summer. It will be 30x36 feet in size, with sixteen feet posts.

The present population is probably about two hundred, including those on Congdon's addition, recently platted, and which includes all of that part of the village lying south of the Little Cedar Creek.

Edgerton is the name of the railroad station about halfway between Rockford and Burchville, and a little more than half a mile from the east line of Algoma. This place boasts a postoffice and two groceries. Andrew House is the present Postmaster. This is near the well known Porter Hollow, which contains the stream that is noted for so many


which we now will proceed to describe: Going west from the station about a quarter of a mile, we come to the first saw mill built on this stream. It stands on the southwest corner of section thirteen, and was erected in 1846 by Newton Andrews. It is now run by Charles Fox, and cuts 4,000 feet of lumber or 12,000 shingles per day.

Half a mile southwest of this at the mouth of the creek, is the shingle mill of John S. Doty. This was built by Hiram Davis in 1866, and cuts 10,000 shingles per day.

We will now retrace our steps and go up the creek nearly to the railroad, and about one quarter of a mile from the station, where we come to a grist mill and shingle mill, both of which are operated by David Munro. These mills were erected by Harvey Porter, in 1854, and are now owned by Jones and Johnson. These parties also own and operate a saw mill just above the railroad track, which was erected in 1854, by Seth Porter. The grist mill is principally used for custom business, although they ship some flour and feed north. The shingle mill cuts 10,000 shingles per day, and the lumber mill about 10,000 feet of lumber. Up the creek three-fourths of a mile farther, is a shingle mill, capable of cutting 10,000 per day, owned by Seth Porter. A few rods farther east, near the Courtland line are the grist line and saw mill of Coon & Scarvell. These mills were erected by Dennis Porter in 1862. They are small custom mills; the former making some flour and feed for sale. All of these mills except the second are on section thirteen, and that is on twenty-three.

Two miles west of Edgerton, on the Cedar Creek, near the west line of section twenty-two, Jackson and George Coon are erecting a grist mill, on the site of saw mill which was destroyed by fire some time ago.

One and a half miles up this creek, on the north side of section sixteen, is the saw mill commonly known as the Morningstar Mill. This mill was erected in 1852, by Norman Ackley, and refitted, and mostly rebuilt, in 1866, by Solomon and Caine, who now own and operate it. Its capacity is about 7,000 feet of lumber, or 14,000 shingles per day.

About one and one-fourth miles farther up the Bid Cedar, is a large, steam saw mill, which was erected in December 1868, by Ammon Fox, who still owns and operates it, cutting 14,000 feet of lumber, or 15,000 shingles per day.

There is a portable detached steam saw mill on the west side of section eleven, on the Little Cedar, erected in June 1869, by McClure & Kidder. This mill cuts 10,000 feet of lumber, or 15,000 shingles per day. It will be better known as the Hodag mill.

This name was given it, from the fact that an unknown and mysterious animal was heard, seen and even fired at, in the woods near here, some years ago, and as no other name could be found for it, it was called Hodag and when the mill was built, this was the name given to it by the people of Burchville.

Jacob Long has a small water power saw mill on the northwest quarter of section five, near the northwest corner of the township. This mill was built by Zimrod Burnham in 1869, and cuts about 8,000 feet of lumber per day.


District No. 2 (fractional with Courtland), organized in 1850, and a small frame house erected, which was used until 1866, when the present frame building was erected at a cost of $500, one half mile east of Edgerton station, on the township line. District No. 3 has a small, wooden frame house, erected in 1852. This school house is one mile south of the center of the township, and half a mile north of the little collection of houses known as Gougeburg, where a dam was once built across Rouge River and a saw mill erected by C. C. Comstock, of Grand Rapids. The mill burned down, the proprietor failed, and so also did the village, which was springing up around the mill. District No. 4 has a small frame house, which was erected in 1854, on the center of section twenty-nine. District No. 6 organized in 1852, and erected a small log house on the south side of section eight. In 1862 the site was changed to the north side of eight on account of a division of the district, and a block house erected the following year, which is still used. District No. 7 has a building called the House schoolhouse. It is a frame building, and was erected in 1863, on the south part of section twenty-three. District No. 8 organized in 1860, and a log house was erected near the north side of section sixteen, on the farm of Calvin Babcock.

The Good Templars are erecting a frame hall 24x36 feet in size, at the center of section twenty-nine. Estimated cost $300.

Transcriber: JKG
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