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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.

Bowne is the southeastern township of Kent County. It is bounded on the north by Lowell, on the east by Campbell, Ionia county, on the south by Irving, Barry county and west by Caledonia. The surface of the township is rolling in the south part, the western part is mostly timbered openings, while the eastern part is beech and maple land, and is rather level. It is all rich and excellent soil, and well adapted to all kinds of agricultural pursuits. And, although comparatively new, is fast being developed into fine farms. It is watered by the Coldwater, or Little Thornapple, which enters the township on its eastern boundary on section thirty-six, and flows in a westerly direction through the township, leaving its western boundary on section thirty-one. This is a very rapid stream and would afford five or six mill sites within the limits of this township, only two of which are improved. One on section twenty-nine, occupied by Patterson's saw mill, and one on section thirty-six, occupied by Richardson's sawmill. In the western part of the township is a small stream flowing from the north, called Harris Creek, on which Hon. A. D. Thomas has a grist mill with two run of stone, driven by an overshot wheel with a fall of thirty feet. In the eastern part of the township is another small stream called Duck Creek, which affords in the northeast corner of the township water power for a saw mill, owned by Jaspar Kuykendall.

In 1836, Mr. Jonathan Thomas, of Ovid, New York, entered a large tract of land in the southwestern portion of this township, and, in 1837 came on to improve it, bringing with him Mr. Frederick Thomson and family, who still reside in Bowne, Mr. Israel Graves and family, and Mr. William Wooley and family. They came by water to Toledo, and thence to their destination with ox teams, making the trip from Toledo in about two weeks. They proceeded to build houses and clear up the farm now owned by A. D. Thomas. The first house they built, and the first within the town, is still standing, and is preserved by Mr. A. D. Thomas as a relic of the past and as a contrast with the present. It is of logs, about twelve by fourteen square, without any chamber, and with only one door and one window and a "shake" roof. Near this Mr. Thomas built two other houses and a small log building for an office for himself. Mr. Thomas was taken sick soon after he arrived, and was sick most of the time until the next winter when his son-in-law Mr. John Harris came, and they fixed a bed in a sleigh and he started for his home in New York. They made the whole distance with a sleigh, dragging through Ohio in the slush and mud. During the first summer, when they got out of provisions, Mr. Thomas, although quite ill at the time, had his bed fixed in a wagon, and taking his whip started out his team for Kalamazoo. He was obliged to go a few miles beyond there and buy wheat, bring it back to Kalamazoo and have it ground. Mrs. Thomson says there were a great many Indians on the Coldwater when they moved there. They found them good neighbors when they were sober, but when they could get "firewater" they were quarrelsome, and occasioned trouble at times. One came to their house one day when Mr. Thomson was away from home, and sat down in the rocking chair before the fire and rocked himself over to the fireplace, she pulled him out of the fire and he became enraged and attempted to stab her. But when she picked up an axe, and told him she would kill him if he did not leave, he beat a retreat. Another time, a lot of Indians came up on their ponies, when the men were gone, and ordered Mrs. Wooley to get them something to eat. She ran to her door and called to Mrs. Thomson, who went over, she says, as brave as could be, and talked to them. The old chief ordered her to go back to her wigwam and get him something to eat. She obeyed, trembling with fear all the time, and got the best dinner she could under the circumstances, setting her table with the nicest spread and dishes she had. The chief ate his meal alone at her house and seemed much pleased, told her she was a "brave squaw" and that they would not harm them then, but after a certain number of moons they were going to kill all of the whites in the county. The other families that came with them soon became discouraged and went back, and they were left alone, seven miles at first, from any white neighbors. One time Mrs. Thomson remained alone eight days. Mr. Thomson went to Kalamazoo to mill, and while there his oxen strayed away, and before he could find them and get home, eight days passed by. She remained at home until nearly noon the last day, when the suspense became so great she could not bear it any longer, and she started, on foot, for the nearest neighbor's "Leonard's" seven miles distant. After proceeding about half way she met a white man. He was very much surprised at meeting a woman under such circumstances, and inquired of her where she was going. She told him, and inquired if he had seen or heard of her husband. He told her of losing his cattle, and that he was on the road and would be along before night, and as it was very warm advised her to either go back and wait until her husband came along, and when she told him "No" she would never stop until she had seen her husband, he said that he was a bachelor, but if he could find a woman who would endure as much and as bravely for him he should certainly marry. They used to see many wolves and bears, but never felt much fear of them. For some years they went to "Seale's Prarie" to meeting, and afterward, when there got to be population enough so that preachers used to come to them, Mrs. Thomson says she used frequently to entertain three or four at a time in their little log shanty, twelve or fourteen feet square.

In the spring of 1838, Messrs. Malcolm and John McNaughton commenced "breaking" on section twenty. They broke up forty acres that year and put it into wheat. In the fall of 1838 Messrs. Roswell Taylor, Norman Foster and J. G. Beach settled at the center of Bowne. They came from Detroit with teams, via Gull Prairie, and were about ten days on the road. Mr. Tyler and another man came through Jackson on foot, following what was called the Clinton Trail. At this time there were no settlements nearer on the north than Ada and Lowell. Among the other early settlers whose names we have been able to get, we find James H. Traux, Jared Miller, William Stewart, Daniel C. McVean, Abraham Lowe, and Messrs. White and Cobb, who settled at different times ranging from 1840 to 1845.


There are eight school houses in Bowne, all frame buildings, situated on sections 29, 28, 24, 12, 7, 4, 22, and 20. Bowne is well supplied with


Containing three, viz: Bowne, Alto and Harris Creek. The Bowne postoffice, James C. Johnson, P. M., is located at Bowne Center. Alto postoffice is situated near the center of section four, and kept by David M. Skidmore. Harris Creek postoffice, Wilbur S. March, P. M., is on the southwest part of section twenty-nine, near Thomas' Mills.


Foster Lake, on section 24, is a fine sheet of water about a quarter of a mile in length. On the northwest corner of section 23, near the residence of Stephen Johnson, is a small lake called Putnam Lake. A small lake near the center of section 10, is known as Number Ten Lake. Campbell Lake is a handsome lake, about half a mile in length, on section 19. In the north part of the township are several large swamps, interspersed with small lakes or ponds; one range lying on sections 1, 2, 3 and 4, and one lying on sections 5 and 8.


The township of Bowne was organized in the year 1848, by the election of the following named gentleman as the


Supervisor -- Roswell C. Tyler; Clerk -- Daniel C. McVean; Treasurer -- Justus G. Beach; Justices of the Peace -- Jared Miller, Norman Foster; Assessors -- Abijah Poole, John A. Campbell; Commissioners of Highways -- Loren B. Tyler, James H. Truax, Asa R. Tyler. School Inspectors -- Jared Miller, William Gibson. Overseers of the Poor -- Roswell F. Tyler, John Underwood. Constables -- Salmon E. Platt, Henry C. Foster.


Supervisor -- Abner D. Thomas.  Clerk -- Abel Ford.  Treasurer -- James M. Nash.  Justices of the Peace -- Stephen Johnson, Benjamin J. Lee, Levi Stone, Henry D. Francisco.  Commissioners of Highways -- Loren B. Tyler, Henry D. Francisco, William H. Stone. Constable -- Oliver A. Stone.

Transcriber: JKG
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/directory/bowne.html  
Created: 19 May 1999[an error occurred while processing this directive]