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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.
Cascade lies in the second tier of townships from the south and east line of the county, and is bounded on the north by Ada, on the east by Lowell, on the south by Caledonia, and on the west by Paris. The Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad passes through this town, entering on the north part of section 12, and following the course of the Grand River Valley through the southwest corner of section crossing section 2 in almost a direct line from southeast to northwest, into Ada, where is located its nearest depot, four miles from Cascade village.
Cascade presents a variety of soil, from light sand and gravel to heavy clay, and is greatly diversified by hills, valleys, steams, lakes, springs and marshes. Grand River flows northwest through sections 12, 1 and 2, into Ada, and the Thornapple -- one of the most important tributaries of Grand River -- takes its course north through the center of the township. Entering Cascade from the south on section 24, it flows through 27, 22, 16, 9,10, 3 and 4 to Grand River, at Ada village. On the east of the Thornapple, a creek rises in section 11, and enters that stream at section 10. Another, one branch of which rises in section 30, Lowell, and the other in section 1, of Caledonia, forms a junction at section 26, in Cascade, and carried its united currents to the Thornapple at 27; furnishing, in its route, water power to a saw mill on section 26. On the west side of the river, a creek rising on section 29, forms a junction with it on section 34. Another having its head on section 19, enters the river at 16. Another, whose source is a large boiling spring on section 6, in its course of two and a half miles attains considerable size, and empties its waters into the Thornapple at section 9. Remains of an old beaver dam were to be found on this creek, quite recently. On the southeast corner of section 14, is found a lake with a greater depth of water than Lake Erie. The aborigines of the country have a singular superstition with regard to this lake; never floating their canoes on its bosom, or eating the fish of its waters, asserting that it is inhabited by an "Evil Spirit" or as they term it, a "Great Snake." Another lake is also found on the line of sections 4 and 5. Also one in the northwest corner of section 8, matched by one some forty rods directly south.
This township contains but little pine, which is sparsely scattered along the borders of its streams. The sandy soil is chiefly oak openings; while the gravel and clay bear some fine sugar orchards and are also productive of beech, elm, ash, hickory, and a meager supply of white wood.
Lime is manufactured on section 35. Brick have also been manufactured on section 8, and a bed of red ochre lying on section 9 was used in painting some of the first buildings and the old red school house on that section. The mineral is considered pure enough to be profitably worked. The soil also shows traces of bituminous coal, copper and iron. The latter ore, manifesting itself in magnetic or mineral springs. One of these, of greater power, has been discovered this year, on the farm of James Sutpehn, section 26. The water bubbles up from the well with icy coldness, and flows over a pebbly bed, staining --with brilliant coloring -- its stony path. Iron brought in contact with it becomes heavily charged with magnetism. The water has not yet been analyzed.
The township was at first a part of the township of Ada. Lewis Cook, a native of New Jersey, is said to have been the first settler within the limits of Cascade. He removed from that State to Seneca county, New York; from thence to Washtenaw county, in this state; from which he came, a pioneer settler to Cascade in 1836. At or near this time also came Mr. Hiram Laraway to this place from New York. His wife being a sister of Mrs. Cook. But, discouraged by the hardships of the wilderness, he soon returned to his native place. In the following year, Edward Linen, a native of Ireland - whose shores he left for America in 1836 - settled in Cascade, where he yet resides, a useful, industrious citizen. During the year 1838, and the subsequent year, he was followed by James May, David Petted, John Farrell, James and William Annis, Michael Matthews, Patrick, Christopher and Michael Eardley, all natives of the same country, most of whom yet survive, orderly citizens of their adopted home. In 1838, Frederick A. Marsh, of New York, united in marriage with Olive Guild, a daughter of Joel Guild, one of the pioneer settlers of Grand Rapids - and began domestic life in the unbroken wilderness, one mile north, and west of where Cascade village now stands. Mr. Marsh lived to see the forest yield its place to cultivated fields and comfortable dwellings, and to have a school house erected on his own land. He was killed by a fall from his wagon in 1856. Mrs. Marsh, afterwards Mrs. Walden, survived her husband eleven years, and often spoke of those days, when her nearest neighbors were miles away, and for three months at a time she did not see the face of a white man, except her husband, while a human being passing over the newly cut road was a relief to her intense loneliness. She died at the old homestead in 1867.
Sometimes during 1839 or 1840, Mr. Laraway returned to his Cascade possessions, and was frozen to death between that place and Ada, in the winter of 1841. Widow Laraway bravely met the heavy burdens of pioneer life, and trained up three sons and daughters to lives of usefulness. While the name of aunt Mary Laraway became a household word in the community and a synonym of virtue and piety. She lived to see her children settled in life, and died suddenly in the summer of 1869. Her eldest son is well known as the proprietor of a stone-cutting establishment in Grand Rapids.
Peter and George Teeple came to Cascade during these years, joining the settlers on the west side of the Thornapple, while the eastern side was yet unmarked by civilization, but inhabited on or near sections 23 and 26, by a colony of about 350 natives, known, through the adoption of the name of their missionary, as the Slater Indians.
In the year 1841, Peter Whitney, of Ohio, moved his family into that part of Cascade known as Whitneyville, and E. D. Gove, of Mass., selected a site for his future home near the center of the township on sections 22, 15 and 14, to which he brought his family in the summer of 1842. Horace Sears, from New York, and Zerah and Ezra Whitney, (father and brother to Peter), accompanied them in their journey and settled in Whitneyville. Mr. Gove yet resides on the land he first settled, on section 15. But the old homestead on section 21 - being the second house built on the east side of the river, in this township - having sheltered children and grand children, was burned in the autumn of 1869. Mr. Sears yet lives in Whitneyville; and Zerah Whitney, elected Justice of the Peace at the first township meeting - now an aged man - resides with his son Ezra on a farm south of Grand Rapids. Another son of Zerah Whitney, Oscar, died at Whitneyville in 1849. And the remaining sons, Peter, Johnson and Martin, now reside in other parts of the county.
In the spring of 1845, Asa W. Denison and family, of Mass., (accompanied by a brother Gideon H. Denison, looking for a homestead, to which he brought his family the following year,) came to join the settlers on the west side of the Thornapple. Coming in on the State road, from Battle Creek to Grand Rapids, the teams, women and children of the company, were obliged to wait at Ezra Whitney's public-house, for the road to be "chopped-out" between that point and the river, theirs being the first teams that ever passed over the road. At Cascade they forded the Thornapple with their household goods, and found timbers on the ground for the erection of the old Ferry House (now Cascade Hotel,) which was, at that time, owned by D. S. T. Weller. During that year the house was so far completed as to admit of occupancy, and the first ferry-boat commenced its trips just above where the bridge now spans that stream. D. S. T. Weller then owned the plat of land now occupied by Cascade village, although first purchased by Joel Guild; and it was at that time staked out into lots of one acres each, as the fine fall on the river gave hopes for speedy erection of mills at that place, some of the most sanguine settlers prophesying that Cascade would outstrip Grand Rapids in the strife for precedence. Mr. W. sold out his property here to W. S. Gunn, in 1846, who held it until after the organization of the township. Mr. Weller ultimately settled in Grand Rapids city, where he remained until he transferred his home to Detroit, in 1869.
During the year 1845, a disease, which our old settlers denominate the black tongue, broke out among the Indians near Whitneyville, reducing their number in a few weeks to about 200 persons. The band now became slowly wasted by disease and removal, until less than fifty remained at the time of their removal to the Indian Reservation in 1856. In the year 1846, another family was added to the few settlers, of the east side of the river - Jared Strong, the first settler in the forest between E. D. Gove and Ada. The following year a school was opened in a little log house on the river bank, section 27, for the few pupils of that vicinity. Who the young woman was, to whom belongs the rank of pioneer teacher, we have been unable to ascertain, or whether this was the first school taught in the township. It was certainly the first on the east side of the river; and the lumber sawn for the Whitneyville school house, erected in 1848, was among the first work done by the old saw mill, on Sucker Creek, then owned by Peter Whitney. About this time, the Kalamazoo stage made its trips through Whitneyville - via Ada - for Grand Rapids.
The first township meeting was held at Whitneyville, April 3, 1848, and the following board of township officers was elected :
Supervisor - Peter Teeple, Clerk - John R. Stewart. Treasurer - Asa W. Denison. School Inspectors - James H. Woodworth, Thomas I. Seeley. Commissioners of Highways - Ezra Whitney, Fred A. Marsh, Wm. Degolia. Justices of the Peace - Leonard Stewart, Zerah Whitney. Assessors - Thomas I. Seeley, Harry Clark. Constables - Morris Denison, O. P. Corson, Wm. Cook, Peter J. Whitney.
Of the above board, Peter Teeple is yet a respected member of the township. J. R. Stewart, after filling out other offices of trust, and teaching for several terms the Cascade school, removed to the city, where he now resides. A. W. Denison, was also a recipient of the various gifts of the voting public, for many years, and died from injury by the kick of a colt, in 1857, aged 52 years, universally mourned by his townspeople. His widow -- now Mrs. Johnson -- yet lives, and to her are we indebted for much of our information in regard to the early days of Cascade. J. H. Woodworth is now engaged in fruit culture in the north part of the township, near Ada village. Of T. I. Seeley we have known nothing since 1853. Messrs. Whitneys and Marsh, we have spoken of our preceding pages. Wm. Degolia amassed a fine property, and left the county in 1869. A few months after his removal, his body was brought back for burial. L. Stewart is also with those, who, sleeping, dream not! Harry Clark yet lives, where he first broke ground, a hale old man. Mr. Denison is a thriving farmer on the north line of the township.
About the year 1848, W. H. Chillson came to Cascade and erected a small dwelling house near the hotel; also a log house just across the river, to which, in 1849, Rev. Erie Prince, of Ohio, brought a small stock of Yankee notions and opened a store, or grocery, for those whose nearest trading point was Grand Rapids. Elder Prince deserves more than a passing notice. He soon identified himself with the religious, and the educational needs of the young community. He held at one time the office of School Inspector, and, up to the time of his death, worked actively in the Sunday school cause, as Superintendent in the different neighborhoods, now grown around the first nucleus of settlers. Was a picnic or temperance meeting to be looked after, or were chastened hearts called to lay their treasures in the dust, Elder P. was ever found ready to speak the kindly word, pour forth the earnest appeal, or -- with tender thought of sympathy -- lead the sorrowing mourner to Him, who is the "resurrection and the life." The fathers and mothers of the little ones of today remember with affectionate respect the tall, slightly bowed form, the kind face, the searching, yet mild gray eye, the hand slightly laid on the head, as he passed them with some friendly question, or brief admonition -- seed sown in life's morning time! In the autumn of 1853 he was called upon to speak before the Kent County Agricultural and Horticultural Society, at Grand Rapids, October 6th; and his address will be found in the records of the society for that year. About the year 1856 he donated to the township of Cascade the land occupied by the Cascade cemetery, and there his body lies buried. His grave is shadowed by a young oak, and unmarked -- by an explicit clause in his will -- by a headstone. He died August 7, 1862, aged 65. In church connection he was a Presbyterian.
We have been unable to learn the precise time that a postoffice was given this township. We think, however, it was established at Whitneyville, soon after its organization. The first postmaster was Clement White, who held that position with only an intermission of one or two years, until the office was discontinued in 1868.
A postoffice was also established at Cascade in 1854, postmaster Dr. M. W. Alfred, the first resident physician. A store was opened the same year at Cascade by Seymour Sage, and William Gardner. When the drumbeat of the Union echoed through our land in 1861, Cascade was not forgetful of her trusts and privileges as a small member of a great country. It is to be regretted that no complete list of those who donned the soldier's uniform has been preserved. We have called to mind eighty volunteers and the number is probably about a hundred. Of those who never returned we are also unable to give a perfect record. But, from every battle of the Republican from 1861 to the close of the contest, came back a voice bidding some heart grow chill with pain, yet glow with hallowed pride, for the souls that were "marching on!"
Cascade has been an organized township for twenty-two years, and according to the census for 1870, has 1175 inhabitants. Children, between the ages of five and twenty, by report of the public schools, 1869 -- 416. Votes cast at this last April election -- 227. Property assessed, real estate, $204,107; personal, $32,317.
The following is the present Board of township officers: Supervisor, Edgar R. Johnson; Clerk, Henry C. Denison; Treasurer, Geo. W. Gorham; Justices of the Peace, Geo. S. Richardson, John F. Proctor, Lawrence Meach, Hugh B. Brown; School Inspectors, E. R. Johnson, Chas. F. Holt: Highway Commissioners, Jonathan W. Sexton, Clinton A. Wood, Chas. M. Dennison; Constables, S. G. Fish, T. J. Hulbert, Miner Spaulding, Warren Streeter.
Cascade can claim one or two school houses of decidedly fine appearance and convenience. But many of her school buildings are those erected in her infancy, and are wholly inadequate to the demands of the present school population. A movement is being made, however, to remedy this defect in many districts.
Her present number of districts is ten. District No. 10 was organized in 1847. There is a frame house on section 35, built in 1848. District No. 4 was organized in 1847, and built a small frame house on section 9; are now (1870) erecting a fine structure on the same site, on the Cascade and Grand Rapids road, one mile from Cascade village. District No. 1 was organized in 1848, and built a school house in 1849, on section 29, which stood until 1869, when a frame house was erected on the same site. District No. 2 was organized in 1849, and built a small log house on section 10, which yet stands. District No. 12 (fractional district, Cascade and Paris) was organized in 1849, and built a small log house on section 10, which yet stands. In 1867 a good frame house, painted white, and protected by window blinds, was erected. District No. 3 was organized in 1853, and built a frame house on section 14, in 1854. District No. 8 has a frame school house, painted white, built in 1856, on section 8. Fractional District No. 10 (Cascade and Lowell) was organized in 1859, and has a small log house on east side of section 13. District No. 5 was organized in 1857, and school taught in a small log house on south side of section 33; was reorganized in 1860 and log house built in center of section 33. This was burned in 1867, and a temporary building has supplied its place until the present year. A fine house is now in process of erection in section 28. District No. 6 was organized about 1860, and has a nice frame school building, painted white, and fitted with black walnut furniture, on section 26.
Only one church edifice has been erected in Cascade. This has been built by the Roman Catholic Brotherhood, and stands on the northeast corner of section 31. It was built in 1856, and cost about $1,000. The building is of wood, with a stone foundation. The society worshipping here was founded by Fathers Decunic and Fizaski. The latter was parish priest in 1849, when the church members were few and worshipped in private houses. Now the church numbers about 47 families, to whom Father Rivers preaches monthly. A Sabbath School is connected with the church. The M. E. Church also has two classes in this township, numbering about 60 members and worshipping in school houses. The United Brethren persuasion have a small charge of about a dozen members. And the "Christians" also hold public worship, but the strength of the order we have not ascertained.
We regret our inability to give the number and membership of our Sunday Schools; though nearly every district has one connected with its regular church worship.
Cemeteries are located on section 31 -- Catholic. Section 16 -- Cascade Burial Ground. Section 35 -- Whitneyville. Section 7 -- West part of township.
Cascade village is located on the line of sections 9 and 16, on the west side of the Thornapple river. It contains a Hotel, now owned by DeWitt Marsh, where all the township business is transacted; a general store, and Post-office, in charge of E. D. Johnson; flouring and saw mills, owned by H. L. Wise and Jacob Kusterer; a physician's office, occupied by Dr. Danforth; and less than a dozen private residences. The flouring mill is a large, well constructed building, will a capacity of three run of stone. Dr. Danforth is the resident physician, and is making preparations for opening a drug store in connection with his office. His practice is Eclectic.
Gaylord Holt, professor and teacher of music, resides one mile north of Cascade, on the river road. This was also the former home of Hon. H. H. Holt, now of Muskegon, who has represented his district in the State Legislature.
Whitneyville is a point on the old State Road, between Battle Creek and Grand Rapids; and is situated on section 35. A Hotel, erected there in 1853, and familiarly known as the Whitney Tavern Stand, yet opens its doors to the public, under charge of S. F. Sliter. James Stephen now owns the old Whitney saw mill on section 26.