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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.
This township lies north of Bowne, and south of Vergennes. It is one of the eastern tier of townships in Kent County, being bounded on the east by Boston, Ionia county and on the west by the township of Cascade.
Its soil, timber and productions are greatly diversified. The soil of the south half is mostly clay or loam, lies very high and is generally level and well-adapted to farming purposes, and on account of its elevation, an excellent fruit section.
The north half is considerably broken; by Grand River, which crosses the township from east to west, at an average distance of one mile from the north line, and Flat River, which comes in from Vergennes, on the north, and entered Grand River about one and one half miles from the county line of Kent and Ionia counties. The river bottoms, from half a mile to a mile in width, are heavily timbered with elm, ash, soft maple, etc., and when cleared make good meadow lands. Next back of these bottoms, on either side, rise the sand and clay bluffs, which line these streams throughout the greater part of their course in the country. In some places they rise to the height of nearly 200 feet, and are usually covered with oak, some time quite heavy, but in other places only what is commonly known as "openings," the timber being light, and the ground covered with a small growth of oak, interspersed with hazel, and other shrubs. These bluffs, somewhat broken by many small brooks which come in from both sides, extend back an average of about a mile on each side, which, on the north side brings us about to the township line, and on the south to the high level tract before mentioned. This latter is partially watered by some small lakes, the largest of which is Pratt lake, covering about 300 acres on the north part of section 25, near the east line of the township, and about three miles south of Grand River. It is named in honor of William Pratt, who settled on the north side of it about the year 1850. Barcis, or McEwing Lake, on the east part of section 32, is nearly one mile in length, but quite narrow, its greatest width being less than 80 rods. It extends from the northeast to the southwest. On the northwest corner of the same section is a pond of about ten acres, called Morse Lake. Between them, and on the south part of the same section, is a small lily pond, hardly to be called a lake. Stoughton Lake is a small lake of 4 or 5 acres, near the center of section 35, and has a tamarack swamp of about 20 acres on the east of it. There is also a small lake of 3 or 4 acres, and a swamp of about 15 acres on the south side of section 22. A swamp of some 300 or 400 acres lies west of Pratt Lake, on section 26. On the south side of section 33, and extending over the line into Bowne, is a fine marsh of about 40 acres. From Pratt Lake and the swamp already mentioned to this marsh is a ravine through which is stream of what in wet seasons, but which dries away in ordinary weather, leaving the lake without any visible outlet. The people along the line have recently petitioned the County Drain Commissioner to open this natural water course deep enough to form a living stream, to the south line of Lowell township, from which it would flow into a small stream which runs to Thornapple River. Aside from the sources already mentioned, and some smaller ponds and swamps, water can only be obtained in this part of the township by digging a depth of 50 to 100 feet. The timber of this southern part was originally sugar maple and beech, interspersed with very large and white oaks. This township is well supplied with stone for building purposes, and in some parts they are used to some extent for fencing, especially in the northwest corner of the township, and various other places north of Grand River. Fine gravel beds also abound throughout the north part, and the soil is quite gravely along the road leading down the river from Lowell village.
In the year 1829, Daniel Marsac came from Detroit, and went among the Indians in the vicinity of the present village of Lowell, as a trader, although a regular trading post was not established until 1831, when Mr. Marsac built a log hut on the south side of Grand River, near the present site of J. Kopf & Co.'s extensive chair works.
What changes a few years have made! When Mr. Marsac first pitched his tent within the borders of Kent county, then an almost unbroken wilderness, the only roads were the Indian trails, and the only means of navigation was the canoe, or "dug out" as it was sometimes called; or, for more extensive transportation, a raft made of poles, or small logs, fastened together. We do not need to speak of the railroads or other facilities for travel now, as the reader can easily compare the present with the past.
In the spring of 1835, a family by the name of Robinson, numbering in all 44 persons, set out from the State of New York, and arriving at Detroit, embarked on a small vessel for Grand River via Mackinaw. On the 7th day of June of that year they reached the mouth of Grand River, and, putting their household goods, etc., on rafts, and "paddling their own canoes," made their way up the river and settled on Kent and Ottawa counties, principally the latter, in the vicinity of Blendon. There were only a part of the Robinsons. Rix Robinson had been trading with the Indian at Thornapple -- now called Ada -- for several years previous to this, and had one son by the squaw whom he had taken for a wife soon after he came there. A year later, in 1836, another brother, named Lewis, came with his family and settled on this west bank of Flat River, in the south part of what is now the village of Lowell. He was soon followed by Rodney, a brother from the Blendon settlement, who remained one year with Lewis, and then removed up the river into the present township of Vergennes, where he and another brother, Lucas, have made good farms. Philander Tracy -- a relative of the Robinson Tracy, also came from the State of New York, and was for some time with Lewis Robinson. The timber from their first log hut was cut two and three miles up Flat River, and floated down by the help of Indians, who were always friendly to those who used them well.
There were good and bad Indians, as well as good and bad whites. One Indian, named Negake, who was not, however, a member of either of the tribes then occupying this portion of the State, but a renegade from some Eastern tribe, who had taken up his abode with the Pottawotamies, caused the whites some trouble, and was reported to have killed one of the Government Surveyors some years previous, when an attempt was made to survey and throw into market all lands up the 48 degree of latitude, which parallel cut across a bend in the river in this township, and took a strip about a mile in width on the north side, to which survey the Indians objected. Subsequently the river was made the frontier line, and no lands north of the river were put into market until August 1839.
A tract of land lying on the east side of Flat River, was set apart as University lands. In 1836, Luther Lincoln, from Grand Rapids, formerly from the south part of the State, where he had been quite a wealthy man, came and settled on a small lot of this University land, and built a log house, which was afterwards used by Don A. Marvin, as a tavern. Mr. Lincoln and Rodney, and Lucas Robinson, helped the Indians to fence in a tract of about 100 acres, on the east side of Flat River, and about one mile from Grand River, for a planting ground, to prevent any trouble on account of their letting their cattle run at large on "Uncle Sam's Domain," as the cattle would have been likely to destroy their crops, and this would naturally have led to hostilities.
Mr. Rodney Robinson states that the Indians were usually good neighbors, and even Mr. Lincoln -- whose mind was somewhat wandering, and consequently led him to some trouble with the early white settlers, always got along finely with the Indians, and when, on account of some "unpleasantness" with the whites he was obliged to this point, he went up the river a long distance and erected a saw mill, right in the midst of the Indian country. They were often employed to work for the early white settlers, and generally well paid, although it was usually best to pay them in provisions and other necessaries, rather than money, for, if they got money, many of them would go off to places where they could get liquor. and come home drunk, when they would be quarrelsome and dangerous neighbors, until the fire-water and its effects were gone. No liquor was allowed to be sold to them in this vicinity if the settlers could prevent it, although itinerant traders would sometimes undertake to sell it to them in order to make it easier to cheat them in their trades.
In 1837, Charles Newton, Matthew Patrick, Samuel P. Rolf, Ira A. Danes, William Vandeusen and Mr. Francisco -- nearly all of whom were from New York, settled along the north side of the Grand River, on the old Grand River Road, from two to five miles west of Flat River. This road came from Ionia, by the way of Fallassburg -- at which point the first bridge was built across Flat River, in 1846, previous to which the river was forded -- and passed about two miles west of the mouth of the river, thence along down Grand River, near the side west of the bluffs.
The following big of school romance is introduced without any apology: in 1837 the people of this vicinity organized a School District, including all the settlers on Flat River, and being the only School District between Grand Rapids and Ionia. They erected a log school house in 1838, in the north part of the present village, on the west side of Flat River, and employed Miss Caroline Beard, from New York State, to teach the first school that summer. The following winter the district furnished a cook-stove and provisions, and Miss Beard lived in the school house and kept the school. Caleb D. Page, who had taken up a piece of land near the Fallassburg of later days, took matrimony into his head and Miss B. into his heart, and the bonds of wedlock were entered into by this couple in the school house.
In 1839, William B. Lyon and Ransom Rolf, also from New York, settled on the same road, near those previous mentioned. At the time of the sale of lands in this tract, previously mentioned as occurring in August, 1839, the Indians attempted to enter and hold the land they had been tilling, under the pre-emption laws, but, as the agent knew nothing about whether the red man could hold land by those laws, the matter was referred to the General Land Office, and, while waiting the decision, Philander Tracy attempted to gain possession by erecting a small hut on it, and sowing the field to oats, which were destroyed by the Indians. His papers which had been granted were afterward revoked, and although the decision was that Indians could not enter lands in their own name, they lent money to a Frenchman by the name of Nontah, and he bought the land, and afterward, failing to pay back the money, he gave them a deed of it.
The lands were afterward found to be a part of the "University Grant" and so also was the land taken by Lincoln. When Mr. L. left here, he sold his claim to Daniel Marsac, who in 1847, platted it under the name of "the village of Dansville," which name it retained until about the year 1855. In 1850 Mr. M. sold his claims to Edwin Avery, of Ionia, who then paid the State and obtained a complete title to the same. John B. Shear and some others, came in about the year 1844, and settled in or near the present village of Lowell. In December 1845, Cyprian S. Hooker, formerly from Connecticut, came from Saranac, Ionia County, where he had been a pioneer and almost the only settler. Mr. Hooker erected the first framed house in the township, which was also the first in the village. His lumber was brought from Saranac. He commenced his house on the 18th day of December 1846, and on the ensuing Christmas moved into it with his family. This would be called quick work even in these days of steam and electricity. Said house is the one now owned and occupied by Robert Marshall. In 1847 Mr. Hooker erected the grist mill on the east side of Flat River, now owned and since enlarged by William W. Hatch, who erected another large mill on the west side of the river in 1867. When Mr. H. first erected his mill it was run by an overshot water-wheel -- water being brought by means of a race, a distance of about 40 rods from the Island in Flat River. In 1849, Mr. Hooker constructed the dam across the river just below Bridge Street. In 1849, the first sermon ever preached in Dansville, was delivered at the house of C. S. Hooker, Esq., by Rev. S. S. Brown, a Congregational minister. Mr. Hooker also had the job of building the first frame school house in the village, which was the first in the east part of the county. It was built in 1850 and stood on the present M. E. Church site. Soon after this a Sunday school was established by the agent of the Congregational Union Society.
The Lowell post office was established about the year 1848, and took its name from the township, which was organized about this time, and which seems to have been name on account of its prospects as a manufacturing point, although the village was still called Dansville. After Mr. Avery bought Mr. Marsac's claim, he added some territory to the original plat, making in all about 100 acres. In 1854, Richards & Wickham platted nearly 100 acres on the west side of Flat River, which they named
About the same time Chapin & Booth's addition to the village of Dansville was platted, containing about 30 acres, and lying on the east of the original plat, and within a year, by common consent, the whole village was called Lowell, after which the following additions have been platted, and called Additions to the Village of Lowell; Fox's Addition, lying north of R. & W.'s plat on the west of Flat River, containing 52 acres, platted by James S. Fox. Lee's Addition, on the north of Avery's plat, east of Flat River, containing 48 acres, platted by Peter ? in 1868. Snell's Addition, on the west and south of R. & W.'s addition, containing about 50 acres, platted by Mrs. Caroline Snell in 1869. Ellsworth's Addition, lying north and east of Lee's addition, contains 60 acres, 20 of which are within the present corporate limits of the village of Lowell, and the remainder is the township of Vergennes, platted by A. M. Ellsworth in 1870.
An act to incorporate the Village of Lowell passed the State Legislature in ?, but for some reason the village was not then organized. It was re-enacted March 15, 1861, and the organization completed in the summer following.
FIRST VILLAGE OFFICERS.
President -- Cyprian S. Hooker. Recorder -- Charles A. Blake. Treasurer -- Simeon Hunt. Marshal -- J. Chapman. Assessor -- Cyrus Hunt. Trustees -- William W. Hatch, J. B. Shear and Arvine Peck.
PRESENT VILLAGE OFFICERS.
President -- Morris R. Blodget. Recorder -- John Huggins. Treasurer -- Clark M. Devendorf. Marshal -- Robert Marshall. Trustees -- L. B. Lull, John C. Scott and Simeon Hunt.
The village proper now contains 1,503 inhabitants, according to the census of 1870. During the past four years some fine brick buildings have been erected among which are the large two story block on Bridge Street, west of the river, containing five stores below and a large hall and offices above; Lee's Block, two story, which contains two stores and a hall above; King's Block, now used by Joseph Amphlett as a carriage factory, and Graham's Block, three story, containing two stores, printing office and other offices, and which was erected almost entirely by Mr. Graham with his own hands. Besides the brick stores there are some very good wooden buildings. The village contains in all between 30 and 40 stores, besides the usual number of meat markets, restaurants, etc. There are two hotels: The Clifton House, part brick, kept by Charles Morse, and the Franklin House, a large frame building, kept by C. C. Parks.
Hatch & Craw's grist mills are two large frames mills containing three run of stone each, and capable of grinding 50,000 barrels of flour per year, besides doing a large custom business. Water power.
The Lowell Woolen Mill, erected by the Blodgett Brothers, in 1867, is a good framed building, now owned by M. R. Blodgett, and does about $20,000 worth of business per year. Water power.
Wilson, Gardner & Co. have a steam planer, sash, door and blind factory erected in 1868, and are doing a good custom and shipping business.
Avey & Johnson have a planer and sash, door and blind factory, which is doing an extensive custom business, and shipping largely both east and west. This factory runs by water power, and was erected in 1868, on the site of their mill, which was destroyed by fire the previous year. In connection with this mill is a machine for the manufacture of wooden cave troughs -- a new invention of Mr. E. W. Avery.
FORT'S WESTERN MEDICINE MANUFACTURING COMPANY
E. M. Forst, the patentee of these medicines, commenced business a few years past on borrowed capital, paying therefore at the rate of 15 per cent. Many of our readers will remember having seen his pleasant face on the streets on various towns and village of Kent county, when he was selling his remedies at retail. The business had increased so rapidly and became so popular in Lowell, that in March 1870, some of the leading capitalists of the town joined him, and established the above-named stock company with a chartered capital of $190,000, making Mr. Fort the secretary and business manager, with the assistance and advice of a board of directors. Since that time they have branched out, and are rapidly introducing it in the adjoining states, and money invested in the company's stock must proved exceedingly profitable. Parties who know best think it will soon be paying a dividend of 30 percent, as the sales are already immense and largely on the increase; these preparations being acknowledged to be among the best medicines in the market, their popularity having gained for them the endorsement of the widely known and popular drug house of Farrand, Sheley & Co., of Detroit, generally admitted to be the largest wholesale drug house in Michigan, who have purchased a large amount of the capital stock of the company and are acting as their agents for Detroit.
Boyce & Nash have a shop for the manufacture of agricultural implements, axes, etc., making about 150 dozen axes per year, and manufacturing in all about $6,000 per year.
Joseph Amphlett's carriage factory is quite an extensive establishment, turning out about 100 carriages and wagons per year.
The Methodist Episcopal church building is a fine structure 40x60 feet in size, completed and dedicated in 1859. It stands on a little rise of ground on Bridge street, east of the business part of the village. Cost over $8,000, including furniture. Near this is the unpretending Baptist Church, which is a good little framed building, 40x56 feet in size, erected in 1858 at a cost of $2,500. There are also two or three church societies and a Masonic Lodge and a Good Templar's Lodge, which meet in halls.
There is a good, framed school-house 36x54 feet in size, and two stories high, which was erected in 1862 at a cost of about $2,000. It is being repaired the present season, but is small for the size of the district, which takes in quite a large extent of territory, and a larger building will soon be required. There is no ward or branch school in connection with this district, which is the old district No. 1, of the township of Lowell. This branch school is located on the south side of Grand River, in the vicinity of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad depot, where a village called Segwun was plated by William Chesebro, about the time the railroad was built, but which is seldom known by that name.
MILLS AND FACTORIES
On the above-mentioned plat is the steam saw mill of C. T. Wooding, erected in 1866 by Knapp & Tucker, and capable of cutting 20,000 feet of lumber a day; also, the cider and vinegar manufactory of E. R. Peck, erected in 1869, and capable of grinding 18,000 bushels of apples per year. In this vicinity is also quite a collection of small houses, mostly occupied by laborers in the above named establishments and on the railroad. Near at hand and a little east of the depot is the extensive chair factory of John Koph & Co., which has a small cluster of pleasant looking buildings around it, and has withal an appearance of thrift and neatness. This building was erected in 1858, by Seth Cogswell, and the machinery is run by an overshot waterwheel, water being obtained from a small spring brook which rises about two miles south and comes in through a gorge in the hills.
About a mile distant is the large grain cradle and bed bottom factory of E. W. Tucker. His first mill was a three-story frame building 30x40 feet in size, erected in 1862, in connection with which is a new mill or shop 35x50 feet, erected in 1868. In the one item of grain cradles they have facilities for manufacturing 1,200 dozen per year, besides bed-bottoms and harvesting implements, such as hay-rakes, etc. They is also run by an overshot water-wheel. From 20 to ? hands are employed.
At the head of this stream, and about two miles south of the depot, is a fine bed of marl, on the farm of Alexander McBride, from which Mr. McB. has manufactured $4,000 worth of lime within the past four years.
THE GRAND RIVER NURSERIES
N. P. Husted, proprietor, are situated about five miles southwest of the Lowell depot. He commenced planting in 1862, putting out about 40,000 apple trees, 40,000 peach trees and other stock, since which time he has been gradually increasing until now he sets 300,000 apple and 300,00 peach and other stock every year. Besides this he is giving considerable attention to ornamental stock. The nurseries now cover 130 acres, all closely planted and the amount of sales is nearly $50,000 per year. From 30 and 60 hands are employed. He is also turning his attention to orchard culture, having at present 1,000 four-year old peach trees, over 500 apple trees, 400 pear trees, 200 plum trees, and 4,000 grape vines; also, a good assortment of small fruits. They soil is a clay loam, which is well-adapted to the growth of hardy, sound nursery stock and profitable orchard culture. There are now over 15,000 orchard trees in the immediate vicinity, all of which have been set within a few years. Peaches have borne well every year.
EARLY SETTLERS SOUTH OF GRAND RIVER
Among the pioneers in this part of the county was George Post, who came from Connecticut in 1842 and settled on the northwest corner of section 23, at the crossing of the territorial road from Portland to Grand Rapids, and the one from Battle Creek via Hastings, to the trading post then established by Daniel Marsac in Lowell. He was the first, and for three years the only settler south of the present line of the D. & M. Railroad, within the township. In 1843, Mainard Chater?, with his wife and family of three sons and three daughters came from Calhoun County, Michigan, (formerly from the state of New York), and went nearly to the southwest corner of the township, on section 31, where his widow and the ? sons and one of the daughters still live, and have nice farms. In 1848-9, ? Wickham, Peter Hornbrook, Charles Gordon, Mr. Monk and Mr. Mon-? settled in the south and southwest part of the township, followed in 1850 to 1854 by John Brannan, William Pratt, John Yeiter, Jacob and Christian ?, George Acker, Jacob Yeiter, James Easterby, James Wallace and William ?, most of whom were from Ohio, and of Dutch descent and nearly all of whom are now wealthy farmers, having good farms and buildings.
The township of Lowell was organized in 1848, being previously a part of the township of Vergennes, which originally included all of the east part of the county. The first township meeting was held at the house of Mr. Timothy White.
FIRST TOWNSHIP OFFICERS
Supervisor -- Cyprian S. Hooker. Clerk -- Timothy White. Treasurer -- Henry Church. Justices -- C. S. Hooker, Daniel McEwen, Samuel P. Rolf and Ira A. ?
PRESENT TOWNSHIP OFFICERS
Supervisor -- Robert Hunter, Jr. Clerk -- John Huggins. Treasurer -- Webster ? Justices -- Robert Hunter, Jr., Simeon Hunt, Joseph W. Sprague and Mathew Hunter.