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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.
Plainfield lies north of Grand Rapids, east of Alpine, south of Algoma, and west of Cannon, and has a population of 1,499.
It was settled in 1837; and in 1838, when it was organized, comprised within its limits, several townships of land, that eventually organized into separate townships, under their respective names of Algoma, Courtland, Cannon, etc.
It was named for the many plains within its borders, that, swept clean by the annual Indian fires, presented their wild, but beautiful acres to the admiring gaze of the settlers. Its first township meeting to complete its organization, was held on the first Monday of April 1838, at a rude log school house on section 23. There is no record of the number of votes cast; but at its last town meeting, the number of votes polled was 220.
FIRST TOWNSHIP OFFICERS
Supervisor--Zenas G. Winsor. Clerk--Ethiel Whitney. Assessors--Daniel North, Andrew Watson, George Miller. Highway Commissioners--A. D. W. Stout, Warner Dexter. School Inspectors--Zenas G. Winsor, Ethiel Whitney, Cornelius Friant. Collectors--Damas Francisco, Henry Godwin. Poor Masters--Jacob Francisco, Jacob Friant. Justices of the Peace--Daniel North, Samuel Baker, Zenas G. Winsor, George Miller. Constables--James Francisco, Henry Godwin, Ezra Whitney.
OFFICERS IN 1870
Supervisor--Hollis Konkle. Treasurer--James Crawford. Clerk--Edwin A. Morris. Justice of the Peace--George S. Curtis. School Inspectors--George H. Outhouse. Highway Commissioners--Joseph C. Upson. Constables--Caleb E. Carr, Gilbert Dickerson.
Plainfield presents many variations in soil and surface. High bluffs along Grand River, and the Rouge, present the beholder with many magnificient outlooks, over lowland, water course, hillside and plain, rarely excelled; and no more beautiful spot can well be found, than the prairie set in hills, lying in the Grand Rapids and Ionia State Road, just north and east of the little village of Plainfield, where for many years was the home of the Hon. Harry C. Smith, now a resident of Grand Rapids.
There is a troublesome amount of stone in some portions, and some sand along the western line; but, as a general thing, the soil is a rich clay loam, rendering this a first class agricultural town.
Its timber is mainly oak, with some beech and maple, and considerable pine along its western borders.
Its principal productions are, wheat, wool, corn, oats, and potatoes, all of which it exports in fair quantities; but most of wheat, wool and corn. Its rich intervals of grass lands, its numerous spring brooks, and clear and rapid watercourses, peculiarly adapt it to dairy purposes; but no especial attention is paid, as yet, to this healthful and lucrative branch of husbandry.
It also lies within the great western fruit belt, and where the altitude is favorable, gives splendid returns of apples, peaches, cherries, currants, and the small fruits generally; but in the bottom lands, and low situations, the returns are by no means sure, the frosts destroying the peaches, and the winters killing the trees. It presents many fine locations for vineyards, and the hardier varieties of grapes ripen nicely here; but nothing worthy of note is being done in this branch of horticulture.
There are several inconsiderable lakes in the town, but only two are worthy of note, namely: Scott's Lake, lying on section 17, about three-fourths of a mile long, and half mile wide, quite deep, and well stocked with fish; and Crooked or Dean's Lake, on sections 33 and 34, one mile long and half a mile wide. It has an Island of one acre, is generally shallow, and quite destitute of fish. The lakes are adjacent to no highway, hence are only visited by fishing parties, or hogs seeking aquatic sports. But for what it lacks in lake view, it makes ample amends in river scenery.
Grand River, the Owash-te-nong of the redman, enters its borders by its eastern boundary, at the northeast corner of section 36, reaches the highest northern point at the exact center of section 23, where the bridge on the Grand Rapids and Ionia State Road, crosses its stream; then it sweeps away to the southwest its banks adorned on either hand with billowy maples, and grand old elms, these have shed their leaves for centuries on its waves, leaving the town by its southern line, on the southeast quarter of section 31.
The Rouge River, so called from the peculiar tint of its waters, enters the town from the north, on the west half of section 1, and runs southwesterly, debouching in Grand River, on the line of sections 22 and 23.
The G. R. and I. R. R. entering the town on section 1, and leaving it near Plumb's mill, on section 31, crosses this stream six times within two miles, hence, as may be readily be seen, it is very crooked in its course, and being very rapid, presents vast facilities for manufacturing purposes.
In 1840, Gideon H. Gorden erected on section 15, the first mill placed upon the stream. It is only a saw mill now, and owned by Mr. Watters, of Grand Rapids, but then it had a small grist mill attached and there the settlers and Indians carried their corn to be ground.
In 1848, a saw mill was erected Roberts and Winsor, on sec. 2, at a point then called Gibraltar. It is now owned by H. B. Childs & Co., who erected in the near vicinity, a paper mill in 1866, which was destroyed by fire in 1869, but rebuilt the second year by the enterprising proprietors. It is on the line of the G. R. and I. R. R. and the place is now known as Child's Mill Station.
In 1850, a saw mill was erected by Robert Konkle some forty rods from the mouth of the Rouge. It is now owned by Treadwell & Towle. Save the above no use is made in this town of the immense water power of the stream, and is sufficient to drive a continuous chain of machinery, several miles in extent.
Mill Creek runs through the southwest corner of the town, and as early as ? a saw mill was erected on this stream on section 31, by Daniel North. It is now owned by Eli Plumb, who erected a flouring mill at the same place, in ? It lies on the line of the G. R. & I. Railroad, and is known as North's ? Station. There is also railway station at Belmont, about six miles northeast of Grand Rapids. It lies in the midst of a fine farming district, and has a large hotel, kept by Mr. Post, for the accommodation of parties of pleasure; otherwise it possesses no particular advantages or attractions.
Plainfield village is a very small place, at the foot of the bluffs on section 23. It was an old ferrying post, when a ferryboat was the only means of communication -- if we except the Indian canoe -- between the two banks of the Grand River. It has a sunny site, and a pleasant outlook up and down the river.
Plainfield has ten district school-houses but its Union school interests are unified? at present with Rockford, in Algoma, and the same may be said of its church interests. It has but one church edifice, which belongs to the Episcopalians. It is picturesquely situated on the bluff above the village of Plainfield, is a wooden structure 30x60 feet in size, is painted brown, and has a steeple?/tower? sixty feet high. It was erected in 1852. Its officiating clergyman was Rev. Mr. Van Antwerp, of Grand Rapids. It has no pastor at the present time.
Among the early settlers, we find we find George Miller, Esq., located on section ?; James Clark, on section 24; Thomas Friant, on section 24; and Warner Dexter, on section 14. In 1838, Cornelius Friant, on section 24; Zera Whitney, on section 15; Gideon H. Gordon, on section 15; and Daniel North, on section ?, and in 1844 Samuel Post settled on section 8, while his father Jacob Post, and seven other sons, settled about the same time.
In 1835, Samuel Gross made his way with his family, by the aid of his axe, to a ? on section2; and in 1846 Chester Wilson settled on section 12.
The first family on the ground was Mr. George Miller, and the deprivations which fell to their share was the common lot of all who made their homes in this land, at that early day. Grand River was the only thoroughfare and means of communication with the outside world, hence the settlers depended mainly on what they raised, and their own ingenuity, to prepare it for food. Pork, if imported, was $60 per barrel. The nearest flouring mill was sixty miles away and the bread eaten in the family of Mr. Miller, for eighteen months, was ground in a coffee mill.
In the fall of 1838, the first birth occurred among the whites, in the family of George Miller, a twin boy and girl, living but a short time, making the first deaths among the settlers; and the greatest delicacy loving friends were able to provide Mrs. Miller during her confinement, was boiled wheat.
In the winter of 1838, the accidental shooting and subsequent death of Mr. Barlow, who had come to seek a home, but had not located, cast a saddening gloom over the little band of pioneers.
Although the lands were being surveyed and rapidly located, they were not in ?, and it was no uncommon thing to see white men and Indians tilling their ? in the same fields, in amicable proximity to each other. But in the fall of ? the great land sale came off, when the settlers secured their claims, and the red man vanished from the scene, leaving naught in memoriam but the bones of the dead, in section 23, where the burial mounds, worn by the attritions of the ?, are fast being leveled with the surrounding country.
Those who bore a conspicuous part in the settlement and organization of the township, Warner Dexter, James Clark, Thomas Friant, Daniel North, and Gideon H . Gordon are dead; but by their tireless energy, they helped to open up a town possessed with natural resources of wealth, surpassed by none in the country. Vineyards should terrace up its sunny slopes and teeming factories line the flowing Rouge, for fabulous wealth lies hidden there, awaiting the fiat of determination and enterprise, surer to the seeker than in the golden gorges of the mountains that lean against our western skies.