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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.
Walker is in the western tier of townships, being bounded on the north by Alpine, on the east by Grand Rapids township and city, on the south by Wyoming, and on the west by Talmadge, Ottawa county. It was originally six miles square; but, owning to the course of Grand River, which has became the established eastern and southern boundary, it is now quite irregular. The corporation of the city also takes five and one-fourth sections out of the southeastern part.
The division line between the township of Grand Rapids and Walker, was formerly what is now Division street, in the city; therefore, a list of the early settlers of Walker would include those who located wet of that line. However, as the history of the city will be made a special theme, in this we will refer to that part only which lies within what are now the bounds of Walker.
In the year 1836 Samuel White, then a man fifty years of age, came with his family from Canada, and settled on section twenty-three. He had five sons and several daughters, one or two of whom were married. The family purchased of the Government about six hundred acres of land on sections ten, fourteen, fifteen and twenty-three. Mr. White built the first frame barn west of Grand River; and soon after this, with the assistance of his sons, Milo and James, erected a saw mill on Indian Creek, on the north side of section fifteen. Mr. and Mrs. White are still living on the old homestead, and can now count a
family of over sixty children, grand children and great grand children, notwithstanding the loss of one son in the Mexican War, and one in the recent War for the Union.
Later in the year 1836, Jesse Smith, who was also from Canada, settled on Bridge street, about two miles west of the river. He had a large family of sons and daughters, some of whom were married, and who settled in different parts of the township. One of the elder sons, Benjamin, commenced at an early day on the south side of section ten, where he built a small grist mill and machine shop on Indian Creek. The parents are now deceased, and the family scattered.
During the same year, a Frenchman, by the name of John J. Nardin, who had served in the French army under Napoleon the First, came from Detroit, with a large family, and settled in the southern part of the township, west of where the Eagle Plaster Mills now stand. The parents are still living on the old farm, while near them reside two sons, John and George, and two daughters, Mrs. Roger Atkinson and Mrs. James Sawyer. Late in the same year Zelotis Bemis and Robert Hilton went still further south, and located on the north bank of the river, two or three miles below the plaster mills. A portion of the Bemis farm, now owned by John N. Butterfield, was formerly an Indian Planting Ground. Soon after he settled, Mr. Bemis commenced raising wheat quite extensively, the harvesting of which furnished employment for some of those that came a year or two later.
The following named persons settled in the township soon after those just mentioned: Henry Helmka, Wm. W. Anderson, Joseph Denton, John Hogadone, and Harvey Monroe, from Canada; John Harrington, of Vermont, and Patrick O'Brien, Stephen O'Brien and James Murray, from Ireland. The family of Edisons also came at an early day, and settled on what is now Bridge street, of which family John Edison is now the only representative on that street.
There are many others who could hardly be classes as first settlers, but who are known as old residents; among whom are Thomas McMan, David Waters, Wm. C. Davidson, Jonathan Blair, Martin Wheeler, Bernard Courtney and Quigley, in the south part; Samuel Westlake, the Schermerhorns, Philips, Escotts, Burds, Samuel Corporon, Thomas Cotney, Asa Pratt, Thales Dean, Daniel Stocking, and the Armstrongs, near the central part; the Matthews, A.C. Bailey, Samuel Root, Miner Johnson, John Miller, Peter Huwer, Andrew Loomis, Tenny, the Chappells, Fuller, Tabors, Covell and Dean in the north; and Palmerlee, Tryon, Berry Wait, Devendorf, and Lamoreaux, in the west.
The first township meeting was held in the moth of April 1838 at the Mission School House, which stood on the west bank of Grand River, near the present site. The records indicate that this was the only school house then in the township, for it was spoken of as the School House of Walker.
THE FIRST OFFICERS
of the township were: Supervisors -- Lovell Moore. Clerk -- Isaac Turner. Treasurer -- Harry Eaton. Justices -- Robert Hilton, Isaac Turner, Ira Jones and Isaiah Horton.
MILLS AND MANUFACTURING ESTABLISHMENTS
In the year 1845, Joseph Bullen erected a saw mill on the eastern part of section 4. It is run by an overshot waterwheel; the water being conveyed from the pond on Indian Creek, near the residence of Solomon Wright, in Alpine, a distance of nearly ninety rods. The mill possesses the facilities for sawing one million feet of lumber per year; but on account of the scarcity of pine, it does a much smaller business. The mill also contains one run of mill-stones for grinding feed etc. The present proprietors are McNitt & Wilder.
The plaster mills and quarries on section thirty-four, two and one half miles below Bridge street, in the side of the bluff near the river, are on the east part of below Bridge street, in the side of the bluff near the river, are on the east part of section thirty-four. Plaster was first discovered here by R. E. Butterworth, of Grand Rapids, who then owned the land. He opened the first quarry in the year 1852, which was operated under the superintendence of Bernard Courtney. This is the mine now known as Plaster Cave or Hovey's Cave, and is operated by the Eagle Mills Plaster Company. They have large mills and extensive works for grinding the rock for land plaster, and also for the manufacture of stucco.
The school houses of Walker are generally good, although, perhaps, not quite equal to those of some other townships, not quite as good as should be expected of a wealthy class of inhabitants near a city the size of Grand Rapids.
District No. 4, commonly known as the Walker Center district was organized in 1841, and then included a territory of about fifteen square miles. Their first house was a log building, and stood on the north side of section 22; the next was a small wooden building standing on the original geographical center of the township, on then northeast corner of section twenty-one. This building was used until 1867, when a nice frame building was erected at a cost of $1,000. This is the best school house in the township.
District No. 7 -- Bridge Street -- has a good woolen building, which was erected in the year 1860. Cost, $400. It is located on the south side of section twenty-two.
District No. 8 was organized in the year 1845. A log house was built, which was used until the year 1858, when the present frame structure, which is generally known as the O'Brien school house, was erected at the cost of $400. Location, south side of section twenty-nine.
District No. 2 is the oldest district now in existence in Walker. A log building was first used. The present frame building was built in the year 1860, at the expense of about $300. Location, near south side of section thirty-three. This district is about to be divided to form a new one in the vicinity of the plaster mills.
District No. 3 has a small frame building on the northeast corner of section nineteen, near the residence of Henry C. Hogadone.
District No. 12 has a small frame house on the north side of section seventeen near the residence of A. T. Liscomb.
District No. 6 was organized about the year 1840, and a small frame building erected, which was used until 1858, when a large frame house was erected at a cost of $700. This house is located on the south side of section three, and is commonly known as the Simonds' school house.
District No. 11 was organized in the year 1850, and a small frame house built on the west side of section twelve, known as the Wait school house.
District No. 5 the first school house was built on the farm of Andrew Loomis, on the southwest corner of section six. The present building -- a small frame structure -- stands on the northeast corner of section seven.
There are several fractional districts, partly in Walker, of which the school houses are in the adjoining townships.
Walker contains none yet, but one is being built by the Wesley Methodist society, on the southeast corner of section two, which is to be a wooden building 80x44 feet in size. The estimated cost is $1,500 to $1,600.
The Walker House, owned and kept by Solomon Pierce, was erected in the year 1856, by N. C. Wright. It is a three-story frame building, and stands on the north side of section ten, four miles from the city.