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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.
Wyoming is one of the western tier of townships of Kent county. It is bounded on the north and northwest by the city of Grand Rapids and the township of Walker, on the east by Paris, on the south by Byron, and on the west by Georgetown, Ottawa county.
The soil of this township is diversified, a portion of it, extending from the northern, northeastern part of the township in a southwesterly direction, with a breadth of about two miles, and a length of about five miles, has a gravelly soil, timbered with burr and white oak. It is not principally under cultivation, and is especially adapted to wheat growing. Adjoining this, on the westerly side, are the Grand River bottoms, varying in width from one-fourth to one-half of a mile; and on the east is a large swamp and open marsh. Parts of this swamp are densely timbered with cedar and pine, with an occasional island hemlock and maple. East of this is a large tract of sandy openings, timbered with white and yellow oak. The soil is light, but affords a fair quality of farming lands. South of this is Buck Creek, with its bottom lands; adjoining which on the south is a strip of pine, of about one mile in width, extending from the south line of the township in a north, northwesterly direction, to within about about two miles of its western border. South of this is a strip of beech and maple land, varying in width from one mile at its eastern extremity to three at its western.
Buck Creek enters Wyoming from the south, about the center of section thirty-six and flows northwesterly, entering Grand River on section seventeen. This stream affords three good mill sites within the township, which are occupied as follows: One by Fisher's Saw Mill, David Fisher, proprietor, on section twenty-seven; another by Dewey's Saw Mill, on section twenty-one, Egbert Dewey, proprietor; and the third by the Wyoming Flouring Mill, at Grandville, H.O.Weston, proprietor.
Plaster Creek enters Wyoming from the east, on section twelve, and flows northwest, leaving the township just before it reaches Grand River.
There are numerous small bring brooks throughout this township, one of which, entering it from Paris, on section one, and flowing west into Plaster Creek, affords water power for running the plaster mills.
THE VILLAGE OF GRANDVILLE
is located in the western part of this township, on the left bank of Grand River, and contains a population of about 300. It contains five dry goods and grocery stores, two drug stores, two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, one boot and shoe store, and one harness shop. It has two churches; one Congregational , which was erected about the year 1855, and a Methodist Episcopal, now nearly finished. The first Congregational Society was organized at Grandville in 1838, and Rev. James Ballard was the first pastor. The Grandville Union School House, erected in 1867, is a very fine building. It is thirty feet in width, by sixty in length, with a transept sixteen by thirty feet in size, has two stories above the basement and is surmounted by a tower. The cost was $10,000.
David Tucker built the first frame house in Grandville. It stood a little north of the present residence of H. O. Weston.
The existence of gypsum beds, on Plaster Creek, was known to the Indians at the time when the first white settlers came to this township and gave the stream its name. A portion of the rock was exposed in the bed of the creek at the site of the first plaster mill, where George H. White & Co.'s works are now located. Douglass Houghton, State Geologist, visited the place in 1838, and gave the first published account of the deposits. Prior to that time the 80 acres of land on section two, on which the plaster was found, had been purchased by Mr. Degarmo Jones, of Detroit, with a view to its mineral worth.
The first mill for grinding plaster was built in the winter of 1840-1, by Mr. Daniel Ball, of Grand Rapids. It was driven by a large water wheel, and contained but one run of stone. The last remains of this building, in use until a few years ago, were torn down in 1869. Mr. Ball leased the bed of Mr. Jones and paid him in plaster, delivered in Detroit via Grand River and the lakes. Mr. Henry B. Williams bought the lease of Mr. Ball in 1843, and during the same year built an addition to the works, putting in another run of stone for custom flouring. Mr. James A. Rumsey entered these works in 1842, and has been connected with that time, being now employed as foreman by George H. White & Co. The plaster produced for the first four years found a market principally in Detroit, but by dint of wise exertions on the part of the proprietors, who sold and often gave it away to farmers for trial, its use as fertilizer became quite general in the southern part of the state. It was often conveyed on sleighs for use on farms, from 30 to 100 miles distant. George H. White & Co. now own the 80 acres on which the first mill was built, and land adjoining, to the amount of 425 acres in all, of which about 300 acres is underlaid with plaster. The strata now quarried is 12 feet in thickness, and is overlaid from 12 to 16 feet of earth, and in places by a stratum of partially decomposed plaster known as the seven foot course. The following is the estimated product of these works from 1852 to the present time:
From 1842 to 1850: 500 tons yearly
" 1850 " 1860: 2,000 tons yearly
" 1860 " 1864: 3,000 tons yearly
" 1864 " 1868: 8,000 tons yearly
During the year 1869: 12,000 tons.
" " " 1870: probably 12,000 tons.
They have a water mill with one run of stone capable of grinding two tons per hour, and a steam mill with two run of stone that grind four tons per hour, and storage for 4,000 tons of ground plaster. Their capital is sufficient to supply all the present or future demands of the trade. The works are located half a mile south of the city limits, on the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, having easy access to all other railroads leading to the city, and also to Grand River.
The Saw Mill of David Fisher is located on section twenty-seven. It contains two saws, one upright and one circular, and cuts about two and one-half million feet per annum. Egbert Dewey carries on the manufacture of lumber and lath at his saw mill on section twenty-one. The mill contains six saws and cuts about one million two hundred thousand feet per annum.
H. O. Weston carries on the manufacture of flour at the Wyoming Mills, at Grandville. This mill has three runs of stone, and has a capacity of about fifty barrels of flour per day. It was erected by Egbert Dewey, about the year 1856.
These mills are all driven by water power, and are located on Buck Creek.
David Fisher carries on the manufacture of lime, from marl, or bog lime, near his saw mill, affording an excellent lime for mason work, and a good fertilizer. Mr. Carpenter also carries on the manufacture of the same kind of lime on section three.
Wyoming is traversed by three railroads. The Grand River Valley Railroad crosses the northeast corner of the township. The Grand Rapids & Indiana runs across the township, from north to south, near the center line of the eastern tier of sections, and has a station near the center of section thirty-six. The northern branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad runs north and south through this township, very near its center line, and has a station near the center, called Grandville Station.
As near as we can learn from the memory of the early settlers. Mr. David Tucker was the first settler in Wyoming, he having settled at Grandville in 1832. During the same year Gideon H. Gordon settled at Grandville. In 1833 Luther Lincoln, Joseph B. Copeland, Hiram Jenison, and William R. Godwin settled at Grandville, Jonathan F. Chubb on section four, Myron Roys on section nine, and Geary[?] West on section twenty. During 1834 Roswell Britton, Julius C. Abel, Ephraim P. Walker, Abraham Bryant and Josiah McCarthy settled at Grandville, Robert Howlett, and George Thomson on section nine, and Alvah Wanzy on section one. Charles H. Oaks, Joseph A. Brooks, Thomas H. Buxton, and Manly Patchen settled at Grandville in 1835, and during the same year, Ransom Sawyer, and Richard Moore on section nineteen, and Justus C. Rogers on section fourteen, and Eli, and Erastus Yeomans also came to Grandville. In 1836, Hiram Osgood, Orrey Hill, Nathan White, Charles Wheeler, Dwight Rankin, James Lockwood, Jacob Rogers, Charles J. Rogers, Leonard Stoneburner, and Mr. Fetterman located at Grandville, and in different parts of the township. Among the settlers of 1837 and 1838, we find the names of Lewis Moody, Chase Edgerly, Col. Hathaway, William Butt, James P. Scott, Jotham Hall, Savoy R. Beals, Cyrus Jones, Horace Wilder, and James McCray. Edward Fekin was also one of the earliest settlers. Of these, the first settlers in this township, forty-seven in number, only thirty are now living in Wyoming, viz.: Myron Roys, Joseph B. Copeland, Thomas H. Buxton, Richard Moore, Justus C. Rogers, Dwight Rankin, Erastus Yeomans, Eli Yeomans, Charles J. Rogers, Leonard Stoneburner, Lewis Moody, Horace Wilder and Edward Fekin. Of the others, some few have removed, but the greater part are deceased. Savoy R. Beales and Cyrus Jones had resided in this country some time before settling in Wyoming.
Grandville was one of the first settlements in Kent County; and, for a number of years, one of the largest places. One of the first saw mills, if not the first, (except one built on Indian Mill Creek for the Indians,) was built near the site of the Wyoming Mills, by Messrs. Ball and Wright, in 1834. This mill, after passing through various hands, was destroyed by fire many years ago.
In 1834 Gideon H. Gordon, built a saw mill on section seventeen. This mill afterwards fell into other hands, and finally rotted down. During this year Messrs. Britton and Brown also built a saw mill on the site of Dewey's mill, on section twenty-one. It was afterwards torn down to make room for the mill which now occupies the site.
In 1835 Mr. Fetterman commenced to build a saw mill at the mouth of Rush Creek, just within the limits of Wyoming, and afterwards sold it to Geo. Ketchum, who completed it, and also put in a run of mill stones for grinding grain. They were the first ever run in Kent County, and were twenty or twenty-two inches in diameter.
Mr. Gideon H. Gordon, during the same year, built a saw mill on section twenty-seven, on the site of Fisher's Mill. It was afterwards burned. Josiah Burton also built a saw mill on the site of Rumsey's Plaster Mill in 1836.
Ketchum and McCray built the first furnace and machine shop on Grand River at Grandville, in 1837. Horace Wilder says that in 1837, under the direction of Mr. McCray, he melted and cast the first iron ever cast in Kent county.
During 1837-8 George Ketchum built, and put in operation, the first flouring mill at Grandville. This mill burned in 1843 and was never rebuilt. In 1840? the State authorities commenced to bore a salt well at the marsh, on section thirty? about where the railroad bridge of the L. S. & M. S. R. R. now crosses Grand River. The work was under the charge of Dr. Douglas Houghton, State Geologist. During this year a dwelling house, boarding house, blacksmith shop, and stables were erected, a dock built, tower erected and curb sunk to the rock, and a steam engine set and made ready for the next year's operations. The next year the job of boring the well was let to Hon. Lucius Lyon, of Detroit, who bored to the depth of 700 feet, when the shaft broke, and the drill, with a portion of the shaft, was left at the bottom of the well. The work was then abandoned and the buildings left to decay.
George Ketchum also built a Gang Saw Mill, at an early day, in what is now Georgetown, Ottawa County, on the site of Jenison's flouring mills.
INCIDENTS OF EARLY SETTLEMENT
Justus C. Rogers came to Kent county in 1835. He walked from Detroit to Chicago, and from there back to Grand Rapids. At that time the only public conveyance across Michigan was a lumber wagon stage, and walking was preferable to riding in it over the roads as they were then. In the spring of 1836, Mr. Rogers built a small frame house on the site of his present residence, on section fourteen, and in September of the same year there came a tornado which took it up from the foundation and carried it about one rod. When it struck it ended over, so that the south end of the frame lay to the north, and the whole building a wreck. Some of the roof boards and shingles were carried more than a mile, and the woods were strewed with them for quite a distance. Mr. Roger's family had not yet arrived, and he was absent from home at the time. The course of the tornado was from southwest to northeast, and the next building in its course was a log house, on section six, of Paris, which was occupied by Cyrus Jones and family. This it blew down, to within three or four logs of the ground, but luckily none of the inmates were seriously injured, although none of them escaped without some bruises.
Erastus and Eli Yeomans came to Grandville in 1835. They came from Pontiac on foot, via the Shiawassee trail, and had to ford all the streams. Dwight Rankin came with a wagon in 1836, by way of Gull Prairie, and was nine days coming from Detroit to Grand Rapids. When they forded the Coldwater, they got "set" and were an hour or two getting through.
A pole boat called the Cinderella, was launched at Grandville in June 1837 and Mrs. Rankin says the occasion was made one of general rejoicing. All the people around were invited, and the boat was poled up and down the river while they had music and dancing on board. Mr. Lewis Moody came to Grandville in the spring of 1837, but did not bring family until November. They, with others, came to Green Lake, and were six days getting through. They had four ox teams, and four wagons, and were frequently obliged to put the four teams on one wagon. Just at dark on the fourth day, they came to the outlet of Green Lake, and found the poles that composed the bridge afloat, and were about two hours getting across; and it was raining all of the time. When they reached the Freen Lake house, they found some three or four others there before them, but they had none of them had any supper, and all they could muster towards it was some potatoes and onions that the people who kept the house hand, and some venison one of the travelers had. Mrs. Moody told them she could furnish bread, and they made out a supper that relished well, tired and hungry as they were. The next night for supper they had nothing but bread; and the same, in a very limited quantity, for breakfast. Mr. Moody says the Fourth of July, 1837, was the liveliest Fourth he ever saw. The steamboat "Gov. Mason." made her trial trip from Grand Rapids to Grandville. Dr. Scranton was to deliver an address on board of the boat at Grandville, but, as it was very length, when he was but partly through, some one blowed the whistle, and the crowd cheered and broke up. There were four liberty poles raised at Grandville that day, but at night none of them were standing. Mr. M. say that when they first began to carry the United States from Grandville to Grand Haven, they used to tie it up in a pocket handkerchief. Mr. Leonard Stoneburner relates the following story, which Mr. E. B. Bostwick told of one of the mail-carriers, an Irishman. He started from Grandville late, and did not get to the lumber camp, where he was to stay the night, until after dark. Just before he got through, Mr. Bostick, who was but a short distance behind him, heard an owl cry out, "Tu who-o, who-o, -- and the Irishman answered, 'Me name is Jemmy O'Nale, sure and I carry the mail.'"
Ebenezer Davis, now of Wyoming, was one of the early settlers of Kent County, having settled at Grand Rapids in 1836. Mr. Davis says that in the spring of 1837, there was a scarcity of flour; and for three weeks there was none to be had at Grand Rapids, and almost everybody lived on sturgeon. The first supply of flour came from Jackson, down Grand River, on a flat boat. Mr. Wilder, and others at Grandville, say that in 1838, they had no flour at Grandville, except some which was said to have sunk in Lake Michigan. After knocking the hoops and staves off, the flour retained the shape of the barrel, and had to be cut to pieces with an axe, and pounded up. That summer was very sickly, and most of the time this was all that could be had for sick or well, and for a long time they could get no butter, but finally Mr. Myron Roys, who kept bachelor's hall on this place, and had two cows, made some for them. Mrs. McCray says that, when she hears people complain of hard times and hard fare, now, she always feels like seeing them have a slight trial of those times.
Hiram Jenison says, that, when he came to Grandville in 1834, there was a settlement between Grandville and grand haven, and but two families at Grand Haven: Messrs. Ferry and Throop. Ottawa was at that time a part of Kent county. He went to Grand Rapids once to attend an election.
At the time Mr. Roys settled in Wyoming all of the opening lands were entirely free from bushes, and, except the trees, were almost like prairies. Mr. Roys says that, the first summer he was in Michigan, he worked for Mr. Wright, at the mill, and the woman who was there to cook for them became homesick, and went back to the settlements, and they put him in cook. He would cook meat, beans, etc., as well as any of them, but making biscuit and bread puzzled him. he used to put saleratus into sweet milk, until one night his cow laid out, and he milk soured. He was in trouble; but, finally, concluded to put his saleratus into the sour milk, mixed it up and baked it, and found that he had learned to make biscuits.
FIRST TOWNSHIP OFFICERS
The township of Wyoming was organized in 1848. Wm. R. Godwin was the first Supervisor; Joseph Blake, Clerk; Chase Edgerly, Treasurer; Erastus Yeomans and Roswell Britton, Justices of the Peace; Nicholas Shoemaker, Dwight Rankin, and James B. Jewell, Commissioners of Highways; Luther D. Abbott and Justus C. Rogers, School Inspectors; L. D. Abbott and J.C. Rogers, Overseers of the Poor; Wm. Richardson, J. A. Britton, C.J. Rogers and H. N. Roberts, Constables.
At the general election, Nov. 1st 1848, the whole number of votes cast was 101. At the general election in 1868, there wre 341 votes cast.
PRESENT TOWNSHIP OFFICERS
Supervisor--William K. Emmons. Clerk--Adelbert H. Weston. Treasurer--John V. D. Haven. Justices of the Peace--William H. Galloway, Alexander McInroy, Cyrus Freeman, Augustine Godwin. Highway Commissioners--Daniel Stewart, Augustine Godwin, Cyrus Freeman. School Inspectors--W. K. Emmons, W. H. Galloway. Overseers of the Poor--Cyrus Freeman, James Jewell. Constables--Charles L. Moody, W. L. Galloway.